Here comes the BAM, now where’s the Boom!


The Trans-Siberian railroad was an enormous feat for Russia when it was built. The 5000 miles of railroad stretched across the tundra of Russia to connect one end of the largest country in the world with the other. It opened up new trading possibilities and was a way to transport goods that before were unreachable. Stalin tried to expand this railroad during his rule.

standard first ticket

The BAM or Baikal-Amur Mainline started construction under Stalin, but did not finish until 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. The mainline was a secondary railway that sprouts off the Trans-Siberian railroad and extends for two thousand miles. The BAM is north of the Tran-Siberian railroad. The mainline is known to be very scenic as the writer Finn-Olaf Jones attested. She is awed by the tundra of the Siberia as the train travels. She said that she “couldn’t imagine another place in the world that could be more pristine.”

inside meeting first train

The Baikal-Amur Mainline progressed well through the first years of its construction, but with the death of Stalin the amount of funding and work that was put into it dwindled. The project was not restarted until Brezhnev took power in 1974. The mainline was completed only 10 years later, though not all of the railroad was functional. The plans that Brezhnev had for the mainline were revolutionary with an electrified double track, though it was sized down to a single track due to funding. The labor and environmental costs were staggering.

The pollution that the construction of the BAM caused to the terrain of the forest and Lake Baikal were irreversible. Lake Baikal was the largest clean body of water that the world had known, until the pollution from construction waste turned the water murky. The construction of the city, Severobaikalsk, caused environmental problems. This city was mainly used to house personnel that were working on the mainline.


Earlier in the year, Putin promised to brighten the future for the railway. This month, Putin is looking to reinvesting in the BAM. The government would be investing $14.3 billion to upgrade the BAM with the hope of doubling the cargo capacity of the trains by 2020. This investment would be one of the biggest projects that Russia has seen in the past 10 years. The upgrade would cover, as the article stated “4,324 kilometers.”

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7 thoughts on “Here comes the BAM, now where’s the Boom!

  1. Nice post with lots of great sources. This pretty much seems like the Russian version of the American trans-continental railroad. It’s probably not a bad idea that they want to invest more money in it, how else could Russia gain access to Siberia’s resources?

  2. I love the connection you made between this project and the Trans-Siberian railway. I is also interesting that they are going to put more money into it right now since it is pretty much proven that the original construction they did on BAM ruined the environment. Really great post!

  3. Good post! I really liked all of your sources and their variety. I agree with Mike’s comment that investing more money into the railway system is a good idea because it allows for more cargo capacity and access to resources. However, $14.3 billion seems like a huge amount to me, and I would hope that Russia keeps in mind the environmental disasters the original construction caused.

  4. I did my post on how BAM greatly affected Lake Baikal and its environmental degradation. I wonder if Putin is considering the environment in his plans for improving this railway in the coming years?

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