The USSR was the largest country in the world. Compared to the Western Countries the traffic and infrastructure in the USSR are on a lower standard.
Still today railroads are the most important transport-vehicles in the USSR. And also new tracks are built, while in the western countries the importance of railroads is replaced by aeroplanes and trucks more and more.
The building of railways is relatively easy, because most of Russia is flat. Advantages for the good development of railroads are based on the extrem weather conditions, when other transporting-systems like truck or ship will strike.
The first railroad was opened in 1837 in St. Petersburg and reached to Cárskoe Seló (today it's Puskin) with a length of 27km. It had only local importance.
More importance had the routes from St. Petersburg to Moscow and from St. Petersburg to Warsaw that was opened 24 years later.
Then the political and economic development demanded a network in the European part and also in the caucasus part of the USSR. But in the Caucasus there are high mountain ranges and so the building was very difficult and expensive. The two networks were linked in the beginning of this century. Then railroads in the Ural and the area of the river Wolga were built.
About 50 years later after the first railway was opened the very important Transcaspian railroad was built. It reached from Mid Asia over the Caspian Sea (Ferry) to Baku.
From 1891 to 1908 the Transsiberean Railway was built from Moscow to Vladivostók. This is the most famous route of the USSR. It links the european part with east Siberia up to the Pacific Ocean. In the Russian-Japanese war it had high militaryal importance and after the war it was the only way Russia could trade with Japan. The building of tunnels was nearly unnecessary because the region is very flat, but many big and long bridges had to be built to cross the giant rivers.
Also in the far north-east there were railways built before the revolution in 1917.
In 1917 the network had a total lenght of 70300km. 80% were in the european part of Russia.
After the Revolution the building concentrated on filling spaces between the mainlines. In the Ural and the Cusbaz new railroads were built. The Turksib route linked West Siberia and Middle Asia. It was opened in 1930.
The new project called the BAM (Baical-Armur-Mainline) from the Baical-Lake where it has a link to the Transsib to the Pacific was just finished.
In 1920 began the changing of railroads from steam to electric. In 1978 the total amount of electric lines was 30%.
1978 the length of railways in the USSR was 141400km.
The railways are often the only link between industrial and agricultural centres, because the streetsystem isn't in good conditions in the USSR.
The amount of transported goods rises steadily as can be seen in the chart. Also most of passenger traffic goes by train. Transportation costs are very high in the USSR. 50-70% of the total cost are transportation costs. The average distance of transports by train is 800km and often over 1000km.
Compared to western railways and trains the Russian ones aren't as far developed. In Germany the percentage of electric railways is higher than in the USSR for example. But in nowa days it's more important to improve industry and living conditions.