My stories 06: The old green trains
October 20, 2020
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I remember when I was little, I used to take the old green trains with “the adults” from Guangzhou back to my mom’s hometown in Gansu province of China. Then we’d take the train back again, and each way took two days and one night. That route still exists now and I guess the duration is the same even today. When I was very young, we went in the hard sleeper coaches. We even travelled with hard seats once and that was quite a terrible experience…yep. Along the way, there were three stops that left the deepest impression in my memory. The first stop was Wuchang (one of the three major districts that make up the city of Wuhan now), which I can’t be more familiar with in present day. On the return trip to Guangzhou, the train must cross the Yangtze River Bridge before arriving at Wuchang station. Every time we were crossing the bridge, my third grandpa would remark with excitement, “We’re at Wuchang, we’re at Wuchang!” And that was the earliest that “Wuchang” entered my vocabulary as a place in China. The second stop was Zhengzhou. I didn’t know where Zhengzhou was back then (now I know that it’s the capital of Henan province) and I only knew that it was a major station, as the train stopped there for nearly half an hour. The adults would get off the train to stretch and walk around, but I’d always worry that the train would leave before they returned, so I’d keep urging them to get back onto the train. The third stop was Xi’an, also a major station. During those years, there’d be vendors selling food and snacks on the platforms. You didn’t even have to get off the train – you could open the window and buy whatever you wanted. I remember there was someone selling roasted chicken at Xi’an station and oh man, that chicken looked extra mouthwatering and irresistible. But then, the adults never bought anything from the train stations. As a small child, I could only watch as that delicious-looking roasted chicken, which I never got the chance to taste, disappeared in front of my eyes. Today, I can most certainly afford to buy a roasted chicken myself, but no one sells them on the platforms anymore…
Slow green trains on the platform. Nowadays, many people in China choose to travel with the high-speed trains for speed and convenience, but many of the slow train routes, including the one from Guangzhou to Gansu, still exist.
(This short essay was written on August 26, 2019.)