The BAM Road and Maps of Russia

Whilst planning our route east through Russia, I decided to try to include a part of the BAM road. I realised that our route would allow us to incorporate a stretch of the BAM between Krasnoyarsk and Severobaikalsk (at the top of Lake Baikal) before we turn south towards Irkutsk.

The Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) railway runs for approximately 4,324km (2,687 miles) from Tayshet (east of Krasnoyarsk), west towards the Pacific Ocean at Sovetskaya Gavan. The BAM road is an old railway service track that runs roughly alongside the railway track. The road has fallen into disrepair and many of the bridges have collapsed. The road has been called the Ultimate Test of Man and Machine and has become a magnet for adventure motorcyclists and 4×4 drivers.

The western section of the BAM that we have included on the route is understood to be an easier part of the road. The sections east of Severobaikalsk become rather extreme with collapsed bridges and unpassable sections to contend with, but that is further east than we will be travelling. To learn more about ‘our section’ of the BAM, I contacted Mikhail Rybochkin who operates the excellent website www.roadtripsacrossrussia.com and who has driven the BAM road in both directions. I also contacted Griff of www.siroccoverland.com who is currently travelling in the area and has some great video posted of his bridge crossings on the BAM. Both were very helpful and provided useful information.

The driving distance between Krasnoyarsk and Severobaikilsk, via Tulun and Bratsk, is about 1620 km (1007 miles). In some places the road is rough but we should be able to drive the route in 3-4 days. There is a short cut via Taishet – Nunsky -Vikhorevka, along the railroad. It can be tackled in a Land Rover Defender but the drive may be extreme. Even though it is a ‘short-cut’, the same amount of time will be required to complete the route due to the challenging terrain. The short-cut (from Tayshet to Vikholevka) and longer route (via Tulun) can both be seen in the map below.

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The route south from Severobaikalsk to Irkutsk will likely take us two days. There is no obvious road south, but closer inspection reveals a track road that runs south from Ulkan (on road between Severobaikalsk and Ust Kut) and meets up with a secondary road from Kachug to Irkutsk. There is another track (old logging road) that runs south from Ust Kut to Zhigalovo and on to Irkutsk. We’ll be taking one of these routes.

The only road map that I had of Siberia has a scale of 1:8,000,000 (1:8 Mill) which doesn’t provide enough detail. I have now purchased a couple of Reise Know How maps that provide much better detail. The ‘Russia from the Urals to Lake Baikal’ map has a scale of 1:2,000,000 (1:2 Mill) whilst the ‘Lake Baikal’ map has a scale of 1:550,000. These maps are proving useful for trip planning and will be a very handy back-up to any GPS mapping that we have on the trip.

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I have other Reise Know How maps (Mongolia and Kazakhstan) and find them to be very good maps. The best online price that I found for the maps was at www.themapshop.co.uk (7.75 GBP each).

The image below shows the level of detail in the 1:550,000 map of Lake Baikal.

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