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Space Technology

China Going Up and Coming Down 400

SoCalChris writes "The BBC writes that China has just completed the world's highest railroad, climbing to 16,640 feet (5,072 meters) above sea level. The cars will be sealed to help passengers cope with the pressure changes from the altitude. The line is expected to begin carrying passengers next year." This news comes at the same time that their Chinese taikonauts return from their spaceflight after just 115 hours in orbit.
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China Going Up and Coming Down

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  • by 2*2*3*75011 ( 900132 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:06PM (#13813788)
    SoCalChris writes "The BBC writes that China has just completed the world's highest railroad, climbing to 2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2*5*13 feet (2*2*2*2*317 meters) above sea level. The cars will be sealed to help passengers cope with the pressure changes from the altitude. The line is expected to begin carrying passengers next year." This news comes at the same time that their Chinese taikonauts return from their spaceflight after just 5*23 hours in orbit.
  • Safety? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:10PM (#13813806) Homepage Journal
    This just seems unsafe to me. Imagine something goes wrong and the train is stuck up at that altitude. Then what?

    I remember riding a train that had colided with a truck a few years back. This wouldn't likely happen at that altitude, but what could happen would be wildlife and environmental blockage.

    It seems like a challenge to me.
    • Re:Safety? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuasiEvil ( 74356 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:36PM (#13813934)
      I would assume that, like other rail systems that operate in harsh climates, there are backup systems. Figure when BC Rail built their all-electric Tumbler Ridge line, they included a small diesel engine in each locomotive in case the overhead power failed so that the crew wouldn't freeze to death (winters in the Tumbler Ridge area are absolutely brutally cold). While the Qinghai-Tibet Rwy isn't electrified, there just have to be backups for such things. In this case, supplemental heat and bottled oxygen would be the two I'd worry about. Based on what I've read, the average elevation of the line is something like 13,000 feet, which is still perfectly breathable, especially to those accustomed to thin air. (I live at about 7,000, and spend weeks during the summer above 10000-11000.) It's only going to be on the high passes that you have issues with air. I'm guessing that it's not built to Western-type standards of redundancy (because, after all, this still is *China*, who was still running mainline steam locomotives until this year), but I'm sure they have something in case of failures. Figure each coach probably has its own systems, so if one fails, you pile everybody into the working coaches. My guess is that they'll probably get away from the Chinese way of one locomotive per train as well - anything running in those nasty conditions, I'd want at least two units in case one died somewhere en route.

      Add yet another railway to my list of lines I have to go photograph at least once in my life...
    • It's probably no difference from the danger of travelling in either a British train in Summer [] or on the London underground on the hottest day of Summer (8th June 2001).
      Temperature was around 40 degrees centigrade, and they were serving free bottles of water for people coming out of the train.
      • (reads article)

        Around 800 passengers, packed into an eight-carriage train, were stranded below ground in temperatures that soared over 30C.

        "Soared over 30C?" Dear God , those poor, poor Brits.

        Tim Jones, 37, a marketing manager .... said, "....The temperature must have got to 120f, so it was starting to get a bit scary. "

        Sounds like a bit of heresay there - did he have a thermometer handy?
        It's the third week of spring here where I live and we've already had a few 39C days. Suck it up, you Brits. Remember -
    • Re:Safety? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:57PM (#13814031)
      This just seems unsafe to me. Imagine something goes wrong and the train is stuck up at that altitude. Then what?

      Then what? No different than what they do right now. Drive a jeep. C'mon, 5,000meters is high, it causes altitude sickness, and COULD be fatal, for some people. However, the pressurization of the cars is for COMFORT, not safety. Right now the only way to get up to Tibet is to either fly, or take a jeep/bus combo over the same 5,000meters. And no, those jeeps are not pressurized. The floors are, however, littered like crazy with empty aspirin packages...

      Get real. People live up there. When I read about this train, the oxygen was the least on my mind. The first thing I thought of was how the Tibetans have been fighting this railroad, without much success (a few people have disappeared, a monk was sentenced to death and then later reduced to life in prison after Amnesty International went ape shit) since it's another permanent infrastructure put in place which makes the Chinese occupation of Tibet more and more permanent.

