Nizhny Tagil in the Ural Mountains close to Europe’s border with Asia, has a population of more than 360,000 and stands at the heart of an industrial region of major importance. Its first important works were established by members of the Demidov family from 1725, and more factories were re-located in the area during the Second World War (known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War), when armour plate for tanks was made there.
The principal iron and steel works closed in 1987 but substantial parts have been retained and since 1989 have been displayed to visitors over an area of 30 ha, and can be viewed on guided tours. One blast furnace complex dates from the 1930s and another from the 1950s, but the retaining wall behind them was built between 1820 and 1850. The complex includes blowing machines and the systems by which the furnaces were fed with raw materials. While preserved blast furnaces are relatively common, the open hearth steel plant at Nizhny Tagil is one of very few that remain in Europe. It includes the blowing machine for the open hearth furnaces and the adjacent rolling mill. There are also substantial remains of the systems that provided water-power for the works, some from the eighteenth century, and including a water turbine of 1892. The history of the plant is interpreted in three periods, those of water-power, steam-power and electricity. A more ambitious scheme, the Demidov Park, was approved in 1995 but has yet to be fully implemented.
There is a monument to Yefim Cherapanov (1774-1842) and his son Miron Yefimovich Cherapanov (1803-49) who were bonded as serfs to the Demidovs, and were the principal mechanical engineers in Nizhny Tagil. They made lathes and other machine tools and in 1833 built a locomotive that worked on a railway serving local copper mines. They received little encouragement and the locomotive was replaced by horses. Railway rolling stock is still manufactured in Nizhny Tagil by Uralwagonzavoa (the Ural Vehicle Factory).