Iconic railway station tracks development of the city
Jing’an is a potted history of Shanghai. Century-old villas, well-preserved traditional shikumen neighborhoods with high walls and stone gates, and renovated factories all have a story to tell.
Glitzy retail malls, charming boutiques and annual music and arts events give the district a distinctive ambience and ever-growing opportunities.
Beginning this month, we will explore some of the landmarks that have come to characterize the district’s culture, history and human vibrancy.
Name: Shanghai Railway Station
Also known as: Shanghai New Passenger Train Station
Address: 303 Moling Rd
Why famous: the first modern train station on the Chinese mainland
Shanghai Railway Station is currently handling its busiest time of the year – a 40-day peak travel period that includes the mid-February Spring Festival and the Lantern Festival in March.
The station, along with stations in south Shanghai and Hongqiao, will together handle an estimated 13 million passengers during the period, up 10 percent from last year. Shanghai Railway Station is the oldest.
The original four-story, Western-style station was built in 1909 but was destroyed during wartime in the late 1930s. In 1945, the station was rebuilt, and in 1961, it was expanded.
But the station lacked the capacity to accommodate an increasing number of travelers, so it was eventually razed and replaced with the station that stands there today.
Local residents prefer to call it the Shanghai New Passenger Train Station to distinguish it from its predecessor.
Opened in 1987, the new station was designed ahead of its time. It is equipped with 18 elevators, 16 air-conditioned waiting rooms and seven platforms.
Compared to new, more technologically advanced stations, such as the one in Hongqiao, Shanghai Railway Station does look a bit dated. But that’s part of the charm that has created so many memories for local residents. Railway staff, like Liu Zhihui, are working hard to carry on that tradition and spirit.
He’s on hand, helping the needy in transit
Liu Zhihui worked during the Spring Festival holidays, ensuring that a waiting room in Shanghai Railway Station remained in peak operating condition.
The 27-year-old is responsible for a special waiting room for the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women and nursing mothers, and other people with special needs. The room has facilities for wheelchairs, a microwave and a nursing room. Free hot water and blankets are provided.
“There are only four of us on a shift, and we had to serve about 500-600 passengers a day during the Spring Festival travel rush,” Liu said.
Last year during the Chinese New Year, he managed to get a day off to get married. This year, he hardly had time to spend with his wife and five-month baby.
“There is no other way,” he said of his work. “We have to be on duty to ensure that everything is in proper order.”
His job requires a keen eye, extreme patience and quick reactions.
Not long ago, he had to deal with a migrant worker from neighboring Jiangsu Province, who had leg injuries from a work accident in China’s south. She needed to get home to have treatment covered by medical insurance.
At a stopover in Shanghai Railway Station, she was suffering severe pain. Liu called an ambulance.
“We opened a green channel for her,” he said. “At first she didn’t want to go anywhere but home, but we finally persuaded her to see a doctor here. We accompanied her to hospital and booked tickets for her relatives to come to Shanghai.”
For Liu, the unexpected is not uncommon. He once had to lead a group of eight blind passengers through green channel to take a train.
On another occasion, an elderly woman vomited all over his uniform.
“I am now trying to build contacts with associations that care for the disabled and elderly so that I can share information with them and learn how to provide more convenience for such passengers,” he said.