The International Steam Pages


The Ganhe Forestry Railway, November 2001

Knowing I was going to Ganhe in February 2002, Bernd Seiler sent me these notes which he has asked me to share with other potential visitors:

Ganhe is both an easy and a difficult place to go.

Train K 39/40 to Alihe and Ganhe is running on alternate dates, be careful if you book this train! (I believe 629/630 are daily RD.)

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Without guide:

Go to Alihe and hire a taxi there. In Ganhe you'll hardly find any reasonable Taxi/Jeep. Hotel Alihe is much better than Ganhe. When you arrive Ganhe you have to turn north to reach the ng railway. Do not make shots in the station area, the police will immediately be aware of you and kick you off. Ganhe is closed to foreigners. You can make visits in the shed and in the yard, but not in the center of the station. The northern end of the station will be OK.

There is a regular passenger service on this line, every day except Thursdays and Sundays. The train leaves about 8.00 and return about 19.00 hrs. You can use this train if you want to see the full line.

If you try to go by taxi you can reach the first station behind Ganhe only (10 km) if you follow the line. But there is a second road a bit more eastwards. Follow this road, and after about 30 km (very approx.!) you'll find a branch to the left with a massive bridge. Following this road you'll see the railway after several hundred metres. This road follows the line till Qilibin, a main station in the system with water facilities.

Nice bridges are about 1.5 km beyond Ganhe and 3.5 km beyond Qilibin northwards. The good road ends in Qilibin, but a new one was under construction (to replace the forestry line). You can reach both bridges by walking. The third bridge beyond Yuanjiang has no good access. The bridges are low arch bridges with several spans.

It is not possible to chase the train before Qilibin and, while the loco takes water in Qilibin, to reach the bridge. You have to walk 3.5 km! Maybe the road is finished till the bridge now, than you have a good chance. Or you organise that the train not leaves Qilibin before you made a telephone call from the house of the bridge-watchman (very friendly, called several times for us to get the information about the next train).

Trains (empties) left in the evening and returned (full) in the morning during our stay. I checked the books at the stations, it was always the same. But this was off season and I do not know how they will operate at the peak of the season. As we saw two full and one empty during daylight I can imagine that you'll get double the trains during daylight.

With guide:

We had Mr. Liu Li Guo from Harbin CITS. He was OK and became better and better by the end of the tour. He never had such "hard working" gricers before, so it needed some time. But he used a local guide in Alihe/Ganhe and this man (his name: Liu Xiao Tian) I can really not recommend: what ever he said about the railway, it was a lie, what ever he said why he was hours too late on the first day, he lied, he is looking for good meals and long rests, that's it. If you go with guide please tell the Harbin bureau of CITS you'll go without any local guide. You do not need them. You need an interpreter and an Aliens Travel Permit, nothing else. You'll see more without a local guide, believe me!

We ordered a special train, consisting of the normal stock and running in the time of the scheduled passenger train on a Thursday. The price was 3.500 Yuan (after a long bargain), too much if you consider that the company earn about 600 Yuan with the scheduled train. Try to order a railcar for 800 Yuan per day! The staff of our train was very friendly and denied not any wish we had. We went as far as Yuanjiang, were the line splits off in two branches west to Ganyuan (72 km), east to Zhongdian (79 km) via Wulite (69 km). Photographic potential was best between Ganhe and Xinfucun (km 20). Behind Qilibin (km 40) the bridge is good and behind Yuanjiang (km 58) on the western branch line to Ganyuan (72 km) you'll find another nice bridge. Good positions around Xinfucun (km 20), but we didn't see any road access. We crossed two loaded freights, one in the first station, Yisishan (km 10, small village there) and another at noon in Qilibin. Both consisted of 162 axles! I've never seen such long logging trains before! Locos working hard although there are only medium grades on the line.

Behind our passenger a crane and half an hour later a short train with empties followed. This train went on to Ganyuan after setting off half of the empties in Yuanjiang for loading.

I rode our special passenger for about 15 km. To keep the speed between 30 - 40 km/h you have to drive hard. The fireman had to do quite a lot to give me sufficient steam that I could drive as I want and listen to the nice sewing machine sound. But I felt the loco driver was even harder to the engine and his fireman, as he never lost speed, even on gradients! Engines are in good technical conditions, but not so the external shape. Impressive for me was the timber yard in Ganhe by night. Nice illuminated and very busy. The locoshed is small and has nothing special compared with other forestry railway depots.

The line is to be closed in May 2002 for logging trains, but should remain open for the passenger. Next winter they're planning to operate the passenger train as far as Qilibin only, but it makes no sense because of the good (unpaved) road.

We saw four steam locos C2's No. 2, 3, 4 and 7. This was still pre-season activity, in the heavy logging season there are seven engines under steam.


Rob Dickinson

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