The Trans- Siberian Rail­way Routes

Asian Geographic - - Heritage -

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.


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.

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