Trans-Siberian Railway: How a railway reached Mongolia



Trans-Siberian Railroad takes passengers through time. Traveling from west to east, passengers travel forward in time. From east to west, they travel backward.

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The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest direct railway route in the world, regarded as high as the Panama channel for its geostrategic success. The railway is featured in the Guinness Book of Records not only for its total length but also for its number of stations and the fastest temp of construction, taking only 26 years to complete. The railroad network is made up of five lines: The Trans-Siberian, the Trans-Mongolian, the Trans-Manchurian, the Baikal-Amur, and the Ural.

The origin story of the Trans-Siberian Railway is a monumental one. Before the railway was established, Russia had nothing to connect itself with East Asia or to the rich natural resources within Siberia. Sergei Witte, an ambitious minister of Imperial Russia, suggested that building a railroad would solve all these issues at once. In his opinion, harvesting the natural resources of Siberia was the quickest way to transform Russia into a rich industrial power. Witte’s idea was well-received by Czar Alexander III, who believed increasing the Russian population in Siberia would secure the country’s eastern border. But the railroad project was deemed impossible by many. The line would have to cross three of the world’s greatest rivers, the world’s largest freshwater lake, one of the world’s biggest forest, and Siberian permafrost in the world’s harshest climate. When Russia’s Committee of Communication pleaded that the idea was unreasonable, the emperor immediately dissolved the committee.

At present, the total length of the Mongolian railway is 1815 km, of which 1110 km is the Trans-Mongolian line. This international route remains highly significant to Mongolia. Every year, more than 23 million tons of cargo and 2.5 million passengers are transported through the railway in Mongolia and the great bulk of it is carried on the Trans-Mongolian line. Transporting transit cargo between Russia and China is an important source of revenue for the country’s railway system.