It was built between 1891 and 1916 under the supervision of Russian government ministers personally appointed by Tsar Alexander III and his son, the Tsarevich Nicholas (later Tsar Nicholas II). Even before it had been completed, it attracted travellers who wrote of their adventures.
The first railway projects in
Before 1880, the central government had virtually ignored these projects, because of the weakness of Siberian enterprises, a clumsy bureaucracy, and fear of financial risk. By 1880, there were a large number of rejected and upcoming applications for permission to construct railways to connect Siberia with the Pacific, but not
The line was divided into seven sections, on all or most of which work proceeded simultaneously, using the labour of 62,000 men. The total cost was estimated at £35 million sterling; the first section (
Completion of the Circum-Baikal Railway in 1904 bypassed the ferries, but from time to time the Circum-Baikal Railway suffered from derailments or rockfalls so both ships were held in reserve until 1916. Baikal was burnt out and destroyed in the Russian Civil War but
The Trans-Siberian Railway brought with it millions of peasant-migrants from the Western regions of
The railway immediately filled to capacity with local traffic, mostly wheat. Despite the low speed and low possible weights of trains, the railway fulfilled its promised role as a transit route between Europe and
War and Revolution
In the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), the strategic importance of the Trans-Siberian Railway was seen, though its shortcomings contributed to
The Trans-Siberian Railway also played a very direct role during parts of Russia's history, with the Czechoslovak Legion using heavily armed and armoured trains to control large amounts of the railway (and of Russia itself) during the Russian Civil War at the end of World War I. As one of the few organised fighting forces left in the aftermath of the imperial collapse, and before the Red Army took control, the Czechs and Slovaks were able to use their organisation and the resources of the railway to establish a temporary zone of control before eventually continuing onwards towards Vladivostok, from where they emigrated back to Czechoslovakia.
World War II
During World War II, the Trans-Siberian Railway played an important role in the supply of the powers fighting in
As of March 1941, 300 tonnes of this material would, on average, traverse the Trans-Siberian Railway every day on its way to
At this time, a number of Jews and anti-Nazis used the Trans-Siberian Railway to escape
The situation reversed after 22 June 1941. By invading the Soviet Union,
From 1941 to 1942 the railway also played an important role in relocating Soviet industries from European Russia to