History of the Trans-Siberian Railway
In 1890-91 the future Tsar Nicholas II took part in an epic journey that took in large pats of Asia and the Far East culminating in a visit to the then mighty Empire of Japan. It is at the end of this journey in Vladivostok that he inaugurated the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway’s Far East section. He wrote of his excitement of travelling in the Tsar’s train, the mobile office of the Russian head of State, across the wilderness of Siberia.
Building of the Original Route From Moscow to Vladivostok
The original route was built between 1891 and 1916 beginning in Moscow and ending in Vladivostok running through Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude , Chita and Khabarovsk via Southern Siberia. A second line was built through Chinese Manchuria, in order to drastically cut down the travel time from Chita to Vladivostok, called the Chinese Eastern Railway. This line ended up being completed a decade before the main Trans-Siberian line was completed and was run out of Harbin.
The Trans-Siberian Railway spans a whopping seven time zones and a journey takes 8 days to complete making it the third longest continuous service in the world, the other two are Moscow to Pyongyang and Kiev to Vladivostok although both these, for the most part, are the Trans-Siberian.
The Trans-Mongolian Route Through Ulaanbaatar to Beijing
Along with the Trans-Manchurian via Harbin, the oldest rail connection to Vladivostok, there is also a third line known as the Trans-Mongolian. This line breaks off at Ulan Ude and heads South to Ulan-Baatar and on to Beijing. Finally in 1991 a fourth route was finished after decades of on-off construction known as the BAM or Baikal Amur Mainline. This splits off several hundred miles west of Lake Baikal and passes the lake to its north.
The Trans-Siberian was to play a key role in many ensuing wars, not least World War II where it was used by both sides at different points during the conflict. Firstly by the Germans to import large quantities of rubber for the war effort from Japan and secondly to supply USSR with materials for the war effort from the US.
Finally it’s effect on the economies of Siberia cannot be understated with both agriculture and industry able to export with greater ease, not to mention creating tourism to an area that otherwise would remain cut off from the rest of the world.
Article originally posted by Phil Stanley: 25th October 2013