History of Railway Infrastructure

In 1859, construction works started along the route St. Petersburg - Warsaw (about 1,250 km were planned to be laid) on the territory of Lithuania. Railway Daugavpils-Vilnius-Grodno and branch Lentvaris - Kaunas - Kybartai (Virbalis) construction works were completed in 1862. In the course of the construction of the first railway in Lithuania a great deal of engineering structures were built. The following were the largest and the most important ones: the tunnels of Kaunas and Paneriai (constructed in autumn 1861), the bridges over the rivers Neris, Vilnele, Merkys and Nemunas in Kaunas.

Kauno tunelis Panerių tunelis
Kaunas tunnel Paneriai tunnel

The first railway stations in Lithuania were constructed on this line (21 stations). At the very beginning of operation, the Board, governed by the railway director, consisted of three services: track and structures, rolling stock and traction facilities, and traffic. St. Petersburg - Warsaw railway's track and structures service was formed of the first ones, since it supervised a completion of road construction works to some degree. Vilnius track and structures service included a third division, which preformed the function of road maintenance works.

Upon undergoing by Lithuania the process of becoming an independent state and handing over the railways to the control of the State, Lithuanian railways started a new page of their history. On 4 July, 1919, the Government of Lithuania entered into a contract with Germany on the hand-over of the railway network to the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Lithuania. Under this contract, sections of the railway were handed over. On 10 September, 1919, Lithuanian ​​rail management was restructured. Operation and traction services of the Railway Board were eliminated. In their place, there were founded running (traffic, charges and commerce management), road (including tracks, telegraph, and telephone), traction (rolling stock and relevant services), economic (material supply) services and Health Department. Instead of former Kaunas and Siauliai operation departments, there were established Kaunas and Radviliskis sections. In 1920, the Government for the first time approved rail posts. The Railway Board was headed by the director of the railways. Track service approved 1,468 posts. The service was operating 6 road sections and Kaunas telegraph workshop in the line. Arrangements regarding the purchase of rolling stock, rail safety, and its connection to the general network commenced; the rail improvement programme was developed. In 1924, the section of the wide-gauge railway Sestokai–Alytus (58 km) was constructed. When Klaipeda region was returned to Lithuania in 1923, the port of Klaipeda became a part of the Lithuanian railway system. In 1924-1932, Kuziai–Telsiai-Kretinga rail line was laid down. This line contributed to the expansion of exports and improved the conditions for the economic development in the north-western part of Lithuania. Railway to the seaport was cut by 60 km.

Lyduvėnų geležinkelio tiltas per Dubysą
Lyduvenai railway
bridge over Dubysa

The Railway Board constructed several railway branches, essential for industrial growth, and, in 1935-1936, highly significant branch for Kaunas tunnel bypassing (3km). Old bridges were reconstructed, new bridges, railway stations, and workshops were built. Lithuania remained a transit country. The major part of the transit was the Soviet Union-Germany and Germany-the Soviet Union. Lithuanian Government had an interest in transit freight transportation, thus, it continued improving railway performance.

Railway management structure of independent Lithuania had minor changed. In 1936, the directorate was named the Supreme Directorate, services – Directorates.

Having incorporated Lithuania into the Soviet Union on 3 August, 1940, the People's Commissar for Transport of the USSR signed the Order on "Organization of Lithuanian Railways" under which Lithuanian Railways became part of the USSR's railway network. Railway activities were reorganized in compliance with the procedures effective in the USSR. Upon occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union, railway tracks have been changed to the Soviet rail width on a large-scale - from 1,435 mm to 1,524 mm.

After German troops occupied Lithuania on June of 1941, the railway sections were once again transformed into a standard European 1,435 mm gauge. At the outset of the war (in 22.06.1941), part of the steam locomotives and coaches were taken to the East by the decision of the Soviet authorities. The territory of Lithuania, occupied by Germans, was incorporated into the Ostland. The management of the railways was concentrated in the hands of the military railway administration with the headquarters in Riga. World War II and the post-war turmoil destroyed the railway fleet.

Taisomas geležinkelis
Railway in repair

At the end of the World War 2, railway workers were replacing the tracks and the rails with the Russian track gauge (1,524 mm). The post-war Railway Board, set up by the Soviet authorities, inherited the railway system devastated by the war. In 1944, Vilnius, Kaunas, Kedainiai, Radviliskis, Siauliai and Panevezys rail lines were restored; in May, 1945 - Klaipeda rail line. In 1946, the Railway Board of Lithuania owned 2 091.8 km of railway lines, including 536.6 km of double-track lines. Railway was controlled from the centre, which was located in Riga. In 1946, Vilnius, Kaunas, Siauliai, Klaipeda, Kaliningrad, Isrutis wide-gauge and Panevezys narrow-gauge transport districts were established.

At the end of the World War 2, railway workers were replacing the tracks and the rails with the Russian track gauge (1,524 mm). The post-war Railway Board, set up by the Soviet authorities, inherited the railway system devastated by the war. In 1944, Vilnius, Kaunas, Kedainiai, Radviliskis, Siauliai and Panevezys rail lines were restored; in May, 1945 - Klaipeda rail line. In 1946, the Railway Board of Lithuania owned 2 091.8 km of railway lines, including 536.6 km of double-track lines. Railway was controlled from the centre, which was located in Riga. In 1946, Vilnius, Kaunas, Siauliai, Klaipeda, Kaliningrad, Isrutis wide-gauge and Panevezys narrow-gauge transport districts were established.