      Free Tibet!
    • First the average person is just fine at 16,500. Yeah, they will be a bit light headed, but nothing too bad (will not be good on heart condition, pregnancy, etc). Obviously, they will not be working.

      Secondly, they will probably not have O2, but just a compressor, no different than what you find in a jet.
      • First the average person is just fine at 16,500. Yeah, they will be a bit light headed, but nothing too bad...

        I don't know about that. When I climbed Longs Peak in Colorado, about 14,000', I was sick as a dog and couldn't really think straight. And that's after living two months in Boulder (5150'). I recall recently climbing Mt. San Gorgonio in Southern California (11,500') with someone else, and we had to turn back at about 10,000' because she got seriously disoriented and out of breath, the first signs
    • Re:Safety? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I visited Tibet in April this year. We stayed mainly in Lhasa and Tsetang, but on an excursion one day we hired a 4x4 and (with our rather too close-watching guide) drove 5 hours to a sacred lake. Interestingly most of the journey was on a road that followed the tracks of the new railway (although there wasn't much actual track laid when we visited).

      The lake was the highest point of our journey, at (IIRC) 5,100 metres (the same height as Everest base camp, higher than any part of the railway). We had no tro
  • Great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nihilogos ( 87025 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:11PM (#13813816)
    Well that seals the cultural genocide of the Tibetan people.
  • Mixed feelings (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:14PM (#13813825)
    Ok, goody for them. Having a third player in space is probably a good thing even if they are the communist Chinese since they probably won't remain communist a lot longer. On the other hand it is just another doomed government 'prestige' program that won't actually acomplish much before being abandoned the second the cost exceeds the publicity value and that always happens long before anything longterm good can happen.

    Nope, the only hope of our species getting off this rock is private enterprise.
    • The Chinese haven't been communist in a long time. Just old, self-serving dictators hiding behind a flag. Happens in a lot of places.

      Whether or not the average /. libertarian sensibility likes it or not, governments have done many important things that private enterprise would never have done, from major medical research, to the internet, to all spaceflight to date.
      • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *
        > governments have done many important things that private enterprise would never have done,
        > from major medical research, to the internet, to all spaceflight to date.

        Exactly. The US went to the moon more than thirty five years ago and the net result is so close to zero it gets lost in the rounding error. A couple hundred rolls of film decomposing away in a climate controlled vault and a couple hundred pounds of rocks. Some would even argue it had a net negative effect since after going to the moon
  • by soapdog ( 773638 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:14PM (#13813826) Homepage
    World biggest roller coaster?
  • Good stuff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alucinor ( 849600 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:16PM (#13813834) Journal
    I'm glad China's having good progress (in many respects). I do hope their government loosens up (maybe money'll soften them like it did ours) so they allow freedom (since it means more money) to speech and internet and whatnot. Just tell them that!

    Now, I really really do hope China doesn't make giant killer robot, and I'll be fine with them for good.
    • Re:Good stuff (Score:2, Informative)

      by JediLow ( 831100 )
      I was there this summer, and actually China's government has opened up a ton (I wasn't there as a tourist... and I spent quite a bit of time in Qinghai Province with their college students). While it doesn't have nearly any of the freedoms that we have to the extent we do, its not the closed country that it was 30 years ago... or even 10 years ago. The opening up of China in the 70's and the second opening up in '96 really has changed the political scape of the country - and with the Olympics comming to Bei
  • by clockwise_music ( 594832 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:17PM (#13813843) Homepage Journal
    It also comes at the same time that the number of Chinese people living in extreme poverty rose by 800,000 last year.
    • How accurate can that figure really be? China has over a billion people, so 800,000 people is .08% of the population. I don't know of any studies which are that accurate.
    • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @11:31PM (#13814164) Journal
      Lets put that in perspective.

      America []

      China []

      These are both about a year ago. Which country has done better in the last year?
    • by 2Bits ( 167227 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @12:21AM (#13814395)
      Why don't you turn a little bit of your viewing angle, and think maybe, the whole point of building infrastructure is to help less developed areas to catch up, and hence, reduce the poverty level as a whole?

