A train runs beside a river in Xinnan village, Henan province. [Photo/www.henan.gov.cn]
ZHENGZHOU－Tucked deep in the mountains of Central China’s Henan province, Xinnan village is using a train to nowhere to attract visitors.
The locomotive and two green carriages, parked on a section of track beside a river, are popular subjects for camera-toting tourists.
Even though the train carries no passengers, it has attracted many visitors and brought fortune to Xinnan’s villagers.
“I saw pictures of the train on social media, and have brought my children here for a visit,” said Xie Bing, from Luoyang, Henan. “The air is really refreshing here.”
Xinnan is not on any rail route maps but is now known as a “railroad village”, thanks to Wang Yanhui, an employee of China Railway Zhengzhou Group, who was appointed to help the villagers fight poverty.
Luanchuan county, which administers Xinnan, is thickly forested and many of its residents were farmers who were unwilling to leave the mountains despite the lack of earning opportunities.
Wang, who first arrived in the village in 2018, believed they could enjoy stable incomes by developing tourism. “The mountains are steep and the land is scarce in the village, so it’s difficult to scale up agricultural production or animal husbandry,” Wang said. “However, the green mountains, clear waters, lush plants, and fresh air make it a great place for developing tourism.”
Wang encouraged villagers to build homestays for visitors. However, even with subsidies and bank loans, many villagers were afraid there might not be enough guests.
To promote his plan, Wang came up with the idea of creating a theme park featuring a railroad. As a senior employee working in the rail system for over 20 years, Wang soon got the resources from his company to put his plan into action.
In October, the village built a train platform near its entrance, laid old steel rails, and placed a scrapped locomotive and two carriages from China Railway Zhengzhou Group on the track.
Wang invited colleagues to be the first batch of visitors to the village one weekend. Soon, more tourists arrived in tour coaches.
With the influx of tourists, more local residents refurbished their houses and opened homestays.
“We have tasted the bitterness of poverty and now, no matter how hard it is to run our own business, we want to do it right,” said Qiao Ling, a 49-year-old villager who was among the first to open a hotel and a restaurant. In the last few months of last year, she made nearly 50,000 yuan ($7,148) from her business.
Zhang Liujun, 60, has made over 10,000 yuan since May from his homestay despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wang is planning more projects in the village, including boat rides, a train-themed cafe, and a restaurant to keep tourists in the village for longer.
“I hope that the railroad village can develop stably, and become a great example of rural tourism,” he said.