The Iranian Plateau with its mountainous landscape and peaks up to 5000 m has always been a natural obstacle to easy ways of communication. Nevertheless from ancient times up to the present important trading routes have been finding their way through the region: among them the famous Silk Road.
In the past century Iran has built more than 5000 km of railroad over difficult territories connecting remote regions to the cities and providing access to the country’s main ports. Numerous bold bridges and tunnels have been constructed to surmount the natural obstacles
The country’s railway links to most of its neighbouring countries and will soon close the remaining gap between European and Indian subcontinent rail network. With the opening of the Silk Road railway to Turkmenistan, merchandises from Central Asia find a convenient way to the sea crossing Iran by rail.
The first rails in Iran date back to the second half of the 18th century at the time of Nasser-Eddin Shah (Qajar dynasty) when a short suburban Railway in the south of Tehran between Darvazeh-ye Shahr-e-Rey and Horr Square was established. This railway was first horse-hauled, later steam traction was introduced. The line was closed down in 1952. An original train is still visible as a monument in the center of Shar-e-Rey south of Tehran.
In 1939, the Trans-Iranian Railway was opened, built entirely by local capital. It is 1,392 km long and connects Bandar-E-Torkaman (formerly Bandar-E-Shah) on the Caspian Sea to Bandar-E-Emam Khomeyni (formerly Bandar-E-Shahpur) on the Persian Gulf. From south to north this all important railway passes through and connects together the cities of Ahvaz, Dezful, Arak, Qom, Tehran, Garmsar, Firuzkuh, Qaem Shahr and Behshahr.
After the second world war a number of subsidiary lines were added to the Trans-Iranian trunk railroad such as Ahvaz-Khorram Shahr 123 km, Qom-Kashan 98 km, Tehran-Mashhad 925 km, Tehran-Tabriz 742 km and Bandar-E-Torkaman-Gorgan 36 km.
In the last decades the Kashan railway has been extended through Esfahan to Yazd, Bafq and Zarand and a new line from Kashan through Bad - Na'in- Meybod to Yazd and another extension has connected Kerman to Zarand.'
In the northwest of Iran a line from Sharaf Khaneh on Lake Orumieh over Qotur was opened in 1977 linking Iranian railways to international standard gauge network. It has great importance on the huge amount of merchandise and passengers that are annually transported from Iran to Turkey and Europe and vice versa.
In 1993 Bafq-Bandar Abbas was opened providing a link to this important Iranian port on the Strait of Hormoz.
With the opening of the Mashad-Sarakhs branch in 1996 as part of the silk road railway a new transportation facility to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and China was added.