Beijing’s Railway Museum

A view of half of the collection in the hanger

Unlike other rail museums, here everything is spotlessly clean and rust free

 

The Chinese love their trains.  If you visit the country you really do need to take a train journey or two to get a glimpse of Chinese life. And the country has several railway museums, and Beijing itself has two.

Although that’s actually slightly misleading. It would probably be more accurate to say there is one museum, in two locations which compliment each other, albeit they are located a long way apart. Right in the centre of Beijing next to Tiananmen Square lies the smaller and less interesting of the two. It’s housed over several floors in part of an old railway station (although from the inside you would never be able to tell – there’s no sign of any period features and from the outside its dominated by signs for a McDonalds and a KFC.) It has only 1 train, a tiny steam engine, but it does attempt to tell the stories of China’s railways from the inception to the present day. Well I think it does – as everything was in Chinese so I can’t be entirely sure!

 

Some of the exhibits at this museum are going to be beyond the most hardcore of train enthusiasts interests. Axle bearing monitoring equipment is not, in my opinion, the stuff of prize-winning museums (or at least not for someone whose previous job has given them an irrational hatred of bearing monitoring equipment anyway). The highlight is probably the model exhibits, clearly aimed at domestic Chinese tourists and extolling the virtues of China’s massive investment in high-speed rail expansion. There are various mock-ups, not just of trains but also of some of the incredible bridges and stations they have built. Assuming no more of it decides to collapse then there is little getting away from the fact that China has built some world-class, (and visually impressive) infrastructure.

China Railways Logo - which I have to say I think looks quite flash

China Railways Logo – which I have to say I think looks quite flash

However if you are keener to look at rolling stock then you need to travel further away. A metro ride and then a good 40 minutes on the 909 bus should do the trick. With the aid of GoogleMaps it’s not actually that difficult to find. Here there are basically no exhibits. Just locomotives. Lots of them. In a giant hanger.

several trains viewed inside the hanger

One half of the Hanger

Train destinations to Russia, Hanoi, Mongolia

One of the few “non loco” things in the museum is this collection of international train boards.

There is a good mix of electric, diesel and steam and they come from various different countries, the UK, the US, Japan, there’s even an oddly colour Belgium locomotive. Perhaps reflecting the political climate some of these machines have lived through, the makers plates seem to have been removed at some point from most examples I could see. Some of the steam engines particularly impress for there size and one of them will be familiar to anyone who has spent too much time looking at the National Railway Museum in York’s collection of steam engines – the only other remaining class member of the huge (British built)  Chinese steam engine housed in the NRM’s main hall.

Diesel locomotive - blue with white lightning stripe

Spiffy paint job

Diesel locomotive - front

Diesel loco

Another shiny locomotive

This staem train is green (I think)

The loco’s come from various countries – this one is from Belgium of all places

Mao has a close association with the railways in China going back to the Civil War - this loco was named after him.

Mao has a close association with the railways in China going back to the Civil War – this loco was named after him.

An old narrow gauge train

An old narrow gauge train

Wheel close up

Artsy shot

Inside a diesel loco cab

Inside a diesel loco cab

Steam Locomotive 4-8-4 KF Class No 7

Look familiar? It’s stable mate is in York

In rather better condition than I've been used to photographing steam trains...

In rather better condition than I’ve been used to photographing steam trains…

The Mao locomotive even came with some not completely awful pretend people

The Mao locomotive even came with some not completely awful pretend people

Steam Locomotive 4-8-4 KF Class No 7

Look familiar? It’s stable mate is in York

Everything is spotlessly clean, there is no rust, there was no evidence of dodgy paint jobs, no one had decided to replace all the glass with black plastic. And no one was having wedding photos taken.  A sea change from the previous rail museums I have seen on this trip, and, to be brutally honest, a little less interesting as a result.

TV with Thomas the Tank Engine

What better way to finish your trip than watching Thomas the Tank Engine in Chinese….

4 Responsesso far.

  1. […] Follow this link for more photos […]

  2. Andy Holt says:

    Nice set of photos Dan! Still awaiting your Vietnam Visa I guess? Andy

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