A Thumb on the Russian Railroad

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the most popular train connections in Russia is between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The railroad was built in 1851, by the order of tsar Nicholas I. A peculiar feature of the railroad was that it was all perfectly straight, expect for one bend near the town of Novgorod. Legend has it that the reason for the bend was csar Nicholas I and his thumb.

Supposedly, Nicholas I was personally involved in designing this railroad. How? He started by taking a map and a ruler. He connected two points, Moscow and St.Petersburg, and drew a straight line between the two. The only issue was that the pencil got caught on the thumb that was holding down the ruler, making a bend in the straight line. Nobody dared point out the csar’s mistake, thus, the railroad was built with a bend.

Is that a true story? No. The bend in the road was built to avoid a steep incline near Novgorod that made it hard for the trains to climb it. Today, the incline no longer exists and neither does the bend. What appeals to me in this story is that it shows the fear of the czar (or head of state) that seems to be a theme in Russia.

More stories like that to follow! Thanks for reading!

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