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The sun moved slowly through the high blue sky...The gulping, wheezing steam engine, with its characteristic rattles and shakes, released a dragon of black smoke.'

That was how American writer Paul Theroux descried his train trip in China in his 1988 book, 'Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China.'
这是美国作家保罗•索鲁(Paul Theroux)在1988年著作《骑乘铁公鸡:搭火车横越中国》(Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China)中对他在中国搭火车旅行的描述。
Such so-called 'green-skinned' trains (named for the color of their external paint) started running in the 1950s and were heavily used for three decades, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Traditionally they were powered by steam engine, though diesel trains are now the norm.
Now, as shiny bullet trains whoosh past new stations throughout China, the country is saying goodbye to its old-time green trains, which are known for their distinctively slow pace and lack of air conditioning, as well as their belching black smoke.
The final green train to traverse provinces left Zhengzhou, a transportation hub in central Henan province, at noon last week and arrived 24 hours and six minutes later at Wenzhou in southern Zhejiang province, according to a media report carried on the Henan provincial government website this week.
The green giant was retired on Tuesday and will be replaced with a modern, red-painted train with air conditioning, the report said.
Though green trains still run locally in some areas, they are gradually being phased out. The Zhengzhou-Wenzhou green train was the last train running between provinces of its kind. (Though a green-painted train runs between Beijing and Tibet, unlike traditional green trains, it offers luxurious interiors, including air conditioning and well-appointed bathrooms.)
China boasts more tracks of high-speed train rails than any other country in the world, which together span more than 100,000 kilometers. Such technology has radically cut travel time, with modern high-speed trains zipping by at more than 300 kilometer (186 miles) per hour, government officials have said.
Online this week, netizens wrote nostalgically about the disappearance of China's green trains.
'I took this train to go home in Hangzhou on the 28th. It was very crowded. No air conditioning. But it was cheap,' one wrote.
'It's all about my childhood memory of crawling through the windows to just get on the trains on our way home. Bye bye [green trains]!' wrote another. At times, cheap, old-fashioned 'green trains' were so crowded that with doors blocked, people literally had to crawl through windows in order to board.
When I was five years old, I took my first trip on one of China's green giants, riding around five hours from my small hometown in Hebei province to Beijing. At the crowded station, my father had to grab me by my arms and raise me above his shoulders to make our way through the crowd.
Inside the train, I felt sick. It was dark and smelly, even with the windows open. The ride was bumpy and noisy. My mother kept telling me try to imagine I was eating a sour pear, a kind of fruit eaten in China to get rid of motion sickness. 'You'll feel better,' she said.
Four years ago, far from home while riding a train from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia--one of the more modern gray Amtrak trains--the sun spots moved slowly on the white seats. I flipped through a book of art and enjoyed the smooth ride. Yet even as I sat there, all my nostalgic mind could think about was the rumbling of the dark green trains of my childhood.

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