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one sees half-a-dozen lines of railway. This is, of course, a provision for the future; the three trains weekly in either direction scarcely require them meantime. For the moment, except on the main line, all was in possession of a crowd of settlers.

We have already noticed the numbers of men who are engaged on this vast undertaking. In the heat of the mid-day sun it was assuredly hard work, and one was not surprised to see the somewhat deliberate fashion in which any particular task was carried through. The great majority of the labourers were toiling in white (or what were once white) cotton shirts and pantaloons, barefoot, bareheaded. Some of their tools and implements were primitive-e.g., the wheelless barrow shoved along a plank. One saw the evolution of the spade in a single party, for while some were employing longhandled wooden shovels, all of one piece, others had the edge of the blade protected with a thin binding of tin, while yet others had the ordinary one with iron blade. Another tool looked like half a pick, with the back of the head flattened hammer-wise. They also made use of giant sledgehammers of wood a vast bole with a stout handle driven into it, making a very formidable weapon. Utilising a thick beam as lever, they would prise up great lengths of rail attached to the sleepers, and so fill in more ballast. One noticed also the absence of what are commonly known as "chairs": the broad-based rails are simply laid on the notched sleepers, and held in position there by a small species of clamp on the inside only. Great care is being exercised in the regulation of this railway. Every hundred yards or so appear white boards indicating the gradients,

which occasionally alter very considerably over quite short ranges. Also at extremely short intervals are posted the usual men in charge of the line, green flag in hand, to signify that their section at least is clear. The railway embankment is continually followed on either side by excavations of varying size, from which the soil was taken for its construction. At those points where over long distances the embankment remains a considerable height, these trenches increase greatly in breadth, but not so much in depth. The cause of this is simply that the ground is frozen at about 6 feet below the surface till towards the end of July, so that the upper stratum only is workable. These broad ditches fill with water, and become the spacious nurseries of myriads of mosquitoes and other objectionable forms of insect life. Beyond these lie immense expanses of verdant plain, whose uniformity is rudely interrupted at intervals by irregularly set thickets of stunted birch. Occasionally some Kirghese boy reveals our laboured progress by forging ahead of the train on his hardy pony. Shaggy, sure-footed, speedy, they are the true Siberian travellers; shrewd also, for when the sun has dipped below the western horizon and the evening air seems to exist for nothing but mischief-making mosquitoes and their inhuman clan, mark how by yonder small encampment in the lee of a birch coppice the patient burden-bearers stand beside the fire, facing the wind, and holding their heads in the smoke to be relieved from their pestiferous associates. Animal life is otherwise not much in evidence. Occasionally a startled hare dashes from his haunt too near the track of progressive man. Perhaps a mallard rises from some weeded brake, and overhead a towering

hawk recks not but for his prey : save for these, we are alone.

In time we come to Krivoschekovo: we are now 2058 versts from Moscow, 1323 from Tcheliabinsk. The river Ob is at this point to be spanned by a bridge; but as the wooden scaffolding was burned down, the construction of it has fallen much behind that of bridges farther on, and as yet only one girder unites two of the stone piers. Here again we notice a gathering of settlers, who are, however, not allowed within the imaginary precincts of the station. A goodly number of log cabins may be seen in the vicinity, but these do not form the village, which is 4 versts off across the river. What one sees is simply the natural upgrowth of two years of railway labour. It follows that the original Krivoschekovo will decline in importance, and its place be taken by this upstart village: thus does the railway make and unmake places. To drive to the river the only available conveyance is a country vozok: the first impression is that of a large basket supported on four wheels. More careful inspection discloses two stout axle-trees connected by six poles-branches unhewn and lying in the horizontal : a seventh, stronger than the rest, finds place below the other six. On this arrangement, only well forward, is perched the wicker basket, across which is set a board held in its place by ropes, and on this two men may sit with fear and trembling. Straw lines the bottom. A smaller board, most wonderfully balanced on the front edge of the basket, and also held in place by ropes, accommodates the driver. Behind the coble there remain about 3 feet of the horizontal framework,

on which heavy baggage may be settled it is an embryonic tarantass without the hood. The wheels have a run of 6 inches on the axle, which is so long as to prevent all chance of capsizal; along this they perpetually wobble. The shafts are two young birch-trees, with the unlopped stumps of the branches still much in evidence. Between them is a small unshod Siberian pony, of a dun shade, in size and appearance not unlike a Shetlander: the traces are two halfinch ropes. It is supported by an outrunner trotting abreast, and retained by two as slender ropes, while a strap attaching his apology for a bridle to that of his neighbour hinders him from running at an angle of more than 45° to the line of progression. We start, how? The driver simply whistles to his pair, and off they bound. It is early morning, but here many of the people are already astir. The baker's shanty is thronged by simple hungry peasants. Already in an open shed the butcher quarters his unsavoury lamb before an eager assemblage.

