The city of Kemerovo, the capital of the Kemerovo Region, is located in Siberia, 3482 km. to the east of Moscow. The major industrial city of Novokuznetsk is located in the Kemerovo Region, 225 km. to the south of Kemerovo. The small city of Osinniki is located 25 km. to the south of Novokuznetsk (Osinniki features a cute tramway network of 2 routes). The village of Shushtalep is located about 5-6 km. to the south of Osinniki, which is followed by the town of Kaltan, some 4-5 km. farther south. Halfway between Shushtalep and Kaltan, there is a settlement of Postoyanniy, complete with the railroad station called Platforma 412 Km. From this point on, there is a road leading to the west, to the banks of the Kondoma River and to the village of Malyshev Log, located some 4 km. to the west of Kaltan, on the eastern bank of the river. At Malyshev Log there is a bridge that leads to the other side of the river, to the nameless settlement and the industrial complex of the nowadays practically dysfunctional Shushtalepskaya Mine, located on the western bank. The tramway line used to go from the town limits of Kaltan, through Postoyanniy, to Malyshev Log, where it ended on the eastern side of the Kondoma River, opposite to the Shushtalepskaya mine. Contrary to a common misconception, outside of the borrowed name, the Shushtalepskaya Mine is not associated in any way with the village of Shushtalep some 6-7 km. away. Consequently, there is no connection between the story of the tramway in question and the village of Shushtalep, as the tramway line never went there.
The history of Kaltan - Malyshev Log Tramway
The Shushtalepskaya Mine was built after the World War II by prisoners of war, and opened in 1948.
The mine was built on the western side of the Kondoma River, while all vital infrastructure such as housing, roads and railroads, remained on the eastern side. The suspended bridge was erected between the mine and the eastern bank of the river. The bridge featured a moving belt for transporting the mined coal. It was nicknamed by locals the "Vozdushniy" (or the "Air[y]") bridge, which name stuck and became semi-official. The bridge was soon accommodated for pedestrian traffic as well. Bunkers for coal's storage were built on the eastern side of the Kondoma River.
An unauthorized slum-like settlement soon appeared on the eastern side of the river, next to the bunkers. Due to economic hardship at that time, the authorities pretended not to notice the slums as long as they solved the housing problem. With time slums evolved into a village of Malyshev Log. Regardless of that, the "official" housing development for miners was built about 3-4 km. inland, near the railroad, just north of the town of Kaltan. Out of promotional considerations the new settlement was named "Postoyanniy" (or "Permanent").
Meanwhile, the output of coal at the Shushtalepskaya Mine gradually increased. In 1952 the new railroad access track was built to cope with the supply of coal. The track branched off the main line at the Platform 412 Km. Station, near the Postoyanniy settlement, and led to storage bunkers on the eastern side of the Kondoma River, opposite to the mine, next to the "Air" Bridge.
The local power plant located to the southeast of Kaltan was the leading consumer of coal from the Shustalepskaya Mine. In 1957 another railroad line was built from the area of the power plant, to the mine. This time the new railroad bridge over the river was built, thus, direct accessed to the mine was gained. The new line branched off the mainline south of Kaltan, and approached the mine from the southeast.
From now on, the old access track from Postoyanniy to the bunkers was no longer needed, and remained unused. At the same time, as the Postoyanniy settlement grew, and as there were not enough buses available at that time, the logistical problem of transferring workers from the housing estate to the mine emerged. Thanks to the innovative-minded director of the mine, Petr Ignatyevich Kaminskiy, the decision was made to electrify the abandoned railroad trackage and use it to operate a tramcar that would deliver workers to the mine.
Construction started at the end of summer in 1957. The project was designated as "people's" project, thus free labor could be used as workers from the mine were obliged to "volunteer" their free time during weekends. The work done was actually limited to erecting poles alongside the track, and installing wirework. The wire must had been made of aluminum, as multiple witnesses remember a distinct shining of the wire when exposed to the sun.
Sometime in fall 1957 representatives from the mine went to the neighboring city of Prokopyevsk to look for an appropriate tramcar. Prokopyevsk operated trams since 1936. It is located 25 km. north of the region's main industrial center, Novokuznetsk, which also boasted tram service since 1934. But Prokopyevsk possessed a remarkable assembly of second hand cars collected from all over Russia. The miners were given a double-ended tram of the MS type, which, in turn was previously delivered second-hand from Leningrad. The car was equipped with two bows. It was transferred to Malyshev Log on a tractor trailer by the end of fall 1957. Thus, prior to being oprated at the mine, this car has changed owners at least two times.
