The New Student's Reference Work/Siberian Railroad

Sibe′rian Railroad. The building of this road was begun in 1891 and was completed in its main features in 11 years, including a branch across Manchuria to Port Arthur and Dalny. It starts from Tchelyabinsk on the eastern slope of the Urals, and extends to Vladivostok on the Pacific, a distance of 4,500 miles, following the fiftieth parallel. This is the main division of the railroad. The great Russian system between St. Petersburg, Port Arthur and Vladivostok measures 6,672 miles. The first work on the real road was done on May 1, 1891. In perfecting the enterprise Russia sent commissioners to the United States to study American railroad-systems; imported Italian workmen who had helped to build the Simplon and St. Gothard tunnels; built towns in deserts; and transported whole families by the thousands to them for their work. Many serious obstacles had to be overcome far from the base of supplies. Lake Baikal was a great barrier; steamers transported the cars in summer, and ice-breaking steamers were used for a part of the long winter. The line was completed, however, by the building of a 100-mile detour around the southern end of the lake in 1904. The road was built cheaply, with light rails and wooden bridges, but, when formally opened in 1902, had cost $172,525,000. It has proved a good investment, having given an impetus to agriculture and all other business of Siberia. Branches from the main line are projected, chiefly to the northern portion of Asiatic Russia. In 1906, by Russian official statistics, this road carried 162,000,000 pounds of freight and 2,097,000 passengers. Great quantities of wheat and tea are carried, the tea being brought by caravan from China. This line is of great military and political importance. In 1904 Russia dispatched over 300,000 troops over it in 90 days, with enormous quantities of provisions and supplies.