On September 24, 1909, Beijing-Zhangjiakou Railway, designed and built by Chinese engineers, was opened to traffic two years ahead of plan. The cost of the construction was only one fifth of foreign estimates. The railway linked Beijing with China's northwest, and shattered the dreams of Britain and tsarist Russia who had wanted the contract to build the railway. The construction of the railway boosted the Chinese people‘s confidence and self-reliance.
In the late Qing Dynasty, Britain and tsarist Russia had struggled over the right to build the Beijing-Zhangjiakou Railway because of its strategic route. They tried to coerce the Qing government into signing over the construction rights. But, under heavy pressure, Zhan Tianyou took on the design and construction of the railway in 1905. Zhan had graduated from Yale University in the United States and was China's first railway engineer.