The planned trans-Himalayan Manali - Leh rail link in India

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
32,335
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
There is a second line planned closer to the LOC connecting Jammu to Poonch. In addition they have also just completed surveying a line that will cross the entire Himalayan ranges, all 5 of them connecting Manali to Leh. That will supposedly take upto 25 years to complete. It involves several 20+km long tunnels and rises to an altitude of 15,000'.

I have traveled along roughly the proposed route by road from Manali to Leh. It is spectacular. Unfortunately the rail line will mostly be underground through the most spectacular parts, which are the high passes -Rohtang La, Baralach La, Taglang La and Lachlung La. But it will mostly be on the surface across the Morey Plains which is a 15,000' high plateau, at the western edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The big problem there is of building a rail line across partial permafrost marshy plains.
 
Last edited:

caravanman

Engineer
Joined
Mar 22, 2004
Messages
4,591
Location
Nottingham, England.
I believe the road link from Manali to Leh is closed by snow for most of the winter months, so I can see why a lot of the rail line would be through tunnels.
In 1983 I took a trip from Manali up to see the Rohtang pass, it was a surprise to be playing snowballs in India!
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
32,335
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
I believe the road link from Manali to Leh is closed by snow for most of the winter months, so I can see why a lot of the rail line would be through tunnels.
In 1983 I took a trip from Manali up to see the Rohtang pass, it was a surprise to be playing snowballs in India!
Yes. It is closed roughly October to May. Rohtang is already by passed by the road through a new tunnel under the Pir Panjal Range near Sissu. But tunneling under the other three passes is a much more daunting task. Still there will be the Morey Plains segment at 15,000’. But snowfall amounts are manageable there on the lee side of Baralach La where the road crosses the Great Himalayan Range.
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
4,623
Location
Baltimore. MD
Yes. It is closed roughly October to May. Rohtang is already by passed by the road through a new tunnel under the Pir Panjal Range near Sissu. But tunneling under the other three passes is a much more daunting task. Still there will be the Morey Plains segment at 15,000’. But snowfall amounts are manageable there on the lee side of Baralach La where the road crosses the Great Himalayan Range.
15,000 feet, eh? Are the cabins in the railcars pressurized? Heck, is the driver's compartment in the locomotive pressurized? If I ride that line, I'll make sure to bring an oxygen concentrator with me. Plus some mate de coca.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
32,335
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
15,000 feet, eh? Are the cabins in the railcars pressurized? Heck, is the driver's compartment in the locomotive pressurized? If I ride that line, I'll make sure to bring an oxygen concentrator with me. Plus some mate de coca.
There will probably be Oxygen available at seats.

I have traveled that route by road in a Toyota Qualis with no pressurization and no supplementary Oxygen and it was not a huge problem. The usual headache and such, but nothing more. You stay up at that altitude less than an hour on the plains and then come down a little lower. Additionally there are three passes above 17,000’. The rest is 11,500’ or lower. Of course the northern end of the trip is at Leh which is about 11,500'. So once you are past Keylong you are pretty much at 11,000' or higher.

Looks like it (I'm assuming this is what JIS is talking about: More plains - Wikipedia ) - that's some high elevation!
Yup. Been there. Beautiful but treacherous country. Fortunately the trip to Leh does not require you to be above 12.000' overnight. These days they go from Keylong (~10,000') all the way to Upshi (~11,000') in the Indus Valley in a single day's drive, usually with a lunch stop at Pong.

In the past when the roads were not as good, it required an overnight at a tent camp at a place called Sarchu at a little less than 14,000', on the northern slopes of Baralacha La, (~16,000') which could be quite brutal with howling cold winds coming down fro the pass, while suffering from altitude sickness. Indian Army has a field hospital there equipped with hyperbaric chambers to take care of more acute cases that show up.

If you ever get a chance to drive NH21 from Manali to Leh jump at the opportunity. It is spectacular! The downside is inevitable altitude sickness. Plan on spending a day or two at Kelong to alleviate that effect somewhat by acclimatizing at 10,000'.

This is why I think the train will minimally have Oxygen available, even though it may not be pressurized.
 
Last edited:

west point

Engineer
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
3,347
Location
SW ATL airport
Does China use Oxygen concentrators for their crossings to Tibet? I remember reading all passengers have to change to special high-altitude trains somewhere before traveling to higher elevations. It has not been clear to me whether the whole car has concentrator services or just individual o2 points?
Mean sea level pressure is about 14.7 . HG pressure 29.92 inches. At 10000 feet (FAA airplane no supplement o2) Oxygen partial pressure is 70 % of sea level of sea level. 15000 ft it is 56% of sea level.

so if cabin o2 then 15% more is needed from 10k to 15k each liter of o2 added to outside air intake ? If o2 masks then 2 liter o2 supply of pure Oxygen. It would be interesting how much of a concentrator it would take. Know our local hospital has back up concentrator(s) in case stored medical o2 becomes unavailable.

Air Pressure at Altitude Calculator (mide.com)
 
Last edited:

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
956
15,000 feet is getting up there. I hiked over Thorong La Pass in Nepal and it is a touch higher at 17,000+ feet and I was feeling the pain in both my legs from the climb and my head from the altitude. The good thing is that when you start to descend the head ache and malaise disappear fairly quickly.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
32,335
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
Does China use Oxygen concentrators for their crossings to Tibet? I remember reading all passengers have to change to special high-altitude trains somewhere before traveling to higher elevations. It has not been clear to me whether the whole car has concentrator services or just individual o2 points?
Here is a rough description of what is done on the Tibet Railway. Apparently it has both modes of delivery.


I have no idea what the Indian plan to do, but it is very likely that it will be something similar. And afterall, Lhasa and Leh are at similar altitudes, though I have never heard of anyone requiring major breathing help once in Leh. Besides there are reasonable hospitals there anyway.

Lhasa and Leh are similar in another way. Planes that arrive there have to depressurize their cabins before doors can be opened since internal pressure in planes is usually 7,000' or so.
15,000 feet is getting up there. I hiked over Thorong La Pass in Nepal and it is a touch higher at 17,000+ feet and I was feeling the pain in both my legs from the climb and my head from the altitude. The good thing is that when you start to descend the head ache and malaise disappear fairly quickly.
Yes, the highest pass is 17,600' I believe. I did all that pretty much without supplemental Oxygen, since there was none. If things go south the procedure is to head to the closest Army base which everyone appears to know about, to get some Oxygen and a trip to a hyperbaric chamber if needed. I had bouts of headache but nothing much beyond that. Of course I was mostly driving across with my driver so I was not exerting as much as you were. At the Sarchu overnight stop I did see an American lady being taken to the Army base for a few hours in a hyperbaric chamber. Sarchu was difficult specially coming from Keylong because spending a night at 15,000+' after starting the day at 11,000' is not necessarily fun. I saw some of the most weird dreams each time we overnighted there. That is why these days very few overnight there.
 
Last edited:
Top