Responding the strategic need to strengthen western border of Russian empire in the end of XIX century it was decided to fortify the towns on the river Neman - Kowno (now Kaunas), Olita (now Alytus), Grodna (now Grodno). The railway to Olita was built for extensive supplying of building materials and fast service between garrisons.
Railway neared to Olita from the east in February 1895. The railway section from Orany (Varena), which was station of the railway mainline Sankt Petersburg - Warsaw, to village Poterantsy (Poteronys) beside Olita was opened. At the same time construction of railway branch from Grodna trough Augustow, Suwalki, Shestakov (Sestokai) to Olita began from opposite direction. As the branch reached Olita from the west on 1 May 1899 train service started.
Railway bridge across the Neman knit the branches from Orany and Grodna together on 15 October 1899, and trains were put in motion on the large semicircle named Zanemanskiye railways lines (nicknamed Suwalki ring). Zanemanskiye railways were assigned to Sankt-Petersburg - Warsaw railways.
During the WWI in August 1915 the stepping back Russian troops exploded rail bridge therefore the section Olita-Orany couldn't be used. When the Germans occupied the town and constructed a new bridge the branch functioned till 1920.
In October 1920 Polish troops occupied Suwalki and Vilnius region and Varena railway station together. Station Artillerija remained on the Lithuanian side on the branch to Varena but until 1923 it acted limply (Augustow, Suwalki and Grodno of Zanemankiye railways also were occupied).
However in 1923 the part of Suwalki ring remaining in Lithuania was connected with Lithuanian railway system in Sestokai (branch from Kazlu Ruda through Marijampole). Trains traveled regularly from Kaunas through Alytus to the railhead Artillerija until January 1926. Then railway department decided to shut and disassemble the unsafe wooden bridge in Alytus and later dismantle the siding to Varena.
After World War II the rail route Grodno - Suwalki - Alytus was tore between Suwalki and Sestokai by Soviet-Polish state border. On purpose to interconnect Alytus with soviet railway system it was decided to rebuild siding from Alytus to Sestokai dismantled in the end of war and early postwar (instead of restoring Alytus - Varena branch and avoiding the demand of a bridge across the Neman). Railway to Alytus revived again in 1959.
During soviet era being industrial centre of southern Lithuania Alytus started to grow fast. In early 1980s two railway stations appeared in Alytus – an old one (passenger and cargo) in town and a new one (passenger only) at north-west margin of Alytus close to northern industrial area. Eventually, despite absence of required facility, the new station began operate as freights station also.
In 1997 the old station was shut, railway through Alytus was dismantled. Instead of it walking and cycling pathway was built.
The authors of the webside organize guided tours around and along the railway branch since 2006.
In 2013 municipalities of Alytus and Varena districts decided to build bicycle track on the rail bed.
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