Prokudin-Gorskii's many photographs of railroad bridges, locomotives, barges, steamers and canals reflect the importance of the transportation system in tying together the vast Russian Empire. The Ministry of Transport operated a network of railroads and steamers, but private companies were also involved in rail, river, and canal transport.
The Ministry of Transport facilitated many of Prokudin-Gorskii's survey trips, beginning in 1909. His first trip was to survey the Mariinskii Canal system linking the upper Volga and Neva rivers. He photographed bridges, dams, locks, and steamers as well as the people who operated the system. On subsequent trips, Prokudin-Gorskii documented the achievements of Russian engineers in extending the railroads across the rugged terrain of the Urals and into Siberia. Prokudin-Gorskii undertook his last assignment for the ministry during World War I, when he photographed the construction of the Murmansk Railway, which was built as a supply link between Russia and its French and British allies.
Handcar on the Murmansk Railroad
Prokudin-Gorskii and others ride the Murmansk Railroad in a handcar along the shores of Lake Onega near Petrozavodsk. From the beginning of Russian railroad construction in the 1850s, rails were laid using a wider gauge (5 feet 3.5 inches) than the standard European one.
Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. On the Handcar Outside Petrozavodsk on the Murmansk Railway, 1915. Digital color rendering. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-03951 (15)
Portrait of Pinkhus Karlinsky, 84 Years Old
Pinkhus Karlinskii, the supervisor of the Chernigov floodgate, stands by a ferry dock along the Mariinskii Canal system in the northern part of European Russia. In the photo album of his tour of the canal system, Prokudin-Gorskii noted that Karlinskii was eighty-four years old and had served for sixty-six years. The canal system, known today as the Volga-Baltic Waterway, was constructed to link the extensive river system of the Volga and its tributaries to provide access from the interior of European Russia to the Baltic Sea.
Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. Pinkhus Karlinskii. . . Supervisor of Chernigov Floodgate, 1909. Digital color rendering. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-03966 (16)
Metal Truss Railroad Bridge
At an unidentified location, a railroad truss bridge built on stone support columns crosses one of the wide Siberian rivers that flow northwards to the Arctic Ocean—possibly the Irtysh or the Tobol. The rivers were only one of the natural barriers that the builders of the Trans-Siberian Railroad had to conquer in the feat of constructing a railroad over 6,000 miles, from central European Russia eastward to the Pacific Ocean.
Kareshka Boat Yards
A variety of canal boats and barges, large and small, are evident at a boat yard at a sheltered inlet off the southwest shore of Lake Onega on the Mariinskii canal system near the small town of Voznesenie in the north of European Russia.
Log Rafts on the Peter I Canal, Shlisselburg
Logs fastened together as rafts make their way down the Peter I Canal near the small town of Shlisselburg, now called Petrokrepost'. Located on Lake Ladoga, the town is forty miles east of St. Petersburg.
A “Compound” locomotive with a Schmidt boiler is shown on the railroad between Perm' and Ekaterinburg in the Ural Mountain region in the far eastern part of European Russia. The rail car in the background is thought to be Prokudin-Gorskii's traveling photographic laboratory and living quarters.
Towpath Bridge in the Village of Lava
A stone bridge carries the canal towpath over two culverts to divert high water away from the main canal on a quiet stretch between Lakes Ladoga and Onega near the village of Lava.
Bashkir Switchman on the Trans-Siberian
A Bashkir switch operator poses by the mainline of the railroad, near the town of Ust' Katav on the Yuryuzan River between Ufa and Cheliabinsk in the Ural Mountain region of European Russia.