FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Zhalai Nuoer

Posted in China, Zhalai Nuoer by folkestonejack on February 19, 2009

A brief and unexpected stop on the highway out of Manzhouli (courtesy of the local police in a pickup truck) was not enough to dampen the sense of excitement. After travelling across the world, we were almost there…

The minibus pulled up in what felt like a village in the middle of nowhere. We piled out, walking down an icy road to a chorus of barking dogs startled by the sudden arrival of a throng of westerners. Suddenly, an SY class steam locomotive thundered past on its way out of the nearby yard. Too quick for me to capture (though others did) but all the same it was an amazing first sight of Chinese steam for me. More to the point, this was the first time I had ever seen a steam locomotive in real everyday use. It was quite different to anything I had ever seen before.

After adjusting to the environment I scrambled up on the bank and marvelled at the sight of Dongfanghong and four SY class steam locomotives (plus one of two new diesels, heralding the impending demise of steam here). The crews were clearly proud of their new diesels and shunted up to us to showcase their new toy. I think I might be equally pleased, given the choice of the two to work with (no matter how much I love steam I think the practical comforts of the diesel locomotive would soon have won me over!). A little later we watched as one of the SYs hauled a string of wagons out of the yard – a perfect note on which to end the daylight hours!

It was now time to head to the comforts of our hotel in Zhalai Nuoer. It was only two years old but you would never have guessed that from the peeling wallpaper in the rooms (mine was carefully re-stuck to the walls with sticky tape!). Hot water was a limited luxury, available only at certain times and even then, only at a dribble! Still, the food served at the dinner table was incredibly tasty – once I had managed to adjust to chopsticks and the competition around the spinning table top!

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