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Around the World in 80 Engineering Wonders Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia

Trans Siberian Railway

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Riding the Trans-Siberian Railway is an epic adventure. The sheer distance it covers makes it one of the greatest engineering accomplishments of all time. It’s the longest railway line in the world at 5,772 miles (9289 km). It has several sub-routes built off its main route, which starts in Moscow and terminates in Vladivostok. It was a defining project in the era of rapid railway growth in Russia; the nation’s railway grew from 1,000 miles in 1860 to 45,000 by 1917.

The Trans-Siberian Railway was a long time in planning. The project was proposed as a response to Russia’s economic problems in the late 19th century. Tsar Alexander III ordered the construction of the project in 1891, 25 years after the first proposal was made. Many foreign companies offered to fund the development. However, the Russian Tsar was against foreign involvement and his government was hesitant to spend vast amounts of money on an engineering project, let alone spend it on foreign workers. Eventually, the sheer potential for improved trading and commerce proved too valuable, and the government agreed to start building the railway.

An estimated 60,000 workers were enlisted to build the railway; many of those working on the project were soldiers, labourers and even convicts. The engineers faced many challenges, such as being hampered by harsh weather conditions. They also had to build through the Russian Taiga forest, over large rivers, several lakes, and waterlogged areas.

Construction started at both ends and engineers worked towards the centre. Many tasks were completed using hand-tools such as axes, wheelbarrows, shovels and saws. Around 100 million cubic metres of rock were removed during construction. Despite the arduous challenges, they managed to get the first passenger trains running on the line in 1904 - 13 years in to the project. The railway was officially completed however in 1916. It has gone on to become a source of national pride in Russia. Google even made a doodle to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its completion.

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the most important transport link in Russia. It carries 30% of its exports every year. From start to finish, the railway passes through eight different time zones, traverses through 87 towns and cities, and across 16 major rivers. If you were to endure the entire journey, you would be sitting on a train for six days straight.

Scenic views and cultural history are equally abundant when taking a trip on the railway. It offers a truly unique way of discovering some of Russia’s most awe-inspiring destinations, such as the Yekaterinburg and the Ural Mountains. Without a doubt, the Trans-Siberian Railway is one of Russia’s – and the world’s – most spectacular engineering achievements.

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