The Russian stated building railways in the Caucasus and the first section from Poti on the Black Sea to Tbilissi (Tiflis) was opened in 1872. The intend of the line was to reach Baku on the Caspian Sea and this was done in 1882.
The Russian government using railway battalions formed with labor levied from the army built the Transcaucasus. The Transcaucasus railway was above all a strategic railway. First, it provided easy transportation for the military in the Caucasus, an area that was quite insecure and disputed by the Ottoman. Second, the soldiers could now access the Caucasus from the Caspian Sea rather than the Black Sea that was not controlled by the Russian Navy. Finally, the Transcaucasus railway was another pawn in the Great Game against Great Britain: combined with the Transcaspian railways, the Transcaucasus could be used to threaten British interest in India.
Once built, the Transcaucasus railway main traffic was of course oil transportation from Baku to the Black Sea. The railway was indeed at the time the only means of transportation available all year round.
During the 1877 war against the Ottomans, the Russian gained much territory westward, including the fortress of Kars. Kars was deemed to be the strategic stronghold controlling access from Anatolia to Caucasus. Logically, as part of their strategic railway policy, the Russian built a branch of the Transcaucasus railway from Tiflis to Kars. This line was extended to Sarıkamış, the actual border post between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. This line proved its worth during World War One: the Russian could resist the Ottoman attack in Sarıkamış in 1915 and counter attack in 1916 to win Erzurum on February 16, 1916. A 750mm narrow gauge line was built from Sarıkamış to supply the front. This line went about 50km westward past Erzurum.
In 1920, the Turkish Nationalist forces took Kars back. The Gümrü treaty signed December 2, 1920 placed the present border along the Arpaçay River (or Arpa river) and the Araks river (Araxe river). Thus the Nationalist gained control of the 750mm line and of the 5-foot gauge line as far as Akyaka.
The exact terms of ownership transfer are not known. It is likely that the Russians were generous, given that the Bolsheviks otherwise supported the Nationalist at the time. In additions, these bits of line had little commercial value.
It is likely also that TCDD operated these lines from its creation in 1927.
|from||to||Original company||Opening year||km||miles||remark|
|Navtlugi (Tbilissi)||Kars||Transcaucasus Rly||1899||298||186||5 foot gauge,|
|Kars||Sarıkamış||Transcaucasus Rly||1913||122,9||76,4||5 foot gauge, converted to std gauge in 1962|
|Sarıkamış||Erzurum||Russian Army||1916||173,9||108,1||750 mm gauge, converted to std gauge in 1957|
|Erzurum||Yeniköy||Russian Army||1916||50||32||750 mm gauge, Closed|