(from a TSR Travel Brochure)
By the Numbers
The numbers alone are hard to grasp. Depending on where you begin and end, the Trans-Siberian is:
•About 6,000 miles long
•80 train stations along the way
•160 hours of pure journey time
•7 (sometimes 8) time zones – that’s one-third of the world
•3 countries: Russia, Mongolia, China
The Trans-Siberian took 12 years to build – not bad, all things considered. The most famous route – the classic Moscow-Vladivostok – has been running since 1916. Planning took 25 years. Construction officially began in 1891 when heir to the throne Nicholas II personally blessed the beginning of work on the rail line in Vladivostok.
The Russian government didn’t want foreign money or foreign partners, so the project was funded with Russia’s treasury. Nothing was easy: There weren’t enough professionals (engineers) to oversee the project, so Russian soldiers, conscripts and convicts were brought in to work. The topography was a challenge, and required blowing up mountains for railroad tunnels and building bridges across rivers and canyons. The extreme weather didn’t help, either, for building the rails and for retaining workers.
The rail line travels through a diverse landscape of countries, religions, languages, cuisines and topography. At one end, Moscow, with its centuries of political history. Along the way you experience Siberia’s endless taiga forest; Mongolian steppe and desert; Lake Baikal, the deepest and oldest lake in the world; people of every stripe, from the Muscovite hailing a cab to the descendent of Genghis Khan living in a nomadic ger. Russian Orthodox blends into shamanism and Siberian Buddhism. Depending on the rail route, at the other end of the line might be Vladivostok’s seaport or Beijing’s Great Wall.