The most important of the new railways is the Siberian, of which the first section, Chelyabinsk to Omsk, was opened in December 1895, and which, except for a short section round Lake Baikal, in 1901 was completed right through to Stryetensk, on the Shilka, the head of navigation on the Shilka and the Amur, 2710 m.
But it was soon found that the cost of the section required to complete the railway between Stryetensk and Khabarovsk, along the Shilka (246 m.) and the Amur (1160 m.), would be enormous, while neither the wild mountainous tracts of the lower Shilka and upper Amur, nor the marshy, often inundated region between Khabarovsk and the Little Khingan mountains, could ever be the seat of a numerous population.
AMUR (known also as the Sakhalin-ula), a river of eastern Asia, formed by the confluence of the Argun and the Shilka, at Ust-Stryelka, in 53° 19' N.
Long.; the Shilka is formed by the union of the Onon and the Ingoda, both of which have their sources a little farther north-east than the Kerulen (Argun).
The Shilka and the Argun, which form it, flow first towards the north-east along the windings of the lower terrace of the great plateau; from this the Amur descends, cutting through the Great Khingan and flowing down the terraces of the eastern versant towards the Pacific. A noteworthy feature of the principal Siberian rivers is that each is formed by the confluence of a pair of rivers.
Examples are the Ob and the Irtysh, the Yenisei and the Angara (itself a double river formed by the Angara and the Lower Tunguzka), the Lena and the Vitim, the Argun and the Shilka, while the Amur in its turn receives a tributary as large as itself - the Sungari.
The tributaries of the Amur (the Shilka with its affluent the Ingoda) become navigable only on the lower terrace of the plateau.
From Lake Baikal the road proceeds to Verkhne-udinsk, Chita and Stryetensk on the Shilka, whence steamers ply to the mouth of the Amur and up the Usuri and Sungacha to Lake Khangka.
When the rivers are frozen communication is maintained by sledges on the Amur; but in spring and autumn the only continuous route down the Shilka and the Amur, to its mouth, is on horseback along a mountain path (very difficult across the Bureya range).
For reasons indicated elsewhere (see Russia: Railways) it was found inadvisable to continue the railroad along the Shilka and the Amur to Khabarovsk, and arrangements were made in 1896 with the Chinese government for the construction of a trans-Manchurian railway.
Steamers ply regularly along the Amur for 62 months, from Khabarovsk to Stryetensk, on the Shilka terminus of the Trans-Siberian railway; but only light steamers with 2 to 3 ft.