The highest railway system of North America, the Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway was founded by Zalmon G. Simmons, an industrialist and founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company. The railway system has its base station in Colorado near Colorado Springs and is meant to take passengers, primarily tourists to Pikes Peak of the Rocky Mountains. The highest elevation reached by trains of this railway is 14,111 feet. Since 2006, during the peak season the railway operates 6 to 8 trains a day while during the off-season, 1 to 5 trains run with the number of trains varying with demand from tourists.
4. PeruRail, Peru
A visit to Peru is never complete without a visit to Machu Picchu that hosts the ancient Incan civilization of Peru at a height of 2,360 meters above sea level in the Urubamba River Valley of the Peruvian Andes Mountains. Peru Rail, one of the highest railway systems in the world allow visitors to Peru to enjoy a scenic railway ride on board its Expedition, Hiram Bingham, Belmond and Vistadome trains to this famous tourist destination in the country. The Peru Rail was founded in 1999 by a British Company, Sea Containers and a Peruvian industrialist, Lorenzo Sousa. The railways transport tourists via 3 feet narrow gauge line from Cusco, a city in southeastern Peru to Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu. Besides the train to Machu Picchu, there are also trains operated by Peru Rail from Cusco to Puno which is another popular destination hosting the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. The highest elevation achieved by this railway system is 14,150 feet.
3. Rio Mulatos-Potosi Line, Bolivia
The Rio Mulatos-Potosi Line in Bolivia is the third highest railway system in the world with the highest elevation achieved being 15,702 feet. The railway line also hosts the Western Hemisphere’s highest railway station, the Cóndor station, at an elevation of 15,072 feet above sea level.
2. Ferrocarril Central Andino, Peru
Ferrovías Central railways, operated by the Ferrocarril Central Andino is a railway system in Peru regarded as the second highest railway system in the world with railway lines extending up to 15,843 feet above sea level. The railways connect the capital of the country, Lima and its chief seaport of Callao with the inland Peruvian city of Cerro de Pasco nestled within the Andean ranges and Huancayo, another Peruvian city in the central highlands region of the country. The railway system was originally designed and constructed under the able eyes of an expert Polish engineer, Ernest Adam Malinowski, in the late 19th Century. Several upgrades were made in the later years and in 1955 a spur line of the railway system led to Volcán Mine, achieving the record altitude of 15,843 feet.
1. Qingzang Railway, China
China is the proud host of the highest railway system in the world, the Qinghai-Tibet railway, that connects Xining, the largest city in the Tibetan Plateau and the capital of the Qinghai Province of China, to Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The construction of the railway system, which attains a maximum elevation of 16,627 feet, was completed in 1984. The railway system includes both the highest railway station in the world, the Tanggula railway station at 16,627 feet above sea level and the highest rail tunnel of the world, the Fenghuoshan tunnel at a height of 16,093 feet above sea level.