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Driver from Hebei proud to have taken tracks through history

Updated: Dec 28, 2020 By ZHANG YU in Xiong'an China Daily Print
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Han Junjia pilots a testing train out of the Xiong'an Railway Station, Xiong'an New Area, Hebei province, on Thursday. [Photo/Xinhua]

Tiedi Feixing, or flying close to the ground, is the nickname of Han Junjia's account on the popular WeChat instant messaging platform.

The 48-year-old gave his account that name because he has driven trains along railways across China for 28 years.

"Except for Guizhou province, I have been to all places in our country," Han said.

About 1.89 meters tall, he wears a tidy driver's uniform to work-a dark blue suit, white shirt and a red-and-white striped tie.

On Thursday, he took a smart train for a test run on an intercity high-speed railway line linking Beijing and the Xiong'an New Area in Hebei province, about 100 kilometers southwest of the capital.

The line, which opened on Sunday, is the first major transport facility involving Xiong'an that has been built since the new economic zone was established in April 2017.

The railway will feature new Fuxing bullet trains capable of traveling at 350 kilometers per hour.

Throughout his career, Han has driven various types of trains, including steam trains and diesel-powered ones.

"I'm very proud that I have seen important milestones in China's railway development until now, when our country is leading the world in high-speed rail technology," he said.

Han was first recruited as a train driver in 1992 in his hometown of Zhangjiakou, Hebei, about 150 km northwest of Beijing.

At the time, he drove steam trains.

"The highest speed was about 50 or 60 km/h," Han said. "The windows in the driver's cab had to be open no matter what the season was because we needed to lean out to watch the line and signals ahead."

In 1996, Han started driving diesel locomotive trains. Those passenger trains could run at a speed of about 120 km/h, he said.

"I no longer had to deal with coal ash and smoke, like in the past on steam trains, but I had to shout while talking to my colleague, because such trains were very noisy," he said. "Plus, I would always smell like diesel oil. My wife always complained that my clothes still smelled after they were washed."

In 2008, Han's working environment improved further after he started driving electric locomotive trains.

"I could finally wear my favorite white shirts to work, because there was no coal or diesel," he said.

Han recalled his cab was equipped with computerized safety systems, air conditioning, a refrigerator and a microwave.

"I wouldn't have thought to have them in the past," he said.

In 2017, he began driving the speedy Fuxing trains.

"It's like a giant dragon, flying all across our country," Han said proudly. "Compared with all the trains I have driven, the Fuxing bullet trains are the most convenient for drivers to operate."

Rather than being equipped with many operating handles like older trains, a Fuxing train only has one handle that can control all the train's movements, Han added.

He is excited not only because he can drive the state-of-the-art trains, which for him is a great honor, but also because he can live a relatively normal life with his family.

Han's wife is an attendant on trains running on the high-speed railway line linking Beijing and Zhangjiakou.

"In the past, we could only meet about once every 40 days, because both of us are running on railways and rarely had time to be together," Han said.

They married in 2000 and his wife gave birth to their daughter the next year.

When talking about their daughter, Han's eyes fill with tears. Due to their busy schedules, she was raised by Han's parents at their home in Qiaodong district, Zhangjiakou, something Han said he regrets.

"We've missed so many valuable moments in her life, such as the first time she said a word, the first time she could walk and the first time she went to school," he said. "She hated us for not being with her while she grew up, and I feel very sorry about that."

Han said many of his apprentices had quit because the busy work schedule kept them away from home throughout the year.

In the past decade, the situation has improved because trains are running faster, saving drivers more time.

"Now, we can always meet every few days," he said.

Despite the family's difficulties, Han said he was happy he decided to stick with the job.

"I'm glad I have persevered with the career, otherwise I would never have the chance to drive smart bullet trains and witness each step in our country's railway development," he said.

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