For a moment, standing there at the station in Nanking, my heart skipped a beat. I saw this wonderful piece of machinery reversing down the track and I thought it was getting hitched to the locomotive-less carriages on the platform in front of us.

But then I saw it change direction and it slowly sidled over two tracks. My disappointment was palpable and was made complete when a nondescript diesel locomotive arrived for our carriages.

I watched as the engineer reversed down the track, some carriages already linked to the front of the locomotive, and slowed to a crawl so his assistants could make the connection.

Our guide told us we had to board and we left the station before the steam engine did so I don’t know if it was actually making a run or just shunting around the station yards.

I’d long wanted to make a steam train journey of some distance, and still do. To date I’ve only made short trips on volunteer-run lines in the UK. They’re fun but when you end up back where you started after only a short passage of time, the sense of having journeyed somewhere is somewhat diluted, I think.

Black and White rendition first, color below that.

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I took this photo of an Nanjing Intersection from my hotel room in the city back in 1991. I’d be very surprised if the hotel is still there, let alone the collection of trader stalls under the tarps. Like so many Chinese cities, Nanjing has undergone tremendous growth and rejuvenation in the intervening years.

I’d flown here from Xi-an and had literally just checked in. The following morning we would go to see the Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum and the first bridge over the Yangtze river completely designed and constructed by the Chinese without outside involvement. The bridge was completed in 1968 and was then and remains a symbol of pride for the Chinese.

Of course, these days, China graduates more engineers each year than the US graduates in all subjects, so I’ve been told. Even if only half true, the rise of the Chinese economy shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

But while the Chinese appear keen to preserve the more formal reminders of their past, like many other countries they tend to recycle land and re-imagine their cities and skylines. In doing so, corners such as this disappear or get moved out of sight.

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The legend, ‘The most charming ancient capital – Xian’ is written in seven languages on this poster, with English coming in last place.

Curiously, for me, this poster was on the departure side at the airport in Xi’an when I passed through in 1991. Maybe it was to inform departing travelers what they were leaving behind. Or maybe it’s because you have no choice but to linger on the departing side whereas on arrival you just pass through to get your bags.

Top left in the poster is the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. The prettier Small Wild Goose Pagoda doesn’t appear to be represented. The hangar shaped building below the plane disgorging it’s brightly colored passengers represents the building erected over the Terracotta warriors to protect them from the elements and on the right are some of those warriors. There’s one of the ancient city gates and depictions of the old city walls but I’m at a loss to explain what all the colored flags mean but they probably represent local industries and culture.

The central crowd of tourists are an eclectic bunch though the westerner on the left with the grey beard, longer hair and sunglasses looks a little creepy.

The title itself has that flavor of Chinglish – a translation from the Chinese that is probably accurate word-for-word but loses something in translation by translating at the word level rather than the phrase level. One particular example of Chinglish that sticks in my mind was the instructions on a pack of lens cleaning papers I once had. It read, ‘After cleaning the dirt and dust are hardly stained’, whatever that was supposed to mean.

I doubt this poster still exists. I would think by now that Xi’an has a newer, more modern, airport and that this building, if not the poster, has long since been torn down. Xi’an was presented to me in 1991 as a sleepy tourist destination. Today it’s an emerging megacity with a population of over 7 million.

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I would imagine that there’s a considerable need for bicycle repair men in China. Maybe these days there are more cars on the road, a lot more than in 1991 when I took this photo, but bicycles are still in high demand.

I don’t know if any form of commerce license was needed to set up shop but it looks as though these two just picked a place on the street. I wondered where they worked when it rained. Maybe still here.

They’ve a reasonable range of spares hanging on the rope slung between the two trees; everything from inner tubes and tires to saddles and sprockets. They even have replacement saddle springs!

There’s also a range of what look like used parts laid out on the sidewalk – like the box of mechanical nik-naks that yard-sellers place out to keep the men engaged allowing the women to browse for longer, looking for the real treasures.

Curiously, the two bikes in the foreground both seem to have some form of number plate suspended from the saddle springs. Maybe this was just a way to help the owners identify their particular bikes when parked among a million others. Maybe it was something else.

I also find it interesting that the makers name on the saddle of the bike on the left is in English letters and not Chinese characters.

Of course, no post on bicycle repair men can be complete without the link to the famous Monty Python Sketch.

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I’ve ridden numerous motorcycles over the years but I’ve never ridden a sidecar motorcycle, either as the driver of the motorcycle or as the passenger in the sidecar.

I imagine that steering takes a little getting used to – less emphasis on leaning and more on turning the handlebars. I still marvel at the acrobatics of the sidecar motorcycle racers, the passengers performing all manner of acrobatics mere inches above the tarmac to keep the machine on the ground through the various turns.

Today’s photo was again taken on the streets of Xi’an in 1991. Maybe it’s a coincidence that both vehicles in this shot look like military vehicles of some sort, though obviously the threesome on the motorcycle and sidecar are not dressed in uniform.

I like that the sidecar has that windshield. Clearly the lady there would be protected from the impact of bugs, but not the driver. When I used to ride, I wore a full face helmet most of the time. Inhaling flies at 70 mph was never my favorite experience!

Clearly there was no requirement in this part of China to wear helmets. Interestingly, where helmets are required, there are more head injuries. just like the introduction of steel helmets in WWI led to a rise in head injuries. The reason, of course, is that without the helmet a survivable accident becomes a fatality.

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