The first railway in Azerbaijan opened in 1880 between the capital, Bakı (Baku) and the settlement of Imeni Kirova (present day Suraxanı, now a suburb of Bakı). It was followed in 1883 by a line from Bakı to Tiflis (present day Tbilisi, Georgia). Because Azerbaijan was then part of the Russian Empire, it was natural that the new railways should be constructed to the Russian standard gauge of 1524mm (later revised to 1520mm), even though there was at that time no rail connection with Russia. Further railway development was at the same gauge, almost 3000km of line being constructed under the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, conflict in the region caused considerable changes to the railways of Azerbaijan. The borders with Armenia were closed, and all through rail services discontinued. Rail services ceased in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, now the de facto independent Artsakh. The railway running through Armenian territory connecting the Azerbaijani exclave of Naxçıvan to the main part of the country similarly lost its service, leaving Naxçıvan effectively isolated. The international connection from Naxçıvan to Yeraskh in Armenia has since reopened, and in 2021 work commenced on the reconstruction of the important southern connection across Armenian territory.
The main part of the country has rail links with Georgia and Russia. A new international link between Astara and the city of the same name in Iran opened in 2016. It is constructed to dual (1520mm and 1435mm) gauge and will eventually link with the remainder of the Iranian network. Naxçıvan has an international links with Iran, and as noted above, Armenia. A second link with Armenia is under reconstruction which will connect the exclave with the main part of the country.
A train ferry links the Caspian Sea port of Alat with Kuryk in Kazakhstan and Türkmenbaşy in Turkmenistan.
© 2004-2021 Glyn Williams
Photo image by Gulustan from Wikimedia Commons