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The first public railway in Russia opened between Saint Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo in 1837. Even though this was a period when Imperial Russia was becoming less isolationist than hitherto, little thought was given to possible through rail traffic with Western Europe and a gauge of 5 English feet (later slightly narrowed to 1520mm) was chosen. This was to become the Russian standard gauge used throughout the Empire, and would be imposed by the Soviet Union on the states that were absorbed.

The present day rail network of the Russian Federation (including the exclave of Kaliningrad and the island of Sakhalin) has over 86000km of line, of which roughly half is electrified. There are international connections with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland (from Kaliningrad), Belarus, Ukraine, the Abkhazia region of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China and North Korea.

There is a train ferry link via the Baltic Sea with the port of Sassnitz in Germany. Other international train ferries link with Turkey across the Black Sea, with Crimea across the Kerch Strait which separates the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov, and with Georgia via the Black Sea coast, bypassing the break in the rail route through the disputed territory of Abkhazia. A domestic train ferry links the port of Ust-Luga with Baltiysk in Kaliningrad.

A new 18km bridge across the Kerch Strait is expected to open to rail traffic in 2019, replacing the train ferry.

See also Crimea

Main Line Railways

Independent Railways

This list is not exhaustive.

Tourist & Museum Railways

This list is not exhaustive and will be expanded as information regarding other lines becomes available.

Commuter and Urban Railways

All websites listed in this section are in Russian only unless otherwise noted.


The railways on the island of Sakhalin are operated by RZD as an entity in their own right. The first lines were 600mm gauge lines constructed by the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905. These lines were in the southern part of Sakhalin island, which after the war would become the Japanese province of Karafuto. Under Japanese sovereignty, the lines were regauged to form the basis of a network of 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge lines, at that time the standard for main line railways in Japanese territory. The first such line was completed in 1906 between Koraskov and South Sakhalin, a distance of 43.5km. Subsequent development to the same gauge meant that by 1945 when the whole of the island returned to Russian (Soviet) control there was a network of some 700km in the southern part of the island.

Meanwhile in the north of the island, several narrow gauge lines were constructed in the early 1920s and a Russian standard gauge line in the 1930s, but these were associated with mineral and petrochemical exploitations and have not survived. Following reunification, the southern main line was extended north as far as Nogliki, to give essentially the present day network. Over a period of time, the 1067mm gauge lines have been converted to the Russian standard gauge of 1520mm; conversion is expected to be completed by 2018. Plans are under consideration for a fixed rail link (bridge and tunnel) connecting with the Russian mainland across the Strait of Nevel.

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