After purchasing the garden plot with the barrel on stilts, we initially thought that we would cut it out and haul it away.
We kept asking, is it a barrel or is it a dwelling? The primary hypothesis to come to mind was…
- The soviets had surplus train barrels and decided to make houses out of them.
But, lest let speculation win, first I wanted to dive deeper. So I turned to the internet and some close friends who could craft the correct search terms in Russian words and Cyrillic letters.
This is what we discovered.
In Russian the barrel is called “ЦУБ-2М”, “балок”, “БАМовский домик”, or “времянка”
The technical name ЦУБ-2М (Shub-2m) or (Цилиндрический унифицированный блок) actually means Cylindrical Unified Block.
The Shub-2m was designed to provide housing units in the Siberian tundra. It was critical to solve the Siberian housing shortage because dependable and happy laborers were required to continue building the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Rather than repurposing old barrels, the soviets actually designed a round pre-fabricated home that would more easily shed snowfall and resist moisture.
Previously the rectangular wooden huts built on wheels (think modern tiny homes made from wood) were not robust enough to resist the harsh siberian tundra.
The wood rotted, the roofs struggled under the pressure of heavy snowfall, and insulation was a problem. The wooden huts were around a third or half the size of the Shub-2m; designing a more spacious dwelling with civilized comforts would increase worker morale.
Living in Style in 1975
Essentially, these units were highly stylized practical living units built to entice laborers to move to harsh conditions with the promise of comfortable housing.
The Shub-2m was outfitted with 15 cm of Styrofoam insulation around the perimeter of the structure, and we found several hundred kilos of metal piping for the heating system under the floorboards. These units were made to be connected to a centralized thermal generator which would pump hot water through the pipes of the units connected. T Some sources differ and state that the barrels were outfitted with their own boiler units. I think that the Shub-2m was created in a couple of versions in both stand alone and centrally integrated units.
If you want to find more pictures just copy ЦУБ-2М and do a google photo search.
Other insight on the ЦУБ-2М
Here is a link to a Russian language article about the ЦУБ-2М, https://ardexpert.ru/article/6227, if you use google translate, this article contradicts a bit my own research, but offers more insight and some of the same photos.
This article comically talks about the craze for Tiny Houses and states, “What is now being presented as a conceptual solution for hipsters, in the Soviet Union was launched into batch production exactly 40 years ago.”
Here are some more photos of other barrel houses. Perhaps I am partial, but I think my remodeling project turned out better.
So now as a proud owner of a Shub-2m (a unique piece of history), I was now ready to move forward to plan renovations.
Check out part 3 for more details.
If you missed the story how I got into this mess, check out the first post.