Railways

The first railways in Lithuania were drivenin the period from 1859 to 1861. This was St. Petersburg-Warsaw line crossing towns as Ignalina, Vilnius, Lentvaris, and Varena with the branch through Kaunas to Kybartai. The first train on an inauguration trip arrived from Daugpilis to Vilnius on 17 September, 1860. The trip from Petersburg to Vilnius used to take nearly 19 hours, and from Vilnius to Kaunas 2 hours and 33 minutes.

In the period from 1871 to 1874 the railway line Liepoja-Romny was built crossing such the towns of Mazeikiai, Radviliskis, Kaisiadorys, Naujoji Vilnia. The line was mainly used for the carriage of grain from Ukraine to the port of Liepoja.

After the re-establishment of independence in 1918, the independent Republic of Lithuania rented its first steam locomotives and coaches from Germany. However, they  were rather obsolete. During rather frequent stops of the train the passengers would help the train driver to collect fire-wood.

The situation changed very soon – new modern coaches, steam locomotives, diesel railcars were bought. In 1921 a train from Kaunas to Siauliai used to arrive in 5 h, while in 1937 this time shortened to 2 h 19 min. While in 1920 the maximum train speed was only 40 km/h, at the end of the fourth decade a train could reach the speed of 95 km/h. In 1939 the broad gauge standardrolling-stock of Lithuania consisted of 172 steam locomotives, 219 coaches, 53 luggage and postal cars, 3760 freight wagons, and 13 railcars.

When the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in 1940, a large-scale programme of changing the gauge standard into the Soviet gauge standard (from 1435 mm to 1524 mm) started. After the war the main railway lines were reconstructed, new railway stations’ buildings were built in Kaunas, Kaisiadorys, Kretinga, and other towns, the station of Vilnius was reconstructed, the areas of intensive traffic were fitted up with two track sections.

In 1975 the track Vilnius-Kaunas was electrified, later the electrificationof the tracks Lentvaris-Trakai and Vilnius-Naujoji Vilnia was carried out. The last steam locomotive stopped its operation on Lithuanian railways in 1979.

After Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, 22 km long track of European standard gauge (1435 mm) from Sestokai to the Lithuanian border with Poland became very important. This track became ‘a window to Europe’ for Lithuanian railways.

Last updated: 28-07-2015