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Ruskeala Express
The steam hauled Ruskeala Express approaches the Ruskeala Mountain Park.

The first public railway in Russia opened between Saint Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo in 1837, a distance of 27km, linking the Imperial palaces of Pavlovsk and Tsarskoye Selo. It was built to a gauge of 6 feet (the Russian foot in use at that time being identical to its British counterpart), or 1830mm.

The first railway that would ultimately become part of the national network was the 650km Saint Petersburg to Moscow railway, opened in stages between 1842 and 1851. The gauge chosen was 5 feet (1524mm, later slightly narrowed to 1520mm) which was adopted as the standard gauge for all main line railways in the Russian Empire, and would in time be imposed by the Soviet Union on the states that were absorbed. One exception to this is the exclave of Kaliningrad, historically part of Prussia, where the railways are predominantly standard (1435mm) gauge.

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.

International train ferries link with Turkey across the Black Sea; 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.

An 18km bridge across the Kerch Strait between Russia and Crimea opened 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.

Narrow Gauge Railways

Information on surviving narrow gauge railways is sparse. Some of those shown here may subsequently have closed. Unless otherwise specified, all are 750mm gauge, diesel hauled, and have no currently known website. Children’s Railways are shown in a separate section, see below.

Children’s Railways

Narrow gauge railways, usually in an urban park setting, operated by children. Unless otherwise speecified, all are 750mm gauge, diesel hauled.

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. Plans are under consideration for a fixed rail link (bridge and tunnel) connecting with the Russian mainland across the Strait of Nevel.

There is a Children’s Railway in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk - see entry above.

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Photo image supplied by RZD Russian Railways