For passengers on traveling on all or most of the Trans-Siberian Railway and visiting the cities along it, there are only two English-language travel guides. The Lonely Planet guide appeared in 2003 with a second edition in 2006, while Bryn Thomas updates his guide almost yearly and in 2007 it reached its seventh edition. I'm a two-time veteran of the Trans-Siberian, using the 1st edition of the Lonely Planet on the eastbound Trans-Manchurian route, and the 2nd edition on the eastbound Trans-Mongolian. When I recently discovered Bryn Thomas' guide in the local library, however, it struck me as the guide that I wish I had had on the trip.
The Lonely Planet guide and Thomas' have much in common. Both include a history of Russia in the Trans-Siberian era and general information about culture. They both give sightseeing guidance and lodging listings for the cities along the way. The LP sticks to the three traditional routes between Moscow and Beijing or Vladivostok, but Thomas has now added Yakutsk, soon to be accessible by rail) and other possible rail terminus cities like Prague and Hong Kong.
What makes Thomas' guide real special is his enthusiasm for the train journey itself. Unlike the LP guide, he gives timetables for the route, truly equipping the reader to prepare for the trip without having to look for too much information outside the book. Thomas discusses in detail the layout of carriages, specifics of what the carriage attendant can do for those under her charge, and things to look out for at kilometre markers along the way. The LP guide has little about the journey itself, and what little interesting information it did have in the first edition disappeared in the second.
Thomas' tone is also much more pleasant to read than in the common guidebooks for independent travelers. He doesn't try to sell you places you have already decided to visit with an overuse of words like "vibrant" and "spectacular". I also admire that he succeeds in writing for a general audience. While some of the accomodation listings are pricey, it doesn't feel like he is dismissing backpackers like certain sell-out guidebook lines.
I don't think I will ever travel the Trans-Siberian all the way again. While still fairly low considering the distance, fares are rising and I usually have the three free weeks needed to hitchhike from Europe to Ulan-Ude or Vladivostok. Nonetheless, I'd certainly recommend this to travelers planning a trip that is well-worth doing at least once.