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To the Edge of the World

The Story of the Trans-Siberian Express, the World’s Greatest Railroad

Regular Price $27.99

Regular Price $31 CAD

Regular Price $27.99

Regular Price $31 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 5, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

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Aug 5, 2014

Page Count

320 Pages




To the Edge of the World is an adventure in travel — full of extraordinary personalities, more than a century of explosive political, economic, and cultural events, and almost inconceivable feats of engineering. Christian Wolmar passionately recounts the improbable origins of the Trans-Siberian railroad, the vital artery for Russian expansion that spans almost 6,000 miles and seven time zones from Moscow to Vladivostok. The world’s longest train route took a decade to build — in the face of punishing climates, rampant disease, scarcity of funds and materials, and widespread corruption.

The line sprawls over a treacherous landmass that was previously populated only by disparate tribes and convicts serving out their terms in labor camps — where men were regularly starved, tortured, or mutilated for minor offenses. Once built, it led to the establishment of new cities and transformed the region’s history. Exceeding all expectations, it became, according to Wolmar, “the best thing that ever happened to Siberia.”

It was not all good news, however. The railroad was the cause of the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War, and played a vital — and at times bloody — role in the Russian Revolution and the subsequent Civil War. More positively, the Russians were able to resist the Nazi invasion during the Second World War as new routes enabled whole industries to be sent east. Siberia, previously a lost and distant region, became an inextricable part of Russia’s cultural identity. And what began as one meandering, single-track line is now, arguably, the world’s most important railroad.

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“A highly informative chronicle of the development of the Trans-Siberian railroad. A British author who specializes in the history of railroads, he knows his subject well: He provides a wealth of details about the myriad aborted and successful projects that eventually spawned the Trans-Siberian of today, along with the long list of players involved in them…This is a fascinating story.”—Washington Post

“A fascinating window onto aspects of Russian history only touched on obliquely in conventional histories.” —Foreign Affairs

“Icy, bleak, but unusually dramatic is this portrait of earth's longest railroad and its prominent role in Russia's development. … Wolmar tells this story with aplomb, sprinkling his lucid prose with piquant sketches of personalities, vivid travelogue, and interesting socioeconomic background on the railroad's success in bringing settlers and industry to the Siberian expanse. There are gripping narratives to be told about transport infrastructure, and surely this is one.”—Publishers Weekly

“[Wolmar] has combined the genres of historical saga and travelogue to provide a sweeping and enjoyable account of the construction, historical importance, and current status of the railroad...This is a well-done tribute to what remains an important travel artery.” —Booklist
“Overall, however, the message of this absorbing book is convincing. Its ecological cost—including permanent damage to the fragile permafrost—may lead some readers to question whether the Trans-Siberian was truly the "best thing that ever happened to Siberia," as Mr. Wolmar suggests. But he is surely right to say that its creation helped to shape the destiny of Russia and with it, that of Europe and the modern world.” —Wall Street Journal

“If the world's railways have a laureate, it is surely Christian Wolmar. Don't let his keen interest in track, specs, and rolling stock put you off — railroads are not dull. For this seasoned transportation maven and author — he has covered transport for major British newspapers and has written several excellent works of rail history including “Blood, Iron and Gold” — railroads are not only engineering marvels, they are also social and political acts. Nowhere was this more the case than the building of the Trans-Siberian railway, the subject of Wolmar's excellent new account, ‘To the Edge of the World.'… Wolmar misses no detail as he outlines station design, employment practices, and other aspects of the rail business… You can take the Trans-Siberian today, but be sure to pack Wolmar's book if you do.” —Boston Globe
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