DF Rail Travelogue CRH Train Wuhan

Here is a look at all trips done by rail since 2008.
Mileage through to 01 February 2014 (world totals):

227,063.83 kilometres
141,090.92 mi by rail
over around 15 countries / territories / regions


Rail Trips 2008
Places visited by rail this year: China (Beijing, Tianjin)

DF Rail Travelogue 2008 1000x200

The year 2008 marked my first introduction to Chinese railways, with Train C2209 setting out from Beijing South late in the afternoon on 01 August 2008. Speeds maxed out at 348 km/h near the northern suburbs of Tianjin, Wuqing. It took me just around 30 minutes to change cities — something basically impossible to believe through to that day, in an otherwise jammed-as-hell China (flight delays and awful traffic on the highways — we don’t even need to mention Beijing…).


Rail Trips 2009
Places visited by rail this year: China (Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Tianjin)

DF Rail Travelogue 2009 1000x200

In 2009 I started “extending” trips on the intercity HSR between Beijing and Tianjin to Tanggu, which is around 25 minutes away from central Tianjin (it’s right next to the coast). Also, I took the first-ever “rail / metro” trip from Shanghai to Nanjing. One of the things I hate is queuing for taxis (not the queuing itself, but rather in China it can take forever to get a cab), so direct city metro connections at both Shanghai and Nanjing stations were simply a godsend. Just use (or get) a city transit card, touch in and out at ticket gates, and off you go. Another new addition this year: suburban rail from Beijing (North station) to Badaling, right by the Great Wall.


Rail Trips 2010
Places visited by rail this year: Mainland China (Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin), Taiwan (Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taipei, Taoyuan)

DF Rail Travelogue 2010 1000x200

Ilha Formosa gave me an introduction to HSR on the other side of the Straits — back then, the mainland’s trains ran faster (350 km/h instead of 300 km/h on Taiwan). This was also the first year I rode on regular rail, when I joined fellow rail aficionados on two trips around Greater Beijing. Later in the year, I’d also travel around the Pearl River Delta by train, ending at Shenzhen station, just north of the frontier with Hong Kong. Finally, this was my very first year doing long-distance trains: thanks to accelerated services on existing railway lines, I was able to do the (approx) 500-mile journey from Beijing to Qingdao in around 5 hours.


Rail Trips 2011
Places visited by rail this year: Mainland China (Beidaihe, Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Harbin, Ji’nan, Langfang, Wuhan, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shijiazhuang, Suzhou, Zhuhai), Hong Kong

DF Rail Travelogue 2011 1000x200

The easy highlight of this year was the very first trip on the historic Beijing-Shanghai HSR, which was very thoroughly covered by world media. Sadly, this year was also when the tragic Wenzhou disaster happened; however, Chinese HSR started bouncing back later in the year, in spite of visible decreases in maximum service speed (300 km/h instead of 350 km/h). Early in the year, I completed an express train sleeper leg from Chengdu to Beijing West, which took 15 hours (not that long if you realise this was over 2,000 kilometres!). This year, my wife Tracy joined me on the rails, and a first trip by rail across borders — from Hong Kong to Mainland China — happened. (I liked how fast Immigration at Guangzhou East station was.) We also travelled the full length of the Wuhan-Guangzhou HSR (since extended to Beijing West), and we also headed up northeast to Harbin. Late in the year, we also went from Zhuhai (right by Macau) straight up via Wuhan to Nanjing and Suzhou, and I finished the year with a trip to Shanghai on the world’s fastest trains (by travel time over mileage) — trains G1 and G4 in Business Class, finishing the sprint in less than 5 hours.


Rail Trips 2012
Places visited by rail this year: Belgium (Brussels), China (Baoding, Beijing, Cangzhou, Changsha, Handan, Hangzhou, Hefei, Ji’nan, Langfang, Nanjing, Ningbo, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan, Wuxi, Xi’an, Xuzhou, Zhenjiang), France (Paris, Strasbourg), Liechtenstein (Vaduz), Luxembourg (Luxembourg), The Netherlands (Amsterdam), Switzerland (Basel, Bellinzona, Genève, Lausanne, Locarno, Luzern, Winterthur, Zürich)

DF Rail Travelogue 2012 1000x200

With the worst of Wenzhou behind, this year, both my wife Tracy and I finished a record one-week trip which featured North, East and South China, all on trains — and nearly all on CRH HSR services. The journey touched Beijing, Wuxi, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wuhan, Changsha, and Shenzhen on the “to” legs, and for the return leg, stopped just once in Handan (to thank a rail friend who had been retweeting our rail tweets on Weibo). We also visited Qingdao to see how HSR was designed, assembled, and finished, and I also made a few stops in towns along the way to or from major metropolises — Zhenjiang and Baoding, just to name a few. The other big rail trip was across Europe, where we centred on Switzerland and the Benelux countries, including travelling on such classics such as the TGV, Thalys, and one a handful of remaining EuroCity international trains. On our trips to Liechtenstein, the train driver himself invited us at the very front of the train, in front of the controls, as we crossed the Rhine Railway Bridge into the microstate!


