how to take the train from mongolia to china

Changing the Bogies – Taking the Train from Mongolia to China

Taking the train from Mongolia to China involves a train track size change.  They have to change the bogies on the train.  While you’re still on it!

We’d read vaguely about the changing of the bogies in the Trans-Siberian guides.  I didn’t, however, pay it any attention, as I couldn’t really figure out what happened.

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED AND AFFILIATE LINKS MORE INFORMATION IN OUR DISCLAIMER

The rail gauge is different between Mongolia and China (or between Russia and China).  This means that the carriages that head between the countries need to have the bogies, or “the wheels that they run on”  changed. Russia and Mongolia use 1,520 mm gauge track, China uses 1,435 mm, or standard gauge.

Looks like a scrapyard eh? Changing the Bogies
Looks like a scrapyard eh?
Bogies, lots of Bogies
Bogies, lots of Bogies

Our first clue that something was happening was after Chinese passport control,  just after our fruit was confiscated.  The train started going backwards towards Mongolia. We began to pass side track after side track of spare bogies. There might be repetition here, but I just love that word. Bogie. The child in me sniggers each time I type it.

The bogie changing shed
The bogie changing shed

A brief stop and then we headed forward into a train shed.

Our lifts
Our lifts

We are now shunted forward and there’s a jerk, the carriage in front of us is gone and we’re in the middle of a huge train shed. Red hydraulic lifts now line the track, and an overhead crane hovers expectantly. On rails alongside are bogies, the track in front of us leads off out of the shed into the distance. We are decoupled from the carriage behind and marooned on our own.

It's manual labor..
It’s manual labor..

Before long there are clunks and our carriage starts to rise.  At first the windowed door at either end of the carriage is open and we grin at the workmen below.  Before too long someone realizes and the doors are locked. Its airless, just a choking breath of coal smoke.

Hydraulic Lifts & the Crane
Hydraulic Lifts & the Crane

The over head crane whizzes backwards and forward, delivering new bogies.  It removes Mongolian ones, while we watch the progress on the carriage behind. Mongolian bogies are unfastened, then as the carriage is raised, manually rolled forward, first one, then the second. A hammer put on the track to stop them rolling backwards.

Our Mongolian bogie going away
Our Mongolian bogie going away

The crane arrives to remove the old bogies, after dropping new ones in front of the carriage, these are then rolled underneath. The difference in gauge size seems small. our new bogies sit on the outside of the track the old ones the inside.

The carriage in front, sans bogie
The carriage in front, sans bogie

I’ve forgotten to count how many carriages there are before getting on this train, but its easy to see why this takes a while.  There is one overhead train and a crew of men for each carriage. Others who travel south to China, who don’t want to wait for this, take the train to Zamyn-Uud and then cross the border in a jeep.  You are not allowed to walk across the border here.  The faster border crosses then either take a train or a bus.  It’s a much quicker route, but for me, watching the changing of the bogies was well worth the extra time.

Line of Jeeps at the Border, driving folks over
Line of Jeeps at the Border, driving folks over

Our carriage is lowered onto Chinese stock. A further carriage rolls back towards us and attachs to us with loud bangs and thuds.  It’s the first of many as the carriages are connected and we roll forward.  We’re unable to tell whether the thuds are us moving onto the smaller gauge, or, just the normal operation of the train.  It wasn’t, after all, a restful night to get here.

And with that, the changing of the bogies is done. We’re in China and now we’re heading for Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.

Ni hao!

Our lifts
Our lifts
Our Mongolian bogie going away
Our Mongolian bogie going away
The carriage in front, sans bogie
The carriage in front, sans bogie
It's manual labor..
It’s manual labor..
Bogie Changing
Bogie Changing
I could have watched this all day
I could have watched this all day
IMG_9026
IMG_9028
Losing the Mongolian Bogies
Losing the Mongolian Bogies
IMG_9032
See the difference in the width of the bogies, small but sigfnicant
See the difference in the width of the bogies, small but sigfnicant
IMG_9034
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Light at the End of the Tunnel

Resources

Travel Tips for Exploring China

We receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using our affiliate links. We do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

ASocialNomad is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, and amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One thought on “Changing the Bogies – Taking the Train from Mongolia to China”