The first train in human history passed the tunnel of the Kunlun Mountains, a legendary range that was widely seen as unsurmountable, at around 12:43 Saturday afternoon.
The train, which is traveling on the miracle Qinghai-Tibet railway, left Golmud station in northwest China's Qinghai Province at around 11:05 Saturday morning.
American train traveler Paul Theroux once wrote in his "Riding the Red Rooster" that the Kunlun Range was "a guarantee that the railway will never get to Lhasa".
But the assertion has been broken.
China has solved three major difficulties, namely permafrost, high-altitude frigid zone and plateau environmental protection, to rewrite the world's history of railway construction with the completion of the 1,956-Qinghai-Tibet railway. It has 960 kilometers of the track located 4,000 meters above sea level.
Its highest point is 5,072 kilometers above sea level, at least 200 meters higher than the Peruvian railway in the Andes which was previously the world's most elevated track. The Qinghai-Tibet railway has become the longest and highest plateau railroad in the world.
State-of-the-art technologies, management expertise and efficient teamwork have turned the impossible possible. Even in areas where the least exertion sends one to the side of oxygen bottle, no single death of altitude disease was reported among thousands of railway builders.
The Qinghai part of the Kunlun Mountains is 1,200 kilometers long, with an average altitude of 5,500 meters.
While the train running in the Kunlun range, many passengers aboard crowded in front of the windows to take photos of the snow- blanketed mountains. "What a beautiful scene,"Zeng Tao, a passenger from Beijing, said excitedly, gazing at the summer snow on the famous Mount Yuzhu of the range.
The Kunlun range starts from the Pamirs in the west and stretches eastward for 2,500 kilometers to Qinghai Province and the northwestern part of Sichuan Province, lying between Tibet and Xinjiang autonomous regions. It boasts numerous peaks each with an altitude of more than 7,000 meters and most glaciers in China.
In the history of Chinese traditional culture, the Kunlun enjoyed the title of "mother of thousands of mountains". It is the origin of many Chinese legendary stories and it is depicted in Chinese classics such as "Pilgrimage to the West" and " Canonization of the Gods" as well as in numerous novels.
To build a railway in Tibet was the dream of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the forerunner of China's democratic revolution, a dream that did not come true until New China was founded in 1949.
Construction of the first phase of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a section from Qinghai's provincial capital city of Xining to Golmud, started in 1958 and became operational in 1984. For financial and technical reasons, construction of the more challenging second phase from Golmud to Lhasa didn't start until June 2001.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway, with the 1,142-kilometer-long Golmud- Lhasa section completed in October 2005, is the first rail track on the "roof of the world" and also the first railroad connecting the landlocked Himalayan territory to the rest of China.