The Tanggula Railway Station sits on the vast Tibetan Plateau, a high-altitude landscape beset by permafrost. But despite its bleak isolation, this lonely, unstaffed railway station has a lofty claim to fame: at 16,627 feet above sea level, it’s the highest railway station in the world.
The 1,215-mile-long Qingzang Railway runs from Qinghai to Lhasa, passing through many desolate and barely habitable landscapes. It was an astounding feat of construction, and one that had to overcome numerous problems, particularly on the Golmud to Lhasa section where workers had to contend with both extremely high altitudes and permafrost.
Upon its completion, however, the railway was rewarded with a handful of world records. It was recognized as being the highest railway in the world, with the world’s highest railway tunnel (the Fenghuoshan Tunnel) and the world’s highest railway station.
The Tanggula Railway Station was inaugurated on July 1, 2006, along with the Golmud to Lhasa section of the Qingzang Railway. The platform stretches for more than half a mile, but the station’s facilities are almost as stark as the landscape surrounding it.
The station is unstaffed, and while some trains do stop here briefly, passengers normally have to remain on the train. The surrounding area is pretty much uninhabited, and the station serves as a stop-off for repairs or emergencies, with few, if any, passengers actually wanting to disembark at Tanggula.
But the view from the station (or from the train as it stops or passes by) is impressive. And less than a mile from the station is the Tanggula Pass, which at 16,640 feet above sea level is the highest point of the Qingzang Railway.
Know Before You Go
The Qingzang Railway, also known as the Qinghai–Tibet Railway, runs from Xining in the Qinghai Province of China to Lhasa in Tibet. There are 45 stations along the Golmud to Lhasa section, 38 of which are unstaffed. Some stations have “scenic platforms” where passengers can disembark briefly to enjoy the scenery, at least during the day. The Tanggula Railway Station was built partly because of its impressive views, but there’s no guarantee that the train will stop, let alone let people off. Ask in advance about the possibly of disembarking at Tanggula, as some services might be more likely to stop than others.