back to article Extreme trainspotting on Britain's highest (and windiest) railway

The world's highest railway is the Xining-Golmud-Lhasa railway at 5,068m (16,627ft) above sea level and running 815km (506 miles). As much a political piece as a transport corridor, the line was designed to fuse China with Tibet – the country the People's Republic invaded and annexed in 1950. Britain's highest railway is …

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  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    "ascends more than 2km (1,500ft)"

    I think the maths may have gone a bit awry here

  2. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    1,097m (3,599ft)

    That's barely off the ground. The Mount Washington cog railway in New Hampshire climbs from 2000 ft ASL almost to 6280 feet. The weather on Mount Washington is pretty fierce, too. The highest non-cyclonic wind speed measured on Earth, 231 mph, occurred at its summit. Winter temps can go into the minus 40s, Celsius and Fahrenheit.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Washington_Cog_Railway

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Washington_(New_Hampshire)

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

      I've got steers grazing on hills higher than that.

      I must admit, though, I do like the highlands. Even the dumbed-down, sissified, touristy bits like the one described.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

        Don't mind me, I'm just waiting for the post from someone from Texas so I can properly understand how insignificant the UK's mountains are.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

          Don't worry, Texas doesn't have any real mountains to speak of.

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

            "Don't worry, Texas doesn't have any real mountains to speak of."

            Steepest bit of Texas I was was the on-ramp onto the I610...

          2. fnj

            Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

            @jake - Guadalupe Peak in Texas is 2667 m.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          post from someone from Texas

          The highest point in Texas is about 2,667 meters above sea level.

          But that's a cute little hill you got there. We would call it a speed bump here.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: post from someone from Texas

            I'd call that "highest point in Texas" more properly New Mexico, along with the rest of the Guadalupes. And all of the rest of the Trans Pecos, come to think of it.

            1. Captain DaFt

              Re: post from someone from Texas

              "highest point in Texas"

              Some would argue (mostly from Arkansas) That the highest point in Texas is the sign that says, "You are now leaving Texas".

              FWIW, I've been to Texas, and still can't understand how someplace so far south can get so freakin' cold in the winter!

              1. spacecadet66

                Re: post from someone from Texas

                The first time I ever visited Texas, it was Houston in January and I hadn't brought a jacket. Because Texas is warm, right?

                Nobody had told me about the Blue Northers: winds that start up around the Arctic Circle and blow due south down the prairies of Canada and the USA. They keep most of their strength because, as the Texans say, there's nothing to slow them down along their route except a couple of barbed-wire fences.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: post from someone from Texas

                FWIW, I've been to Texas, and still can't understand how someplace so far south can get so freakin' cold in the winter!

                Depends where in Texas. I think this winter in San Antonio maybe it got below freezing twice.

                And that's because I live in the far northwest corner where it's colder than the rest of the city.

        3. Florida1920 Silver badge

          Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

          Texas

          Highest elevation in Texas: 8,751 feet (2,667 m). As John Denver noted, to get really high you have to go to Colorado. Or elsewhere in the West. Driving the back roads around the western U.S., it's not unusual to cross passes at elevations exceeding 9000 feet (~3000 m). The roads are well maintained, but rock falls and avalanches are unpredictable.

          Granite Pass, Wyoming, In April

          Avalanche Shed on the Million-Dollar Highway

        4. wayne 8

          Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

          Texas is not known for its elevation changes.

        5. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

          Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

          > I'm just waiting for the post

          "I can drive for hours and still be in my own property."

          "Yes, I had a car like that once...."

          (Age of gag unknown, but truth eternal)

        6. Slow Joe Crow

          Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

          Texas only has hills, the real mountains are the Rockies and the Cascades. So expect somebody from Colorado to talk about how tiny your mountains are.

    2. IDoNotThinkSo

      Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

      Maybe, but this is a UK website.

      You could go up to the Jungfraujoch on a train if you want steep cog railways, to a height of 3454m, but we aren't in Switzerland either.

      The weather in the Cairngorms is Oceanic rather than Continental, so the temperatures are slightly less extreme than in the US. I suspect there are actually more days of terrible weather in the Cairngorms than on Mount Washington, and they are spread throughout the year.

