I am back at home now, ready to inflict more opinionated blog entries on my unsuspecting readers. Perhaps you haven't missed me, but I spent some 20 days in the Republic of China last month. Brad and I had been there last in 1986. It was an intriguing trip then and prompted Brad to take up learning Mandarin. Languages come easy to him and over the years he has been steadily improving his Mandarin skills and it sure came in handy during this latest foray to the Orient.
This whole trip idea was spawned by a friend of ours, who had been several times to Beijing during recent years and enjoyed it. So Michael (follow him on www.macfilos.com) kept encouraging us until we finally did agree to make some arrangements.
No sooner had we casually mentioned the trip to our friends in Perth, Australia, during a telphone conversation, Ron and Gerry thought it a wonderful idea, and could they please come along? (follow Ron and Gerry at www.getaboutguys.blogspot.com) Well, the more the merrier! We did finally end up as a group of five, once Patrick decided to go along. (He can be followed on his many trips at www.paddymondo.net/pics/2014/china/index.html)
Over the course of a half a year and many emails going back and forth we all finally decided on an intinerary: We all would meet up in Shanghai, visit Suzhou, followed by a day trip to Hangzhou. One night in Dengfeng to visit the famous Taoist temple compound and then one night in Luoyang. Luoyang is the city, or more currectly the Buddist Shaolin Monestary is, where Kungfu was "born". After Luoyang the itinerary had as going to Xi'an for a few days and then by train to Beijing for a week. All the China internal arrangements were expertly handled by Leon of ChinaTravel. Nary a hiccup during the whole twenty days of traveling. The most ardous process of the lot was getting the visa for China here at their embassy in DC. It took Brad over four hours to hand in the voluminous paper work required and three days later it was more than two hours before I could get my hands on our passports and visas. Well, at least those visas are good for a year!
Brad and I set off from Washington's Dulles Airport on the 8th of April for the 15 hour flight to Beijing. Given the length of the flight we did splurge on First Class seats on United Airlines. Of course First Class on a US flagged carrier is like flying in cattle class on Asian and European airlines. But United is pretty well the only game in town...so there we were. Honestly, it was really not that bad.
We came back home with a combined total of a little over 7600 photographs! As can be imagined I am still working my way through this massive amount of images. I have decided to start with the pictures taken at the China National Railway Museum. There are two branches of the museum. One is in the old Zhengyangmen East Railway Station, very close to Tian'anmen Square. The other part of the museum is about 10 miles northeast of downtown Beijing, conveniently located adjacent the circular railway test track, which is part of the China National Railway Test Center.
This is the one for the serious anorak and rail fan. The huge building has eight display tracks and houses mostly rolling stock. The entrance fee is ￥20, about $3.50!
Upon entering the museum building one is immediately struck by the sheer size of the locomotives. The loading gauge of these pieces is immense. All are built to operate on standard track gauge of 1435 mm, but the height and width of the exhibits is enormous.
To the left of the entrance are the diesel and electric traction. On the right is the collection of steam locomotives and the Mao train. More about that later.
As usual in railway museums it is hard to get good photographs of the exhibits. The units are big and too close to each other, making for challenging photography.
Until some years ago foreign manufactured Locomotives where in the vast majority. Like this German built diesel unit.
Or this French built electric locomotive:
This is also a good example of the Chinese penchant for using double units, whether it's electric or diesel. They are semi-permanently coupled and I saw a lot of those in freight and passenger traffic during the stay in China. This French electric put out 6400 kW/h, about 8582 horsepower. One kWh equals 1.34 horsepower.
China is known for it's high speed rail network. The museum did have the first high speed train built in China in it's collection. Perhaps not the first built in China, but the first based on "independent intellectual property rights"! Curious phrasing that.
And here is some Russian made rolling stock. Bought by the Chinese when relations between the two countries were still amicable:
Amidst all this impressive rolling stock was a small section with rows of chairs and a television. And what would be playing on that television? Well, "Thomas, the Tank Engine" of course. Perfectly dubbed in Mandarin. Sir Topem Hatt would have been proud.
I guess there is just something fascinating about railroads in any culture and at any age. This little guy in the picture was just absolutely mesmerized by the antics of Thomas, Clarabel and Annie!
Or this young chap who was exitedly snapping photographs of the outdoor exhibits with his iPhone.
In my next blog entry we'll take a look at the steam engine "side" of the museum.