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The most beautiful railroads in the world: The Trans-Siberian Railway

The most beautiful railroads in the world: The Trans-Siberian Railway
photo: Trans-Siberian Railway
24 / 12 / 2020

The bold and costly project of the Trans-Siberian Railway certainly did not go without complications. Nevertheless, it is still a breathtaking construction and one of the most beautiful railway lines in the world.

The Trans-Siberian Railway measures a total of 9,288.2 km. It would take seven days to travel its entire length. On its path, it overcomes a number of locations with complex terrains using bridges and tunnels. The idea of building a railway line that would connect the European and Asian parts of Russia was brought by the Governor of Eastern Siberia Nikolai Nikolayevich Muravyov-Amursky. The foundation stone was laid by Tsar Nicholas II. on May 31, 1891, but the works began earlier. At first, the idea was thought to be megalomaniac, but eventually constructions were approved. Construction works began at two opposite ends of the line, in Vladivostok in the east and in Chelyabinsk in the west, moving to the middle.

The construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway was all the more complicated because it took place in very harsh climatic conditions, in areas which were inhabited very little. There were often supply problems. The terrain itself, being in permafrost, Siberian rivers and swamps were also problematic for the works.

Despite all these problems, it was managed to build an incredible 600 kilometers of railways in a year. It should be noted that at end of 19th century and in first decade of 20th century only the most basic tools, machines and measures of transport were available. Among the workers there was a large number of soldiers, prisoners, but also of guest workers from small villages. Koreans and Japanese also worked on the construction.

According to the initial calculations, the expected costs should to climb to 350 million rubles in gold. But the real costs were much higher. Between 1891 and 1916 alone, when the Amur Road was completed, the cost climbed to 1.5 trillion rubles in gold.

The main section of the Trans-Siberian Railway from Chelyabinsk to Vladivostok was completed as early as 1916. This construction earned the nickname of a construction of the century. The construction itself took 25 years. The train was able to cross the route from Moscow to Vladivostok with an interruption on the shores of Lake Baikal for the first time in 1903, even though it used part of the East China Railway at the time. The route through Chinese territory was faster, but due to deteriorating relations between the two countries, it was necessary to change this route. As a result, a bridge over the Amur river was built with a respectable length of 600 meters.

A great challenge for the Trans-Siberian Railway was to cross Lake Baikal. At first, the train was transported through the lake by a ferry, but it was clear that this was not a long-term solution. That is why the legendary Circum-Baikal Railway was built. It measures 84 kilometers and copies the Lake Baikal. In order to build this route, the surrounding rocks had to be blasted away. A total of 39 tunnels with a total length of almost 9 kilometers were built. At that time, all with the help of only minimal technology. This part of the highway is often found as the most beautiful due to its beautiful views of the lake.

Approximately halfway along the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway in the town of Tajšet, it is possible to change to the parallel, more northerly railway, the Baikal-Amur Railway. It runs around the northern shores of Lake Baikal and continues through eastern Siberia through Komsomolsk-on-Amur to the shores of the Okhotsk Sea. It measures 4,300 kilometers. Its main goal was to facilitate the volume of transport on the Trans-Siberian Highway, to enable transport to hard-to-reach areas and to help populate them. Part of the track leads through the mountains, permafrost and many places that look as if the time has stopped there. This track was built thanks to Leonid Brezhnev during the famous five-year planning. Cruel conditions prevailed on the construction site, the outdoor temperatures reached up to minus 60 degrees. The construction of the Baikal-Amur Railway also brought many casualties. In the construction of the Severomuja Tunnel alone, which measures over 15 km and is thus the longest tunnel in Russia, more than 30 workers died. This tunnel was not completed until 2003.

Historians today agree that without the Trans-Siberian Railway, the influence of the Russian Empire in the Far East would not have been maintained and its formation would have a completely different character. Thanks to the railway, an imaginary bridge was built between Moscow and more distant areas, although the journey along the highway took full 16 days. The Trans-Siberian Railway has been in operation for a hundred years and is still the backbone of the Russian Railways. It has undergone a major modernization and is now completely electrified and runs the most modern trains.