In 1894, the Russian Empire opened a metre gauge railway between Pokrovskaya Sloboda (present day Engels, Russia) and Uralsk (present day Oral), about 130km of which lay within the borders of present day Kazakhstan.
In 1896, part of the Trans-Siberian Railway opened across northern Kazakhstan, a 190km stretch of Russian standard gauge (1520mm) railway. The first section of the first line specifically built to serve the major cities of Kazakhstan opened in 1904, and it is from the opening of this line that Kazakhstan Railways celebrated their centenary in 2004. The new line, like the Trans-Siberian, was of 1520mm gauge and this gauge was used for most subsequent railway development through the 20th century. A few more narrow gauge lines were built, but most were subsequently converted to 1520mm gauge.
On the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Kazakhstan administration inherited a railway system of over 15000km, with international connections to Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Two links with China were completed in the early part of the 21st century, these involving a break of gauge.
The railway network was privatized in 2001. Kazakhstan Railways remains the operator of the majority of services, although there are now a number of independent passenger and operators. As information concerning these has proved difficult to obtain, they are not listed here at present.
Flag image from CIA World Factbook