Lop Nur lies at the south-eastern part of Hami city, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Surrounded by desert, no plant grows within hundreds of kilometres around it. Here, strong winds whirl for nearly 200 days in a year. The Hami-Lop Nur Railway starts from Hami east to Lop Nur.
Ba Te is a small railway station, with only three staff running it. They may be far away from downtown and facing year-round harsh weather, but this bad working environment does not stop the staff from doing a good job.
Ba Te station is just a small houe built with old used steel boards. In the space of less than 20 square meters, the three railway men work and spend their everyday lives.
It is in this shabby environment, that they designed these ingenious traffic signs.
Liu Shupu, Station Master, said, This traffic sign is made from iron line and iron sheet. We make it in a round shape for the drivers to catch it easily.
Everyday, a dozen of cargo trains pass through here. It’s a much looked-forward to time of the day for the three men. The trains stop shortly, bring them company, and also fresh fruits and vegetables from Hami downtown.
23 year old Wang Yuanhang is the youngest. Since childhood, he has dreamed about being a train driver. Though this dream turns into work at such a desolate place, he has no regrets.
There’s nothing to feel pitiful about. It is normal to adventure here and there in the world for young people. When you get old, you can not go anywhere.
Here it is dry and windy. In May, a strong gale blew the whole station to pieces.
Liu Shupu, Station Master, said, It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, we were chatting in the room. There was a new round of wind, making the house swing side to side. And then the whole house just blew up, including our TV and quilts.
Luckily none of them were injured. Nor did it scare them away. Four days later, a new house stood in its place, sturdier than before.
They may be able to withstand the weather conditions, but loneliness is torturous. The TV signal is unstable, and the scene outside is a never changing picture. To kill time, Master Liu reads e-books, Wang Yuanhang takes care of their two plants. And the oldest Xiao Benxiang is ever expanding his collection of uniquely shaped stones from the desert.
Currently, the Hami-Lop Nur Railway is still under construction. After its completion, a new station house will also be built. In the future, all trains travelling to Lop Nur will be computer-controlled. And it will be time for the three men to move on to another station.