Father builds 8 miniature trains to show love for autistic son

(People's Daily Online) 10:57, April 28, 2023

In southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, a man spent eight years constructing eight miniature steam trains for his autistic son. His love and dedication have brought new hope for his son and their family.

A GIF shows Hanghang driving his miniature train in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality. (Photo/CCTV News)

In a rural courtyard in Yongchuan district of Chongqing, 15-year-old Hanghang enthusiastically described his beloved train, “This is the pressure gauge. These are the forward and reverse gears. This is the speed controller.”

At age three, Hanghang was diagnosed with autism. After struggling through primary school, he dropped out due to difficulties communicating with his peers.

When his parents were at work, Hanghang spent most of his time watching TV. He took a particular interest in small cartoon trains, even falling asleep while holding toy trains.

Hanghang’s father, Li Jiawei, is an electrician. Noticing his son’s fascination with trains, Li often took him to watch real steam trains. This inspired him to build miniature replicas for his son. Li began studying the appearance and internal composition of steam trains, and consulted train station workers for knowledge.

Li received a book on steam locomotives from a retired train driver and spent three months designing blueprints for a locomotive using CAD software.


A photo shows a locomotive blueprint by Li Jiawei. (Photo/CCTV News)

Due to the intricate manufacturing process and low demand, factories were unwilling to produce parts for the trains. Instead, Li had to learn about mechanical drive systems and the principles of dynamics, determined to make the trains himself.

“Life has to be meaningful. I can only leave my spirit, or something memorable for my son, to let him feel his father’s love,” said Li.

A GIF shows Hanghang smiling. (Photo/CCTV News)

To create space for his train project, Li rented a rural courtyard and set up a simple workshop. Over eight years, he spent 200,000 yuan ($28,920), experimented countless times, and changed six boilers before successfully building a miniature steam locomotive in 2021.

After constructing the first train, Li continued to build more refined and powerful trains. Meanwhile, Hanghang’s condition significantly improved and has become a talented train driver. “My son is gradually healing. He is less afraid of strangers, smiles more, and is more lively,” said Li.

Having built eight small trains, a scenic area in Li’s hometown later invited him to build railways for the site.

Hanghang now drives a train carrying 20 to 30 passengers, earning a salary from the rides. Children with disabilities can ride for free. “I hope society can show more tolerance and care for children with autism. I hope my son can live happily and bring happiness to other people,” said Li.

A GIF shows Hanghang driving his train in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality. (GIF/CCTV News)

As Hanghang’s condition improves, his family becomes more hopeful about the future. Gradually, Hanghang is integrating into society and building his life on his father’s railway.

A GIF shows Hanghang playing with his mother in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality. (Photo/CCTV News)

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Du Mingming)


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