      I don't think a few mph of windspeed either way makes much difference if you are out in it (although the anemometer on the railway actually measured 194mph in 2009).

      Two climbers died on Cairngorm at a height of only 2400ft or so on a main path because they were unable to make the last few hundred yards to the car park into a wind-storm. Due to the oceanic nature of the environment, snow is often thawed and then refrozen into ice, which makes finding shelter extremely difficult.

      Anyway, the expensive train set on Cairngorm is a bit of a white elephant, but an amusing one. I would normally walk up, though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

        "You could go up to the Jungfraujoch on a train if you want steep cog railways, to a height of 3454m, but we aren't in Switzerland either."

        There is another underground station at a similar height, above the resort of Saas Fee. It is at the top of the underground funicular Metro Alpin. The Mittelallalin station claims to be 3,456m and also featured a London Transport Underground station name sign when I was there decades ago.

      2. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

        "The weather in the Cairngorms is Oceanic rather than Continental, so the temperatures are slightly less extreme than in the US. I suspect there are actually more days of terrible weather in the Cairngorms than on Mount Washington, and they are spread throughout the year."

        It depends exactly what you mean by "terrible", but I wouldn't bet on it. Mount Washington has hurricane force winds on nearly 1/3 of days throughout the year as well as having snow fall year-round, and being much taller obviously temperatures tend to be a lot lower. Scotland can have some fairly miserable weather at times, but it nowhere in Britain is in the same league as places that get the really extreme stuff.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

          Since American's have seen fit to belittle our mountain, I'd just like the bring up the subject of their utterly shit President.

          So, to all American's who like to weigh in and proclaim everything you have is bigger and better, just remember, you've got a orange haired fuck witted cuntbubble for a President.

          And we don't.

          1. fandom Silver badge

            Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

            "And we don't."

            But then you voted for Brexit, pretty much the same mindset.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

            "you've got a orange haired fuck witted cuntbubble for a President."

            Yeah! We got Thatcher-Lite instead!!!

          3. spacecadet66

            Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

            This is one competition I'd have been happy to let the Brits win. Unfortunately, while you May have a very strong candidate for "most bullshit world leader," we're holding a Trump card.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

            "Since American's have seen fit to belittle our mountain"

            Well, if you consider a shade over a 1,000 meters a mountain.

            Does it drive a Porsche to compensate for its shortcomings?

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Orange haired fuck witted cuntbubble

            Ours IS bigger and better. He's the biggest and best fuck witted cuntbubble there is, and makes Teresa May and Boris Johnson look like Roosevelt and Churchill by comparison!

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Orange haired fuck witted cuntbubble

              Now, now. Don't point & laugh at folks afflicted with dementia. It may be you someday.

          6. Florida1920 Silver badge

            Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

            Since American's have seen fit to belittle our mountain, I'd just like the bring up the subject of their utterly shit President.

            So, to all American's who like to weigh in and proclaim everything you have is bigger and better, just remember, you've got a orange haired fuck witted cuntbubble for a President.

            And we don't.

            And yet. And yet. Such luminaries as W.H. Auden, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, and more recently Christopher Hitchens and John Oliver have chosen to emigrate here. Yes, Kevin Spacey has gone the other way. I've been to the UK. It's a nice place to visit.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

              If you want you can take Trump, we will give him to you. The only provision is you can't send him back.

          7. Updraft102 Silver badge

            Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

            And the fact that he provokes such reactions is just why he was elected.

          8. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

            you've got a orange haired fuck witted cuntbubble for a President.

            I'd ask you not to remind us, but he's hard to ignore.

            He doesn't bother me so much as the realization that roughly half of my fellow voters thought (and I use the term extremely loosely) that electing him President would be a good idea.

          9. Oh Homer Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: "orange haired fuck witted cuntbubble"

            Yes, but he's a yuuuuge orange haired fuck witted cuntbubble. The best sort of orange haired fuck witted cuntbubble.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

      It is high for the UK. Yes we know that everything is bigger , better, badder and kicks more ass in the USofA but this is rather closer to home and us Brits don't have to endure the TSA and HSA to get to it which given the current uncertainty about travel with anything more than your money and passport is a huge bonus.

      I know the Mt Washington railway and have been to the top as I spent two years living in Manchester (N.H.)

