Beijing, Mr. Gao




Mr. Gao Baolin works as a keeper at the railroad crossing in Bei Yaodi (on the north side of Jiu Xianqiao North Road; near east fifth ring road).


Mr. Gao used to work at construction sites until 8 years ago. Since then he has been working full time as a keeper at this railroad crossing. In total 12 crossing keepers work in shifts to operate the gates and to safeguard that the operation works according to safety procedures.


Every time a train arrives, Mr. Gao will play a recording saying “Incoming(/outgoing) train is arriving, please be careful”, stop the traffic and clear the tracks together with two of his co-workers.


On this track between 20 and 40 trains pass by in a day; both freight trains and passenger trains. When passing by, trains have an average speed of 50 – 60 km/hr. The time each train arrives is usually fixed, but they are a bit late these days.


The railroad crossing needs someone to be on duty 24 hours a day, thus there are three eight-hour shifts every day. Mr. Gao takes three different shifts in three days and then he will have a day of rest before the next three days of shifts start.  For his full-time job, 48 hours a week, he earns a little more than 1,000RMB, he says (we assume this is the minimum wage for Beijing: 1160 RMB/month). Other benefits include a basic insurance and some gifts with festivals.


According to Mr.Gao, being a crossing keeper is more relaxed than his job at a construction site, but it brings more responsibility. It’s a suitable job for older people like him.  Mr. Gao’s wife is retired and his 28-year-old son just got married.






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