As we have just spent the last 30 hours in a train, I think the Trans-Siberian line deserves a special post dedicated to the history of its construction. So:
Before rail, there was kind of a trail, called Trakt, which construction had been decided by Catherine II, in a time when Siberia was disputed by Russians and Tatars. Catherine II wanted to send there convicts, and bring back wood, gold, fur.
In 1861, Alexander II abolished slavery, and men need lands… The Trans-Siberian’ construction was decided in 1891 to demonstrate the country’s power, to maintain an influence on Siberia – which was showing signs of independence – and, above all, to help farmers in moving to new regions as Ural villages were facing overpopulation and hunger.
This was the construction work of all superlatives: 15 years of construction, 6500 km of rails, 1000 railway stations, hundreds of colonization villages, 15 000 workers for the Eastern part only… They had to cut thousands of trees in the dense taiga, dry mashes of Siberia, dynamite mountains, make Altai hills flat, bridge amazingly large rivers (the Ob, river passing by Novosibirsk, is 800 meters large), fight cholera, typhus, mosquitos, heat and freeze.
As 600 millions rubles are needed, versus 130 initially planed, the government launches the famous “Russian loan”…
It caused a war with Japan in 1904, as the train was supposed to go through Chinese territories under Japanese influence. As Russian troupes were blocked at the Baikal – The trans-Siberian wasn’t ready yet – Japan wins It triggers the “yellow peril” fantasy as well as the 1905 revolution.
Anyway. The trans-Siberian was a success. Whereas only 500 000 free men had moved between 1860 and 1890, 5 millions of them did between 1890 and WWI. Farmer of course, but sometimes even entire mirs (villages).
In parallel to the well-known Gold Rush on another continent, was taking place another huge conquest on the East part of the world, railway stations becoming new caravanserais.