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We are building St. Petersburg. Mostotrest

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St. Petersburg which can be admired forever – intertwining of architectural ensembles, reflections from the river, the night sky and huge stone canvasses, rising above the city in front of non-accidental spectators. Drawing of bridges is a romantic sight, which gathers hundreds of thousands of spectators on the embankments every year. However, it is also a non-romantic and concentrated hard work of Mostotrest’s engineers.

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Sometimes in conversations, friends ask me – how soon will a bridge be drawn. I reply – bridges are not drawn, those are spanned.

Yes

So there you go

Leafs of the bridge

Also spanned?

Yes. Because not all understand what bridge leafs are. For them its just a crossing. But a bridge has leafs which can go up and down. If we are span and un-span the bridge several times during calibration, we call it “flapping the wings”

Bridge drawing sequence active

Number two comes first

St. Petersburg which can be admired forever – intertwining of architectural ensembles, reflections from the river, the night sky and huge stone canvasses, rising above the city in front of non-accidental spectators. Drawing of bridges is a romantic sight, which gathers hundreds of thousands of spectators on the embankments every year. However, it is also a non-romantic and concentrated hard work of Mostotrest’s engineers.

Lowering the counter-weights.

Sergey Matveev-senior has been drawing and lowering the Dvortsovyi Bridge for 37 years. His son – Sergey Matveev-junior – followed the father into Mostotrest. He has been working at the neighboring – Tuchkov Bridge – for 17 years.

Sergey Matveev jr., mechanic at Tuchkov Bridge: “You got to have extensive knowledge in different spheres – electrics, hydraulics, mechanics. According to the drawing regulations, you have to be capable of solving an issue in under 10 minutes. Because the flow is non-stop. Your meddling can cause ships and barges to stall.

Andrey Belashov, deputy director and head engineer at Mostotrest: “Mechanics are certainly responsible for preparing the bridges for navigations, yes. It requires servicing both the equipment and hydraulic systems. They are also responsible for drawing and lowering the bridges according to the schedule – the main weight lies on the shoulders of a mechanic, making him the most senior person during the drawing.

Slava, leafs are not ready

Are pumps operational?

Yes, they do. But counterweight went down for some reason and that’s it. Counterweight is ready for drawing though.

Ok, im coming

Ok, Slava – we are ready. Draw the leafs.

Sergey Matveev senior, head of Dvortsovyi Bridge crew: “The leafs are balanced with counterweights – to make them rotate easier. Technically, those are not raised – but rotated around central bearings. The counterweight is attached to the rear part of the leaf, like this. So it drags the leaf down and, thus, the leaf goes up. The counterweights are hidden from view, so people often don’t understand how a huge bridge is being drawn. But it’s a simple rotation.

The drawing flight is a construction which doesn’t require balance toward the lead. In daytime, the counterweights are fixed in place, while bridge leafs are connected with special tools. When drawn, each counterweight is lowered into a cauldron, effectively raising the leafs. When bridges are lowered, pumps inject liquid into hydraulic cylinders, which – in turn – raise counterweights.

All this space is occupied by counterweights when the bridge is drawn. This is the leaf’s lock. This grapple connected to the leaf gets into here and gets locked by the cylinder. And thus the leaf would not move – amid any kind of rain or wind.

While counterweights at Dvortsovyi Bridge help the leafs to be drawn, at Tuchkov Brodge those are responsible for keeping the bridge down together. In order to raise the leafs, you have to pull the counterweights down – and there’s no fixing system in place at Tuchkov. The pumps work non-stop to keep the bridge drawn.

Those have been here since the bridge was built. Renovated, serviced, saw some changes and examinations, but still here since 1965.

The first permanent drawbridge in St. Petersburg is the Blagoveshenskiy. It was built in mid-19th century over the Neva River. The Isaakievskiy pontoon bridge which used to be in its place was moved closer to the Zimniy Palace. And exactly one hundred years ago the Dvortsovyi Bridge was built – St. Petersburg’s prominent landmark.

Drawbridges in other country are purely about a utility role – to let ships through to ports and harbors. There’s no such place as St. Petersburg where such bridges are located in the central area of a city. And we see it every day – almost like a norm to us. We may not see it romantically even, but we certainly do have this romance here.

What is the first memory you have?

Well, its not first – its rather a collective memory, I would say. The chains inside the cauldron and all these pathways – felt like an old castle or something

And a torture chamber

Yes yes, those too

A basement of tortures

Those granite rocks too – those were there too. All felt very special. And those huge gear-wheels. When they started spinning, it felt very special

Sergey Matveev senior, head of Dvortsovyi Bridge crew: “We’ve never had a case when – oh, dad, please help me quickly, very quickly. Well we do discuss it at home from time to time. We have common interests, so we do talk about it and share experiences”

Four mechanics take to the bridge in every shift. If a bridge has two leafs, then there are two engine rooms – on the left and right banks. And there has to be a worker in each of them – in order to resolve any issue. But there’s only one controlling console at each bridge.

