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Barriers close 5 minutes before departure, and the train is then shown as 'check out'.
Photos in this section are courtesy of Sunil Mehta.
So book as many days ahead as you can or pre-arrange tickets online as explained below.
Although as China's new G-category high-speed trains are expensive by Chinese standards you'll sometimes find Beijing-Shanghai or Beijing-Xian high-speed train tickets available on the day of travel or the day before, assuming you are flexible as to the class or exact departure time.
Peak holiday periods means on and around the Spring Festival, May Day on 1st May and National Day on 1st October.