Open in the middle of the 50s of the 20th century the Trans-Mongolian Railway was often confused with the Trans-Siberian. The route form Beijing (the train No 3) leads trough the border crossing in the town of Erenhot (842 kilometres from Beijing), next to the capital of Mongolia, Ulaan Baatar, to border Suche Bator. The first city on the Russian side is Naushki, where the route leads further to Ulan-Ude, where it connects with the main line of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The Trans-Mongolian and Chinese routes branch out from the Trans-Siberian route in Zaudinskij, 8 kilometres from Ulan-Ude. The distance between Ulan-Ude and the Russian-Mongolian border is 250 kilometres. The Trans-Mongolian railway runs along the ancient caravans trail from China to Russia, and next to Europe. The railway from Ulan-Ude to the border of Mongolia was built in the year 1940.
The Trans-Mongolian Railway are 7624 kilometres of tracks connecting Moscow with Beijing. It was built in the years 1949-1961. It branches off the main line of the Trans-Siberian Railway in the city of Ulan-Ude. Next, for the major part of the route, it runs across the area of the Gobi desert in Mongolia. The first big stop is Irkutsk (after 3 days and 4 hours of ride). Next: Ulan-Ude (after 3 days and 10h), Ulaan Baatar (after 4 days and 4 h), Beijing (after 5 days and 12 h).
Below, there is a brief description of the stops of the railway route of the Trans-Mongolian Line from Moscow to Ulaan Baatar - Beijing.
Ulan-Ude, established in 1666, is the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Buryat, which in the 13th - 17th centuries was a part of the enormous Mongolian Empire. The city is a classic example of eastern influences in Russia. Nearby the railway station there are several kiosks where travellers can buy something to eat. The train stops for a short period of time.
Sayantuj 35-36 km
The train ride through a small station Sayantuj, and next across the western bank of the river and then through Ubukun. The stop lasts only 2 minutes.
A village is only 6 miles away from a big mining city Gusinozersk (Lake Gusinoje). The air is very polluted by the smoke from the mines, so you have to be careful. The stop lasts 1-2 minutes.
Lake Gusinoje (Goose) 129-157 km
The train rides along the western shore of Lake Gusinoje (previously its shores were inhabited by flocks of geese). In the city there is a Buddhist temple (datsan) built in 1741, which is one of the important datsans in northern Mongolia (even though the city is officially a part of Russia). Datsan is open to the public, but the train stops only fro 1-5 minutes.
The city Lake Gusinoje 138 km
It is a picturesque area of valleys surrounded by mountains. The train rides along the River Selenga and stops for a short while in the village of Selendum.
Dzida 210 km
It is a small village built as an air base. The stop lasts 1-5 minutes.
Naushki 253/0 km
It is a stop on the Russian border, the train stops for two or more hours. The stop lasts 103 hours depending on the train.
Suche Bator 21 km
The city was established in 1940 on the banks of the rives Selenga and Orkhnon. It received its name in honour of Mongolian commander of troops Suhbaatar. Today it is the capital of ajmak Selegijski with the population of 20 thousand citizens. At the crossing of the border, on the Mongolian side you can meet with unpleasant and dangerous control procedure. The whole luggage is always carefully checked. It is recommended not to take any photographs here, because both film and camera can be confiscated. The stop lasts approximately 1,5 - 3 hours, depending on the train.
Darhan 123 km
The journey from Suche Bator to Darkhan lasts about 8 hours (380 km). It is the second biggest city in Mongolia with a population of 95,5 thousand citizens. Visible here is the urban character. The part in the south of Darkhan is picturesque. The stop lasts 30-50 min.
Ulaan Baatar 404 km
Ulaan Baatar is the capital of Mongolia, it was established in 1639. It had been often transferred along the banks of the Selenga River to Orhon and Tuul, before it was located on its current spot. It is a strategic location on the tea route from China, through Russia, to Europe. The train stops for a half an hour. At the station there are many traders who can change currency, however the rate is not profitable, so you have to be careful.
425 - 470 km
From this moment the train rides up the hill. When it gets to the top, it starts to ride downhill, meandering along the part of the road, which is a great opportunity of photographing the beautiful views of the landscape and the train itself.
Chojr 649 km
The station in Chojr looks like a piece of cake, there is the statue of VVT Ertvuntz, the first Mongolian astronaut. The city was an air base in the Soviet times. Chojr is located in the very centre of the Gobi desert, it has a population of 13 thousand citizens. The stop lasts about 15 min.
Dzamin Ude 1113 km
It is a Chinese-Mongolian border decorated with lights. Showing customs declaration and immigration form is obligatory. The luggage of Chinese and Mongolian traders and foreigners are checked more carefully than others. The whole procedure lasts 1-1,5 hours.
Erlyan (China) 842 km from Beijing
It seems that Mongolia and China compete against each other for the most irritating border crossing. At the station the wheels of the train are changed to make them fit the Chinese tracks. Before going out on a walk you have to remember about taking warm clothes. The stop lasts about 4 hours.
In this place the train for the first time crosses the Great Wall of China.
Datong (China) 317 km
It is a big industrial city with a population of over 2 million citizens. It is known as the industrial centre, many mines are situated here. One of its main attractions are caves, where Buddhist temples are - Yungang Grottoes. However, the stop here is short - 8 minutes.
In this place the train rides along the Great Wall of China. The best views are at the 284 kilometre.
Beijing (China) 0 km
Beijing is the capital of China, one of the first civilisation centres. It can be the end or the beginning of the journey!