Railways are one of the oldest and most reliable forms of transport, with the oldest operational railway line in the world dating back to 1758. But for some, the journey can be more treacherous than for others. For these travelers, the dangers are real and the risks can be life-threatening. From the world’s most dangerous railway routes to the most treacherous railway tracks, here are the top 10 most dangerous train routes in the world that you might want to avoid.
10- Tren A Las Nubes
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The Tren A Las Nubes, or Train to the Clouds, is one of the world’s most dangerous train routes. Perched atop a dizzying 4,220 meters (13,845 feet) above sea level and crossing the Andes, this 220-kilometer (136-mile) route is an engineering marvel. The train snakes its way through twenty-nine tunnels, over viaducts, and across the steepest zigzag curves in the world, creating a stunningly beautiful yet incredibly dangerous journey. Built-in the early 1930s, the tracks are narrow and the bridges are often old and trembling. The precarious route, combined with its lack of guard rails and sheer drops, make the ride a thrilling and thrilling experience. The train has become an iconic symbol of Argentina and is a must-see for anyone brave enough to take on the challenge.
9- Pilatus Railway
Photo Credit: Amusing Planet
The Pilatus Railway is an unforgettable experience for many travelers, as it is considered one of the most dangerous rail routes in the world. Operating since 1889, this railway line takes passengers up the steep slopes of the 6,000-foot Mount Pilatus in Switzerland. The railway is made up of six sections, with the steepest section, the Vitznau-Rigi section, reaching a gradient of 48%, making it the steepest standard-gauge railway in the world.
This journey offers passengers stunning views of the Swiss Alps, but it also presents some serious risks. The railway is prone to rockfalls, landslides, and extreme weather conditions, as it is located in a rugged terrain. The railway also has tight curves – at one point, the track curves at a radius of only 7.4 meters, making it even more difficult to navigate. Despite the potential dangers, the Pilatus Railway is a popular tourist attraction and a marvel of engineering. To ensure safety, the railway is equipped with a sophisticated braking system and regular maintenance is carried out to keep it in top condition. The railway also has e
8- Landwasser Viaduct
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Built in 1901, the Landwasser Viaduct is one of the most dangerous rail routes in the world. Spanning across the Landwasser River in the Swiss Alps, this iconic railway bridge has been a source of fascination for travelers and railway enthusiasts alike. The bridge is composed of six 40 meter tall stone arches and is just wide enough for a single train track to pass through. With a maximum gradient of 38‰, the bridge is one of the steepest and most dangerous routes in the world.
The bridge is incredibly narrow, with a total width of just 8.7 meters, creating a unique and breathtaking experience for passengers. To make the most of the views, the trains have to slow down significantly to traverse the route safely. This means that the journey takes a bit longer than usual, however, passengers are rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountain peaks and valleys.
7- Chenab Bridge
Photo Credit: DNA India
The Chenab Bridge is one of the world’s most dangerous train routes, spanning 1.315 km across the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir. Constructed with a unique combination of cable-stayed and arch bridge technology, it is the highest railway bridge in the world, standing at 359 meters above the river. The bridge consists of 43 spans of 30 meters each, with a main arch spanning 467 meters. The construction was completed in March 2021 and was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2021.
The bridge has been designed to withstand high winds, earthquakes, and even snowfall in the region. It is also capable of accommodating double-decker trains, allowing for more efficient travel. This bridge is a major engineering marvel and has been built to improve connectivity between Kashmir and the rest of India. It is also a symbol of India’s technological advancement and is sure to be appreciated for years to come.
6- Bamboo Trains
Originating in Battambang, the Bamboo Train is an improvised rail system built on an abandoned track. The railway runs on a single track, and when two trains approach each other, one must be removed from the track to let the other pass. This is done by the passengers and crew quickly disassembling the train, moving it off the track, and then reassembling it once the other train has passed. This dangerous process is made even more hazardous by the fact that the trains are powered by small gasoline engines. With no signal system in place, accidents are frequent and there have been several reported deaths due to the lack of safety regulations. Despite these risks, the Bamboo Train remains a popular form of transport in Cambodia, offering an adventurous and unique way to explore the country.
5- Maeklong Railway
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Maeklong Railway is one of the world’s most dangerous rail routes. It is located in the Samut Songkhram Province of Thailand. The railway runs through the Maeklong market, where vendors sell their wares on the tracks. Every time a train comes through, the vendors must quickly move their goods off the tracks. The train passes through eight times a day, making it a dangerous task. The railway also has several curves and sharp turns which can cause the trains to veer off course if the brakes are not applied correctly. The market and railway have existed together since 1905, yet the Maeklong Railway remains one of the world’s most treacherous rail routes.
4- Death Railway
Built by Japanese forces during World War II, the Death Railway stretched over 415 miles and crossed three countries. It was constructed using forced labor, and resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 people. The railway was built to provide a supply line for the Japanese forces, and it connected Bangkok, Thailand to Rangoon, Burma. The conditions on the railway were harsh, and many of the laborers suffered from malnutrition, disease, and exhaustion. Despite the risks, the railway was completed in only 16 months. The line was eventually dismantled after the war, but it serves as a stark reminder of the human cost of war.
3- Chennai Rameshwaram Route
The Chennai Rameshwaram route is widely known as one of the most dangerous train routes in the world. It runs through the scenic Pamban Island, a narrow strip of land between the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. The route runs over a 2.3-mile-long bridge, which is the longest in India. The bridge is prone to strong ocean winds and turbulent waves, making it difficult for trains to pass through. To make matters worse, the route also has a sharp curve, increasing the chances of derailment.
Despite the risks, the route is still a popular journey for many tourists who want to experience the unique beauty of this region. The Indian Railways has taken extensive measures to ensure the safety of passengers and trains, such as installing additional safety measures, improving the track’s condition, and making sure all safety protocols are in place. The route is a testament to the engineering feats of the past and is still considered one of the most challenging and thrilling rail journeys in India.
2- White Pass and Yukon Route
Photo Credit: Railway Age
The White Pass and Yukon Route in the United States is one of the world’s most dangerous railway tracks. The track is incredibly steep, with some sections reaching up to 25% gradient, making it difficult for trains to climb without slipping. In addition, the track is incredibly narrow, with just one track running along the entire route. This means that if a train breaks down, there is no room for a second train to pass, making any sort of rescue or repair operation difficult and dangerous. Despite its dangers, the White Pass and Yukon Route is a popular tourist destination, offering breathtaking views and exciting adventures. For those brave enough to take on the challenge, the rewards are worth the risk.
1- Aso Minami Route
The Aso Minami Route is one of the world’s most dangerous train routes. Running through the mountainous regions of Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture, the route is both steep and winding, with many curves and sharp declines. The tracks are narrow and the line is not electrified, making it difficult and hazardous for trains to traverse. As if that weren’t enough, the route is also prone to landslides and earthquakes. Despite the perils, the Aso Minami Route is a popular tourist attraction, offering stunning views and a unique experience for those brave enough to take the journey.