In 2016 the Trans-Siberian railway will be celebrating its 100th anniversary, but how much do you really know about the longest railway in the world? Here’s our pick of ten fascinating facts about this famous route to get you inspired for your own journey in its centenary year.
1. While construction of the railway was first proposed in the middle of the nineteenth century, with many foreign companies offering to fund the development, it did not actually begin until 25 years later in 1891 under the power of Emperor Alexander the III. The Russian tsars had wanted full ownership of the railroad with no foreign influence resulting in the quarter of a century delay.
2. While sections of the railway were running long before its official completion 1916, it was not until the opening of Amur Bridge that it was considered complete, which at 26,000 metres in length is the longest bridge on the Trans-Siberian railway.
3. Spanning an incredible 9,288 kilometres from Moscow to Vladivostok, the Trans-Siberian railway is the longest direct rail route in the world passing through over eighty cities and small towns and crossing 16 large rivers, including the Volga, Ob, Yenisei and Amur.
4. The longest tunnel on the Trans-Siberian route is two kilometres long – so you may want to reconsider holding your breath for this one!
5. The railway systems of Mongolia and Russia use a different size gauge than in China, meaning when crossing the border from or into China every carriage of the train has to be lifted and the bogies changed in order to continue the journey.
6. From start to finish the Trans-Siberian railway passes through eight different time zones, however in Russia all timetables, station clocks and train clocks remain in Moscow time, while in Mongolia and China they revert to local time. Good luck wrapping your head around that one!
7. The railway encompasses three rail routes including the Trans-Mongolian (from Moscow to Beijing), the Trans-Manchurian (from Siberia to Beijing), and the Trans-Siberian itself (from Moscow to Vladivostok) – the longest of which takes seven days to travel non-stop.
8. An estimated 60,000 workers were enlisted to build the Trans-Siberian railway, many of them soldiers, local labourers and convicts.
9. Due to the enormous financial burden of the railway, many short cuts were taken during its construction resulting in delays and complications once it started running. While it was officially finished in 1916, work and maintenance of the railway will never really be complete.
10. The Trans-Siberian railway remains Russia’s most important transport link, carrying 30% of its exports every year. While the route does attract plenty of foreign travellers, the majority of its passengers are still in fact local Russians travelling across country for one reason or another.
Fancy trying the Trans-Siberian for yourself? Take a look at our railway journeys here.