On the (Rail) Road Again

Today’s Post by Ken MacAdams

The process of security screening is becoming automatic ,each time I enter the high speed train station, I unbuckle my camera pack, and watch it run through the X-ray as I get a ‘pat-down’ by a security guard. Pack back on, I ride the escalator up to the waiting area, and decided to look into a convenience store. There it was, directly in front of me, a complete cooked duck, spread eagle, with nary a tail feather for modesty! I averted my eyes, but they landed on a svelte two-pack of mackerel, hung directly above Daffy Duck. Fearing lest I spot freeze-dried eel, I slowly backed out the shop door, careful that my camera backpack wouldn’t unwitting dislodge some other anomaly. What? Could it be? Yes, a Starbucks! Ahh, something more palatable to my gastronomic system!

That riveting experience was in the high-speed train station in Wuhan, but could have taken place at any station throughout China. As a viable alternative to air travel, the bullet train carries businessmen as well a laymen and their families, quickly, quietly, and safely between China’s major cities. It’s no coincidence that a high speed rail station could pass for that of any major airport, from the drop-off/pickup areas, the security screening, to the departure terminal, they are designed to move masses of people, quickly, effortlessly, and efficiently.

The efficiency continues in the well-polished boarding system. When your train is announced, you queue at the gate, and run your ticket through an electronic scanner. From there you proceed downstairs to the boarding platform. Uniformed stewards, each equipped with loud, high pitched whistles, remind you to queue again behind the floor plaque listing the coach number on your ticket. There’s a wide yellow tile band about two-feet back from the platform edge, and heaven have mercy on your eardrums if you step across that line! You’ll get the whistle and ‘the’ eye! The train will pull in quietly and gracefully within a few minutes of the gate personnel allowing you to descend to the platform.

When the train slowly eases to a stop, there’s an apprehensive surge by the queued passengers on the platform and when the door opens, those coming off the train disgorge with demonstrated intent, lest the boarding hoard start pressing in! Never mind that you have an assigned seat on your ticket, it’s just the “Me First” mentality ingrained into this society!

With baggage stored in the overhead bins, I sit and recline in my assigned seat, drop the tray table, and noticeably, don’t fasten my seat belt, there is none! When the door closes, the coach pressurizes, and the train silently and effortlessly leaves the station. If you find yourself wishing you’d stopped for that duck, don’t worry, it won’t be long before the stewardess will be by with her cart of goodies but you may have to settle for something less, like Ramen Noodle soup! Within minutes, I’m bulleting along at the 200 MPH cruise speed, with telephone poles blurring by mere feet away outside my window. Feel free to get up and find the hot water dispenser located in each car, it’s specifically there for your tea thermos, or to add to your soup! I kick back, read a book, or take a snooze. I’ll be at my destination sooner than you’d think!

All images with a Panasonic Lumix G85, G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Power OIS lens. AWB, Auto ISO, which in these images ranged from ISO 400 to ISO 1280. Program mode.