The International Steam Pages

Hill and Mountain Railways of the World

Some of the biggest challenges faced by railway builders through the years have been presented by hills and mountains. Splitting trains, multiple locomotives, tunnels, curves, even horseshoes and spirals are all commonplace in my book, sometimes it needs something a little more interesting... For some general coverage in Wikipedia, see a short list of relevant articles at the bottom of this page to get started there. These pages instead highlights outstanding currently open (and relatively recently closed) examples especially outside Europe and North America, particularly where reports exist on this website.

By and large there are three solutions for when the problem gets really serious, each one reflecting a more extreme need to climb, these are covered in these pages:

Home Reverses / Zig Zags
(20th Jul 2016)
Rack / Cog
(19th Nov 2016)
Cable Haulage
(5th May 2015)

I would like to thank James Waite for not only suggesting the creation of these pages but also doing a lot of the spade work both in the field and virtually. I would welcome further pictures to illustrate them.

Since I need a 'home page' for this topic then below are some of my own personal favourite railways which are not included above (steam, of course, at the time I photographed them) that manage to get to the top of their own hills without benefit of zigzags, racks or cables. Not surprisingly, they are all narrow gauge!

The Eritrean Railway
(Hairpin U bends)
The Matheran Hill Railway
(Hairpin U bends)
Burma Mines Railway
Shibanxi Coal Railway
(Single reversing station)

As always Wikipedia is some help in a specialist subject but when 'push comes to shove' you soon find gaps in the coverage, not to mention things which are downright wrong...  Worse still are the 'Look Alike' sites which lift material from Wikipedia in a bid to make money from advertisements and thereby foul up the search engines.

Hill Railways in General - (link corrected 26th April 2014)

Mountain Railways - 

Rack Railways - and - look for conflicts!

Reverses -

Funiculars -

There are many sub-links within these pages, some to specialist technical information, others to items on individual railways.

Rob Dickinson