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Trans-Siberian Railway: History and Interesting Facts About This Famous Railroad

One Hundred Years of Trans-Siberian railway and how it has changed the Russian geopolitics

Photo: Petar Milošević via Wikimedia
Source: Wikipedia/Snow in late-April at Nazyvayevsk station, Siberia.

Russia – More than 120 years ago, in Vladivostok began construction of the Trans-Siberian railway. This railroad connects the 2 parts of the world, as many as 12 districts and 87 cities, and it is 9288.2 kilometers long. Trans-Siberian railway is one of the oldest railways in Russia, and the construction of its main section between Chelyabinsk and Vladivostok lasted from 1891 to 1916.

And in 1916, after the completion of construction of the bridge across the Amur river near the town of Khabarovsk, was open direct passenger traffic between Moscow and Vladivostok. Before, for that direction people used Chinese Eastern Railway, a journey that took up to 16 days.

Source: Wikipedia/Trans-Siberian line in red; Baikal–Amur Mainline in green

For the construction of this railway were required huge funds, according to the calculations of the Committee for the construction of the Siberian railway, its cost was 350 million rubles in gold. For finishing this huge project, it was also invested an incredible human effort, and almost all sections of the route are built in the uninhabited wilderness of impassable taiga.

Development of the project lasted almost ten years, and the designers had to cope with pressures to reduce construction costs, for example, that instead of bridges set ferries across the river and other low-cost solutions. But the designers have remained determined to build the entire route of the railway, without interruption.

Source: Wikipedia/Construction work being performed by convicts,1895

The connection between the cities was not the main priority of Trans-Siberian railway. To save money and minimize disputes with landowners, the makers decided to set it up outside the cities. Because of that, the railway was built 80 kilometers south of the largest Siberian city of Tomsk. On that way, the connection between the cities and the railway was decreased.

As far as the rivers and lakes go, the Trans-Siberian railway is crossing many rivers and lakes like Ob, Yenisei, Amur, Volga. Every time they came across a river or lake, the workers built a solid railway bridge. The section around lake Baikal has been particularly difficult because they had to blow up the cliffs, break through the tunnels and build related facilities in the gorges of mountain rivers that flow into Baikal.

Source: Wikipedia/Clearing on the right-of-way of the Eastern Siberian Railway, 1895

All work on the Trans-Siberian railway have been applied by hand, using the primitive tools such as axes, wheelbarrows, picks and saws, and each year was built around 600 kilometers of tracks.

The main railway route runs between Moscow and Vladivostok across Siberia.

Another route is the Trans-Manchurian route, which runs parallel to the Trans-Siberian railway, and goes all the way to about 1,000 kilometers east of lake Baikal. From that point, the Trans-Manchurian route goes southeast to China and extends to Beijing.

The third route is the Trans-Mongolian route, which consists of the Trans-Siberian route to Ulan-Ude on the east coast of lake Baikal. From Ulan-Ude, Trans-Mongolian route extends south to Ulan Bator and Beijing.

The fourth route was completed in 1991, after nearly five decades of construction disputes. Titled Baikal–Amur Mainline (BAM), it extends from the Trans-Siberian line near lake Baikal to the Pacific.

Interesting Facts About the Trans-Siberian Railway

Source: Wikipedia/Bashkir switchman near the town Ust’ Katav on the Yuryuzan River between Ufa and Cheliabinsk in the Ural Mountains region, c. 1910

Russian tsars wanted to have the whole ownership of this railroad, there was not foreign interfering during the construction. Because of that, the railway’s construction began a quarter of a century later than it was first proposed (foreign companies offered to fund the development, but it began under the power of Emperor Alexander the III).

The longest tunnel on this route is two kilometers long. That’s quite a lot of dark!

The number of people who worked on the Trans-Siberian railway is huge. There were about 60,000 people who have enlisted to build this railway, and most of them were soldiers, convicts, and local laborers.

Source: Wikipedia/The Trans-Siberian is a vital link to the Russian Far East.

Trans-Siberian railway passes through eight time zones and clocks in the train are adjusted at Moscow time, but since 2002, it has been fully electrified.

There is a train called Golden Eagle and it goes on the route from Moscow to Vladivostok. Every traveler on this train has his own separate bathroom. If you need a doctor, it is great to know that there is one in the train at any moment of the journey.

Even though the railway was officially finished in 1916, work and maintenance of it will never be over. This railway was a huge financial burden, so many shortcuts were taken during the construction. This means there were many delays and complications from the start.