BEIJING, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- A Beijing railway station, which has been in use since the early 1900s, will take its place in the annals of Chinese history as the nation charges full steam ahead with the development of its high-speed rail (HSR) network.
Qinghuayuan Station, which was once the main rail transportation hub linking Beijing and Zhangjiakou, a city in the northern province of Hebei, closed Tuesday, as transportation authorities concentrate on a new HSR line between the two cities, according to Beijing Railway Bureau (BRB).
According to BRB, the new Beijing-Zhangjiakou HSR line will run underground within Beijing's Fifth Ring Road, making the track and stations of the original Beijing-Zhangjiakou route obsolete.
For the time being, a temporary station has been set up for trains that once stopped at the old station, the BRB said.
Since the first piece of HSR track was laid in the early 2000s, China's HSR has seen average annual growth of passenger trips of 30 percent and the whole network was over 20,000-kilometers long by Sept.12, according to China Railway Corp.
China's top economic planner wants the rail network to exceed 175,000 km by 2025. The new Beijing-Zhangjiakou HSR will help the railway authority achieve that target. Undertaken, in part, to support the flow of visitors to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, the new 170-km line will be operational by 2019.
As the nation pushes to upgrade its transportation infrastructure, it will not be long until the last call is made at many of China's other stations and their trains embark on their final journeys.
Zhan Tianyou was appointed by the imperial court of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) to preside over the construction of the railway in 1905. His calligraphy, of the station's name, still adorns the original building's gateway.
"Qinghuayuan Station has stood the test of time, if only its walls could speak. Oh the stories they could tell!" said Liu Fengqiang, the previous head of the station. "The Beijing-Zhangjiakou Railway was the first long-distance railway track in Chinese history, and a hugely arduous undertaking."
The station also predates Tsinghua University, which was established in 1911, and the founding of New China in 1949, Liu added.
"In March 1949, Mao Zedong relocated from Xibaipo, Hebei, to Beijing, but as he was nearing Qianmen Station, in the city center, he decided to get off at Qinghuayuan Station, because there were many spies near Qianmen Station," Liu said.
For the founding ceremony of New China on Oct.1, 1949, a specially-scheduled train left Qinghuayuan Station full to bursting with students from Tsinghua University, all excited about witnessing this momentous occasion.
In the 1950s, as Tsinghua University expanded, the station was moved to a newer building around 800 meters east of the original building, this latter addition was, until its recent closure, the main station building, Liu added.
According to Liu, in the 1950s, trains from Qinghuayuan Station were the main mode of transportation for people, especially students attending the nearby universities of Tsinghua and Peking, headed for the city. However, despite being in the "city proper" they usually had to walk a long way to actually get anywhere.
Fast forward to 21st century China, and with the emergence of subways and the expansion of the railway network, antiquated stations like Qinghuayuan are just relics of a bygone era.
In 2002, when Beijing's subway Line 13 opened, the Wudaokou area near Qinghuayuan Station began to develop, and now the skyline is crowded with shopping malls and office buildings.
Before it closed, more than 30 trains passed through the station everyday, taking passengers to the Badaling Great Wall, Hebei's Chengde City and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the north.
THAT TRAIN HAS LEFT THE STATION
In the days preceding the closure of the station, tickets for trains stopping at the station sold out completely, as people flocked to experience this junction in China's history.
At 9:19 a.m. Sunday morning, a rumbling "green train" (a traditional train) rolled into Qinghuayuan Station. Once at a standstill, swarms of visitors emptied out of the train's coaches. They rushed to photograph the platform, train attendant, the track, the green-colored coaches and the Chinese characters of "Qinghuayuan" at the station. These pictures will be among the last pieces of documentation showing this former transportation hub as an operational station.
Outside, even those who had failed to obtain a ticket were keen to catch one last glimpse of this page in China's history.
"In the 1980s and early 1990s, I used to take a train from here to a station in Miyun District, where I was worked as a scientist," said Song, 75, who braved the freezing cold Sunday morning "to say goodbye to an old memory."
Liu, 54, came with his family. They took a group photo in front of the Qinghuayuan sign, those characters written by Zhan.
"For decades, we have taken the train from here to the Great Wall," Liu said.
"The trains once carried Chinese to places they had only ever dreamed of," said the teacher. "Even though trains will no longer stop here, we will always have our memories."