If you’re just going to sit on the train, forget Trans-Siberian tours as it’s not for you. This trip is full of discovery but you have to get up and go out on the platforms to find the most exciting sites and experiences.  When first stepping out onto a platform you can feel quite perplexed as some seem to have so many people around. Some of these people are selling local goods but thankfully are not “pushy”. Mostly we brought milk for breakfast and tea, a round pie filled with meat (very nice) and bread for soup. At some stops there are little shops.

At all there is always at least one friendly platform dog and little children laughing and running around. Being a dog lover I would have brought some dog treats with me, as they were all cute and friendly. All the platforms are different, from the people on them to the architecture of the station buildings. Although there is not always the time at stops to enter a building, the history and futures can clearly be seen. From old buildings to new and renovated, there is something of interest to everyone even if you’re not into structure design. For me it was the different colours and stone carvings. As you walk round a platform you see more and more we found statues, sculptures and even more exciting for my husband, different trains.

Spotting Different Trans-Siberian trains

Finding different trains on and around every platform was an unexpected extra that become a game of hunt the train. This is because although some of the steam trains were the same model, they were all at different stages of restoration. Several proudly stood fully restored, with mottos on plinths on platforms. While others hide behind sheds in different colours, glistening with snow, looking ready for use later in the year. Because we were also at the end of winter we found gritters and line cleaning trains that where magnificent. Keep looking as you leave stations for more trains.

You pass many trains along the way but don’t get caught up in trying to count the trucks, as at one point I ended up counting 108 on one train with a diesel pulling and one pushing. It really makes you admire the locomotives that are pulling you. We also took sleeper trains in China. I had been worried about these due to sharing a 4 bunk room but I had no need to worry the people we shared with were friendly, the train very modern and clean and a wonderful experience. My Husband loved the bullet train in Shanghai, this was defiantly an experience of speed.
blog platform life 1
blog platform life 2

Photographing Conductors

From time to time these locomotives are changed. This is at longer stops and is fascinating. It is well worth a walk to the front to watch. It also allows you to take in the scale and beauty of the Trans Siberian trains and their history. It was on one of these walks I met the train master who is in charge of the attendants and general running of the train. Although our guard didn’t speak much English, the chief did. As I asked to photo him, he stood very proudly in his uniform, looking all the part, from the shiny buttons on his uniform to his hat badge, there was no mistaking him from the other guards.

The border with China, loos and bogies!

We also missed or were not allowed to leave the train at the border of China. This worked for and against us. Border stops can become quite confusing but are actually quite understandable. It is better to think of them in the same way as if you were going through an airport and to expect searches and import forms. They are polite but strict about you keeping still and in one place. This of course makes their job easier. However I was not quite expecting the length of these and that in the short trip between border points (of a few miles) the loos remain locked. This is required in and around all stations.

This left us for over 3 hours with no loo. Luckily our guide book (personalised by TSTC) had warned us of this and so we had not been drinking. The samovar also cools at longer stops. We had therefore been waiting for our guard to lower the step so we could leave and enter the platform building before the bogeys were changed but this never happened, no one seemed to have left the train.

This as it happened was a great experience and we were glad we had stayed on. We asked about taking photos and were told there was no problem. We all took some one off photo’s of the bogey’s being changed, from piles of them at the sides of the huge shed and the old locomotive shunting the carriages to the odd feeling of waving through the window at people in other carriages being suddenly along side us and lifted in the air on mammoth jacks. Although it is about midnight, this was definitely not a time to be going to sleep!


This is the fourth in a series of 5 articles written by guest blogger Louisa Howard who recently completed a Trans-Siberian tour with us from Moscow to Shanghai via the Trans-Mongolian, Beijing and Xian.



Siberia's Top 5

Siberia is one of the highlights of a Trans-Siberian journey and most visitors will undoubtedly have at least one stop in this magnificent region.

A Plumb Adventure

The Trans-Siberian Travel Company's staff member Chris Plumb took an epic journey from Vladivostok to St Petersburg visa Mongolia and the Tsars Gold train.

Trips Avoiding China

In the past most tourists have focused on the Trans-Mongolian to Beijing but in recent years the Trans-Siberian line to Vladivostok has become increasingly popular.