Kauno stoties rūmai Kretingos stoties rūmai
Kaunas Station Hall Kretinga Station Hall

In 1956, the name – Lithuanian Railways once again, and consolidation of economic units is carried out once more. In 1959, Kaisiadorys rail line is eliminated, with the tracks transferred to Vilnius and Kaunas rail lines. In 1961, the same thing happens with Radviliskis rail line, with the tracks shared between Siauliai and Panevezys rail lines. However, during the period of 1960-1962, 390 km of narrow-gauge railways with a width of 600 mm were eliminated.

In 1963, the Board of Lithuanian railways was abolished, and railways of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were united into the Railways of the Baltic States. In 1975, Utena-Svencioneliai rail line was transformed from the narrow (750mm) to wide-gauge.

Electric Train Welcoming on
Vievis Station in 1975

The Soviet railways used to solve all global issues of the entire USSR. The most significant contribution of the Railways of the Baltic States in the development of the Lithuanian railways at that time was the electrification. On 29 December, 1975, the first electric train departed from Vilnius to Kaunas. The electrification of the lines Naujoji Vilnia–Kaunas and Lentvaris–Trakai was completed in 1979. In 1981, Jonava railway section was established in Vilnius County. A part of Vilnius and Kaunas rail lines were handed over to the above section. Although freight flows across Lithuania, in particular, via the ferry crossing Klaipeda–Mukran (1986) was growing, the railways of our country, managed from Rig, did not received adequate investments into intensely operated lines.

Under the Act of 11 March, 1990, Lithuania restored its independence. In January, 1990, Lithuania's Government demanded the USSR Council of Ministers to restore the independence of the railways, as it was before 1940. On 28 December 1991, the Ministry of Transport of the USSR signed the Order on the liquidation of the Railways of the Baltic States, being part of the Ministry of Transport of the USSR, as of 1 January 1992. Lithuanian Railways became an independent public enterprise managed in a free and independent manner. On 7 July, 1992, the first international train departed from Sestokai to Suvalkai; on 31 August, 1993, the last train of the occupation army left Kena Station.

First international train Sestokai–Suvalkai 

Sestokai Railway Station became the gateway to Europe. After the restoration of Lithuania's independence, the 22 km long track section Sestokai-Lithuania's border with Poland, of the European standard gauge (1435 mm), gained a great importance. This section has become the Lithuanian Railways' "window to Europe." On 18 July, 1995, the Public undertaking "Lithuanian Railways" was restructured into a special-purpose stock company.

On 04.11.1991, establishment of Automation, Communication and Power Supply Service was started. The Service owned automation, communication and power supply sections: Vilnius automation and communication section (LA-1), Kaunas automation and communication section (LA-2), Siauliai automation and communication section (LA-3), Klaipeda automation and communication section (LA-4), Vilnius power supply section (LE-1), and Siauliai power supply section (LE-2). On 25.11.1991, the Transport Service was established. The Service managed the following sections of Lithuanian railways: Vilnius (LK-1), Svencioneliai (LK-2), Kaunas (LK-3), Jonava (LK-4), Panevezys (LK-5), Siauliai (LK-6), Klaipeda (LK-7) and railway repair stations (Siauliai railway repair station (KRS-1), Lentvaris railway repair station (KRS-2)). Structures and engineering facilities service began its activities on 07.01.1992. The Service owned: Vilnius structures and engineering facilities section (LP-1) and Siauliai structures and engineering facilities section (LP-2). Instead of former operating divisions, in 1997, Infrastructure Board was established with the primary objective to maintain, repair and modernize the infrastructure of Lithuanian railways. On 29 June, 2001, Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania registered new Articles of Association of the stock company "Lithuanian Railways". SPSC "Lithuanian Railways" was re-incorporated as a stock company. Abbreviated name of the company: SC "Lithuanian Railways". On 1 August of the same year, the above railway sections were restructured to the infrastructure subsidiaries: Vilnius (IF-1), Kaunas (IF-2), Siauliai (IF-3), and Klaipeda (IF-4). In February, 2006, Railway Infrastructure Directorate was established on the basis of the Infrastructure Board. Main objectives of expansion of the Lithuanian railway infrastructure are upgrading of IXB and IXD Crete transport corridors' roads and structures, modernization of telecommunications, signalling, and power supply equipment to increase train speeds: passenger trains – up to 160 km/hr, freight – up to 120 km/h, the weight of freight trains – up to 6000 t. The key objectives are considered reconstruction of IXB Crete transport corridor's bridges and viaducts, modernization of telecommunication equipment in IX B corridor's section Kaisiadorys – Kybartai, modernization of the automatic rolling stock test equipment, expansion of IX B corridor junction with the port of Klaipeda – modernisation of Klaipeda railway junction, signalling and power lines in the section of Siauliai - Klaipeda, station road extension in the IX corridor, modernisation of telecommunication systems in the railway section state border with Latvia-Panevezys-Radviliskis- Taurage-Pagegiai, upgrading of Lithuanian Railway radio communication through installing GSM-R. The new modern Kena border railway station was built. The project of laying the European track gauge "Rail Baltica" plays an important role in implementing the long-term (by 2025) transport strategy of Lithuania. "Rail Baltica" is going to cross the border of Lithuania and Poland as well as the border of Lithuania and Latvia.

These activities contribute not only to restoration, but also to fundamentally changes of the Lithuanian railway infrastructure's properties: line capacity, station capacity, allowable train speeds, weights, and so on. The fast pace of infrastructure renewal and modernization is maintained until now. And today we are happy for the works done and the results achieved.

 

Updated on 2014-03-28