26 Jul 10 interesting facts about the Trans-Siberian Railway
The Trans-Siberian Railway has attracted travellers from different countries for more than a century now. Taking a Trans-Siberian train is one of the most exciting journeys in the world, and there is a big chance it is on your bucket list after you saw a documentary or a travel blog post about this unique train adventure. If it is not yet, here are some obvious reasons why it should be there: it is the longest railway in the whole world and is maybe the greatest way to travel through Russia. It captures the whole diversity of the country, nature and the people, the cultures and the customs. In a way, we can say, that the Trans-Siberian road is Russia, due to its immense influence on the history of the country and its development. Learn some interesting facts about the Trans-Siberian railway:
1. It is in the Guinness Book of Records for three different reasons!
The first fact about the Trans-Siberian railway is about the records. The starting point of the Trans-Siberian railway is Yaroslavsky Railway Terminal in Moscow, the capital and the largest city of Russia. The final point is in Vladivostok, the port city on the shores of the Pacific ocean. The Trans-Siberian railway connects the capital of the huge country with its the Far East, stretching through 9288 km. The Trans-Siberian way is in the Guinness Book of Records not only for its length, but for the number of stops on it (64) and the fastest temp of construction (the average 600 km a year!).
Even with such fast progress, it took 25 years to complete the railway: the works started in 1891 and went till 1916.
2. It was the last grand successful project of the Russian Empire before the revolution.
The railway was built entirely on the state money, without any foreign investment. The government had realized how important this railway is for the Russian Empire, and had made sure that there were no complications with the fundings. That was a right decision: today the Trans-Siberian manages 80% of Russia’s industrial potential. It became not only a supply line for central Russia, but for Europe as well.
3. The construction was supervised by the tzar and the heir personally.
The tzar of Russia Alexander III appointed his son and heir Prince Nikolay (soon to become Nicholas II) head of the railway construction, so he could learn and gain experience in management and administration.
4. Working at the railway construction was a way for redemption.
The labour of convicts and criminals was widely used in the construction of the Trans-Siberian. They were not only paid, but also got their sentences reduced for the hard work.
5. The Trans-Siberian railway boosted the development of the huge region.
For most of its history, Siberia was quite a deserted land due to its harsh climate with long severe winters and short summers. But to stimulate the growth of the region the government started giving land and money funds to the people who’d start their farms on the vast lands of Southern Siberia. Since the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, or the Great Siberian Way as it was called originally, the population of Siberia grew by 500 000 people annually. The largest city in Siberia is Novosibirsk with its 1,6 million population.
6. It is the best way to see the largest cities of Russia and the authentic life of the people.
Today there are 87 cities along the Trans-Siberian Railway, 6 of them with over 1 million population: Moscow, Perm, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. Most people choose to stop in these cities for at least 2 or 3 days on their trip, enjoying the Stolby Nature Reserve in Krasnoyarsk, or visiting the Science Town (Akademgorodok) near Novosibirsk, being amazed by wooden architecture of Omsk and the vibrant life of Yekaterinburg, the city on the border of Europe and Asia.
7. It is practically time-travel!
One of the facts about the Trans-Siberian railway that impresses everybody is that the railway stretches through 11 time zones. So, when you are starting your journey in Moscow at 9 pm, in Vladivostok, the final destination, it is already the early morning of the next day! This, since the train system relies on a strict schedule, can be quite confusing and cause trouble, as you can easily miss the train if you forget about the time difference. To avoid unnecessary confusion, make sure you always are aware of the local and the Moscow time.
8. During the journey, the trains cross 16 grand rivers of Russia.
The most famous and the largest of those rivers are Volga, Kama, Irtysh, Ob, Yenisei, and Amur. The bridge across the Yenisei in Krasnoyarsk is one of the symbol of the Trans-Siberian and even represents Krasnoyarsk on Russian money (unfortunately, because of the inflation, it is rare to find the 10 rouble notes)! The bridge is 1 kilometer long and has been named one of the wonders of Russia. At Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900 the bridge was awarded a gold medal by the special committee with Gustave Eiffel as its head.
9. The railway had great success at the Paris Universal Exhibition.
At the same exhibition, Russia also presented the Railway Panorama: a simulated train ride, that showed the highlights of the Trans-Siberian trip from Moscow to Beijing. The audience would sit in the luxury railway cars and watch the panorama through the windows. This installation was very popular and after Paris traveled to the USA. Today it is preserved in the Hermitage museum of St Petersburg, and there are plans of restoring it and showing to the public.
10. You get to admire magnificent Lake Baikal.
The last fact about the Trans-Siberian railway is about the pearl of Siberia. For quite a distance – 207 kilometers – the railway goes along the deepest freshwater lake in the world. Lake Baikal is one of the famous natural wonders of Russia, with its own unique ecosystem and multiple species endemic to the region of Baikal, including omul fish. Lake Baikal is worshipped in the traditional cultures of the Evens and the Buryats as a sacred place of power, and it is hard to disagree with them standing on its shores or even just passing by and admiring the lake from your windows.