      Why does everything have to be negative? This is not like building a Liberty statute which serves nothing but for display. This is a modern railway to a remote area which is almost cut off from the world. This might be a catalyst for more economic development, along the line of that railway, from Qinghai all the way to Tibet.

      No one seeems to scream bloody when the US built their railway system link the east and the west over 100 years ago, which had an amazing effect on the development of the country, in terms of economic, social, cultural, etc. No one screamed bloody when the US built the national highways and other infrastructures, in the 1930s amid the biggest economic crisis when people were lining up for soup.

    • It also comes at the same time that the number of Chinese people living in extreme poverty rose by 800,000 last year.

      Put that in proportion for me, though. How much did the number of Chinese people total rise last year?

  • The Asian Century (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JymBrittain ( 880082 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:18PM (#13813847)
    While we [the /. crowd] bitch and moan about Microsoft and while the great herd worry more about Britney's spawn than credible science, more about the latest American Idol than engineering and while China and India graduate more scientists and engineers than the can expect many, many more reports like this. The 21st century just may be when the Sino-Communist brand of capitalism eclipses lAmerican power and influence.
    • Haha maybe this'll cheer you up: 7/content_446335.htm []

      "The name may not roll off the tongue quite like American Idol does, but that hasn't kept the Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Super Girl contest from sweeping China. Zhao Jingyi, 17, the "schoolgirl" candidate won the Changsha competition.

      Like Idol, which named its winner Wednesday night, China's Super Girl gives aspiring singing stars a shot at televised fame and fortune."

      Looks like American culture has spread
    • Har har. (Score:2, Interesting)

      You had me until the 'capitalist' part. Chinese have so few freedoms, and businesses are no exception. I researched them for a human right project last year and, while there are many successful businesses in China, it happens falsely most of the time with heavy government interference. Without it much of their economy would crumble. Most of the big names in Chinese business are at least partially government owned or run. While they are not entirely 1984, i wouldn't go so far as to call them capitalism
      • Re:Har har. (Score:2, Informative)

        by Subotai ( 34761 )
        Obviously someone doing a research project from afar is an expert. From living in China, let me tell you. This is the most free wheeling economy you will ever see. And while human rights may not be in the forefront of people's thoughts, making money is, with or without government help. They will truly bury the US.
        • Re:Har har. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Stonehand ( 71085 )
          He may have a valid point, however, about the government playing a large and not necessarily fair role. Capitalism to a large degree depends on even-handed enforcement of certain rules, such as prohibitions on outright fraud and sanctions for breaches of contract. In addition, the greater the government is directly involved as a buyer or seller and the more unified it is, the less you might trust its ability to objectively investigate possible malfeasances when you consider conflicts of interest and assor

      • They've done a fine job too: Bhopal, US tobacco industry, Pinkertons, South Africa, Love Canal...

        It's most ironic that you were researching for a human rights project.
        Do read some Upton Sinclair and Dickens. Without other moderating
        cultural influences, capitalism have run rough shod over human rights for centuries. The benefit of capitalism is economical, not the promotion of a more humane society.
        Historically, corporate interests attempt to use governmental influences to gain benefits for themselves as o
    • The 21st century just may be when the Sino-Communist brand of capitalism eclipses lAmerican power and influence.

      I for one don't really care. My life goals do not include "maintain America as the premier super-power". I would like to think most Americans think the generally the same.

      Besides, the world is now joined at the hip when it comes to economic and social prosperity. There isn't gonna be a powerful China without the US, and vice versa. We are all in this together, the sooner everyone realizes this the
      • by nido ( 102070 ) <nido56 AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @12:34AM (#13814454) Homepage
        Besides, the world is now joined at the hip when it comes to economic and social prosperity.

        By "joined at the hip" you're refering to, of course, the present condition where the rest of the world manufactures stuff and sells it to Americans.

        Chinese factories produce widgets. Americans buy them. Americans don't produce anything the Chinese can't make themselves for less, so the ships are filled up with raw materials (including, ironically, cardboard for recycling from all the boxes they just sold us), which the Chinese turn into fancy tech gadgets to sell to Americans.

