Railroads Asia - Across Siberia
( Originally Published 1927 )
MUCH of Siberia is a great plain, and to build a railroad across it from Moscow in Russia to Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan presented no special engineering difficulties ; the chief problem with which the builders had to cope was that of bringing supplies, wood, water, food, and labor from the base to the rail-head. It is said that an Englishman was the first to suggest a trans-Siberian railroad and that Americans were the first to make an offer to the Russian government to construct such a road. However that may be, it was Russia that built the road, and it was Nicholas II, then the Tsarevitch, who laid the first stone of the railway at Vladivostok on May 19, 1891.
The whole road was divided into seven sections and work was carried on practically simultaneously. The first link, from Chelyabinsk to Omsk, 492 miles, was opened for traffic in December, 1895; the second, from Omsk to Ob, 388 miles, in 1896; the third, from Ob to Krasnoyarsk, 476 miles, in the same year; and the fourth, from Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk, 672 miles, in 1898. At that date tracks had been laid 3,371 1/4 miles east from Moscow, and also tracks laid from the opposite terminus of Vladivostok 475 miles to Khabarofsk on the River Amur ; so that it will be seen that the engineers had worked very expeditiously.
The Siberian Railway is a vast project; it was built by fits and starts, and when a through route was established it was disrupted by the Great War and thrown into the disorganized condition that pertained to everything in the former Russian Empire. It traverses a very sparsely populated country, much of it a wilderness, frozen for a great part of the year, with nomadic tribes wandering here and there. It was a great dream of empire; whether it will ever become one of the world's great highways, commercially successful, depends on whether harmony can be restored among the conflicting interests of the peoples of the Ural Mountains, the Lake Baikal district, Mongolia, and Manchuria.