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unbai Railway, a scenic line with diesel trains. They were launched to address the limited access to drin
king water in the area, where the underground water is undrinkable due to complex mineral components.
“Water coming out of the wells used to render us with Kaschin-beck disease, and we treated ev
ery drop of (safe) water like it was oil,” said Zhou Aiqin, another resident at Huojugou.
Running the train all year around is no easy task, especially in winter when temperatures easily dro
p below minus 20 degrees Celsius. Some of the fuel is spent heating the water during the journey to prevent freezing.
“Water often drips onto our clothes and instantly freezes. We cannot bend our arms or legs
and have to move like a gorilla,” said Jia Lin, a veteran worker at the line’s Quanyang station.
Train crew and station workers, like residents along the line, have been attached to
the delivery missions, even as demands have greatly shrunk due to improved water infrastructure and relocation o
f villagers. The trains now run three times a month, down from three times a week, to serve only 300 residents.
“But as long as the demand exists, our small train will keep on running,” said Xin Yuehong, head of Quanyang station.