Visiting St Petersburg

Is it worth adding on a visit to the second city of Russia; St Petersburg? After all, it isn’t strictly a part of the Trans Siberian or Mongolian train lines.

Moscow Metro

There are so many options of tours in Moscow but a Metro tour should be the top of everyone’s list and is one of our favourites with plenty of surprises!

Irkutsk & Lake Baikal

One of the most popular stops on any Trans Mongolian or Trans Siberian Railway tour is the wonderful Siberian city of Irkutsk and nearby Lake Baikal.

Destination Ekaterinburg

Ekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia and one of the most popular stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway offering up history and rural Russia in the Urals.

Moscow's Kremlin

Literally meaning “fortress inside a city” the Moscow Kremlin refers to the fortified collection of palaces and cathedrals that look over Red Square.

St Petersburg's Hermitage

The State Hermitage is one of the world’s oldest museums having been founded by Catherine the Great 250 years ago and has been open to the public for over 160 years.

First Time China

As this was my first time in China I was keen to see as much as possible. We settled on Beijing, Xian and Shanghai which offer great contrasts.

Platform Life

This trip is full of discovery but you have to also get up and go out on the platforms to find the most exciting experiences to complete your Trans-Siberian trip.

Train Life

Guest blog entry describing life on board a Trans-Siberian train and the daily coming and going and routines you get into on a long train ride.

What Route to Take

When first exploring into the Trans Siberian railway, one of the first questions to ask yourself is which way to go. Here our guest blogger gives her views.

Moscow Impressions

First in a series of 5 articles written by guest blogger Louisa Howard who completed a Trans-Mongolian trip with us from Moscow all the way to Shanghai.

Trans-Siberian History

Learn about the history of this extraordinary railway in our brief guide to the construction and importance of the train routes across Russia and to China.

Tsars Gold Train

The Tsars Gold private train is one of several that run tours just for tourists in a good level of comfort along the Trans-Mongolian route. Learn more here.

Life On Board

What is a Siberian train really like? Here we go into detail about what you experience on the trains and how they really are and what facilities they have.

Destination Vladivostok

Vladivostok lies at the Far Eastern end of the Trans-Siberian railway and has been a city that has had an important part in the history of several countries.

Destination Krasnoyarsk

One of the lesser know destinations available for Trans-Siberian Tours is a stopover in the city of Krasnoyarsk despite being the third largest in Siberia.

About Siberia

With a total size of 13.1 million square miles Siberia takes up three quarters of Russia’s total size and a tenth of the whole world’s surface - learn more.

Off The Beaten Track

Learn about our Off The Beaten track rail tours that visit destinations less visited along the Siberian and Trans-Mongolian rail routes including Kazan and Krasnoyarsk.

Gers in Winter

One of the Highlights of a Trans-Siberian Tour is Mongolia and a night or two out at a ger camp on the steppe. How about visiting Mongolian ger camps in winter?

Visa Requirements

There are few nationalities that can take a Trans-Siberian trip visa free. This article intends to shed some light on the paperwork required by most.

Bogie Changing

Whether you are a train aficionado or not one of the more unusual Trans-Siberian tours experiences available to the traveller occurs at the Chinese borders.

Planning A Trip

For many people the idea of how to start organizing their Trans Siberian holiday is a daunting task. Here is a beginner’s guide to deciding what’s best for you.

Trans-Siberian in Winter

Winter is a very special time to travel the Trans-Siberian but many might be put off by the cold. This article will hopefully convince you to dress up warm and travel!

Accommodation Options

One of the joys of Trans-Siberian is the wide variety of accommodation on offer. Here we list some of the best options for the most popular stop overs.

Destination Kazan

Kazan is half way between Moscow and Ekaterinburg and an increasingly popular stop on Trans-Siberian trips for its exciting mix of cultures from East and West.

Trans-Siberian Routes

In this article we discuss the different Trans-Siberian route options available including the Trans-Manchurian, Trans-Mongolian and the Baikal Amur Mainline.

Who Travels The Trans-Siberian

Using the public trains in Russia who are you likely to come across on your Trans-Siberian travels. Here we discuss the different groups you are likely to find.

Train Classes

Picking the right train class can make all the difference on a Trans-Siberian train trip where so much time is spent on board. Learn about the different train classes here.

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