The Trans-Siberian Railway
The Trans-Siberian Railway connects Moscow and Vladivostok on the east coast. It is the longest railway in the world. It also connects to China through Mongolia and Manchuria.
In March 1891, Tsar Nicholas II had a vision of a railway all across Russia called “The Tsar’s Train”. It would become a mobile office for the Tsar and his staff whiler traveling across Russia.
The Trans-Siberian begins in Moscow and runs through Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Chita and Khabarovsk to Vladivostok through southern Siberia. It was completed in 1916. It really connects Europe and Asia. It is 9,259 kilometres (5,753 miles) long and goes through seven time zones and taking seven days to complete the trip.
Past Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, you can go south from Ulan Ude near to Ulan Bator, Mongolia and from there, you can go to Beijing, China.
The Trans-Siberian Railway may have been why Russia lost a war with Japan. The single track allowed train travel in only one direction at a time. Supplies headed east would have to wait in the sidings while a troop train headed for Moscow took precedence. After the revolution of 1917, the railway became the vital line of communication for the Russian Civil War. Partisan fighters blew up bridges and sections of track at that time. Some of those guys took over the eastern portion and used it to get away from the Red Army and then get across the ocean to hide in Vancouver, Canada.
In the late 1800’s, developing Siberia was difficult because the roads were no good for wheeled transportation. Five months of the year, rivers were the main means of transport. Horse-drawn sleds were the best way to navigate the snow-covered roads and ice-covered rivers. The Trans-Siberian changed all this.
Siberians had to import grain and other food from China in the 1800s. The Trans-Siberian changed this, too.
The Trans-Siberian Railway also gave a boost to Siberian agriculture since goods could move more easily to central Russia and even Europe.
Now it attracts many foreign tourists and is mostly used by domestic passengers.
A trainload of containers can go from Beijing to Hamburg, Germany in 15 days.
In early 2009 Russian Railways announced an ambitious “Trans-Siberian in Seven Days” program that will make it possible for freight traffic to cover 9000 km in just seven days.
A forty-foot container can go from Poland to Japan for about $3,000.
One of the complicating factors is the fact that the railway gauge changes from Mongolia to China and also in Lithuania on the European side. So, a train travelling from China to Western Europe would encounter gauge breaks twice.
A commonly used main line route is as follows.
Moscow, Yaroslavsky Rail Terminal
crosses the official boundary between Europe and Asia marked by a white obelisk.
The route from Moscow to Beijing takes about six days.
The Trans-Mongolian line follows this route to Mongolia and China:
Naushki (near Russian border)
Sükhbaatar (Mongolian border town)
Ulan Bator (the Mongolian capital)
Zamyn-Üüd (Mongolian border town)
Erenhot (Chinese border town)
Beijing (the Chinese capital)