The February 2007 Geotimes has a fascinating piece on one of the world’s most amazing railroads — the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.
It’s the highest railway in the world, and had to cross four mountain ranges and five major rivers to get from Golmud, Qinghai, to Lhasa, Tibet. They had to dig through permafrost — and come up with ways to keep it from melting under the train — to finish the project.
Tibet, of course, is where Mt. Everest is. It’s not the easiest place to get anything built. Permafrost and earthquakes are just the beginning.
At 4,650 meters elevation on the Tibetan Plateau, with atmospheric pressure and oxygen 45 percent lower than at sea level, an annual average air temperature of 5 degrees below zero Celsius, and extremes including low temperatures of negative 47.8 degrees Celsius and wind speeds above 30 meters per second, this is a harsh climate. Add in solar and ultraviolet radiation 1.5 to 2.5 times what it is at sea level, and not only is preconstruction research and fieldwork a challenge, but so is the construction itself.
Cars are actually outfitted with oxygen equipment for passengers who might feel a little ill traveling across the Roof of the World.
Some folks, of course, are thrilled at this achievement. Others might be thinking something more like, “There goes the neighborhood.”
At the end of the line in Lhasa we were rewarded with sights such as Potala Palace, the traditional home of the Dalai Lama, which was recently named by USA Today as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.” It’s worth a visit.
Here come the yellow-hatted tourists….
Daughter, now aged 4, has started asking a lot about going back to China. Pictures don’t cut it any more. She wants to know what it looks like on the inside.
I remember my parents taking me on the Blue Train (or at least one of the trains rolling along the same route) to show me South Africa back in the 1970s.
Maybe we’ll take this train someday.