        China takes all the dollars they earn in trade and buy U.S. Treasury bonds. Georgy Boy uses the money China lends him to pay for his stupid "war" (real wars are declared by an act of congress), and all the other pork-barrel programs politicians pass to get re-elected.

        Trade is only a good thing when it's a two way street.

        The future I 'see' leaves America on the sidelines.

        I buy 'american' when I can, but even so, that's more a symbolic gesture than anything else.

        there's more, but not tonight. Subscribe to America's Last Real Newspaper [] (American Free Press) for the news you won't get anywhere else.

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:23PM (#13813867)
    I actually rode on the Central Rail Line in Peru which was the former highest. Now I am going to have to go to China to ride this thing.


    I will say the Peruvian one seems still a bit more challenging - no wussy sealed cars. You get to experience altitude sickness in all its glory.

    • I got to experience some altitude sickness at around 10k feet when I went to Maui on my honeymoon. I wasn't a pussy like you in your sealed train! I was out in the open riding a bike down the volcano []!

      Going from sea level to 10k feet in such a short time sucked *and* I paid a shitload to do it too!
    • Anyone see the icons used for this story? "Space" and "Technology" :)

      Maybe we need an "Engineering Achievement" icon or something? Maybe a construction hat with a set of spanners orthe like...IANAA (I am not an artist), but I'm sure others will be able to come out with a suitable icon for these types of stories.

      They definitely are of interest to the average geek, so they deserve to be on Slashdot. I think that engineering feats like these deserve their own icon too.
  • by Got Laid, Can't Code ( 897495 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:23PM (#13813868)
    Are they talking about funicular trolleys or actual heavy rail? Because heavy rail generally sees a 4% grade as a maximum due to, well, physics. Since I'm not aware of any fantastic engineering innovations, this must be some sort of light rail--or at least lighter than standard heavy rail.
    • this must be some sort of light rail--or at least lighter than standard heavy rail.

      I'm guessing you're correct about this being lighter than standard heavy rail. I'm wondering how the high altitudes affect the performance of the engines that will be pulling these trains. At those altitudes the atmosphere is like half as dense as at sea level.

      They remarked that the passenger cars on the line would be pressurized. The atmosphere even at 16,000 feet would not be thin enough to be fatal for most healthy

      • Even if the cars are pressurized, it surely must somehow adjust slowly to match that of the outside pressure... otherwise there will be a big surprise for the passengers when they finally arrive and exit the cars. Unless there are no stops at that altitude, the train is simply passing through.
    • Grade is a measure of terrain slope. The story says that the trains go to high elevations, but not necessarily at steep grades.
    • Are they talking about funicular trolleys or actual heavy rail? Because heavy rail generally sees a 4% grade as a maximum due to, well, physics.

      What about cog railways [], like this one [] [1]?

      Such a railway wouldn't be compatible with the standard, but it could easily be made to work.

      [1] I now unfortunately have a burning desire to travel to Switzerland and ride the damn thing...

  • by ThaFooz ( 900535 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:28PM (#13813900)
    but what advantage does the railroad have over trucks/busses or planes? I was under the impression that they're rather dangerous and costly in comparison. I mean, here in the US Amtrak is struggling because of the derailings and the fact that it just isn't cost efficent... am I missing something?
    • by KiranWolf ( 635591 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:37PM (#13813940) Homepage
      I would hardly call Amtrak representative of rail transportation as a whole. Amtrak is a joke, both to Americans and to the rest of the world and, outside of the Northeast Corridor between D.C. and Boston, and maybe somewhere out on the west coast, is useless.

      Meanwhile, rail forms the backbone of most developed nations, including France [], Germany [], and Japan []. In case you weren't paying attention, a train also now links England and France [] via the Channel Tunnel []. Bluntly put, America is the exception, not the rule.
      • Very true. But I'm well aware of (and have traveled on) the European rail systems and the commuter rails/subways of Boston/DC/NYC/San Francisco.

        I guess I should have been more specific. Why do you suppose it is that the rail system doesn't see more use in the US, outside of subways/short commuter rails? The initial thought is probably population density, but the US Northeast is quite densly packed.

        The reason I don't take the train from home (Greater Boston) to NYC (a 3 1/2 hour train or bus ride) i
        • The US system is horribly mismananged I would guess.

