Chongqing– Chongqing Railway Station, also called Chongqing Caiyuanba Railway Station, sits right at the heart of Yuzhong District and has long been one of the main gateways for passengers in Chongqing since this iconic symbol first entered service in 1952, when the first railway was built after the founding of the People’s Republic of China finally opened, connecting the cities of Chengdu and Chongqing either side of the Sichuan Basin.
Following a glorious seven decades of service, the interior décor reminiscent of the past century, corrugated metal roofs above the platforms, and minimalist yet practical furnishings all show their age from prolonged wear, and now the time has finally come for Caiyuanba to close its doors to rail passengers.
As newer railway stations like Chongqing North, the airport like Chongqing West, and Shapingba Station handle more traffic, from traditional ‘green skin’ trains to the fastest bullet trains in operation worldwide, the number of services departing from Caiyuanba has been in decline for a number of years. As the giant screen outside the main ticket booth displayed, the only departures expected this day were five trains bound for Neijiang, Zunyi, Urumqi and Harbin.
Recently, it was announced the final ever departure from Caiyuanba is set to be the K1064 service to Harbin West in the far northeast of China on the evening of June 20th, after which the station will be officially retired following 70 years of dedicated service for passengers from all over China and abroad.
The history and nostalgia enjoyed by Caiyuanba Station hold a fond place in the hearts of local people in Chongqing, especially those who spent their entire careers working for the railway authorities, or residents who grew up in the vicinity of this highly recognizable landmark.
As a result, an open morning was held three days before the final departure for train enthusiasts and locals wishing to say their personal goodbyes, as well as capture souvenir photographs to keep as permanent mementos.
Despite an element of sadness behind the retirement of Caiyuanba, the atmosphere was still upbeat as visitors freely explored the lounges, platforms, and rail lines, posing with beaming smiles for souvenir group photographs, even climbing the steps of train engines and carriages waiting to depart.
Chen Zhifang, now 69, was first employed at Caiyuanba in 1971 at the age of 18 years, and performed many duties over her career before retiring in 2003, having assumed the roles of porter, ticket vendor, and passenger liaison officer. On the day, she shared a few of her most vivid memories from over 32 years of service.
‘There was a great flood in 1981 where the waters came up knee-deep, and there was no way for passengers to use the station. Once, there was a lone 90-year-old woman who was searching for her son in Chongqing, and I carried her on my back to a safe place from where she could look for him. And on another occasion in the 1980s, I was called to the restroom where a passenger was giving birth, and we successfully delivered the child without any surgical tools or experience.’
Although it was difficult for most to say goodbye to Caiyuanba, all the visitors shared how the station was now too outdated to handle the demands of modern transportation, and looked on with anticipation to upcoming developments in the railway industry, such as Chongqing East Station currently in the making.
Incidentally, as Caiyuanba prepares to close its doors in the coming days, the Wanzhou-Zhengzhou high-speed rail line is due to officially enter service on the same day. This new service will slash travel times to Yunyang, Fengjie, and Wushan counties in the Three Gorges from Chongqing, as well as reduce the journey to Beijing to under seven hours thanks to Fuxing trains which can travel up to 350 kilometers per hour.
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