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Trans-Siberian Railway at Barabinsk by Jim, Wikimedia, 2009Photo by Jim licensed under CC

What an image this name conjures up in the mind, swaying carriages, samovars, spies and superb scenery!

If you fancy an adventure, taking in some 9000km across the frozen wastes of Siberia, the plateaus of Mongolia and the Gobi Desert, starting in Moscow, ending in Beijing, this is it. Here are a few facts that may surprise you.

Is the Trans-Siberian Railway a company?

The Trans-Siberian Railway actually refers to the track. The journey is made up of different trains, which service various stretches of the track. For example, Moscow to Vladivostok is covered by Rossiva, while a trip to Beijing would take a totally different train.

Who built it?

Tsar Alexander III commanded the construction of the Moscow to Vladivostok route, starting in 1891 and using prisoners and soldiers as labourers. The original route to Vladivostok took 25 years to build with the last Romanov Tsar, Nicholas II, symbolically putting in the first rivet. Rather tragically he was later taken on this very railway to be put under house arrest during the revolution.

Is it just for tourists?

These are actually not tourist trains. They are the means of transport for the locals, so you will meet a huge variety of people on your travels.

What sort of accommodation is available?

Passengers can travel either first class in two-bedded compartments or second class in four-bedded compartments. There is also a resturant carriage.

What routes are popular?

Many people prefer to take the Moscow to Beijing route as it travels through Mongolia, ends in a more popular city and affords the opportunity of further travel into Asia or easy flights back to Europe. Smaller, less exciting Vladivostok often loses out to Beijing.

How long does it take?

If you take the route to China on the old Manchurian line, the journey lasts seven days. The Trans-Mongolian route, taking in Ulaanbaator, is 16 hours quicker and over 1100km shorter. Remarkably, the railway track passes through seven time zones.

Why does it take so long to cross borders?

China uses a different rail gauge to Mongolia and Russia, so the changing of bogies on each carriage at the border can take several hours. There is no easy way to cross from one country to the next.

Why is the Trans-Siberian Railway so important?

It has hugely contributed to the Russian economy, with about 30% of exports being transported along the track. Trains on the line move about 20,000 containers to Europe each year.

How long is it?

The distances on this railway are immense. At 9216km, the direct line from Moscow to Vladivostok, entirely within Russia, is the longest in the world. Moscow to Beijing is just 9001km. The Trans-Siberian Railway is even longer than the American Route 66 or the Great Wall of China.

Anything else?

The astounding dancer Rudolf Nureyev was born on this line, on a train near Irkutsk in Siberia, while his mother was journeying to Vladivostok. He travelled all his life!

If you have any further queries, please get in touch with us.

Note: The information given is by way of suggestion only. It is correct, to the best of our knowledge, but we cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions on our part.

This article is brought to you by Silver Travel Advisor

Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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