To the Edge of the World

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

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By Christian Wolmar

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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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  • “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

    “The volume is a breezy read, and while Wolmar does not dive too deeply into the subject, he performs an excellent job of explaining the difficulties of building a railroad through the unforgiving terrain of Siberia and the far-ranging impact the railroad has had on Russian society. Recommended for anyone interested in railroad and transportation history and the history of Russia.”—Library Journal

On Sale
Aug 5, 2014
Page Count
320 pages
Publisher
PublicAffairs
ISBN-13
9781610394536

Christian Wolmar

About the Author

Christian Wolmar has written for major international newspapers and appears frequently on TV and radio as a commentator on transport issues. His previous books include the widely acclaimed The Subterranean Railway; Fire and Steam; Blood, Iron, and Gold; Engines of War; The Great Railway Revolution; To the Edge of the World; Railways and the Raj; Cathedrals of Steam; and British Rail. He lives in London, UK. 

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