          Up here, I can make a round trip Ottawa-Kingston via train for $45. The same by car would run $40-50 at current gas prices. Not to mention, saving 400km in wear and tear on the car, which would be another $100-$120 or so in hidden costs.
        • As I understand it, passenger rail service in the US has almost never been profitable since day one. The only reason the railroads offered passenger service at all was because they were required to do so as a condition of their original free government handouts of right-of-way. When the government offered to take up responsibility passenger rail service with Amtrack, the railroads were more than happy to unload it and focus on their profitable freight business.

          My guess is that passenger rail is no more pr

        • None of the above (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bluGill ( 862 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @12:04AM (#13814318)

          The US rail system is well managed, with one exception: Amtrak. The US railroads have realized that freight does not care too much about how fast it is going, sitting still waiting for another train to pass, and not taking the shortest route point to point.

          So the US rails have decided to focus on freight where they hold nearly 2/3rds of all traffic (compare to less than 1/3rd for Europe's rails). That is good management: do what you can do well, and let someone else deal with what you cannot do well. I would argue that Europe's rails are mismanaged, spending all their energy on moving people when it is much easier to move freight.

        • Cheap gasoline (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Goonie ( 8651 ) * <> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @12:55AM (#13814541) Homepage
          Fuel is much more expensive in Europe than the United States, so your $20 in gas is probably closer to the equivalent of $40 in much of Europe (though Europeans generally drive smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to compensate).

          The second thing to keep in mind is that because the public transport systems within cities are so much better (New York is a bit of an exception, as the subway on Manhattan is very good), a lot of Europeans simply don't own a car even if they can afford it. Therefore, even if the train is a bit dearer in terms of variable cost, the money saved by not owning, garaging and servicing a car more than makes up for it.

    • Trucks and busses are only cheaper if there is already a highway going where you want. Highways are not free, even though a lot of Americans seem to think they are a natural feature of the landscape.

    • by FredGray ( 305594 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:43PM (#13813968) Homepage
      Railroads generally use a whole lot less energy (i.e. fuel) per passenger or unit of cargo than a truck/bus (not to mention a plane). There are economies of scale in running one large engine (or electric motor) relative to lots of smaller ones, and with a metal wheel you don't dissipate energy into the tires. Amtrak's problems come from several sources: (a) they don't own the tracks, but have to lease them from private owners on very poor terms; (b) the management isn't exactly clever; (c) the labor costs are extremely high; (d) they operate under an immense set of regulations. It's nothing fundamental about railroad technology, just that we aren't willing to run one sensibly in the US.
    • Amtrak is struggling because trains take so damn log to get from place to place. Airplanes are much faster.

      A trip from San Jose, CA to Atlanta, GA on Amtrak costs $344 and takes about 4.2 days.

      The same trip on Delta costs between $260-$326 and takes 4-7 hours.

      Cost is a little bit more for the train, both types of travel have accidents...

      This was leaving December 19th.
    • Yes. Trains are neither dangerous or costly.

      This is way off-topic, but a little backgroung on the realative merits of different modes of transportation.

      In the US and the UK deaths per passenger mile are approximately 1 order of magnitude lower on trains than by trucks/buses.

      Trains cost 1 order of magnitude less to operate than an autos. There are numerous reasons why Amtrak is not viable in the US that don't necessarily apply to this case. Amtrak has to compete with the autos whose owners benefit

    • Your missing freight. As the above posters have said, the U.S. passenger rail system sucks. However, we have the best freight rail system in the world, hands down. Trains here are rarely less than a mile in length, transport huge amounts of cargo, and do it all at a profit. Our freight railroads are private industries, after all. Oh, and the biggest growth area in the railroad industry right now? Intermodal, i.e: truck trailers and shipping containers. Railroads here compete with trucks, and they're winnin
  • by elzurawka ( 671029 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:36PM (#13813936)
    ...join the mile high club without ever leaving the ground!
  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:36PM (#13813938) Journal
    Reading comments here saddens me.

    The sheer arrogance emitted from some posts are really not worthy of slashdot, and/or its readers/posters.

