China in 2007 - Part 1


A while back I worked for a company that sold railroad measurement equipment. We had a system in China that was having some issues and I was sent to Beijing for about a month to figure out what was wrong. This was in the summer of 2007, about a year before the Olympics came to China.

Countdown to the 2008 Olympics

After a long series of flights from SC, I arrived at the Beijing airport then took a cab (like most cabs at the time, a Jetta III updated with modern VW styling), and I checked into my hotel. It was extremely smoggy, and there was even a coal power plant on the block next to the hotel.

The next morning, I went to the railyard and started work. Because we were a small company we only retained test hardware for our most common configurations, so troubleshooting was usually done in the field.

Rail Yard in Beijing

The technical issue was that a traversing measurement beam was getting lost and moving to the far end of its travel where it could no longer see the rail. Typically a measurement beam was located near one of the bogies, but on some measurement cars there was an additional one in the middle of the car. In this case it needed a linear motor to be able to track the rail when the car went around corners.

Traversing Rail Measurement Beam

My colleague did the preventative maintenance on the system while I dug into the code. One of our hosts from the Ministry of Railways claimed to speak one word of English, which was, “Finished???” I think I figured it out in the first week or two, but it was a problem where the positional scale for the beam as installed was reversed from expected. After that was fixed we did some short test runs as well as one longer one to Chengde.

I had 2 weekends free during that month so I did a little bit of the tourist thing, which I’ll put in aditional posts.