© 2014 Jimmy Jewett. All rights reserved.

The Bashkir Switchman and the Trans-Siberian Railway

The Bashkir Switchman

The Trans-Siberian Railway, picture above, was a massive industrial project undertaken during the end of the 19th Century and completed in the early 20th Century. When first announced, I am sure the first problem that came to mind was the vast expanse the railway would cover. Russia was and remains the largest country in the world and the Trans-Siberian Railway was taking on the task of spanning over 5,000 miles. It was estimated to cost over 42.5 million pounds, equavilant to  roughly 70,521,525  American dollars (converted to modern day amount would be over 1 billion American dollars). The completion of this project would depend on the industrial advancements made in Europe and Eurasian during the industrial revolution and would take excellent and perfect planning in order to remain an economically viable option.

Once the railway began construction in 1891, it soon become apparent what the long term plans for the railway would entail. The railway would consist of stations every 30 miles and it would take roughly 16 days to cross the continent. While the placement of the railway may have seemed bizarre due to the low population of many parts of Russia, its military and economic importance cannot be understated. It provided a connection for Moscow to China and important Asian markets; this gave Russia the potential to be right in the middle of European and Asian trade moving into the 20th Century. Whether or not Russia will be able to take advantage of this massive economic project will be discovered as we move more into the 20th Century.


First Article Link: http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/docview/7197937/fulltextPDF?accountid=14826

Second Article Link: http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/docview/2642187/fulltextPDF?accountid=14826

Primary Source Link: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/transport.html


  1. cpurvis2

    The introduction of railways has always been a turning point in many countries’ histories, both economically and in terms of population. You linked to the economics of the railway, but do you happen to know how the Trans-Siberian railway affected population? Eastern Russia is still a very rural area…

  2. caitlin6

    I researched another important event that was going on in Russia in 1891, a famine. Many argue that the famine could have been better handled by the government if they weren’t so focused on industrialization and keeping up with the West. After reading your blog describing the cost of the railway and how strategic of a project it needed to be helps explain to me what the government chose to spend their time on. Instead of using their resources and money on trying to save the hundreds of thousands of their people affected by the famine, they thought that their progression to industrialization was more important. I wonder if they chose to use their resources more on industrializing because those benefits outweighed the benefits of helping feed the starving or if it was because they cared less about what happened to the lower class of peasants. I also wonder if it had been more of the elite class also experiencing the famine, would they have acted in the same way?

  3. kathaskew

    Your post mentioned that the railroad brought economic and militaristic advantages, but I wonder if it brought any communicative advantages. Russia is a very large country and it faces the problem of how to quickly spread the czar’s orders throughout the entire country.
    I know the Russian-American Telegraph line (1865-1867) would’ve drastically improved communications not just within Russia, but to others countries as well. However, this project was eventually abandoned.

  4. I really appreciate the hard work that you have put to write such a wonderful article on such a critical topic. Thank you so much.

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