The Turkestan-Siberia route.
|Dates of operation||1906–current|
mm (4 ft 115⁄6 in)
The 1,520 mm (4 ft 115⁄6 in) broad gauge Turkestan–Siberian Railway (commonly abbreviated as the Turk–Sib, Russian: Турксиб) connects Central Asia with Siberia. It starts north of Tashkent in Uzbekistan at Arys, where it branches off from the Trans-Caspian Railway. It heads roughly northeast through Shymkent, Taraz, Bishkek (on a spur) to the former Kazakh capital of Almaty. There it turns northward to Semey before crossing the Russian border. It passes through Barnaul before ending at Novosibirsk, where it meets the Trans-Siberian railway. The bulk of construction works was undertaken between 1926 and 1931.
The idea of a railway between Siberia and Russian Turkestan was aired as early as 1886, but it was supplanted by that of a more practicable line between Tashkent and Orenburg in the Urals. On 15 October, 1896 the Verny town duma set up a commission to examine the feasibility of building a Turkestan-Siberia Railway. It was expected that the line would facilitate transport of cotton from Turkestan to Siberia and cheap Siberian grain from Russia to the Fergana Valley. An eastern branch would enhance Russia's military and economic presence on the Chinese border.
In 1906 the Russian imperial government decided to finance construction of the first section, between Barnaul and Arys. A team of Russian engineers made a detailed survey of the steppe and semi-desert regions the railway was expected to cross. On 21 October 1915 the northern section linking Novosibirsk and Semipalatinsk as the Altai Railway. The missing Arys–Pishpek–Tokmak section, officially known as Semipalatinsk Railway, was left to be built by a French-financed Russian-managed private railway consortium. The Great War put an end of this project.
After the Bolshevik Revolution construction work was suspended for a decade, and the 140-kilometre long Semipalatinsk–Ayaguz line, built in 1918-19 by the White Russians on the initiative of Admiral Kolchak, was demolished for no apparent reason. The remaining 1442 kilometres of railway were constructed with great fanfare as part of the First Five-Year Plan. Much of the railway was built with gulag prison labour, including ethnically Finnish and Estonian populations deported on Stalin's orders from Ingria.
Regular passenger service was finally established between Semipalatinsk and Ayaguz on 10 May 1929. The Turksib was completed on 21 April 1930. The first locomotive that ran from Tashkent to Semipalatinsk is installed as a memorial in Almaty.
In 1990, Aktogay (Актогай) station, roughly midway between Almaty and Semey, became an important junction. Lines from there run east, connecting at Dostyk with China's Lanxin railway Line (toward Urumqi, Lanzhou, and heartland China); and west, to Balkhash and Karaganda.
Redirecting to Turkestan–Siberia Railway