Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (8): 1283-1306.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1782-z

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatial pattern and developing mechanism of railway geo-systems based on track gauge: A case study of Eurasia

WANG Chengjin1,2,3(), LI Xumao1,2,3, CHEN Peiran1,2,3, XIE Yongshun1,2,3, LIU Weidong1,2,3   

  1. 1. nstitute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. College of Resource and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2020-02-28 Accepted:2020-05-22 Online:2020-08-25 Published:2020-10-25
  • About author:Wang Chengjin, PhD and Professor, specialized in economic geography, especially the port system, logistics network, and industrial geography. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    The Strategic Priority Research Program of the CAS(XDA20010101);The Key Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(ZDRW-ZS-2017-4)


The railway is an indispensable feature of a nation’s infrastructure, and the gauge is an internal and objective technical regulation of the railway. In the large-scale regional space, the track gauges reflect the development differences, historical relations and mutual influences between countries and regions. This makes the railway, originally as a regional connection, have special social, political, military and other multiple attributes. Based on this, the paper, from the perspective of railway gauge, takes the Eurasian continent as the case region to explore the spatial pattern, formation mechanism and organizational mode of communication of the Eurasian continental railway geo-system. The results show that 11 kinds of railway gauge structures exist in Eurasia, which respectively belong to three types of wide-gauge, standard-gauge, and narrow-gauge, but the mainstream gauge only includes 1520 mm, 1435 mm and 1067 mm. Considerable variation in the coverage length and space range of different gauges is apparent, which provides a physical and technological basis for railway system differentiation and network fragmentation, which leads to the formation of eight railway geo-systems. Due to different modes for railway transport management in different geographical locations, the geographical pattern and geographical relationship of four transport organizations are formed. What especially important is the emergence of “1435 gauge space” and “1520 gauge space”, as well as the railway geo-space confrontation between them, on the Eurasian continent. Besides, we also find that the railway geo-system of Eurasia is mainly affected by the technology dissemination, path dependence, geopolitics, national defense and the colonial expansion of military latitude, and on this basis, five geo-modes of railway gauge propagation are formed.

Key words: railway, railway geosystem, development mechanism, expansion mode