The International Steam Pages

Steam in Southern China

Trip undertaken by Dave Whitfield and Barry Burns from 29th November - 11th December 2003.


Generally poor. Details as follows :-
Hechi Day 1 - Very good sun all day.
Day 2 - Morning poor, afternoon sun
Day 3 - Poor all day
Day 4 - Poor until late afternoon, then some broken cloud
Day 5 - Poor morning, hazy sun in afternoon
Day 6 - Poor all day
Luocheng Day 7 - Good morning (red ball stuff) Afternoon hazy sun
Travel Day 8 - Poor all day
Shibanxi Day 9 - Poor all day
Day 10 - Poor all day
Day 11 - Poor all day
Day 12 - Poor morning, fair afternoon
Day 13 - Poor morning, then depart..

When we were able to see it, the sun at this time of year would appear to be on the line by the road/rail level crossing at km.16 north of Wenping about 0745. The shot on the cover of CRJ is definitely on from 0900 but is bad after about 1100.

It was difficult to say when the sun would be on the master positions in the gorge north of Wenping but I would say a northbound freight about 1015 would be OK.
The excellent river viaduct about 2 miles out of Poluo on the Sanchao branch is dead right in the afternoon for the sun (for southbound trains) if you can get one.



For the first three days things seemed to be normal i.e. the mixed at the usual times morning and afternoon and two uphill freights usually before lunchtime. These freights tended to vary but 0915, 1015, 1140 and 1215 seemed to be the slots in which they operated at Wenping. The downhill freights seemed to operate at random.

After this everything went badly wrong and the freights almost stopped altogether. Those that did run operated outside of daylight hours. The reason for this was given as a shortage of wagons but it was also suggested to us that as the end of the year was fast approaching, the mines may have met their quota and had started to run down. Mid December may not be a good time to visit, certianly we would not go again at this time.

On a more positive note, we have seen it suggested that the new building at Jinchengjiang Xi is intended to be a diesel depot. This does not appear to be the case. During our visit it was in use as a steam maintenance shed with plenty of evidence to show that it had been performing this function for some time. There's plenty of machine tools and an overhead crane, so perhaps steam has a more secure future here after all.

A new road between Poluo and Duchuan is being constructed. When it is complete, it will be excellent and some chasing may be possible - until then, however, it is a nightmare.


Mixed train running as normal, arriving back at Luocheng just before midday. The train is a bit puny, one wagon and two coaches. The loco goes on shed as soon as it arrives.

The train now rarely trips to the mines beyond Luocheng as they are said to be almost finished.

There is an excellent photo position for the incoming mixed a few miles out of Luocheng. The line crosses the main road from Yichan (on the Hechi expressway) to Luocheng about 2-3 miles out of Luocheng. Walk down the track, through the shallow cutting for about 1.5 km.The position is on a hill on your left but do not attempt to climb the nearest hill, as it is covered in thorn bushes. At the small level crossing, follow the dirt road to the left which will take you to a second hill just around the corner. This has been cleared by the locals and is easier to climb.


An absolute delight, still clinging to life but for how much longer ?

Passenger trains running normally but there seems to be only one freight per day. This left at 0800 and invariably passed the 0915 passenger at Jiaoba at approx.1010.

The much quoted horseshoe curve between Mifeng and Xianrenjiao is over-rated. Certainly the tunnel exit / rock wall is much better and there is a much better curve only 0.5 km. out of Mifung.

On a more general point, the 30Y fare for foreigners is still being applied and beware the fearsome "lady" security guards at Shibanxi station. They are recognisable by their red armbands and leap out if you attempt to go past the metal gates at the end of the platform which give access to the "private" yards / shed area.

There is a very good hotel, the TianBo, in the nearest town at Qianwei about 15 km south. There seems to be a regular bus service which certainly connects with the arrival of the 1630 passenger at Shibanxi. Taxis are cheap and should cost about 18Y from Qianwei.

Time taken by taxi from Qianwei to Chengdu Station about 3.5 hours.

Rob Dickinson