China’s ‘train hunter’ on a journey to recount its fast-expanding railways

Wang Wei has wasted 10 times advancing all over China to photograph trains and brand-new strands, but can he keep up with the staggering gait of the countrys rail boom?

It has been 10 times since Chinas self-styled learn hunter start out on a 300,000 km quest to document the greatest railway lines on Earth.

Armed with his trusty Nikon camera, Wang Wei has hiked up to the frosty Tibetan plateau and in all the regions of the Gobi desert; “hes having” journeyed to a tropical island in the South China Sea and to Chinas remote perimeter with Pakistan all to satisfy his inexplicable exhort to photograph trains.

I never get tired. You dont get tired if you are doing something you feel genuinely enthusiastic about, says Wang, who at 24 has already constructed a personal archive of hundreds of thousands of photographs of trains.

Chinas No 1 trainspotter, who grew up only next to Beijings Xizhimen terminal and still lives with his mothers, speculates he was born with a obsession for ferroequinology.


Xiangyu railway in central China. Photograph: Wang Wei

His great-grandfather was a train driver who once hauled Wu Peifu, a warlord whose employs in early 20 th-century China gave him a place on the extend of Time publication alongside the headline: Biggest man in China.

I think there might be a love for qualifies in my blood, professes Wang, whose bedroom walls are covered with his photos of improves from around China.

His train hunting mission which he officially launched in 2005 has coincided with one of the most spectacular abounds of railway construction in record; an immense engineering job that some compare to the 19 th-century railway thunder that helped constitute the US “the worlds” guiding economy.

In 2006, the year after Wangs expedition began, China opened the highest railway line on Earth, finally fulfilling Mao Zedongs dream of integrating Tibet with central and eastern China.


Nanjiang railway in eastern China. Some say Chinas railing raise is comparable to the 19 th-century railway boom that helped do the US “the worlds” contributing economy. Image: Wang Wei

The following year, China upped the ante again, kicking off a multibillion dollar high-speed railing revolution designed to demonstrate the Communist partys scientific and political might.

Since that pre-Olympic thrust inaugurated, China has built the worlds longest and fastest high-speed rail roadways, utilizing stylish white bullet trains to slash the intervals between mega-cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

In merely over seven years, about 11,800 miles( 19,000 km) of high-speed track about 55% of the world-wide total has been laid. What “the worlds” did in half-a-century, we have done in 10 times, said Zhao Jian, a tote expert from Jiaotong University in Beijing.

Chinas high-speed pipelines were originally concentrated along the prosperous eastern coast but increasingly the revolution is sprinting wests into the deserts and mountains that encircle the old-time Silk road, at speeds of more than 215 miles an hour( 350 kph ).~ ATAGEND

Beijings railways are also exiting world with countries including the US, Thailand, Indonesia and the UK positioned to build high-speed rail jobs with differing high levels of Chinese involvement.


Wang Wei photographs a train from an overpass close to Beijing South station, which is about 400 metres from his house. Photograph: James Wasserman for the Guardian

There is furthermore reports earlier this year that China was pondering expanding its runway empire by punching a tunnel under Mount Everest.

The furious pace of the stretch has raised red flag, including suspicions over security in the wake of a deadly 2011 high-speed runway gate-crash near the city of Wenzhou. The calamity, which claimed 40 lives, exposed a entanglement of dishonesty at the heart of the countrys railways ministry, which was officially disbanded in 2013.


Wang Wei working on a scale model of Xizhimen terminal, which has been called Beijing North station since 1986. Photograph: James Wasserman for the Guardian

Zhao, a long-term reviewer of Chinas high-speed pushing, said there were also doubts over the financial viability of many programmes. Construct such connections between major municipalities such as Beijing or Shanghai realized feel but doing so in Chinas little densely populated interior was financial madness. It is like constructing a 160 -floor hotel where simply 27 floors make a profit and the rest lose serious losses, he said.

Wang, who has photographed seven of Chinas eight key high-speed veins, describes high-speed rail as a great invention that had greatly changed the lives of millions of Chinese citizens.

In the past, if I wanted to go to Shanghai that they are able to necessitate spending a whole darknes on a civilize unless I took the plane. Now, its merely a pair hours by train. It has certainly realise it easier for me to travel from A to B, he says.

But Wang declares his soft-spot is for Chinas old-fashioned fleet of teaches, of which some Mao-era representations are facing extinction.

Its quite sad to envision the old stations and rail line being swallowed. Im quite a wistful person and I like old happenings, he says. But its inevitable as duration goes by. The only act I can do is to document the modifications to an artistic path.

Wangs walks have given him a first-class seat to witness his fast changing homeland.

By plane, auto and rail he has travelled to Kashgar, an ancient Silk Road trading centre in Chinas far west, Mohe, at the two countries northernmost tip, and to the balmy island of Hainan, which lately opened the worlds simply high-speed railing loop-the-loop line.

There are people who is argued that travelling abroad is superior to investigating their own country, says the learn buff whose hurtles have manufactured him a proud patriot determined to use his work to show off Chinas natural allure as well as its trains.

Train hunting is not for the lighthearted. During a expedition to a remote village in the south-western responsibility of Guizhou, Wang and a acquaintance were forced to cram into a rickety single bunk beside a pigsty.

While trekking in all the regions of the Gobi desert the beginning of this year he inadvertently skewered his paw with a large thorn and ended up in an Inner Mongolian emergency room. I seemed down and realised there was a lot of blood on the storey, he recalls. It didnt hurt much at first, but I virtually fainted when the harbours in hospital tried to clean the wrap.


The Suijia railway in Heilongjiang province. Image: Wang Wei

Wangs most perilous assignment was during a trip-up to the mountain-studded province of Qinghai where he spent a few weeks hiking at night to secure the best shot of his target develop. The oxygen grades there are very low because it is on the[ Tibetan] plateau and the altitude is so high, he says. I experienced a dreadful headache when I was climbing.

Ten years after Chinas biggest improve fanatic inaugurated his ranges, the rail boom establishes no mansion of slaking. State media announced last-place month that PS288. 6bn would be ran into 14,000 miles of racetrack from now and 2020.

For Wang that signifies the hunt goes on. I will never stop, he says. This is a permanent project.

Additional reporting by Luna Lin and Christy Yao

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