The Moscow - Saint Petersburg Railway is the second oldest railway in Russia after a short line connecting Saint Petersburg and Tsarskoe Selo. The construction of a railtrack on this route was determined by vital economic problems and the logic of the country’s history itself as Moscow and Saint Petersburg are two capitals, two poles of Russia’s destiny.
The idea of a railway between Moscow and Saint Petersburg was inevitable although it gave rise to a prolonged controversy, with some reactionary officials predicting social upheaval if the masses were allowed to travel. It was decided that only the affluent would be allowed to use the line and every passenger was to be subjected to strict passport and police control.
On 1 February 1842 Nicholas I of Russia issued a decree ordering the construction of a new Railway. Nicholas I commented this historical step: “We suffer from excessive distances. And I look at the gap decrease between Saint Petersburg and Moscow as a matter of great national importance.” The Railway was officially opened on 1 November 1851, when the first “all-people's” train from Saint Petersburg to Moscow was put on rails.
The “Saint Petersburg Vedomosty” newspaper celebrated this crucial event with the following inspiring news: “1st day of November will always be a memorable day for the whole Russia: this day... the opening of a new Railway that connected both our capitals - the head and the heart of Russia - took place”.
When traveling from Moscow you are departing from Leningradskiy railway station. Go on a virtual tour.
When traveling from St. Petersburg to Moscow you are departing from Moskovskiy railway station. Learn everything about it in our video.
The Myth of the Railway
There is a very interesting and popular myth connected with the history of the Nikolaevskaya Railway construction. For many years the line was completely straight apart from a 17km (11miles) bend between Okulovka and Malaya Vishera, near the city of Novgorod. This was the subject of an urban legend that when planning the project, Tsar Nicholas I, who was reputedly exasperated by the bickering of officials arguing over the route, selected the route by taking a ruler and drawing a straight line between the two cities on a map, accidentally drew around his own finger on the ruler. The planners were supposedly too afraid to point out the error and constructed the line with the bend. In reality, the Moscow - Saint Petersburg Railway was built without the curve. But there was a steep gradient at this location that caused severe problems for steam locomotives. Trains heading to St Petersburg would pick up so much speed that they could not stop at the next station, while those heading for Moscow could not get up the hill without the assistance of four locomotives. In order not to use additional locomotives, the Verebinsky bypass was constructed in 1877. During its early years trains from Moscow to St. Petersburg ran at low speed of 40 km/h and the whole travel, together with stops, took 19 hours. Since then the train speed began to increase gradually and the travel time to decrease. In 1931 the first deluxe train in the USSR - the “Red Arrow” - began to cruise between two capitals covering the distance between Moscow and Saint Petersburg in 10 hours.
Why People Choose this Route
Today many travelers all over the world choose this itinerary as it provides the possibility to visit all major highlights of both capitals with great comfort. Moscow usually attracts tourists by its majestic Red Square with the Kremlin and colorful St. Basil's Cathedral, by famous Tretyakov Gallery and The Bolshoi Theater.
While Saint Petersburg - a city of canals and cathedrals, palaces and terraces - is considered to be unmatched in its splendor with its incredibly beautiful Catherine's Palace and Peterhof, world-famous Hermitage, Peter and Paul Fortress, Savior on Blood and St. Isaac Cathedral, and other outstanding sights.
During the high travel season these places are often booked out and have huge queues outside, so we recommend our clients to book excursions in Moscow & St. Petersburg in advance. It can be done with great convenience on our website.
And today with modern high-speed “Sapsan” trains you are able to reach your destination in just four hours! Although it only travels at a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour (155 miles per hour) at present.
After new high-speed rail lines are built between St. Petersburg, Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, new Sapsan trains will be able to increase their speed up to 400 kilometers per hour while reducing the travel time to no more than 2,5 hours.