    What China has done, - in terms of the Qinhai-Tibet rail-line, or its spacecraft, - is not better, nor worse, than those from other countries.

    Do we see any comments like the

    " Some of the images of the spacecraft look fake"


    "and the ones that don't look fake show damage on the spacecraft"


    "This just seems unsafe to me. Imagine something goes wrong and the train is stuck up at that altitude?"


    "Well that seals the cultural genocide of the Tibetan people"


    "Wow, you are finally almost to the point where the USA's space program was over 40 years ago. That is impressive"


    "It also comes at the same time that the number of Chinese people living in extreme poverty rose by 800,000 last year"

    ad nauseum

    if the spacecraft or railway is from the United States of America or Russia ?

    This development of sheer arrogance, is not checked, might even venture into the territory of racism.

    I'm an /. old-timer, and I'm really sad to see /. goes to the dog because of these type of postings.

    • I don't really see your point. Are you saying that 800,000 people living in extreme poverty and the cultural annihilation of Tibet AREN'T bad things? Or perhaps that these are minor issues compared to the glory that is a high-altitude railway system?

      Just as you see a bunch of posts related to the US government every time there's a NASA article, you're gonna see the same for the Chinese space agency. I can't imagine anything fairer.

      And just FYI, disliking the Chinese government is in no way "racist." As
    • Uhm, people complain about the U.S. all the time here; in fact it usually comes up in the comments of every YRO article about China. And there are even a few tinfoil types who don't think the U.S. went to the moon.

      I'm not saying that there aren't a lot of arrogant and/or stupid /. posters, but you seem to be choosing which ones to focus on selectively.

  • by minus_273 ( 174041 ) <> on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:48PM (#13813989) Journal
    I am really starting to hate the China apologists on /. Way to go! you mention the railroad but you dont mention WHERE the railroad was made. If you read up on it you see that it was made to link China to TIBET where the local population is being wiped out by the chinese communists. Of course they are going to invest in somthing that provides more places for an over crowded china to move people to.

    No, I am not a stoned "free tibet hippie", i happen to come from that part of the world.
    • The original reclamation of Tibet was brutal. But what the Chinese did to the Tibetans is no more brutal than what the "Americans", "Canadians", "Mexicans", "Peruvians", "Bolivians",...etc did to the natives in the Americas. If anything the Tibeting history is more complex and less brutal.

      Humans seem to me to be territorial and prone to violence. I'm not really condoning it, but why else would you explain the sordid history of humanity killing each other over the same piece of dirt over and over again.

      I not
      • i like how you move from ethnic cleansing to politics. I will ignore that for now. Consider what happened in the americas was over a hundred years ago in most cases. What is happening in Tibet is right now. Just becasue something happened somewhere else some time back does not make it ok to do now. I find it amazing that there are people around here defnending the systematic destruction of a religion, race and culture.
    • Although not quite innocuous, I fail to get overexcited about people moving in.

      When people from Northern California (where I live now) bitch about people moving in from elsewhere, I don't exactly sympathize with them. So I don't automatically sympathize here.

      Should I go and bury I-80 at Donner Lake because it just makes it easier for people to come over the (formerly protective) Sierra Nevada mountains and settle here?

      Or should I go and pry out the "golden spike" in Promentory Point, Utah, because rails mad
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @11:03PM (#13814062) Homepage Journal
    If there is any payoff to the destruction of US industrial might by moving it to China, their greater space activity is it. They are to be congratulated for a positive application of their growth and I hope they put the US to shame for the failure of its pioneer heritage. But the railroad, for all of its engineering prowess, is just another nail in the coffin of Tibetan self-determination. There are things more important than economic development.
    • Free Tibet? (Score:4, Informative)

