A passenger train heading for Tibet drove into a formidable area 4,000 meters above sea level, commonly-acknowleged as the "forbidden zone for lives" on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, about one hour after its departure from Golmud in Qinghai Province.
The 1,142-km Golmud to Lhasa railway section has a 960-km-long track wriggling across the rigid area in northwester China, where lives are hard to survive due to low temperature and inadequate oxygen.
The "forbidden zone for lives" is a belt spreading between the Xiaonanguan Station in Qinghai Province and the Wumatang Station in Tibet along the railway.
On board the maiden train, which is due to arrive at Lhasa on Saturday night, are chosen role models of builders of the railway, representatives from the Chinese government, journalists, in addition to ordinary passengers who have bought tickets on their own.
For it is an unprecedented experience, each passenger on the train, coded "Qing 1", has been given a notice card about train facilities and tips on altiplano travel.
The train also has extra oxygen pumped into the cabins to prevent passengers from suffering altitude sickness and all railway cars are equipped with double-layer glass which is covered with anti-ultraviolet radiation film.
"It's a terrible world outside in terms of living conditions, but in the cars, it is lifeful," said Gama, a Tibetan worker.
"I feel very well and proud to travel on the railway because I had participated in its construction," said Gama.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's longest plateau railroad, stretches 1,956 kilometers from Qinghai's provincial capital Xining to Lhasa. The section of 814 km from Xining to Golmud began operation in 1984 and the Golmud-Lhasa section started construction on June 29, 2001.
Experts and builders have overcome three difficulties, namely frozen tundra, high altitude and plateau environmental protection to finish the track-laying of the more challenging Golmud-Lhasa section in last October.
"The project is not only a magnificent feat in China's history of railway construction, but also a great miracle of the world's railroad history," according to Chinese President Hu Jintao, who addressed the launching ceremony of the railway Saturday.
Up to 1,000 Chinese journalists were dispatched to cover the events.
The oxygen content along the railway is only 50-60 percent of that on the plain and the annual average temperature on the snow- covered plateau is below zero degree Celsius with the minimum temperature at 45 degree Celsius below zero.
To ensure the health of the builders, more than 600 doctors and nurses served for the construction project and there was one clinic every 10 kilometers along the line, said Zhu Zhensheng, vice director of the Ministry of Railways' office in charge of the new line.
None of the hundreds of thousands of workers died of altitude sickness in the past five years, making a medical miracle, said Zhu.