Now we are off, but how the dust flies! The little outrunner holds his head out to the left and runs for dear life. Such a rough track: holes every few minutes, into which we shoot and are as quickly jerked out. Soon we reach the brown turgid Ob. On its farther bank the red rubashki (shirts) of the men and the brightly coloured dresses of the women stand out against the dull yellow huts that crowd the bank, and against the dark pine-trees behind. We arrive at the ferry-boat and board it; but notice its primitive simplicity. Two barge-like boats are joined by a large platform deck that is com

1 It will, however, be completed this year.

mon to them both. At one end of this platform a wooden cogged wheel works on a goodly beam to which the tiller is attached. More complicated is the contrivance by which this paddle-boat is made to move by a literal three-horse-power. On the outside of either boat is a paddle-wheel with wooden blades; these are connected also with a large cogged wheel which lies in the horizontal. Outside this wheel is a trotting-ground, where the three ponies perform perpetual circles, being attached by horizontal poles to one large vertical axle leading through the centre wheel. The upper end of this axle turns in another thick beam that stretches across over all, being supported on either side outside the pony-track by a wooden pillar. Two of the ponies had attendant boys, who continually walked behind them and kept them moving. The third driver was a tall fine-looking peasant, with a mop of curly yellow hair and a bushy unkempt beard. In his magenta shirt and muchpatched black velveteen pantaloons, whose ends were buried in tall boots, he looked an imposing figure; and it seemed a pity that a man who had to stoop each time he passed under the high crossbeam already alluded to, should have to spend his days doing such menial service.

The clayey road creeps irregularly up the bank through the straggling huts that comprise the village. A tributary of the Ob has cut deeply into the bank, and the wooden bridge with its loose planks shakes and rattles ominously as we fly across, to bury ourselves in the sweet pine-woods. The dusty road winds and twists through verst after verst of placid pine and trembling aspen: its roughness causes us to make acquaintance with every corner of

the oscillating basket. The back seat is no longer tenanted; it simply serves as something to which to cling. We pass two telegas (wooden cart) filled with various household stuffs: behind them are walking three barefooted peasant women with bright merry faces, a little girl with a handful of wild-flowers, and four or five men. My companion salutes them; they are from Periyaslaff in South Russia, and are proceeding to their new home, some forty miles away. Still we go on; and then another turn of the road brings us face to face with a second slow procession. In the first wicker cart sit two young men clad in grey, with bare heads and cleanshaven faces; on their knees is the coffin of a little child, dressed out in pink and wild-flowers. In the second cart rides the father, with haggard downcast look, wearing the unbleached cotton that proclaims him to be something more than a peasant; by his side is a young boy. The third cart contains two women. One is the mother-you see it in her face. At last we come to the station in the wood; it is called Ob. A cluster of buildings is growing up; it looks as if some day it will be a place of importance. As yet, however, nothing is open save a waiting-room; the ticket office is in a fourth-class waggon on the train, and still there are settlers, still the crowd of interested peasants.


But now the country changes; up to the Ob, plain had predominated. What seems rather like an unending park, planted with silver birch, the beauty of the Siberian forest, now supervenes. The orange-tinted Trollius asiaticus, so expressively called in Russian what we might render as "little fire," colours the open ground in part, growing more plentifully,

however, in the shade of individual trees. The wild rose also abounds, and brackens usurp what remains. Along the railway line, which winds in long drawn sigmoid curves, navvies are now in greater evidence. The Direction takes on practically all who offer, as the supply is not in excess of the demand. The astonishing daily wage of 1 roubles is paid; labour cannot be got cheaper. On the western half of the line the men are mainly Russians, Siberians, and in a few instances Italians; farther east you find convicts, Chinese, and Coreans. During the summer they lie out at night or rear a simple dwelling by means of sleepers, much as a child makes one of bricks.

