Which Route does the Trans-Siberian Railway take?
Let me make clear right at the start that “a trans-Siberian railway route” as such does not exist in reality. As in other countries, in Russia there is a rail network which connects the cities, at least in the west of the country. The Trans-Siberian Railway is primarily a means of transport and not a tourist attraction.
However, the further towards the Siberian wilderness you travel, the thinner this network becomes until there is only one route which divides again into different routes at Lake Baikal. You can stay in Russia and travel to Vladivostok on the Pacific coast. This is the original route, the real Trans-Siberian Railway. Alternatively, you can leave Russia, cross into Mongolia and travel to Beijing, this is the Trans-Mongolian route. There is also a third largely unknown route, the Trans-Manchurian route. This crosses the Russian border into China further east and also ends in Beijing.
On the Trans-Siberian Railway journey, you realize that you are not simply changing countries but also continents. People in Moscow are recognisably Europeans, those in Siberia become increasingly Asiatic. Crossing the border into Mongolia is an amazing experience. There you realise you are now in Asia and are also immediately classified by the locals as a foreigner.
I have marked the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian routes with their major stations on a map. I straightened the lines a bit. The Trans-Siberian route is somewhat more than 9000 km long, and the Trans-Mongolian route around 8000 km. To give a sense of the distance, I have placed Germany on the left of the card. All the cities I visited are described on the Cities on the Trans-Siberian Railway Route Page and are marked with red pins.
The Trans-Siberian Railway on a big map