China’s ‘train hunter’ on a seeking to chronicle its fast-expanding railways

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Wang Wei has spent 10 times wandering all over China to photograph qualifies and new lines, but can he keep up with the unbelievable gait of the countrys railing boom?

It has been 10 years since Chinas self-styled set hunter set off on a 300,000 km journey to document the greatest railway lines on Earth.

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

I never get tired. You dont get tired if you are doing something “youre feeling” truly enthusiastic about, says Wang, who at 24 have so far been built 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, accepts he was born with a fascination for ferroequinology.


Xiangyu railway in center China. Photograph: Wang Wei

His great-grandfather was a train driver who once transported Wu Peifu, a warlord whose exploits in early 20 th-century China made him a neighbourhood on the cover of Time publication alongside the headline: Biggest man in China.

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

His train hunting mission which he officially launched in 2005 has coincided with one of the most spectacular outbursts of railway interpretation in biography; an immense engineering projection that some compare to the 19 th-century railway thunder that helped move the US “the worlds” preceding economy.

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


Nanjiang railway in east China. Some say Chinas railing rise is comparable to the 19 th-century railway thunder that helped become the US “the worlds” resulting economy. Photo: Wang Wei

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

Since that pre-Olympic pushing began, China has built the worlds longest and fastest high-speed rail itineraries, expending stylish lily-white bullet train to reduce the distances 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 total has been laid. What “the worlds” did in half-a-century, we have done in 10 years, said Zhao Jian, a vehicle expert from Jiaotong University in Beijing.

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

Beijings railways are also croaking global with countries including the US, Thailand, Indonesia and the UK poised to build high-speed railing projections with contradicting levels of Chinese involvement.


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

There were even reports earlier this year that China was holding expanding its railing empire by perforating a tunnel under Mount Everest.

The fierce gait of the stretch has raised red flags, including anxieties over security in the wake of a deadly 2011 high-speed runway crash near the town of Wenzhou. The adversity, which claimed 40 lives, disclosed a entanglement of dishonesty at the heart of the countrys railways ministry, which was officially disbanded in 2013.


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

Zhao, a long-term commentator of Chinas high-speed push, said there were also doubts concerning the financial viability of numerous activities. House such the linkages between major metropolis such as Beijing or Shanghai established sense but doing so in Chinas little densely populated interior was fiscal madness. It is like constructing a 160 -floor hotel where only 27 floorings make a profit and the rest suffer serious losses, he said.

Wang, who has photographed seven members 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 would necessitate spending a whole night on a learn unless I took the plane. Now, its only a duo hours by improve. It must really attained 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 models are facing extinction.

Its quite sad to ascertain the old-time stations and rail line being swallowed. Im quite a wistful party and I like age-old things, he says. But its inevitable as epoch goes by very. The only thought I can do is to document the changes in an aesthetic method.

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

By plane, vehicle and rail he has travelled to Kashgar, an ancient Silk road trading centre in Chinas far west, Mohe, at the countrys northernmost tip-off, and to the balmy island of Hainan, which recently opened the worlds simply high-speed railing curve line.

There are people who believe that travelling abroad is superior to examining their own country, says the set fan whose roams have done him a proud patriot determined to use his work to show off Chinas natural attractivenes as well as its trains.

Train hunting is not for the lighthearted. During a excursion to a remote village in the south-western state of Guizhou, Wang and a sidekick were forced to cram into a rickety single plot 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 appeared down and realised there was a lot of blood on the storey, he echoes. It didnt hurt much at first, but I almost fainted when the nurses in infirmary tried to scavenge the meander.


The Suijia railway in Heilongjiang province. Photo: Wang Wei

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

Ten times after Chinas biggest set admirer inaugurated his strays, the rail thunder pictures no clue of slaking. State media announced last month that PS288. 6bn “wouldve been” gushed into 14,000 miles of line 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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