The question of criminal labour on the railway presents some interesting features that may be briefly narrated here. Once it was resolved to employ convict labour, the problem that presented itself to the Ministry of the Interior was how, out of the criminal prisoners from European Russia, the lazy local population of the Siberian prisons, and the political exiles, to form a disciplined army of railway workmen. It was, however, solved so brilliantly that the convicts working on the Mid-Siberian road by their labour and irreproachable conduct attracted the attention of the august President of the Committee of the Siberian Railway. Convict labour was at first directed to the construction of the Ussuri Railway, where, on the contrary, it far from verified expectations, and the convict party was soon sent back to the island of Saghalin. On a larger scale the experiment was repeated in the construction of the Mid-Siberian Railway. In order to make the work attractive, and so include convicts of all categories, a regulation was made for

those who came under the Governor-General of Irkutsk, that eight months' railway work should count as one year of imprisonment or hard labour, according to circumstances. For the exiles the term required to enable them to be registered as peasants was to be reduced, in return for labour on the railway, in the proportion of one year for two. For those who more than two years before had been transported for life, the period during which they should have to wait before permission would be granted to choose a dwelling-place was reduced by one-half; and for those compelled to live in far Siberia, the term of deportation was to be shortened by counting one year as two.

The success attending convict labour on the Mid-Siberian Railway gave rise to the idea of again extending these regulations to the other farther Eastern section of the railway. With this object the same privileges were granted to prisoners and exiles coming under the surveillance of the GovernorGeneral of Ussuri as to those under the Governor-General of Irkutsk.

For the supervision of the exiles the Minister of the Interior appointed special officers, and for the supervision of the common criminal labourers, inspectors and orderlies. The former enjoy a position of district country control, with the right added of calling out a military escort. Each individual controller has 200 versts of the road allotted to him. The inspectors and orderlies have the privileges of the lower police ranks, and are disposed at every 50 versts of road-construction.

Again we have exchanged our wooded park for the open plain, along which we ride now somewhat timidly, and at last reach the banks

of the river Tom, where the unfinished bridge once more renders the ferry-boat indispensable. Later we saw the testing of the bridge previous to opening. On each span a train consisting of four locomotives and four laden waggons had to remain for two hours; thereafter the train traversed the bridge several times, increasing the rate of speed at each passage.

Tomsk, the third largest town in all Siberia, is not situated on the main line; a branch line from a point called Taiga runs thither. True to all traditions, the Tomsk terminus is 3 versts from the town. When we passed eastwards in June, Taiga was represented by a few piles of logs, and the branchline was in process of construction. Three months later, not only was the usual large stone water-reservoir standing sentinel, pagoda-like, over a neat array of log-houses, varying in colour and appearance, but the buffet was capable of supplying a champagne lunch in honour of the birth of a son to the Governor of Tomsk.

It was only by the courtesy of the railway officials that we proceeded farther by rail; however, it was expected that the line would be open to the public as far as Krasnoyarsk by October of last year. In two years one will probably be able to go as far as Irkutsk, and in six years more thereafter, Vladivostock and Paris may be joined by rail.

The new train on the far side of the river Tom is entirely composed of trucks filled with iron rails and tools, except for two or three carriages for the inspector and director of that division of the line; one of these we share. There is, however, one fourth-class waggon full of labourers. At Marinsk we pass a military train-part of the general movement of Russian

At the

troops towards her Eastern frontiers. In their white cotton jackets with red epaulettes, dark-green trousers, black waist - belt, long boots, and white peak caps, the men look in the best of spirits, as if they were enjoying themselves to their hearts' content. station they descend, form up, and then march off, singing awhile some of their strange folk-lays. In about an hour, the sound of a measured tramp of feet accompanying a lively chorus betokens their return, and each man may be seen swinging along with a large brown loaf of rye-bread under his arm.

Now we enter a distinctly hilly and wooded country. The floral wealth is very great-purple cypripedia, aconite, blue potentillas, wild geranium, equisetum, and a hundred other varieties. Two lovely lilies now demand attention owing to their quantity,the graceful yellow Hemerocallis, set like so many golden stars in a firmament of emerald, smiles back to the drooping purple Lilium martagon.


On occasions the train comes to standstill, and the workmen who accompany us rush out and pull up the wild rhubarb. Scotch fir, spruce, Siberian poplar, alder, and birch predominate. Approaching Atchinsk, however, we again come on the open plain. As our waggon creeps nearer the town on a side-line, we observe that we are gradually working into the midst of a large band of settlers. Suddenly there is a violent jerk, then the train stops, and we find that we have left the rails: thus we are conveniently situated for study right in the middle of the settler colony.

It was already evening, and the cool night wind had begun to blow. Reviewing the temporary camp pitched upon either side of

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