Rail Trips 2013
Places visited by rail this year: China (Anyang, Baoding, Beijing, Cangzhou, Changsha, Changchun, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dezhou, Dingzhou, Dujiangyan, Fuzhou, Harbin, Handan, Hangzhou, Jiaozhou, Jilin, Ji’nan, Kunming, Langfang, Qingdao, Qingzhou, Qinhuangdao, Qufu, Qujing, Nanchang, Shacheng, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shijiazhuang, Taian, Taiyuan, Tianjin, Weifang, Wuhan, Wuxi, Xiamen, Xi’an, Xuzhou, Yichang, Zhangjiakou, Zhengzhou, Zhenjiang, Zhuozhou, Zibo)

DF Rail Travelogue 2013 1000x200

In 2013 I was completely set loose on the rails. These were all classical trips on the grandes lignes, and I completed Harbin-Beijing-Kunming within a week (that include a few days of getting work done in the capital!). The opening of complete Beijing-Shenzhen HSR services meant that I had travelled the world’s longest HSR line (in separate segments). Tracy and I also travelled for three hours on China’s longest international service — train K3 from Beijing to Moscow, where rail crew greeted us onboard and told us the story of the country’s longest-ever trip overseas. I also started giving Railway English lessons to China Railways and regional rail bureaus, which also increased my annual rail mileage this year to over 60,000 kilometres (about 30 times the average annual mileage for a Swiss rider!). Other trips of note: a special invitation to the first-ever Nanchang-Fuzhou express railway service (before the line was officially opened to the public), as well as the very first Tianjin-Qinghuangdao HSR trip.


Rail Trips 2014
Places visited by rail this year: Austria (Salzburg, Vienna), China (Baoding, Beijing, Chengdu, Dujiangyan, Chongqing, Guilin, Ji’nan, Liuzhou, Nanning, Qingdao, Shijiazhuang, Tangshan, Tianjin), Spain (Barcelona), Switzerland (Zürich), United Kingdom (Edinburgh, Great Missenden, Glasgow, London, Watford)

DF Rail Travelogue 2014 1000x200

Taking the wraps off 2014. I also got to be amongst the first to discover the all-new Qingdao North Railway Station. Trips this year took me also to remote destinations, both familiar (Chengdu, Chongqing, Dujiangyan) and new (Guilin, Liuzhou, Nanning). In August 2014 my wife joined me in our new home base in London, where trips included those inside the M25 as well as trips outside (first to Great Missenden, then beyond). In late 2014, we flew over to Scotland, where we took the train from Edinburgh Waverley station to Glasgow Queen Street, then for a quick sprint to Charing Cross Glasgow.


Rail Trips 2015
Places visited by rail this year: China (Beijing, Harbin, Shanghai, Tianjin, Xuzhou, Wuxi), Italy (Milan), Switzerland (Lugano), United Kingdom (Amersham, Ashford, Aylesbury, Banbury, Bedford, Bentley, Bicester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Dartford, Doncaster, Grays, High Wycombe, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Purfleet, Reading, Stratford-upon-Avon, Watford)

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For 2015, journeys started going beyond the M25. The London Underground, whilst not strictly speaking part of Britain’s National Rail system, nevertheless got me to destinations outside Greater London, including Chesham, Epping, and other places. The real National Rail system in the UK got me further afield, including trips to Birmingham, Doncaster, and Aylesbury. Since May 2015, I’ve held an Annual Gold Card, which in essence gets me free travel from London to Birmingham and other stations served by Chiltern Railways (good only on weekends and holidays apart from Christmas; minimum prices for season pass apply), so I’ve grown an “extra set of legs” for these days. By mid-September 2015, I completed the entire lengths of three Train Operating Companies’ full networks: Heathrow Express, London Overground, and TfL Rail. Elsewhere, I also travelled with my wife from Lugano, Switzerland, to Milan, Italy, and then back again. Finally, in December 2015, I returned to China, travelling by train to destinations in northern, northeastern, and eastern China.


Rail Trips 2016
Places visited by rail this year: China (Baoding, Beijing, Hangzhou, Ji’nan, Qingdao, Shanghai, Tianjin, Xuzhou, Wuxi, Zhengzhou), Denmark (Copenhagen), France (Lille), Ireland (Dublin), Sweden (Malmö), Switzerland (Arth-Goldau, Biasca, Bodio, Erstfeld, Rynächt, Zürich), United Kingdom (Belfast, Bushey, Colchester, Doncaster, Hertford, London, Oxford, Peterborough, Potters Bar, Sheffield, Stevenage, Watford, Welwyn Garden City)

DF Rail Travelogue 2016 1000x200

My first trip for 2016 was on a high speed train from Beijing to Ji’nan, where I would teach crew from Ji’nanxi (Ji’nan West) and nearby stations how to say things in “proper” English. My UK train travels continued later in January 2016, and I also took the train to parts just outside Central London, in the Home Counties. These included places I haven’t been in before — Stevenage and Colchester. This year has seen a lot more in the way of international rail travel. There was a quick trip to Lille in March 2016, and a month later, my wife joined me in a tour of Scandinavia which included a noontime train by the Danish rail operator DSB to Malmö, Sweden, followed by an evening train by the Swedish rail operator SJ back to Copenhagen, Denmark. Within days, we’d be on another train, this one the Enterprise from Dublin to Belfast. In the final months in Britain, I travelled by rail to Hertford, Oxford, Potters Bar, and Welwyn Garden City, as well as being one of the first passengers at Lea Bridge station, reopened after a 31-year hiatus. June 2016 saw me attending with my wife the opening of the Gotthard HSR Base Tunnel, with a “public beta” ride on 04 June 2016, the first day the new line was opened to the general public (before timetabled operations start in December 2016). Rail journeys became mostly China-based beginning summer 2016. On 30 June 2016, I travelled with my wife onboard the Beijing-Shanghai HSR 5 years to the day it opened, and was featured in national media. After a few trips over the summer to Tianjin and Baoding, including a one-day 1,500 km marathon between Beijing, Ji’nan, Qingdao, and back, we were part of one of the first train services between Xuzhou and Zhengzhou, the very HSR line that helped China’s HSR network break 20,000 km in dimensions. Media interviews were big: I was interviewed at both stations and on the train.