more on qianmen

April 26th, 2008

No, it’s not just trams, but a railway museum, too. And this article is a couple of days old, but I’ve had trouble connecting to nciku (apparently because I’m on a university network, and nciku runs on another of the backbones of the Chinese internet, and the two don’t always cooperate so well- or something like that (could this also explain why things like Baidu Baike can take such a long time to load?)) and my good dictionary was stuck in the office (poor sod- I’ve rescued him, though). Anyway, after that post on the Qianmen trams, I came across this article on Qianlongwang about establishing a new railway museum in the old railway station. A much more appropriate use for the building than a shopping centre, as it currently is.


Qianmen Railway Station will “turn into” a museum


Situated at the southeast corner of Tiananmen Square, the former site of the Jingfeng Railway Zhengyangmen East Station (commonly called Qianmen Railway Station), this Old Station Shopping Centre familiar to the people will serve as the Beijing Railway Museum, formally opening to the public on 1 August this year. At present, Qianmen Old Station is wrapped tightly in a layer of green protective netting, being renovated before the arrangement of exhibitions.

据参与博物馆筹建的首都铁路公关协会工作人员介绍,筹建中的北京铁路博物馆展馆有地上三层和地下一层,一层规划为固定展览《中国铁路百年发展史》,京张铁 路、京奉铁路,清政府与铁路将是展览重点。二层为固定展览《改革开放30年中国铁路现代化发展成就展》,我国几次铁路提速以来的现代化装备实物或模型等将 是展览重点。

According to a worker with the Capital Railway Public Relations Organisation establishing the museum, the Beijing Railway Museum under construction will have three floors above ground and one below ground. The first floor is planned to hold the fixed exhibition “History of 100 Years of Development of Chinese Railways”, with the Jingzhang and Jingfeng Railways, and the Qing government and railways as the key points of the exhibit. The second floor will hold the fixed exhibition “Exhibition of the Modernisation, Development and Accomplishments of the Chinese Railways over the 30 Years of Reform and Opening Up”, key points of this exhibition covering the modernisation of equipment and models since the speeds on China’s railways have been raised several times.

一台动车组的模拟驾驶舱将出现在二层展区,这台驾驶舱的模拟时速最高可达350公里。在一层展区,中国人制造的第一台蒸汽机车“龙号”机车的等大复原模型 将展示,铺设在“龙号”机车模型下面的铁轨取材自京郊延庆的康庄,是从詹天佑设计监修的第一条中国自建铁路———京张铁路上整体截下的一段,还刻有 “1908”的字样。

In the exhibition area on the second floor there will be a simulated train crew’s control compartment, whose highest simulated speed will reach 350 km/h. On the first floor exhibition area, a restored model of the first steam engine built by Chinese people, the locomotive “Dragon”, will be displayed, and the rails the locomotive “Dragon” sits on will be taken from Kangzhuang in the Beijing suburb of Yanqing, from China’s first self-built railroad, designed by Zhan Tianyou- a section of the Jingzhang Railway, still bearing the number “1908”.


Currently, the Beijing Railway Museum still under construction is receiving exhibits one after the other from every corner of China.


News memory


Qianmen Old Station records China’s hundred years of railway history


What Beijingers commonly call Qianmen Old Railway Station is in fact called “Zhengyangmen East Station”, quite possibly all those who have been to Tiananmen Square have all passed by its doors. Construction of this European-style building situated on the southeast corner of Tiananmen Square began in 1901 (27th year of Guangxu), and was completed in 1906, and already has over a hundred years of history behind it.

