Tibetan train operator fulfills his dreams

Sonam Wangdrak, a native Tibetan train engineer, will be operating Tibet's first bullet trains on the new Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

With the recent news of the debut of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway's launch of Fuxing bullet trains in the Tibet autonomous region, a Tibetan engineer has become an icon on social media.

Sonam Wangdrak, who comes from the Lhorong county in the Tibet autonomous region, has been an engineer — the railway equivalent of an airplane pilot — for 14 years. He has a safety record of more than 550,000 kilometers, with more than 2,000 safe trips on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Operating trains is the fulfillment of his dreams from boyhood. In the 1980s, while in primary school at age 7, he heard about trains from his teacher the first time and saw a picture. He was hooked instantly.

Being told by his teacher that only by working hard every day toward a dream would have a chance to fulfill it, he was inspired. By 2003, he had enrolled in Lanzhou Railway Machinery School in Gansu province, and he traveled more than 2,500 km in six days on bus trips from his hometown to get there.

He studied for four years in Lanzhou, returning home once a year during the school holidays. Study consumed his time.

In 2007, Sonam Wangdrak began an internship with China Railway Qinghai-Tibet Group Co in Qinghai province. After five years of honing his skills, he passed the rigorous examinations required of candidates and became a full-fledged engineer in the region.

Tibetan engineer Sonam Wangdrak inspects his train every time it stops. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

After a series of fiercely competitive selection procedures, Sonam Wangdrak received a license to operate Fuxing bullet trains in Tibet last year.

Others might steer away from work in remote Tibet, with its thin air. But for Sonam Wangdrak, it was like being home. His new working location is not far from his home county.

"When I was young, a person may not have a chance to see a train in their whole life. Now, I have become an engineer, and I want to say thanks to our nation and to the Communist Party of China," Sonam Wangdrak said.

"After a few years, my hometown, Chamdo, will also have railway service, and I hope one day I will be able to go home by train," he said.

"My hometown is not yet connected, but it is much closer now. I hope more people in the region will benefit from trains in the near future."

Sonam Wangdrak on June 25, the day of the Lhasa-Nyingchi line began operations in Tibet. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]