The First Projects
At the end of the 19th century railway construction and industrial development led to sharp increase in Moscow's size and a rise in its population. By then Moscow covered 710 sq km and was home to 978,500 people. Some 16,000 horse-drawn cars provided the main form of transport.
The emergence of the horse-drawn tram in 1872 provided the impetus for the development of public transport though even the introduction of electric trams in Moscow in 1902 could not solve the problem of providing mass public transport. The city's rapid development required radical reorganisation of urban and suburban public transport.
One of the first attempts to solve the problem took the form of a ring railway and was submitted to the Moscow City Council or Duma by the Urals-Ryazan Railway Company and A.I.Antonovich, a railway engineer. The Government recognised the future benefits of such a ring railway and in 1898 passed a resolution for its immediate construction. This was started in 1902 after all the necessary research had been carried out. The railway provided a solution for transit freight but did not solve the problem of rapid transit within the city.
As soon as the outline of the peripheral ring railway around Moscow was finalised, two urban underground railway projects linked to it were developed — the idea of a metropolitan railway was thus born.
The first project was drafted in 1901 by A.I.Antonovich together with two railway engineers, N.I.Golenevich and N.P.Dmitriev. The project involved the construction of a circular line along the Kamer-Kollezhsky Val crossing two linear lines running along its diameter: the Sokolnichesko-Arbatskaya (from Preobrazhenskaya Zastava to the Novodevichy Monastery) and the Zamoskvoretskaya-Tverskaya (from Serpukhovskaya Zastava to Petrovsky Park). Unfortunately the designers failed to arouse the city government's interest and the project remained on paper.
The 1902 project of two other civil engineers, P.I.Balinsky and E.K.Knorre contained a feasibility study of building "underground or elevated rapid railways off the street level in Moscow" and proposed a three-stage approach. It envisaged the construction of 67 km of elevated railway and 16 km of tunnels. It was planned that all stations would have their platforms on either side since the adjoining elevated railways and tunnels were to have two tracks. All tunnels were to be built with cast-in-situ linings, and metal crated elevated tracks were designed to be on foundations of precast piles.
The key feature of this project was the original design of a three-storey Central Terminal on Vasilievsky Spusk the design of which would complement the Kremlin walls and the silhouettes of the adjacent cathedrals. The estimated cost of the terminal was twice that of all the 74 aboveground and underground intermediate stations envisaged by the project.
In 1903, after thorough consideration, the Duma rejected the project.
Nevertheless, in 1910 the Duma was forced once more to address the issue of underground transport. It allotted 50,000 roubles for the development of a new project, since over the intervening years the population of Moscow had grown by almost 400,000, the city boundaries had expanded and transport problems had considerably worsened. Each Muscovite then made an average of 200 journeys per year on public transport.
In 1911 the City Government submitted a report to the City Duma concerning a project for the construction of a tram tunnel under part of Lubyansky Proezd, Ilyinka Street and Red Square. It was presumed that the tunnel would become part of a future underground railway system. However the project was not implemented. A year later another project was developed by the Duma in collaboration with E.K.Knorre. His layout incorporated three lines crossing in the centre with a total length of nearly 40 km. The second stage would include the construction of a circle line under the Garden Ring road.
In 1912-13 three more projects for underground railways were developed, this time with provision for foreign capital investments. Two of the projects, one by К.К.Ruin to be financed by British and German capital, and the other so-called "American" project by G.D.Hoff, proposed that mainline railways be brought into the city centre.
Knorre, counting on the assistance of German specialists, submitted a project based on the one which had been earlier placed before the Duma, although the method of construction and the tunnel design were different.
The most realistic project was that of the Moscow City Government. Only the onset of the First World War prevented its coming to fruition.
During the 1920s Moscow was expanding rapidly and steps were taken to develop public transport. The number of trams and buses increased and a network of trolley bus routes was established. However, all transport was at ground level and remained unable to satisfy the demands of the capital's population.
The construction of an underground railway was once again on the agenda. In 1923, the Moscow City Council formed the Underground Railway Design Office at the Moscow Board of Urban Railways (Trams). They carried out preliminary studies and by 1928 had developed a project for the first route from Sokolniki to the city centre. At the same time, an offer was made to the German company Siemens Bauunion to submit its own project for the same route
A long period of technical examinations and coordination began during which it became clear that the projects developed were not adequate to meet the city's needs. In July 1931 the critical situation of public transport was considered at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. A decision was taken "to start immediately the development of a project for underground railways to provide adequate and cheap transport for the public". A new body called the State Construction Department for the Design and Building of the Moscow Metropolitan Underground Railway (Metrostroy) was set up on 23 September under the terms of this decision. The development of a new project began.
From the very start Metrostroy came up against great difficulties because the development of the reconstruction plan for Moscow had not yet been completed. Since there was no time to wait, the designers of the general metro layout were forced to rely on the results of topographic and geological studies of the Moscow underground combining them with those directives of the Moscow reconstruction plan which were then available. Preliminary studies of the city showed that the most intelligent solution would be the development of an initial laying of lines to correspond to Moscow's radial-circular layout. To ease pressure on overloaded surface transport, the underground routes were to be constructed in parallel with those on the surface.
