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What is the Trans-Siberian Railroad?

The Trans-Siberian Railroad crosses eight time zones in Asia.
The Trans-Siberian Railroad connects Moscow to the Russia Far East and beyond.
The Trans-Siberian Railroad connected Moscow to Russian cities in the Far East.
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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2014
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The Trans-Siberian Railroad is one of the world's most famous railway networks. Connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East and several Asian countries, including China and Mongolia, the Trans-Siberian Railroad spans eight time zones and covers 5,772 miles (9,288 kilometers). Travelers wishing to cross Russia can board the Trans-Siberian Railroad in Moscow and arrive in Vladivostok seven days later.

Construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad was started in 1891 by order of Finances Minister Sergei Witte and built mostly with convict labor, and later on by the prisoners exiled to the Far East. Construction faced many difficulties, including Lake Baikal, which is extremely deep and long. Bridges were eventually built to link over natural obstacles, the most notorious of which is the Krasnoyarsk Bridge, the longest railroad bridge in the world, which crosses over the river Ob. The last section of the Trans-Siberian Railroad was built in 1916. Electrification of the Trans-Siberian Railroad took much longer than its original construction, between 1929 and 2002.

The Trans-Siberian Railroad was built as an economic resource, not a transportation solution. Thanks to the railway, many Siberian cities got a great economic and agricultural boost. Cities like Novonikolaevsk, barely a small village before the creation of the railroad, became Novosibirsk, a thriving economy center and presently the third largest city in Russia. Other cities, like Tomsk, were larger before the advent of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. When the railway bypassed them, they started to lose power and were eventually left behind.

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The Trans-Siberian Railroad attracts thousands of tourists every year, who come from all corners of the world to experience the world's longest railroad. Locals use the train mostly for short trips among cities, while foreigners try to experience the whole route.

There are three travel options on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Third class consists of 20-30 beds in a wagon, with no division among them except a hanging curtain that is not always present. Second and first class are basically the same: a small cabin with either four or two beds. There is no choice of companions, so unless you pay for the whole cabin, you may be stuck with sharing the room with somebody from the opposite sex. There are no showers in the train and toilets are shared by the whole wagon, so cleanliness may become an issue. If you have a sense of adventure, however, riding the Trans-Siberian Railroad can turn into the experience of a lifetime.

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