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He proposed a railway which would reach Port Arthur, the Russian fortress in Manchuria, after 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, very difficult sometimes due to the harsh climate. Under Soviet governance this line - which passes by Kutbichev, Omsk, Irkutsk, Chita, Khavarovsk and ends in Vladivostok - was greatly improved: an additional track was built, as well as even tunnels beneath the rivers to prevent that the collapse of a bridge, caused by 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 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", which contained the fundamental theory of the combustion engine, destined to replace the steam engine and other known machines which operated with fire. Renowned German engineers supported such invention and in 1898 the Diesel engine had such a success in the Industrial Exposition of Munich that in that same year it was constituted the Diesel Engine Company. The company perfected this extraordinary engine, which had 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 instant start up, a lower fuel consumption and the possibility of an increased range and reduced dimensions of the locomotive. The presentation in the International Exposition of 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 type, 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, either regarding their speed and their capacity for passengers, were actually few. Hence more experiments and investigations would be required.

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 linked to one or two other similar cars. And such a good acceptance had as well in United States this system that convoys with up to 14 cars were made, of which the first three carried six Diesel engines attached to an electric generator, whose energy was destined to actuate the electric motors installed in every one of the cars. In the 1930s it had appeared the railcar "Michelin", which took his name from the famous French manufacturer that had devised it; machine of elegant line, silent thanks 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 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 secondary 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, the facilities, the vehicles and the overall organization of the European railway, causing a wide impact in other continents as well. But ended the war, it was immediately started the reconstruction: reintroduction into service of the damaged but salvageable 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 to the entire convoy, and not only to the railcar or locomotive, a streamlined profile, and for this reason cavities and protrusions are to be avoided in the side surfaces. In France it made a brief apparition an experimental railcar, of aerodynamic shape and with the driving cabin placed on the roof, propelled by a large blade propeller which was actuated by a combustion engine. This vehicle circulated during some months in the north of France until being 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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