The Passenger

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The Passenger



This stunning view on the Passenger 712 Tongliao - JiningNan and the surrounding Inner Mongolian mountains could be gained from a hill a few metres above the third level at Reshui. Needless to say that all the trouble of waiting in the icy, Mongolian wind was soon forgotten once this shot was perpetuated on celluloid and our bodies unfrozen near the stove at one of the small eateries down in the village - enjoying 'Gou ba rou' and some Jifeng Pijou's !

The picture was taken on January 1st, 1997. Is there a more exciting way of starting a new year?

Until 2005, the Ji-Tong Railway run the last steam-operated fast passenger train service in the world. 

The train was steam hauled for almost all of its 1000kms from JiningNan to Tongliao, which translated to a trip of almost 24 hours. On the journey, steam engines were exchanged no less than four times at Chabuga, Daban, Haoluku and Baiqi. The JiTong Passenger was the last steam train worldwide with dining car and sleepers!

It goes without saying that traveling on this train was an great experience not be missed by a real steam gricer, and I was happy that I took the chance. Imagine the he sound of a hard working steam engine in your compartment at night!

On lengthy hardseater journeys, Chinese fellow travellers usually were curious enough to question foreign travellers about anything they wanted to know - usully where we came from, family status, age, occupation - no matter how difficult conversation could be! 

Exact timings were given in the 1998 China timetable, but it either required to familiarize with the Chinese characters for places in question, or alternatively, ask Chinese for help - often equially difficult, given the fact that hardly anybody spoke English in rural China. The Langenscheit's pocket dictionary did wonders and was as essential as Passport and money!

Traveling to remote provinces in China was adventurous and needed the ability to cope with the unexpected, but it was a great experience and offered interesting insights into this huge country. Encounters with Chinese fellow travelers inevitably brought us in touch with people, regardless how difficult understanding our counterparts was!


Markus Fischer, 2003. All rights reserved.