Most trains will be shown as 'on time' with the most immediate departures shown as 'waiting', which means you can enter that train's specific waiting room.
Once a train is ready for boarding, usually about 30 minutes before departure, it's shown as 'check in', meaning you can proceed through to the platform.
So book as many days ahead as you can or pre-arrange tickets online as explained below.
Barriers close 5 minutes before departure, and the train is then shown as 'check out'.
Photos in this section are courtesy of Sunil Mehta.
The office is to the right of the main building, accessed directly from the forecourt. You can collect from any ticket window, although there's an English speaking window if you like... Beijing station is in central Beijing, 3 km from Tiananmen Square.
It has it's own station on the Beijing Subway, called simply Beijing Railway Station - see Beijing subway map. Beijing main station dates from 1959 and whilst Beijing's South & West stations are modern and airport-like, negotiating Beijing's original station is a more chaotic old-style Asian experience.
You can travel there easily & cheaply by Beijing Subway (see Beijing subway map) for just RMB 4 (50p, $0.70), allow 40 minutes for the subway journey.
Or you can take a taxi, the taxi fare from central Beijing to Beijing West is around RMB 35 (4, ), allow at least 30 minutes for the taxi ride. Beijing West is large and busy, so arrive in plenty of time for your train, perhaps 40 minutes before your train leaves. When you reach the station, you enter the station through a ticket & ID check at any one of the various entrances, see the photo above.Immediately afterwards there's a luggage X-ray check into the departures hall. Indicator boards on the departure concourse show which train is allocated to which waiting room - here you can see G71 is allocated to waiting room 8.There is usually at least hour between departures from a given room. You may also find departure boards showing the status of each train.Now the bad news: Foreigners cannot buy tickets at it's only in Chinese and only accepts Chinese bank cards (although if you happen to be an ex-pat with a Chinese bank card and a basic knowledge of Mandarin, you can follow these instructions for using 12306here).So you should buy tickets through one of the following reliable recommended agencies, who charge a small fee. Or buy from a local train ticket agency for an RMB 5 fee.Soft sleeper consists of spacious carpeted & lockable 4-berth compartments, with toilets & washrooms at the end of the corridor.