Andrey Belashov, deputy director and head engineer at Mostotrest: “I’ll tell you more – at almost all of our bridges, except the Tuchkov and the Birzhevoy, we have automatic systems in place to control technological processes. In principle, a mechanic has to be there to read data from sensors and check computerized control. He also oversees mechanisms, evaluates their state, checks their functionality and so on. But the process is mostly automatic nowadays.

Up to six security guards also take on a shift alongside the mechanics. The put cordons on and make sure that nobody stays on the bridge before its draw. But there are cases when the curios, those loving the extremes or simply those who were late not only hamper the mechanics’ work, but also risk their lives.

Security, you have a trespasser.

Its clear on the top

Commencing drawing

Sergey Matveev senior, head of Dvortsovyi Bridge crew: “If, lets say, a man somehow escapes from security and runs towards the leaf, we are stopping the drawing. During the drawing, when there’s a 4-meter gap between the static part and the leaf, the security would not let anyone through.

Usually, cars which fell off the bridge – those either hit the fence or went around it. The fence is set up anyway and guards are there. But if a car is at full speed its impossible to stop it. And those folks are in some hurry, but end up in the river

Today, Mostotrest is in charge of 422 bridges, 18 of which are drawbridges. Nine of them are drawn every night, another three – upon a preliminary request from ship companies. The navigation schedule is finalized every year before April 10th. Bridges are drawn in accordance with it, while lowering them may happen earlier than the scheduled time. The leafs go down after the last ship in the night passes the bridge.

Sergey Matveev jr., mechanic at Tuchkov Bridge: “We have two drawings according to the schedule. We lower it slightly earlier, usually, after the last ship informs the dispatcher that it passed the bridge. The dispatcher then calls us, says that all ships are through and we can lower the bridge”

In the winter, when the river is covered with ice, mechanics still have a lot of work. They renovate and test the equipment, change the oil. During the navigation season, the drawing and lowering of the bridges is coordinated by a dispatcher. And although mechanics have no right to operate the bridges without a command, those late for the crossing often ask them to violate the regulations.

Sergey Matveev jr., mechanic at Tuchkov Bridge: “There have been situations like that, surely. People in love or others. But mostly motorists. Hey, lower the bridge please – we’ll pay a lot of money. But we have never done so, surely”

Sergey Matveev senior, head of Dvortsovyi Bridge crew: “We have a schedule which we cannot violate. Its not a private shop or something – drawing and lowering upon request. We understand people who are late and feel for them. Especially if it’s a woman – starts being hysterical, ok im in trouble now and stuff like that”

The transportation issues of St. Petersburg during the night was partly solved by the Bolshoy Obukhovskiy Bridge. Soon, residents will be able to get onto Vasilievskiy Island through the central segment of the Western Speed Diameter. Prior to the 2018 World Cup, there will be two new crossings. One of them – a pedestrian yacht bridge, which will connect Krestovskiy Island with Primorskiy district.

Ivan Purdyshov, head of “Pilon” construction company: “The main goal in building this bridge is access during the Confederations Cup in 2017 and World Cup in 2018. So that it would be easier to reach Krestovskiy Island during sports events. After that it will be handed over to the city”

The second bridge connecting Vasileostrovskiy and Petrogradskiy districts will be built over the Severnyi Island. In the future, it will unload the currently renovated Tuchkov Bridge from traffic. By the way, the renovation work at Tuchkov is expected to be completed by the time the new crossings will be opened – April 2018.

Kirill Melnikov, manager at “Pilon” construction company: “Mechanism have long been demanding a replacement. We will fully replace side leafs with armored steel parts. Meaning, that in the navigation off season, we will replace and reinforce the moving mechanisms and leafs.

People who spend quarters of their lives under the bridge. The drawn leafs is an everyday labor of mechanics, as well as being the romantic sight which makes all the residents proud of their city. Each one of us is part of the big city. What it will be like tomorrow – it’s up for us to decide. We are building our city together, every single one of us is building St. Petersburg.

Sergey Matveev senior, head of Dvortsovyi Bridge crew: “During the white nights period in the summer, when there’s basically no dark during nighttime, you go out from under the bridge, having left the console, and see the dawn. Its always different and always pretty – with or without clouds. Especially when its with clouds, cant take your eyes away. And you’re going home with a thought – oh, I wish tomorrow comes sooner so I can get back to work”

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