建成后,前门老火车站成了当时全国最大的火车站,车站站房建筑面积3500平方米。站内三座站台,长度377米,候车室总面积达1500平方米,是当时中 国最大的交通枢纽。此后,该建筑经历了从清末民初、北洋政府、日伪统治、国民党统治到新中国成立的不同历史阶段,站名从正阳门东站、前门站、北平站、北平 东站到北京站,经历多次演变,至1959年9月15日,新北京站开通运营,这座建筑完成了它作为铁路车站的历史使命。

When it was built, Qianmen Old Station was the biggest railway station in China at that time, covering an area of 3500 square metres. With three  377-metre long platforms and a 1500-square metre waiting room, it was the biggest transportation hub in China at the time. Later, passed through the different stages of history from the end of the Qing and early days of the Republic, the Beiyang Warlords government, Japanese puppet rule, Kuomintang rule, through to the establishment of New China, and the name of the station has changed many times from Zhengyangmen East Station through Qianmen Station, Beiping Station, Beiping East Station to Beijing Station, until 15 September 1959 when the new Beijing Station was opened, bringing this building’s historical mission as a railway station to an end.


In the early 60s of last century, the old station first became a science and technology institute of the Railways Ministry, but before long was returned to the Beijing Railway Bureau and became the Beijing Railway Workers Cultural Palace, with the waiting room being used as a theatre for many years. In the 90s of the last centure it became the Old Station Shopping Centre.

I found two irritating little problems in this:

  1. What is the 京奉铁路? At first I read it as Jing-Qin and assumed it ran to Qinhuangdao, but then I realised it was fèng, and I started looking around. I can’t find anything about a 京奉铁路, though, and I can’t find a meaning for 奉 that refers to a place. I thought, well, maybe it is mean to be 京秦铁路 and somehow got mixed up in some non-pinyin-based IME- the characters are pretty similar, after all. No, clearly not.  My question was answered almost by accident. Read below.
  2. I’m assuming “清末民初” refers to “the end of the Qing and early days of the Republic”. I couldn’t find any clear reference, though.

As for Zhan Tianyou and the Jingzhang Railway, my new book Filming as War Clouds Loom in 1937- 6000km with a Cinecamera by Sun Mingjing, translated by Sun Jianqiu (Beijing, Foreign Languages Press, 2006), had some pretty interesting words:

The railway line between Nankou and Qinglongqiao (meaning Blue Dragon Bridge) slopes upward. The locomotive was placed at the tail end of the train for fear that carriages might get disconnected and be left behind. There are several forked byrails along the section for the train to branch off in case it can’t move any further. The far end of each branch line is much higher, so when the train starts to move again, it can rapidly accelerate down the slope to climb a further steeper one ahead. Normal trains with massive locomotives have no need to use the branch lines. These forking branches are designed for extraordinarily heavy trains and also as a necessary safety measure.


The story of the construction of the Pingsui Railway is a long one. In 1898, when Russia obtained the authority to construct the Jinghan Railway, it demanded from the Qing Government the authority to extend the railway line all the way to Kulun Kyakhta in Russia. Britain objected, but didn’t speak straight out. Instead, it persuaded the Qing Government to allow it to construct the Jing-Zhang Railway (from Beiping to Zhangjiakou) using British capital. In 1905, guranteed by the British government, the Qing government borrowed five million yuan from the Jing-Feng [Beijing-Shenyang] Railway and some railway companies inside and outside the Shanhaiguan Pass and began to construct the railway. However, after the survey work was completed the foreign experts all agreed that due to the mountain ridges it would be a difficult project that would cost at least 100 million yuan [about U.S. $12.5 million]. In answer to the knotty problem, Mr. Zhan Tianyou avoided the digging of long tunnels but designed these branch lines instead. Though the slope is much steeper than the normal standard, it is still safe for the trains. The most ingenious part of his design is the big curve at the Qinglongqiao Station. When the northbound train from Nankou arrives at Qinglongqiao with no more slopes ahead, it turns toward the west instead of travelling further north, following a route in the shape of a letter “Y”. Then it goes through the Badaling tunnel, which is more than 300 m long, and slopes down to Kangzhuang. The line after Kangzhuang is smooth, and massive locomotives can complete their journeys with ease.

(pages 91 – 92)

All of which I think is pretty cool.

And there’s more news on Yanqing and trains, but that will have to wait. I need lunch.

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