Service started at the end of fall / the beginning of winter of 1957, and continued for about 4 years. By 1961 the sole old car the line was operated with deteriorated to the point of being inoperable, at the same time buses were delivered into the area, and the tram operation ceased.
Interestingly, Kaltan tram is often associated with the city of Osinniki, probably as the latter is the closest sizeable city with trams. As it turns out, the Kaltan - Malyshev Log tramway began operating 3 years prior to the opening of the Osinniki tramway. Osinniki struggled to built its network for as many as 11 years, operation only began on the 1st of November, 1960. Thus, the Kaltan tramway operated concurrently with the Osinniki tramway for as little as one year.
The former railroad access track was electrified to the point near the merge of the Malyshev Log railroad branch and the main line, which was half-way between the Kaltan and the Platforma 412 Km. Stations, near the railroad crossing for the Malyshev Log road. This way the tram did not service the Kaltan Railroad Station, moreover, it did not even enter the city of Kaltan, located on the other side of the main railroad line. By terminating at the railroad crossing, the tram barely serviced the northern outskirts of the town. In order to reach the town, passengers had to walk over the railroad tracks at the crossing. The main purpose of the tram had been to deliver workers from the settlement of Postoyanniy to the Shushtalepskaya Mine, not to provide service to Kaltan.
The tram line continued alongside the road to Malyshev Log, on its northwestern side. At the time of tram operation, part of the road was located south of the modern alignment. Most of the line went over the swamps that stretched between the villages of Postoyanniy and Malyshev Log. Just short of reaching the Kondoma River, the line made a gradual 90 degree turn to the west and entered the village of Malyshev Log, where it ended at the eastern mouth of the "Air" Bridge.
Contrary to a widespread belief, the tram did not go over the bridge over the Kondoma River at the end of the Malyshev Log road. The bridge never served as a railroad bridge, even though it looks like it did. The bridge was erected in 1958 to provide a permanent road connection to the Shushtalepskaya Mine. It was build just south of the coal-pedestrian "Air" Bridge that existed since 1952. The standard mass-produced pre-manufactured railroad bridge flight was used to build the new bridge, except that it was adapted to carry one lane of automobile traffic. Thus, the structural origin of the bridge probably deceived some tramway historians. By 2004 the bridge badly deteriorated, and after a few years of being officially designated as pedestrian-only bridge, finally closed for a major rehab. The "Air" Bridge remained unused since 1960s, and dangled over the river in decay, until it was swept away along with a portion of the village of Malyshev Log during the catastrophic flood that overwhelmed the basin of the Kondoma River in the spring of 2004.
The tramway line had 5 stops:
With time the unused coal bunkers disappeared, and an improvised village center thrived around the tramway terminal in Malyshev Log. For instance, the local post office was operating right next to the tram stop.
A sole tramcar operated as a shuttle back and forth between the hours of 5:00 in the morning and 1:00 at night. Shift changes at the mine were scheduled at 8:00, 16:00 and 24:00. The car would depart from the terminals upon filling up with passengers, there was no operating schedule. The running time via the entire line was about 7-10 minutes. There was one regularly assigned driver, Galina Trapeznikova, a former machinist from the mine. She would periodically get relieved by mechanics from the mine, who would take over the tram's controller in addition to their regular duties at the mine. This is supported by multiple eyewitness accounts stating that tram operators were dressed in miner's uniform.
During nights the tramcar was parked near the bunkers at Malyshev Log. All maintenance was done by mechanics from the mine.
As the tram didn't enter the city of Kaltan, technically speaking, the tramway operation in question should be called the Malyshev Log tramway, not the Kaltan tramway, as it is usually referred to.
Special thanks for help with collecting materials for this study:
Petr Mikhaylovich Dovgosheya, Director, The Municipal Undertaking "Osinnikovlsiy Tramway " ("The Osinniki Tramway").
Gennadiy Petrovich Mozhenin, veteran and distinguished worker at the "Shushtalepskaya" Mine, as well as planner, builder and regular passenger of the Kaltan - Malyshev Log tramway line.
Vladimir Doroshenko, mechanic, the Osinniki Tram Depot, former passenger of the Kaltan - Malyshev Log tramway line.
Residents of Malyshev Log