Seeing the world from a train window

Form China to California, the world’s longest railway lines

Some are young and made their first journey only a few years ago, others are steeped in history and are now embedded in collective memory because they have become famous thanks to novels or the experience of millions of people. All have contributed in the same way to the economic and social development of humanity, accelerating progress, reducing distances between states and the peoples that inhabit them, offering a model of transportation that still today – over a hundred years since the first examples – remains among the most efficient and sustainable.

The longest railways in the world are not just relics to be entrusted to history, pearls of beauty that live in books or memory, but still today strategic infrastructures, some of which are essential for the transportation of goods from one continent to another and therefore unique tools for those exchanges that go beyond trade and primarily involve culture.

From China to Spain, the longest railway journey of goods in the world

The longest journey in the world made on a railway route was baptized not too many years ago. In 2014, for the first time, a train departing from China completed 13,000 kilometers reaching Spain. A 21-day journey through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, and France to unite China and Spain in a single journey.

Arriving at the Abroñigal railway station in Madrid, the Yixinou freight train brought its precious cargo from Yiwu, one of China’s main industrial areas. In addition to the success of the delivery, the convoy entered the Guinness World Records because its journey beat every record, starting with that of the historic Trans-Siberian Railway.

The Trans-Siberian, queen of the 1900 Universal Exposition

A railway similar to a work of art and at the same time a marvel of engineering. This is the Trans-Siberian Railway, so unique that it was presented for the first time in the world at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris. The incredible railway that connects Asia to Eastern Europe by crossing the most inhospitable territories of Russia immediately became an icon in the world of infrastructure.

Built between 1891 and 1916, the railway line reaches a length of 9,288 kilometers and was initially designed to reduce travel times between Moscow and Vladivostok, at the two extremes of Russia, which were so far apart that they required three or four months of travel before the arrival of the railway.

The opening of the new route profoundly changed the transportation models of the continent, so much so that even today the Trans-Siberian is an incredible tool for the transportation of goods. Through the commercial wagons traveling on its tracks, about 20,000 containers arrive in Europe each year, 8,300 of which even come from Japan. Even today, about 30% of Russian exports transit along this route, making the Trans-Siberian one of the most important transport infrastructures for the country.

Trans-Mongolian railway, from China to Russia through deserts and mountains

Four states, but above all a landscape that changes continuously, passing from the Gobi Desert to the Great Wall of China up to the Altai Mountains. The 7,620 kilometers of Trans-Mongolian railway that connect Beijing to Moscow represent a unique experience for travelers precisely because of the incredible landscape. To complete the entire journey by train takes six days, during which the train departs from China, crosses Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and reaches Russia. A unique railway line, therefore, that, like the Trans-Siberian itself, has become a point of interest for tourism as well. Indeed, tens of thousands of passengers choose every year to discover the Asian continent traveling on the carriages of this train.

From Chicago to San Francisco aboard America’s longest train

It is the fifth longest railway line in the world, but it remains one of the most well-known because it boasts the record for the longest route in the United States of America. In the country that has made the railway one of the engines of its unstoppable development since the nineteenth century, the California Zephyr railway line represents an undisputed symbol of progress and beauty.

Its run – almost 4,000 kilometers long – starts in Chicago, the Windy City, and ends in San Francisco, just steps from the Pacific Ocean. The windows of its carriages offer a unique view of the American continent because the train crosses eight states (Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California). Along the journey, which lasts three days and two nights, it is possible to admire the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, as well as the Mojave Desert, a true tour through the natural and unique soul of America. This is why the California Zephyr and its railway have offered the infrastructure the opportunity to become a collective and shared asset, an opportunity to ensure that the journey of discovery never ends.