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List of highest railways

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A train pulled by an NJ2 locomotive travels on the Qinghai–Tibet Railway.

This article lists the highest railways in the world. The table only includes non-cable passenger railways whose culminating point is over 3,000 metres above sea level, regardless of their location, gauge or type.

For simplicity, absolute elevation is the only criterion of this list, though two places at exactly the same elevation above sea level can have drastically different topographic or climatic conditions. For example, the permanent snow line is located at sea level near the poles, at 3,000 metres in the Alps and at 6,000 metres in some areas of the Andes and the Himalayas. The tree line also depends on latitude, thus making comparisons between elevations difficult on a world scale. At high altitudes, snow, cold, wind and harsh weather conditions make construction and maintenance an expensive challenge.

Before the opening of the Qinghai–Tibet Railway in China, currently the highest in the world, the highest three railways were located in the Andean countries of Peru and Bolivia. In the Alps, the Jungfrau Railway has the particularity of reaching an elevation that is higher than the local snow line.

For a list by country, without elevation cutoff, see List of highest railways by country.


Current passenger railways[edit]

Railway line Highest point Highest elevation Country Opened Notes
Xining-Golmud-Lhasa Tanggula 5,068 m (16,627 ft)[1]  China 2006
Lima–Huancayo Galera Summit Tunnel 4,783 m (15,692 ft)[2][3]  Peru 1893 Highest railway in the Americas
Rio Mulatos–Potosí Cóndor 4,786 m (15,702 ft)  Bolivia  
Cuzco-Lake Titicaca La Raya 4,313 m (14,150 ft)  Peru  
Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway Pikes Peak Summit 4,301 m (14,111 ft)[4]  USA 1891 / 2017, 2021 Highest railway in North America. Reopened in 2021 [5]
Salta–Antofagasta La Polvorilla 4,220 m (13,845 ft)  Argentina
1948 "Tren a las Nubes" tourist service between San Antonio de los Cobres and La Polvorilla
Quito-Guayaquil Urbina 3,609 m (11,841 ft)  Ecuador 1908 Reopened 2011
Lanzhou–Xinjiang High-Speed Railway Qilianshan No.2 Tunnel 3,608 m (11,837 ft)  China 2014 Highest high-speed railway
Jungfrau Railway Jungfraujoch 3,454 m (11,332 ft)[6]   Switzerland 1912 Highest railway in Europe, underground above 2,350 m.[6][7]
Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad Leadville 3,414 m (11,201 ft)  USA Highest Adhesion railway in North America
Gornergrat Railway Gornergrat 3,090 m (10,138 ft)   Switzerland 1898 Highest open-air railway in Europe
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Cumbres Pass 3,054 m (10,020 ft)  USA 1881 Highest narrow gauge railroad in North America

Closed railways[edit]

Railway line Highest point Highest elevation Country Opened / closed Notes
Salta–Antofagasta Abra Chorrillos 4,475 m (14,682 ft)  Argentina 1948 Freight only, formerly also a passenger railway. Actually only takes passengers till La Polvorilla
Arica–La Paz General Lagos 4,257 m (13,967 ft)  Chile
1913 / 2005
Antofagasta-La Paz Ascotán 3,956 m (12,979 ft)  Chile
1873 Freight only, formerly also a passenger railway
Denver South Park & Pacific Alpine Tunnel 3,512 m (11,522 ft)  USA 1882 / 1910
Mendoza–Los Andes Los Caracoles 3,176 m (10,420 ft)  Argentina
1910 / 1984
DRG&W Tennessee Pass Route Tennessee Pass 3,116 m (10,223 ft)  USA 1881 / 1997 Out of service. Can be reactivated if traffic permits.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "World's highest railway station enters key construction period". Canada Tibet Committee. July 28, 2005. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  2. ^ Bennett, Suzy (October 2003). "A train journey through the Peruvian Andes". Wanderlust. Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  3. ^ "Our Train - The Highest in the World". Incas del Peru. Retrieved December 6, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Manitou & Pike's Peak Cog Railway. "Along The Route". Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  5. ^ "Pike's Peak Cog Railway will reopen May 2021". KKYV News. CBS Denver. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  6. ^ a b Jungfraubahnen. "Jungfraujoch - Top of Europe". Jungfrau Ski Region. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  7. ^ Switzerland Tourism. "Highest railway in Europe". My Switzerland. Retrieved December 6, 2012.

External links[edit]