      by thoolie ( 442789 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @12:40AM (#13814483)
      I read quite a bit of the whole "Free Tibet" press and the "Tibet self determination" ideals as well as some pretty good history of China. It seems to me that Tibet has never been a "free" nation. My understanding is that for the last 2000 (or so) the area of Tibet has in one form or another been under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Dynastic Kingdoms, The Mongol Empire, The Chinese Rebublic, and The Chinese Peoples Republic (Similar to how Chechnya has been part of Russia, except for about an extra 1700 years). I am also familary with the "invasion" of Tibet by China. After doing some research, it seems the the "Tibet Revolution", where Tibet was trying to gain independance, was being drivin not by Tibet, but rather the UK and the USA (we delivered the guns, the ammo, and the training). This does make sence, being that at the time, the UK was still trying to hold influence in it's former colonies of India/Pakistan/Bangladesh and the USA was working on the whole anti-communist agenda. How better to do this than to organize "resistance" groups to fight against local powers (see how we used the Kurds in Iraq, the Norther Aliance in Afghanistan, Cuban exiles in the Bay of Pigs, the Mujadeen in Afghanistan, and how the USSR used the Vietkong in Vietnam).

      It seems to me that Tibet (the people and the land) is as much a part of China as the Inuit areas of Alaska are a part of the USA (althoug, as mentioned, Tibet as been with China for a LONG time, Alaska, not so much with the USA, but the point holds).

      If one were to look at India, there are simila situations with different ethnic groups, beliefs, and territory. India solves this with parlamentary elections. China, being a 'communist' state, does not do this. It is interesting to note that, in China, Tibetians are seen as a minority group AND that Tibet is considered an atonomous 'state' of the country, thus affording them minority rights (although take 'rights' with a grain of salt).

      It would be great if China were to allow the Dali Lama back into Tibet as a cerimonial head of the state of Tibet (similar to the Queen in England and the Emperer in Japan). So, hopefully this will happen.

      my .02$
  • I have to wonder why they pressurize? I mean, they are taking people from lower altitudes to higher altitudes right? This seems different from a plane, where people go up to a high altitude, come down to a lower altitude, then get off.

    Some people ought to be getting off in tibet, so what happens when they open the doors? Do they get the bends or does their head explode? or just get altitude sickness all at once?
  • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @11:39PM (#13814200)
    I understand that in the early 1940's Germany had a pretty good rail system and was making remarkable progress with rocketry. Can't wait for the Slashdot retrospective on that.

    Oh! Excuse me, have I triggered Godwin's Law?
  • by xs650 ( 741277 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @11:47PM (#13814234)
    When the conductor opened the pressurized train car door for the first time in Tibet, the pasengers were heard to exclaim, "This place really sucks!" as they blew out the door.
  • by spinfire ( 148920 ) <> on Monday October 17, 2005 @11:58PM (#13814274) Homepage
    I've been to nearly 5900 meters while climbing Kilimanjaro, and I can tell you the air is pretty thin up there. We obviously spent a fair amount of time adjusting, but not the timeframe on Kili is rushed and you definitely feel it. On the final day we climb at a rate of several seconds per step breathing like we were running a marathon. Very exhilarating :)

    The article makes it sound like oxygen/pressurized cabin is neccessary at this altitude. It isn't. We spent our final night higher than this altitude and I never even had a headache. I assume the reason why the workers received oxygen was to assist with the heavy labor they had to do.

    The pressurized cabin on the train is merely a matter of comfort for most people, although that altitude is high enough to cause problems for some people susceptible to Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS. Since the purpose of the railroad is to reach those high altitudes, I'd assume most people are somewhat accustomed to it.

    Here is a picture [] from the crater rim of Kilimanjaro's larger peak Kibo at sunrise. The smaller peak you see is Mawenzi, and the view is towards Kenya. I would love to visit Tibet some day.
  • Real purpose (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 17, 2005 @11:59PM (#13814280)
    A friend of mine returned from China and Tibet two years ago and mentioned the train and how many Chinese made no bones about the fact the train would be used to move many Chinese into Tibet to shift the demographics and help dillute/destroy Tibet as an independent culture.
  • by coherentlight ( 608525 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @11:41AM (#13817677)
    China's policy over the last few years has been one of population dilution. By trucking in native Chinese, they were diluting native Tibetan population. With this new railroad that process will accelerate dramatically. I spent a month in Lhasa last year and spoke with some of the Tibetans (technically you are supposed to have a Chinese guide present at all times, but since there were no other tourists there .. none .. the guide just took off to a bar), and they were very depressed about the finish of the railroad. Their culture is being coopted by China and western influence. So very sad. -coherentlight

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court