Circum-Baikal Train Tours
Circum-Baikal Railway is a historical railway track laid along the steep north-western shore of Lake Baikal from port Baikal at the Angara river headwaters to Slyudianka settlement at the most southern extremity of the lake. Until the middle of XX-th century when the alternative track was constructed across the mountain range that surrounded the lake it had been a part of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The construction of this track in early 1900s was the biggest challenge for Russian imperial government. Its numerous tunnels, bridges and supporting walls had to be built without machines using only human power. It took such enormous funding to finish this part of the Trans-Siberian Railway that it was often called “The golden buckle on the steel belt of Russia”. Read more
Circum-Baikal Express Train
Russian Railways operate two tourist trains on the disused section of the railroad known as the Circum-Baikal Railway. The first one called “Circum-Baikal Express” train looks like a regular “Elektrichka” - Russian suburban train that commutes all over Russia from larger cities to the suburbs. Some improvements have been made inside of the carriages to adapt it for tourist purposes. 1-st class coaches have two pairs of seats around the table outlining sort of an open space compartment. 2-nd class coaches have three seats in two rows with an aisle in the center. Folding tables are pulled from the back of the next row seat almost like in the passenger aircrafts. Most people choose so-called 1-st class since it provides more space and privacy especially when there are 3 to 4 people in a group.
The trip takes one full day from the early morning till late night. Some days train commutes from Irkutsk to Slyudianka on the main Trans-Siberian railway track and then further along the Circum-Baikal segment to port Baikal settlement linked to Listvyanka by ferry boats. A tourist bus then takes passengers back from Listvyanka to Irkutsk. Other days the route runs in reverse direction from Irkutsk to Listvyanka by bus with a ferry to port Baikal from where the train leaves back for Irkutsk via Slyudianka settlement. See details of the route and timing at the Schedule page.
There are four TVs in each train coach showing Russian retro movies as well as documentaries about the lake. A guide is telling on the air fascinating stories about the railway construction, but unfortunately in Russian only. The train makes a few stops en-route to allow passengers strolling along the shoreline, taking pictures or even challenging cold lake's water during the longest stop that lasts for almost an hour.
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“Baikal Cruise” Retro Train
Unlike previous single day excursion train, “Baikal Cruise” Retro Train tour lasts for the full two days with two overnights on board. The train consists of sleeping cars widely used on Russian Railways for intercity and interregional routes. There are 1-st class 2-berth compartment carriages and 2-nd class 4-berth compartment carriages decorated in retro style as well as a couple of standard 2-nd class carriages. Since there is no electric line over the Circum-Baikal railway starting from Slyudianka settlement and all the way to port Baikal the whole train is pulled by original American-built locomotives of the early XX-th century.
Sleeping car interiors have retro style decorations with old pictures and maps, posters, copies of books and papers from the archives. One of the 1-st class sleeping cars includes 8 theme cabins each one having its own style. These are technical, railway, marine, art, music, literature, farmers, and the Soviet revolution themes. In another 1-st class car all 8 cabins are devoted to the history of the Circum-Baikal railway construction. In 2-nd class retro car, decorators attempted to recreate the atmosphere of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II epoch. There are also one or two conventional sleeping cars from the typical Russian long-distance trains. If booked in advance, we can often choose type of the car and even the particular theme of the compartment of the 1-st class.
The train departs Irkutsk railway station on Friday nights at 10:50 pm. The first overnight is on the way with the rumble of wheels; while the second night is spent on board when parked at one of the intermediate stations not far from port Baikal. On Sundays, the train departs back towards Sludyanka and then to Irkutsk. It is back at Irkutsk railway station by 6:00 pm Sunday night.
Besides the second overnight, Retro Train makes quite a few stops along the way. The guide leads excursions (in Russian) to the most interesting sights along the Circum-Baikal railway. Passengers have a chance to see the old railway stations built from marble stone, explore the shortest and the longest tunnels, observe arches and supporting walls that used to prevent the track from rocks falling from the steep mountain slope. Excursion program also includes a visit to the Circum-Baikal Railway museum in port Baikal and Russian folk group concert performed on Saturday night.
Meals can be ordered in the dining car (not included). We would also be glad to supply a lunch box of your choice for you.
See the Fares for the Retro tour
In both tours, passengers are allowed to bring their own food and snacks. Most Russians would take drinks, snacks, candies, instant noodles, smoked chicken, etc. Hot boiled water is provided from the heaters in each car to make tea or instant coffee (Bring your own mug!). However, we advise to have drinking water for the hot days and/or to brush your teeth while at the retro tour with two overnights.