The journey took around 30 hours and involved a stop over at the border to literally change the bogies (wheels) on each carriage.
Changing wheels: smaller Chinese train tracks
The railway track gauges in China are smaller then the ones used in Central Asia.
Therefore, the wheels have to be replaced to fit the Chinese tracks.
We arrived at 1am at the border and after practising our first “ni hao”s (Chinese for “hello”) with the polite Chinese boarder control police, our trains went into a nearby train shed.
The boarder control and even the train female attendants (“The Provodnitsas”) all left the carriages to help outside with the changing of the wheels:
All the passengers remain locked inside their carriage. This meant that the air conditioning was switched off and the toilets all locked shut for the duration of the wheel changing performance outside.
The train was then separated into two, one half going one side of the train shed, the other half next to it:
Each carriage was then separated, lifted up one by one, and the Mongolian wheels removed:
Then, the smaller Chinese wheels were inserted:
The carriages were then placed back down and reconnected with one another, with a loud thump:
The whole process took around 3 hours.
At the end, we were allowed out of our carriages for a quick break at the Chinese border before the journey to Beijing continued.
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