He proposed a railway which would reach Port Arthur, the Russian fortress in Manchuria, by crossing the whole Siberia from Moscow to the Japanese Sea. The approval of the project was communicated some months later, and before the end of the year were started the works for its realization, for which a large number of Italian technicians and workers were hired. This very long line, baptized as the Trans-Siberian, was finished after 13 years of hard works, sometimes very difficult due to the harsh climate. Under Soviet government this line - which passes by Kutbichev, Omsk, Irkutsk, Chita, Khavarovsk and ends in Vladivostok - was improved: it was built an additional track and even tunnels beneath the rivers to prevent that the collapse of a bridge, due to the frozen waters, could interrupt the traffic during the winter.

Russian locomotive
Locomotive in use in the railways of the Soviet Union.
Soviet locomotive, 1938
Locomotive built in the Soviet Union in 1938.

Diesel locomotives

With the Diesel engine the trains found a new locomotion means. Rudolf Diesel, born in Paris in 1858 from German parents, was one of the greatest physicists and enginners of his time. He invented several types of engines operating with heavy oils, distilled from coal, and in 1893 he published an essay about "Theory and construction of a rational thermal engine", destined to replace the steam engine and other known machines which operated with fire, which contained the fundamental theory of the combustion engine. The great German engineers supported such invention and in 1898 the Diesel engines had such a success in the Industrial Exposition at Munich, that in the same year it was constituted the Diesel Engine Company. The company perfected that extraordinary engine, with great demand from all around the world, due to its wide application in the industry and the locomotives, which took the name of "Diesel locomotives".

These engines present very notable advantages in respect of steam engines: an immediate start up, a lower consumption and consequently the possibility of an increased range, and reduced dimensions of the locomotive. The presentation in the International Exposition in Milan, in 1906, of the railcar Fiat-Diatto, in which were reunited in a single wagon the engine and the passenger department, convinced engineers and builders that if they wanted to achieve a practical and fast transport means, that was the way to follow. The combustion engine had reached already a certain degree of perfection in road vehicles and consequently it was the most suitable one, and because of that it was adopted with the appropriate devices, giving birth to the railcar. Several were built, but the possibilities of those railcars were few, either regarding their speed and their capacity for passengers. More experiments and investigations had to follow.

Diesel locomotive
Diesel locomotive and propulsion plant of a Diesel locomotive.

In the 1940s it had a great success the railcar "Littorina" built by the Italian company Fiat, system which consolidated in the whole Europe as a suitable vehicle for long travels, either single or hooked to one or two cars similar to itself. And such good acceptance this system had as well in United States, that were made convoys with up to 14 cars, the first three of which carried six Diesel engines attached to an electric generator, whose electricity was destined to actuate the electric motors installed in every one of the cars. In the 1930s it had appeared the railcar "Michelin", taking his name from the famous French manufacturer who conceived it; machine of elegant line, silent due to its wheels fitted with rubber tires and of easy maneuver, however had no success in its utilization, because of its excessive cost.

Meanwhile, other and very important technical improvements were being introduced in the traditional locomotives, considerably increasing their power, specially in America and Germany; electrification, already in use since many years ago, was extending from the secundary to the main lines; also the companies of dining and sleeping cars rivalled for achieving the maximum comfort for their passengers during the long travels, constantly modernizing their cars. The situation in the railway field was optimal, but then the outbreak of the Second World War perturbed everything. The war severely damaged the infrastructures, facilities, vehicles, the overall organization of the European railway, with wide impact in other continents as well. But ended the war, immediately started the reconstruction: reintroduction into service of the damaged but retrievable materials, orders to the manufacturers for building new materials, and the mobilization of multitudes of workers for the reconstruction of the lines.

Modern trains

Nowadays high-speed trains have acquired a rounded and continuous profile which, by means of adequate plates, descends to cover even the wheels; externally the continuity from one car to another is achieved with the prolongation of the sides and roof connected by bellows. To give the train a lesser aerodynamic drag, and consequently a higher speed, it is convenient to give the entire convoy a streamlined profile, and not only the railcar or locomotive, reason because of which cavities and protrusions have been avoided in the side surfaces. In France made a brief apparition an experimental railcar, of aerodynamic shape, propelled by a large blade propeller actuated by a combustion engine, with the driving cabin placed in the roof. This vehicle circulated during some months in the north of France until it was retired due to the scarce practical results.

South African locomotive
Locomotive of the South African railways built in 1956, characterized by the addition of a supplementary water deposit in the fore part to increase the operational range.
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