YINCHUAN-Thirty-six km accounts for only a very small fraction of China's over 130,000 km-long railway lines, however, the short distance has separated a railway police couple for more than three years.

Gou Fawei and Luo Yakun, the husband and wife, have worked at two different railway police stations in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region since August 2015.

Gou with the police station of Liwang Railway Station in Haiyuan County patrols the railway line on his workdays to ensure the safety of the passing trains, whereas, Luo works at the police station of Tongxin Railway Station, which is 36 km away in neighboring Tongxin County.

The couple, working on the two ends of the 36-km distance railway, cannot meet each other most of the year, especially on holidays when more passengers travel by train. As the annual Spring Festival travel rush started last week, the couple have become busier and busier to ensure the safety of trains with passengers who return to their hometowns for family gatherings during the Spring Festival holiday.

"We often talk over the phone or make video calls. But the distance still remains a problem," Luo said.

To find a chance to see each other, the couple came up with a solution to date at a railway bridge on the junction of the administrative areas by the two police stations when patrolling the railway line.

To attend the appointment every time, Gou has to travel 24 km while his wife Luo has to patrol 12 km along the railway.

The bridge where they met is dubbed the "magpie bridge" by their colleagues, originating from an ancient Chinese myth about two famed Chinese lovers destined to see each other only once a year.

"We have rarely had time to stay together since tying the knot. So the hasty meeting on the bridge can be the most romantic moment for us," Gou said.

Due to the busy work, they only have some 20 minutes to spend together on the bridge. "We talk about our work and care for each other's health when we meet," Gou said. Sometimes, Gou prepares food to take to his wife.

Now, Luo is pregnant and Gou is worried as he cannot take care of her in person.

To show his love, Gou recently made a bowl of dumplings with sour soup to take to his wife. After eating the dumplings, Gou and Luo separately returned to their own police stations again.

"Our work seems very simple. We just try to reduce the chances of trains making emergency stop to ensure the safety of both the railway operation and people living along the railways," said Gou, who used to walk 20 km each day to patrol the railway line.

However, things are not always so simple. Guo has had quite a few breathtaking experiences. One rainy day, a man in his 70s carrying a bike attempted to cross the rail tracks directly to avoid the water-logged underpass when a train was approaching.

"I felt so worried that I rushed toward the old man and pulled him off the track just before the train passed," Gou said. After dealing with such an emergency, Gou realized how important his work could be. By the end of 2018, China's railways spanned some 131,000 km, from plateaus and plains to deserts and cities. High-speed lines in the country have reached 29,000 km, accounting for two-thirds of the world's total.