Trans-Siberian Railway

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railroad constructed. The project was first initiated by Czar Alexander III, developing into a 5,772 mile long railway that stretches from Moscow to Vladivostok. Built across the Siberian Peninsula, it took years to build under one of Earth's most environmentally hostile conditions. After copious amounts of government funding, the railroad was completed in 1916, increasing Russia's rail network from 1,000 miles in 1860 to 45,000 miles in 1917. [1]

In 1857, Murav'yov-Amurskiy, a general governor of the Eastern Siberia region introduced the concept of establishing a railway on the Siberian outlets of Russia. He hired the military engineer D. Romanov who surveyed and researched building a railway that would stretch from the Amur River to the De-Kastri Bay. The project grew until a larger group of Russian engineers began to assist in developing multiple projects which failed from lacking proper government funding. Though there were many investment opportunities from foreign entrepreneurs, the Russian government forbade it as they were afraid there would be an establishment of foreign influence and capitalism in the region. [2]

Due to the complaints and struggles from nobility that was funding the railroad projects, Czar Alexander III intervened with government support. Named the "Great Siberian Way " by the Czar and the Russian people, the railroad's official construction began 1891. [3] The project struggled financially and the calculated estimated costs of the railway was 350 million rubles. Higher grade materials were cut, foundations were narrowed, the layer of ballast decreased, lighter rails used and the number of sleepers per mile reduced. Bridges that were planned to be built from iron and steel were instead constructed from wood. As a result of these cuts, the construction of the railroad was a difficult challenge for the few qualified engineers hired. Lack of labor forced the Russians to import workers across the dry taiga, but due to the hostile weather, a significant portion of the progress was halted. Large rivers had to be bridged and many areas were either waterlogged or solidified by permafrost. It was estimated that more then 90,000 workers were employed on the project. [4]

Almost all the work was completed by hand. Instruments were simple and primitive, including axes, saws, shovels, miner hacks, and wheelbarrows. The construction resulted in 100 million cubic meters of rock being moved, more then 12 million railroad sleepers being constructed, more then 1 million tons of rails laid, and more then 100 km of bridges and tunnels built. About 50 protection galleries against landslides were built, 39 tunnels were made, 14 km of support walls were created from concrete and hydraulic mixture. [5]

During the construction of the railroad, it was initially agreed that the Chinese would permit the Russians to build the line directly across Manchuria (the Chinese Eastern Railway) from the Transbaikal region to Vladivostok. This trans-Manchurian line was completed in 1901, but after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, Russia feared that Japan would take over Manchuria, and proceeded to build a longer, more difficult route. Named the Amur Railway, it traveled from Vladivostok and connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Amur Railway was eventually completed in 1916. [6]

Building the railway with cheap materials became a liability during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Due to the high war demands, the railway frequently broke down, and it wasn't until the early 1920's that all the deficiencies were rectified and the Russian Civil War damages were fully repaired. Electrification of the rail line began in 1929 but was not completed until 2002. [7]

Today, the Trans-Siberian Railway is a critical component of Russia's economy. It is estimated that the railway carries more than 250,000 containers a year and about 30 percent of Russia's exports. [8] In 1989, shipping containers produced a profit equal to over $2 billion US dollars.[9] It is also considered the shortest means of traveling between Europe and Asia, and the Russians Railways predominately makes the majority of its profits by transporting goods from China and Japan to Europe. [10]