On our trip through China, our traveling party had the luxury of riding the high-speed rail from Beijing to Nanjing and Nanjing to Shanghai. As one would expect, the train stations and boarding processes were straightforward and what you would expect anywhere else. What I didn’t expect is how quiet and smooth the trains were for traveling at speeds of 185 miles per hour. The trains we rode weren’t “MagLev” trains that use magnetic levitation that requires no wheels and friction with the tracks. Both of our legs used “conventional” high-speed trains, but still managed to provide an outstanding ride.
Inside the cabins there were a combination of rows and table arrangements, although mostly rows. Train attendants frequently came down the aisle offering shrink-wrapped fruit and beverages for sale. As we left Beijing, the landscape quickly changed from massively developed metropolis to suburban construction of more high-rises to hillside farming. Large networks of power lines continued to run through the landscape quite far from Beijing. We witnessed one large wind turbine field, but little evidence of solar panels, at least along the tracks.
Although we had uneventful train rides, at one point in our journey we did have a major train fiasco. Two group members and I managed to miss our train from Nanjing to Shanghai as a direct result of taking too much time to enjoy a KFC in the train station. The process to exchange our tickets was extremely easy and we were able to catch the next train that came in a half hour. We managed to catch a commuter train instead of the direct one we were originally scheduled for, but each stop only took a few minutes and there were only three stops or so between Nanjing and Shanghai.
Overall, the entire train experience was fast, efficient, and enjoyable. It’s a fantastic way to travel and hopefully the United States will build a similar system to connect major cities someday.