In November 1931 the construction of an experimental tunnel was started in Rusakovskaya Street to explore the conditions for underground construction. Nowhere in the world had designers encountered such a wide variety of adverse soil.
The results of a geological survey showed that the nature of the soil would make tunnelling particularly difficult because it consisted of sands saturated with water and dry sands, strata of different clays which permeated with cracked water-bearing and massive limestone, old washouts and quicksand. Many underground rivers were discovered. During the construction of the tunnel section between Sokolniki and Okhotny Ryad alone the miners had to cross four water flows.
In January 1932 the plan of the first lines was approved and on 21 March 1933 the Soviet Government approved a layout of 10 lines with a total route length of 80 km.
The first 11.6 km route was to provide a service from Sokolniki to Krymskaya Square branching from Okhotny Ryad to Smolenskaya Square.
The plan was examined by leading specialists from Berlin, London and Paris. But despite all the practical experience accumulated by foreign underground railway builders over the course of several decades, their conclusions were neither objective nor did they comprehensively take the local conditions into account.
After considering all the proposed schemes it became clear that both "deep level tunnelling" and "cut-and-cover" methods should be used as being the most suitable for the conditions prevailing in Moscow while having the least possible impact on the life of the city.
At about the time when construction started another body called Metroproject was set up to deal with the design of underground routes. In 1951 Metroproject was reorganised and became known as the State Project and Research Institute (Metrogiprotrans), which has over the years produced a number of leading specialists in all metro building-related spheres.
The first line of the metro was built in three stages: the preparatory and organisational stage embraced the period from 1931 to 1932; the second period which included the actual start of construction began in 1933. The third and decisive construction period started in 1934. During that period, 85 per cent of the excavation, 90 per cent of the concreting, 96 per cent of the tunnelling and 74 per cent of the tracking work was completed. By the end of 1933 Metrostroy employed 36,000 people while by the middle of the following year this figure had grown to 75,000.
Work was done mainly by hand since there was a shortage of pneumatic hammers and a lack of rock loaders. The main tools used by the miners were pickaxes, spades and bars. Trolleys were also pulled by hand. The tunnelling was accompanied by continuous timbering. A total of 9,013 m of tunnels were built by cutting, 887 m with the use of mechanical shields, 3,251 m were built by the cut-and-cover method and 4,220 m in an open cutting.
The section from Komsomolskaya to Biblioteka Imeni Lenina was built by a deep tunnelling method since it ran under an area with densely built high-rise blocks and narrow streets. The sections from Sokolniki to Komsomolskaya and from Biblioteka Imeni Lenina to Krymskaya Square were built in an open cutting. The Arbat section from Ulitsa Kominterna to Smolenskaya Square was constructed by the cut-and-cover method.
Thirteen stations built on the initial section had island platforms long enough to take eight-car trains (with the exception of Ulitsa Kominterna" which was not initially part of the project. It was built on a curve and had side platforms). Eight stations were built in an open cutting and the rest by deep tunnelling. Individual station designs were adapted to the layout of each particular site. They were the first stations in the world to be completely faced with granite and marble and all had unique designs.
And now for some statistics. Seventeen street level buildings and five inclined shafts were built to allow passengers access to platforms via 15 escalators. Of the 56 ventilation shafts, 30 had natural ventilation and 26 mechanical ventilation systems. There were 38 drainage and transfer pumps chambers. The 21,000 square metres of station walls and ticket halls were faced with marble. A total of 25.7 km of single track and 540.6 km of cables and wires were laid. Four 14,800 kW traction substations and 11 step-down 18,000 kW substations were built.
To service all these huge facilities and to manage a system employing 3,189 people, a Moscow Metro Administration was set up at the Moscow City Council in November 1934.
The First Train
At the end of 1934, with the Severnoye depot still under construction, the first two cars were delivered there. The motor car, No. 1, was red and the second trailer car, No. 1001, was the colour of sand. They became known as "A" stock.
On 15 October these cars were used on test runs of one of the tracks between Komsomolskaya and Sokolniki. Testing of the second track began in January 1935.
On 4 February 1935 the first train ran along the whole route and two days later delegates of the Seventh All Union Congress of Soviets became honorary metro passengers. Trains began regular trial runs on 19 February. Thousands of the most distinguished workers from the city's enterprises were invited to travel in the metro during the trial runs.
Simultaneously, efforts were concentrated on checking and tuning the automatic interlocking systems, traction and step-down substations and local control centres. Train crews checked the profile of the route, the positioning of signalling devices and defined the correct operation mode of trains, while the station staff studied all the technical devices which made up the station equipment.
On 14 May 1935 a gala meeting dedicated to the start of the metro operations was held in the Column House of Unions. Several workers received awards for the successful construction of the metro. The Moscow Komsomol organisation was awarded the Order of Lenin. The metro became part of the People's Railway Commissariat of the USSR and was named after L.M.Kaganovich, the People's Commissar.
Hundreds of Muscovites spent the night of 15 May 1935 at the doors of the stations to be the first passengers, and at 7 a.m. the metro was opened for public use.