“Two first class tickets to Shanghai please” was how Liz Barron OBE and her husband Tony requested the ticket office clerk at Barry in South Wales as they set out on the first stage of an epic train journey to Shanghai.
Liz told the Probus Club of Basingstoke, the social club for retired professional and business managers, about how her grandfather Leslie Pardoe had set out on this journey 100 years before. He was a 21 years old bachelor going to start a new job as the deputy surveyor for the authorities in this Chinese city. Shanghai had become an important trading port where British, French and Americans had established enclaves.
“As a little girl I was fascinated with all the Chinese artefacts in my grandma’s house” Liz explained. ”And when grandpa’s diary came to light and I realised that we were coming up to a century since he made that journey the idea came to mind that maybe we could replicate it.”
Liz and Tony took eleven months to plan their trip to ensure that they were able to stay in the same cities and hotels as Leslie had experienced on this 6000 miles adventure. Although she and Tony live in Southampton they decided to start from Barry just as Leslie Pardoe had done a century before.
The route took them on the short stretch to Cardiff and then to London Paddington. They dined that night in the same London restaurant as her grandfather had done and the following day went down to Ramsgate to cross the Channel to Ostend. They had a train journey though northern Europe stopping for short breaks in Brussels, Cologne, Berlin, Warsaw, Minsk and Moscow. Then they had four days and nights on the Trans Siberian railway to Listvyanka on Lake Baikal in Siberia. From there the Trans Manchurian railway took them via Harbin to Changchun in Northern China.
The only change to the route was that her grandfather had taken a three days ferry from Dailen across the East China Sea to Shanghai but the service no longer operates so they completed the final leg by overnight train which passed through Beijing. Leslie’s journey had taken 15 days while the journey for Liz and Tony was longer at 24 days because they wanted to take in some sight-seeing knowing that it was unlikely they would pass this way again.
The large ex-pat communities in Shanghai enjoyed a good social life with horse racing and the Ravenscourt Country Club being some of the attractions.
Leslie Pardoe met there and married Liz’s grandmother, Margaret. Liz’s father, John, was the youngest of their four children. The family left Shanghai after 27 years when the Japanese took over the city in 1940 and they escaped back to England via Canada.
Leslie Pardoe had travelled first class for £10 7s 3d but it cost Liz and Tony £25,000 to replicate this transit.