Builders of Trans-Siberian Railway

The first sod of the longest railway on earth was turned by the last of the Tsars in 1891; Hilda Hookham describes an epic process of construction, with the line finally completed in 1904.

'Great Railway from London to China', Punch announced facetiously in 1842. Satirizing the contemporary railway mania. Punch suggested that the line should go from St. Paul’s to Peking, by way of a tunnel through the centre of the earth. Prospective speculators were assured that the track would be driven through rocks solid with gold and silver, and caverns of precious stones.

Half a century later a Mr. Dali (or Dull?) proposed building a trans-Siberian tramway, using the abundant local horses as motive-power, thereby reducing the danger of setting fire to the taiga. Fantasy gave way to reality in 1904 when the Siberian Magistral was opened, the longest railway on earth.

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