The train had travelled for nearly nine hours before its first stop at Huaiushia.
The station was quiet and a misty drizzle hung around the hills.
Three men stood idle at a brick building across the tracks and looked at us looking at them. All three wore jackets; the evening shirt-sleeves of Canton were well behind.
The town wasn't on my map of China, no-one seemed to know if we had moved from the yellow shaded area of Guangdong province into the pink area of Hunan province.
After a five minute wait at the arable settlement, the train entered a tunnel.
On the other side, children played in the mud and puddles; the weather immaterial to their enjoyment.
Corn-on-the-cob sellers and children with fruit ran across the tracks to trade with the captive market.
There was a lot of activity at the hard-seat end of the train, but no-one entered our carriage, although the ticket-collectors still stood smartly by the doors on the platform.
A sign said Chenzhou; on the map, that was just inside Hunan province.
The lights went out at 9.30pm, forcing me to put down Gavin Young's 'Slow Boats to China' and drift off on my slow train up the mainland.