The most complicated railway in the world
If the Great Wall of China - an architectural symbol of the greatness of ancient China, the Qinghai-Tibetan railway may well become the embodiment of China's modern, its power, diligence and determination.
Tibet is called the Forbidden Country. It is the most alpine plateau on the planet, and until recently the road to Tibetan shrines was long and difficult.
In just five years and three and a half billion dollars in China built a highway length of 1150 kilometers, which connected the "Roof of the World" with the main territory of the country.
About 80% of the new section (960 kilometers) passed through the difficult mountainous areas at an altitude of over 4000 meters above sea level, of which about 550 kilometers was located in the permafrost zone.
The construction of the railroad there posed a serious engineering problem. The fact is that the upper layer of permafrost has the property to thaw in a short summer period, sometimes turning into a difficult to pass swamp. In this connection, the real threat was posed by soil movements, which could lead to deformation and destruction of the road. In order to eliminate this risk, the designers of the Qinghai-Tibet road developed a special scheme of its structure, which actually isolates any impact of the road on the environment and vice versa.
The rails were laid on a special embankment of cobblestones covered with a sand layer. In the transverse projection of the embankment was perforated through a network of pipes to ensure better ventilation, and its slopes were closed by special metal sheets that reflect sunlight and thus further prevent its heating.
In some areas, there were also wells filled with liquid nitrogen. All these measures actually froze the embankment under the road, preventing the heating of the upper layer of permafrost, its thawing and subsequent deformation of the railway bed.
To compensate for height differences in the construction areas, a significant part of the highway was laid over flyovers. A total of 675 bridges were built on its 1142 kilometers, the total length of 160 kilometers. The supports of these overpasses are piles, the foundations of which lie deep in permafrost, so that the seasonal thawing of its upper layer has no impact on the stability of the structure.
After construction was completed, the Tibetan Railway set several railway construction records at once. The highest railway tunnel in the world, named Fenghoshan, was built 350 kilometers from Holmud at an altitude of 4900 meters above sea level.
Cars for road maintenance were built at the Chinese factory of the Canadian concern Bombardir in the amount of 361 units (308 ordinary and 53 special tourist). All of them are actually hermetically sealed from the environment, inside the oxygen pressure is maintained close to standard.
In spite of this, the passengers have had mountain sickness attacks caused by lack of oxygen. To prevent them, each place in the cars is equipped with individual oxygen tubes on the model of hospital. Tinted windows of the cars with special coating protect passengers from excessive solar radiation, again inherent to high mountains.
Construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway began in 2001. About 20,000 workers, who simultaneously began laying the highway from both end points (Golmud and Lhasa), coped with the party's responsible task in just five years, spending $3.68 billion. According to official data, no one died in this process, even though they worked for a long time in the most uncomfortable conditions.
A trip along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway leaves no one indifferent. It seems that its designers and builders have come close to a certain limit, beyond which is a completely different reality of railway construction.