The Trans- Siberian Railway Routes
The Rossiya leaves Moscow every second day for its six-night, 9,259 kilometre journey to Vladivostok. This line was built over the course of 25 years between 1891 and 1916
Conscripted soldiers had to be brought in to make up the shortfall. Substandard materials were used to cut costs, and materials had to be brought thousands of miles across the taiga, in extreme climatic conditions. For much of the route, the tracks had to be laid across permafrost. Trains ran along each section as it was completed, which made the transportation of labour and materials easier.
The Russian government estimated the cost would be £35 million, and to cut the construction time, they planned to work on all seven sections simultaneously
Before the Trans-baikal section was completed, Lake Baikal posed a particular obstacle. In the winter, rails were laid across the ice on the lake so that the trains could continue on their journey. When the ice melted in spring, however, the trains had to be broken into sections and loaded onto ice breaking train ferries.
The Trans- Siberian was completed as a single track railway line in October 1916, a matter of months before the Russian Revolution. The Czechslovak Legion took control of the railway and used heavily armoured trains to support the White Russian forces, although they would ultimately be defeated by the Bolsheviks.
The Second World War
By the 1920s, it was already apparent that the build quality of the Trans- Siberian was inadequate; the civil war had also taken its toll. Improvements had to be made to make it fit for purpose, and they enabled the Trans- Siberian to play an essential role in WWII.
For the first two years of the war, the Soviet Union was neutral. Raw materials for the German war effort were shipped from Japan to Europe via the Trans- Siberian. In the other direction, thousands of Jewish refugees escaped first to Vladivostok, and then across the Pacific to America. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, causing the Soviets to join the war on the Allied side, the railway was used to move Soviet troops and to relocate vital factories to the Urals, where they could continue to operate.
The TRANS-SIBERIAN Today
At 101 years old, the Trans- Siberian Railway still plays an essential role in connecting vast swathes of Russian territory. Huge amounts of freight travel the line, including one-third of all Russia’s exports; it is also the sole means of long-distance travel for thousands of domestic passengers living inland, far from airports.