Celebrating ‘One Billion Journeys’ At The National Railway Museum

July 15, 2019

As somebody who can never sit still, I love filling my ‘days off’ with trips out to explore new places. And when they’re free, I’m absolutely there! I recently went to the National Railway Museum to see their new ‘One Billion Journeys‘ exhibition and it was the perfect way to spend a muggy summer’s afternoon.

I haven’t been to the National Railway Museum since I was a young kid with my parents, so getting to explore it as an adult was a totally different experience. You have a new found respect for what you’re seeing when you grow up – the history, how times have changed and the never-ending feeling of ‘Why don’t we have gorgeous trains like these anymore’?

As we walked through the numerous train exhibits and admired the trains of old and new, I couldn’t help but feel like things haven’t got better as the years have passed. Trains have actually lost their initial beauty and grandeur from Victorian times all the way through to the 20th century. Today’s trains are pretty grotty in comparison to Queen Victoria’s regal carriages complete with colour-coordinated living areas, bedrooms and dining rooms.

The Japanese Bullet Train
Chilling out on the Japanese Bullet Train with Harry Bartlett

The One Billion Journeys exhibit sets a prime example of how train journeys have changed over time and how society’s changes can be represented in the ways humans travel.

The One Billion Journeys exhibit is a photography exhibition featuring images taken by Chinese photographer Wang Fuchun. Fuchun has been taking photographs on the Chinese railways for 40-years, documenting the people on these journeys.

I mean, he couldn’t have got a more perfect shot!

Photographer Wang Fuchun’s intimate portraits of rail travel in China are a microcosm of life. The exhibition explores these fleeting moments, human stories and the universal experience of travelling by train.

What is special about Wang Fuchun’s photography is that it is totally natural. The pictures are stolen moments of real human interaction.

This photograph of a couple cosying up on a journey was my favourite because of how intimate and real the moment he captured is. Unsurprisingly, this is one of Wang Fuchun’s most popular photos for the same reason.

“This couple were lying on their berth together, wrapped up in their own small world. Each time they kissed they pulled the blanket over their heads to shield them from the view of other passengers. The warmth and love in their eyes have made this one of Mr Wang’s most popular photographs.”

Wang Fuchun claims to have been on every rail journey in China and has been taking photos of the people on these journeys for the past 40 years. So naturally, his photos serve as a commentary on how human interaction and life has changed over the past four decades…

For example, there was a comparison of two photographs. One was taken in 2008 and the other was taken in 2018. In the picture from 2008, there was a TV on the train and everybody was watching it. In 2018, with a TV in the train carriage, everybody has their head down in their mobile phones. How things have changed in the space of 10 years…

“Since the late 1970s, steam trains like this one have taken people away from their hometowns to find work. People used to lean out of the windows to enjoy the scenery, but now carriages are completely sealed and you couldn’t get a good view if you tried.”

This photo just reminds me of THIS picture from my childhood…

Tell me I’m not the only person who was mentally scarred as a child after seeing this picture in their Roald Dahl book?

The exhibit at the National Railway Museum is the first time that Wang Fuchun’s photographs have been made into an exhibition in the UK. The exhibit is at the National Railway Museum in York from 24th May – 11th August 2019. So go catch it during this strange-weathered summer!

“Over his years as a photographer, Mr Wang has noticed that passengers are becoming less conservative. People taking selfies with face masks on is something he would not have seen until very recently.”
Getting a photo with the locals…

The exhibition and the Railway Museum are totally free to explore. There are so many things to see and learn, plus there are several cafes to eat at, and there’s even a simulator called ‘The Mallard Experience’.

The Mallard train holds the world record for the fastest steam locomotive at 126mph. You can not only see it in person within the Railway Museum, but you can also take a ride on ‘The Mallard Experience’ simulator for a touch of fun. I’d recommend this to people with young kids who will love the thrill, but as a proper thrill-seeker myself, I did find it a bit tame. It’s definitely aimed at children!

Head to the National Railway Museum for a fun and free day out! It is just around the corner from York train station – it is literally a 3-minute walk off one of the platforms and it’s all signposted within the train station. The ‘One Billion Journeys’ exhibition is running until the 11th of August so book it into your early summer holiday itinerary!

This post was written in collaboration with the National Railway Museum and the ‘One Billion Journeys’ exhibition.

Prev Post Next Post