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World Rail Records: Highest, Steepest & Longest

This page presents railroad records including highest, steepest, and longest grades in the U.S. & worldwide.

More railroad records:  Early Railroads,  Locomotives,  Bridges & Tunnels,  Train Records,  Train Wrecks

Note: This page was written by Christopher Muller and is copyright 2013 RailServe.com. Content may not be reproduced in whole or in part on any website, message board, or other medium. Please contact us with any questions, suggestions, or corrections.

HIGHEST ALTITUDE RAILROADS

What is the highest railroad in the world?

The Qinghai–Tibet Railway is the highest altitude railway in the world. Completed in 2006, the railway reaches an elevation of 16,640 feet above sea level at Tanggula Pass, China.

What is the highest railroad in the USA?

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is the highest altitude railroad ever built in the USA. Completed in 1891 and still operating today, the railway reaches an elevation of 14,110 feet above sea level at the summit of Pikes Peak.

What was the highest adhesion railroad (not cable or cog) ever built in the USA?

The highest altitude adhesion railroad ever built in the USA was the Argentine Central Railway. The narrow gauge mining and tourist railroad built in 1906 reached the summit of Mt. McClellan at 13,587 feet. The railroad was never financially successfully and was abandoned in 1918.

What is the highest operating adhesion railroad in the USA?

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad operates daily steam-powered tourist trains over Cumbres Pass. Built in 1882 at an elevation of 10,015 feet, Cumbres Pass is the highest altitude operating railroad pass in the USA.

What is the highest operating freight railroad in the USA?

Until taken out of service by Union Pacific in 1997, the Tennessee Pass (elevation 10,240 feet) route built in 1881 across the Rocky Mountains in Colorado was the highest mainline railroad in the USA. Today, the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad's La Veta Pass (elevation 9242 feet) is the highest freight railroad pass in the USA.

STEEPEST RAILROAD GRADES

What is the steepest operating adhesion railway grade in the world?

The world's steepest adhesion railway grade is a 13.8% grade found on the tram network of LIsbon, Portugal.

What is the steepest operating adhesion railroad grade in the USA?

The steepest adhesion railroad grade in the USA is found at the Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia. Shay geared steam locomotives haul tourist trains up a maximum grade of 11% on this former logging railroad.

What is the steepest section of operating mainline railroad in the USA?

Until taken out of service by Norfolk Southern in 2001, the steepest operating mainline grade in the USA was the 4.7% Saluda Grade south of Asheville, North Carolina. Since 2001, the steepest mainline grade has been the 3.3% Raton Pass grade in New Mexico.

TRACK LENGTH

What and when was peak mileage of U.S. railroads?

The United States railroad network reached peak route mileage in 1916 with 266,381 miles. Mileage decreased to 138,623 as of 2012.

What is the longest stretch of straight railway track in the world?

The world's longest straight stretch is 297 miles on the Trans-Australian Railway between Loongana, Western Australia and Ooldea, South Australia..

What is the longest stretch of straight railroad track in the USA?

The longest straight track in the USA is 78.9 miles on CSX between Laurel Hill and East Arcadia, North Carolina. The straight is located on the former Seaboard Air Line route linking Hamlet and Wilmington.

RAILROAD TRACK GAUGES

What is the origin of standard gauge railroad track?

Standard gauge track (4 feet 8-1/2 inches or 1435 millimeters) has its origins with George Stephenson's early British railways including the Stockton & Darlington Railway (1825) and Liverpool & Manchester Railway (1830). Standard gauge is used for most railroads in North America, Australia, China, and Europe (except Ireland, Spain, Portugal & Finland), plus most high speed rail applications worldwide.

What is the world's widest track gauge in use today?

The widest track gauge is the 8 foot track used by the Johnstown Inclined Plane in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The largest common track gauge is Indian gauge (5 feet 6 inches or 1676 millimeters), found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Argentina, and Chile, as well as BART rapid transit in San Francisco, California.


 


 

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