Woman, 63, takes same train journey to China her grandfather did exactly 100 years ago

April 26, 2013 | by | 0 Comments

A woman is following in the footsteps of her grandfather who went all the way to China by train – 100 years ago to the very minute.

Liz Barron, 63, and her husband Tony set off on Saturday at exactly the same time that Leslie Pardoe began his marathon 6,000-mile journey on April 20, 1913.

Mr Pardoe, then a 21-year-old bachelor, left his native Barry in South Wales for a new life as a deputy city engineer in Shanghai.

Liz Barron, 63, and her husband Tony Barron, 71, with their tickets from Barry train station, South Wales

Liz Barron, 63, and her husband Tony Barron, 71, with their tickets from Barry train station, South Wales

He travelled first class to Moscow – for the princely sum of £10 7s 3d – and continued on through Russia, Siberia and Manchuria before arriving in China after 15 days.

Liz and Tony, 71, started their £25,000 journey at the same time on the same date from the front door of his redbrick former home at 28 Romilly Road in Barry.

They boarded the 15.45 train at the local station – and copied Mr Pardoe by telling the guard: “Two first class tickets to Shanghai please.”

The local train took them the short distance to Cardiff where they caught the First Great Western service to London Paddington.

In London they dined at the same Whitehall hotel as he did a century ago before crossing the Channel from Ramsgate to Ostend.

Leslie Pardoe (left) on the Yangtze River in Shanghai, 1917

Leslie Pardoe (left) on the Yangtze River in Shanghai, 1917

Liz and Tony, who have five children and ten grandchildren between them, are now retracing his route across Europe to Moscow, via Brussels, Cologne, Berlin and Warsaw.

Unlike their forerunner, they will be taking short breaks in some of those cities before joining the Trans-Siberian Railway.

They will spend four nights on the train from Moscow to Listvyanka (corr) on Lake Baikal in Siberia.

From there the Trans-Manchurian railway will take them via Harbin to Changchun in Northern China.

The last leg of their route differs from Mr Pardoe’s as he took a three-day ferry ride from Dalien in China to Shanghai.

The ferry service is no longer available and Liz and Tony will instead take an overnight train from Changchun – finally arriving in Shanghai on May 14.

They plan to spend a week in Shanghai visiting some of the places associated with Mr Pardoe who lived in the Far Eastern port for 27 years.

He met Liz’s grandmother Margaret in Shanghai and married her in 1916 and they had four children with Liz’s dad John the youngest of their three sons.

Mr Pardoe left Shanghai for good in 1940 when the Japanese took over the city and escaped back to England via Canada.

He died in 1965 – but left detailed notes and photographs of his epic journey.

They have been handed down through relatives to Liz and enabled her to faithfully recreate his marathon train trek.

Liz, a childrens’ author and former county councillor, said: “As a little girl I was fascinated with all the Chinese artefacts in my grandma’s house.

“One day grandpa’s diary turned up and I decided that I had to follow what he’d done.

“I then realised we were close to the 100-year anniversary of his trip and everything fell into place.

“We’re even starting from his old house in Barry – with the current owner’s permission – and following grandpa as closely as possible.

“He kept a diary, written in pencil on 25 loose sheets of paper, so we have a pretty good idea of where he went.

“He travelled with four other young men and went the entire way by first class, which was
a major achievement all those years ago.

“His train de-railed just outside Moscow – where the line had only been completed around 15 years earlier – but it was repaired within seven hours.

“It really was a remarkable adventure and the start of a very eventful life in Shanghai.”

Liz and Tony, from Southampton, will travel virtually all the way by first class, apart from China where everything is a uniform second-class.

Tony, a quantity surveyor, said: “We are expecting to face some challenges on this trip.

“But I’m sure my experiences of travelling on other trains around the world when I was working abroad will not be repeated.

“They were often overcrowded with families, their baggage and their animals and were hot, smelly and uncomfortable.

“We are not faint-hearted but that would be a step too far.”

The couple plan to spent another three weeks touring China and another visiting relatives in Hong Kong before returning home at the beginning of June.

Their seven-week holiday has taken 11 months to plan with train operators First Great Western providing them with free first class return tickets to Paddington.

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