    4. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

      Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

      The Mount Washington cog railway in New Hampshire climbs from 2000 ft ASL almost to 6280 feet

      There's a Cog Railway up Pikes peak: 14,115 ft (4302m)

      1. I am the liquor

        Re: There's a Cog Railway up Pikes peak

        Not the best way to ascend Pike's Peak though. An 875bhp Peugeot 208 would be a little more exciting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y20CLumT2Sg

        1. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

          Re: There's a Cog Railway up Pikes peak

          An 875bhp Peugeot 208 would be a little more exciting

          To bring this thread back onto a computing topic:

          Audi’s Robotic Car Climbs Pikes Peak

    5. ckm5

      Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

      I've hiked up Mt. Washington a number of times, stopping for some time to ski at Tuckermans. It's a strange feeling coming up to the top and finding a bunch of tourists in a parking lot....

    6. E 2

      Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

      I do respect 231 MPH, but seriously: -40 degrees?

      I live in Calgary, Canada. Minus forty in the winter is par for the course here.

    7. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Mt Washington Cog Railway

      ...and, it's STEAM engines! And between base (around 3000 ft) and 6280 ft, both boiling point and grade of the track changes, so the engineers have their hands full.

    8. Dave Lawton
      Alien

      Re: 1,097m (3,599ft)

      Is this the mountain/cog railway described in Julian May's Intervention ?

      If it is, how close are the descriptions please ?

      Inquiring minds wish to know.

  3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Damn it, I wish I could still see.

    The views must be breath taking, awe inspiring, & spectacular.

    The descriptions only make me wish all the harder I could go & see them for myself.

    1. jmarked

      Re: Damn it, I wish I could still see.

      That will definitely makes more people and aspiring enthusiasts reach the height easier.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Due to the changes in gradient on the route up the mountain, the angle of the floor of the funicular seemed barely ever to be level when I went up it. Also, the queues were huge, because it's the only major lift up the mountain from the base, and the tows from the bottom were closed due to there only being a thin covering of snow when I was there.

    The impact on the mountain of the ski resort is almost certainly less than that of any of the major ski resorts I've been to in europe. Apart from the funicular, it's all T-bars and button tows and no chair lifts or cable cars, so the amount of construction on the mountain is a lot less. As for wildlife, it's the only place I've seen a Ptarmigan (the bird, not the top station), but that might be because I probably make less noise skiing down a mountain than when I'm walking. It also seems to be closed due to bad weather more often than the european resorts...

    Saying that, I had a great time spending 3 days skiing there, and my kids skied without complaining in winds only just below the threshold of the level at which they close the resort. (I've never spent so much time skiing in goggles rather than sunglasses.) My recommendation would be to stay at the Cairgorm Lodge Youth Hostel, which is out of town, (book a taxi from the station, because there aren't many in town) but on the route for the buses to and from the resort. I went there a couple of years ago, they were friendly and the food was pretty good.

  5. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Thank you, El Reg

    That sounds absolutely beautiful. Does anyone want to Adopt An American for a couple weeks? Pretty please?

    Anyway, thanks for continuing Geek's Guide.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Adopt An American

      On today of all days?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Thank you, El Reg

      Gene, take it from another Yank and just go. Ignore all the anti-American nonsense here on ElReg. It doesn't really exist when you've got your feet on the ground. Nice place to visit if you stay out of big cities. They even almost speak English!

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Thank you, El Reg

        Ignore all the anti-American nonsense here on ElReg

        If you stop electing aggressive ignoramuses, we'll stop making jokes about the cousins. Possibly.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: Thank you, El Reg

          "If you stop electing aggressive ignoramuses..."

          I don't think that we're in a position to throw stones at the Americans any more!

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Thank you, El Reg

        "Gene, take it from another Yank and just go. Ignore all the anti-American nonsense here on ElReg. "

        It's OK, the Americans we don't like are the ones the Americans who have passports don't like either.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Thank you, El Reg

          I don't mind Americans, couldn't eat a whole one though.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Thank you, El Reg

            "I don't mind Americans, couldn't eat a whole one though."

            Who could? A Texan, maybe ....

            There's also the line about what a certain American eats, but that got Colbert into trouble so i won't repeat it.

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