A Traveler’s Tale: Ride the Rails at Siberia’s Lake Baikal (VIDEO)

A Traveler’s Tale: Ride the Rails at Siberia’s Lake Baikal (VIDEO)

Travel aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway and you’re likely to meet up with train buffs who’ve spent their lives dreaming of riding these rails, especially along the famed Circumbaikal route that hugs the shore of Lake Baikal in Siberia.

As a MIR passenger aboard the Trans-Siberian Classic Route that travels from Vladivostok to Moscow, I was fortunate to meet many fellow travelers from around the world who seemed to know every detail of this historic train route. They were quite happy to share their knowledge, enthusiasm and love of trains with me.

Train lovers truly appreciate the massive power of engines used on the Trans-Siberian Railway  <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

Train lovers appreciate the massive power of this steam engine used on the Circumbaikal Railway
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo for larger version) 


Circumbaikal: Best of the BestThe Circumbaikal Railway along Lake Baikal’s rocky, steep shoreline is punctuated with stonework tunnels – 33 in all, the longest almost half a mile in length.

This video is a taste of what it was like for me to ride with the engineer on the locomotive along Lake Baikal. The video is shaky because the ride was shaky – and a highlight of my rail journey.

 

Rail BeginningsThe Trans-Siberian Railway has a long and complex history, with the first rails laid in Vladivostok in 1890. Train and passenger ferries between Port Baikal and the other side of the lake were unpredictable, their schedules determined by the ever-changing weather. Something more reliable was needed: a railway.

Engineers concluded that the most difficult section to build was around the southern tip of Lake Baikal between Port Baikal and Sludyanka, with its steep hills, rocky shoreline, and high probability of snow, mud, and landslides that could bury or wash out any rail lines.

This Lake Baikal diorama shows how steep the topography was for laying train tracks a century ago <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter, at the Baikal Railway Museum

This Port Baikal diorama shows how steep the topography was for laying train tracks a century ago
Photo credit: Helen Holter, at the Baikal Railway Museum

However, the 1904 war between Russia and Japan and the need for a supply line to Russia’s Far East precipitated the acceleration of the Circumbaikal line. Thousands of soldiers, conscripts, and prisoners were recruited to complete this 55-mile leg of the railway, which opened in 1905. Along with the 33 tunnels, more than 200 bridges and viaducts were built as well.

This tunnel at Polovina along Siberia's Lake Baikal was built from 1902 to 1904  <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

This tunnel at Polovina along Siberia’s Lake Baikal was built from 1902 to 1904
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Baikal Railway MuseumThe East-Siberian Railway Museum (Baikal Railway Museum, for short) in Port Baikal traces the history of the visionaries, engineers and politicians who built this scenic, crucial Circumbaikal route, which today is used mostly for sightseeing.

Rails used to build and maintain the Circumbaikal Route are displayed at Baikal's railway museum Photo credit: Helen Holter

Rails used to build and maintain the Circumbaikal Route are displayed at Baikal’s railway museum
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo for larger version)


Because of its historic, economic and military significance in transporting goods and passengers as well as soldiers and equipment, the Circumbaikal line was dubbed the “golden buckle on the steel belt of Russia.”

And a stunning one it is.

Early morning, riding the rails along the shore of Lake Baikal in Siberia <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

Early morning, riding the rails along the shore of Lake Baikal in Siberia
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Travel Along the Circumbaikal with MIR

Learn more about MIR tours that travel the Trans-Siberian Railway, with memorable views along the Circumbaikal Route. You can also book a custom private journey.

See all of MIR’s tours that ride along the Circumbaikal Route, including these routes:

 

The Trans-Siberian, Your WayMIR can also created a hand-crafted custom, private journey traveling aboard the regularly scheduled rails that includes your favorite destinations and activities, such as riding the Circumbaikal rails along Lake Baikal.

Chat with one of our destination specialists by email or by phone at 1-111-111-1111 to start planning your travels today.

 

Top photo: The Circumbaikal Route is considered the most scenic and historically fascinating leg of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Photo credit: Helen Holter

PUBLISHED: May 8, 2015

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2 thoughts on “A Traveler’s Tale: Ride the Rails at Siberia’s Lake Baikal (VIDEO)

  • Are there any tours to include Jakutsk and Magadan ?

    Ian

    • Amy (MIR Corporation)

      Hi Ian. At this time, we do not have any small group or private rail journeys that feature Yakutsk or Magadan. But we would be more than happy to organize a custom, private journey for you!