The day of November, 3, 2003 marked the most unusual journey of submarine in the modern Russian history. Someone’s fancy launched delivery of the boat from the Baltic Sea to Volga region steppes.
It was decided to decorate the Avtovaz technical museum by a real submarine. Avtovaz is a Russian producer of LADA cars. Alongside with products of the car works, this museum is a home of different unique engineering units: from German trains of the 30s to MiG fighter aircraft. It’s a town in the city and tourists travel along it by bus – that’s how huge it is and that’s why the creators wanted to have something extraordinary, the crown of this scientific collection.
The idea to buy a submarine for the museum is not new at Avtovaz. For the first time reps of the car giant applied to administration of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet in 1998 asking to sell them some written-off boat. For some reasons it wasn’t done. In 2001 the Baltic Fleet removed submarine B-307. It was the largest diesel submarine ever in service with the Russian Navy. After removal from service the boat “missed” in Kronstadt waiting for scrapping. At that time it “played” the episodic role in one of the Russian comedies. Museum officials then finally managed to successfully negotiate delivery of the sub to Tolyatti.
It was planned to have B-307 in Tolyatti in June 2003. But the project faced unforeseen difficulties – the military demanded to tighten security and hold special maneuvers on one of the naval bases.
Only as soon as the Naval Commission gave consent to transportation, B-307 hit the road for its last journey. This operation was considered unique also because as opposed to other submarines, acquired by museums, this one was hauled from Kronstadt to Tolyatti museum entirely, without cutting it to pieces. Thus, early November 2003 the boat was sent from Kronstadt to Tolyatti on pontoons by means of two side lift bags and pushers. The total way counted 2246 km, covered by B-307 in less than a month. Its route lay across the Neva, the Ladoga, the Svir, Onega Lake, Beloye Lake, Rybinsk Reservoir, and, finally, the Volga. In fact, the boat passed 22 locks.
At the end of November 2003 the future exhibit was moored in Tolyatti river port and then forwarded to Primorsky village to a special jetty having been constructed for B-307. 4.5 km of direct road remained and engineers had to carry the boat along the steppe. First of all, they had to load the submarine on the shore and for this purpose built the metal mat with special side rim parts of exactly the same shape as the boat. By hard adventure, Avtovaz ran short of money and the Board applied to community authorities for financial support. USD 1.3 mln was required to accomplish transportation. The city did help, but not right away.
On the other hand, engineers had to think about how to lift the sub off the water. Operation promised to be complicated and preparations took one year. Tolyatti engineers took a special trip to Kronstadt to learn how their colleagues lift submarines off the water for maintenance and repair. As soon as the boat was on the shore, it was planned, it would be hauled to museum along the cleaned distance of 4.5 km. Workers were going to carry the submarine along the ice, as transportation was possible only in early February, when real frost was expected. B-307 was to slide on the ice track right to the destination area.
But there wasn’t enough snow. Unexpectedly, on April, 3, the boat was carried away from the shore by more than 3 km. In a few hours it got stuck in the ice and was adrift. Two tug boats were sent to help the submarine. Slowly passing the ice – and its thickness was 25-40 cm – the tugs finally managed to reach the boat. Ice-breaking tow boat freed the sub from the ice bondage and towed it to the river port. Following this accident, it was decided to haul the submarine to the place of future constant station as soon as possible.
Prior to the above mentioned operation workers began to build an unusual “road” leading to the river. Local relief was bulldozed over the distance of 5km, the width made up 36m. Slope of the coastal area was reduced and the river bottom was deepened in the uplift area. Afterwards, the boat was put on a special steel skid with keel blocks and connected to the web of steel ropes and rope blocks.
Track machines of engineering corps were used as haulers: armored track plotters, retrievers and tractors on the armored chassis. The land towing distance turned out to be technically more difficult than the river one. It is worth saying that the travel speed of the boat went down to 20m per day. In the final point B-307 finally stopped at 3:20 p.m., April, 22, 2005 – almost after one and a half years after moving off.