The train was used extensively in wars on the Russian front, particularly during the Revolution of 1917. The train carried both troops and supplies throughout the region and continent. Trains might only move a short distance, due to fighting up ahead, availability of food, lack of warmth, and most importantly, lack of fuel, basically wood to keep the steam-powered locomotives ready to move.
For those of you in need of a refresher, the Bolsheviks ultimately became the Communist Party in what would become the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks were founded by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov. One of their fiery leaders was Leon Trotsky. I hope by now, the names have jogged your memories, either Sophomore World History, or Western Civilization in college.
But, as I was saying before I digressed, the train played a vital part in this war. Some of the stories are rather appalling. A Russian train was used as a hospital, yet it was set on fire by accident or on purpose. As an eyewitness escaped, he could hear the screams of the helpless patients inside.
Other times, carriages were full of frozen bodies, or rather corpses. The ground was too hard to bury the bodies anyway. Fires could be used to thaw the ground, but the heat was needed for warmth and fuel by those who remained living. Americans from the American Railway Corps were there to help feed the troops and travelers alike. They also provided hot water for bathing.
Some troops, namely the British, had to ride on top of the carriages, often getting frostbite along the way. Civilian passengers inside often cooked meals for the soldiers. Passengers were happy to be inside, even if it meant traveling in the horsebox. Often times, rail carriages just waited on a siding or idle track waiting for a passing locomotive to move them closer to their destination.
With this history, it is no wonder that the train has a permanent place in the lifeblood of the country and the people. While I expect no such hardship, I will nonetheless come to think of those who lost their lives along the way. The contrast is rather poignant, those of us who get to travel in relative luxury, with hot water for bathing, and plenty of food. Passengers before us endured the cold of winter or heat of summer, with little or no food. And the prospect of a battle being fought at any point along the railway.
Today, it seems a train passes by us every 5 minutes. Maintenance of the rails must be done between trains, I assume. It is the lifeline, the backbone of this great country. I can finally see why the TSR was such a big deal to the czars and other far-sighted rulers of this vast land.