The International Steam Pages
Shaoxing Iron Ore Railway
For other recent new discoveries in China, click here.
For our subsequent visit to the Xingyang brickworks railway, click here.
My 1995 Blue Guide to China describes Shaoxing as "one of the prettiest and most unspoilt towns in China criss-crossed with canals, filled with whitewashed houses, quite a number of which are open as museums commemorating the lives of their famous inhabitants, its narrow streets and humped back bridges often impassable to motor traffic."
The author would not recognise it today, the canals and some bridges are still there but the city has been severely modernised; the roads are full sized and the old buildings have by and large been raised to the ground to be replaced by tower blocks or 'plastic' replicas of the originals. Flyposters indicate that much of the compensation paid to former inhabitants has vanished into greedy pockets.... However, it is still a very pleasant place for a short visit as we found from 8th to 11th November 2004, (cheap flights are now a reality in China if you look around and we paid less than the cost of a soft sleeper to fly to Hangzhou from Beijing, there is an airport bus from there to Shaoxing) and the accommodation in the Laotaimen Hotel was quite simply the best I have experienced in the country (currently a heavily discounted Y120 a night for full facilities including Broadband in every room) - 22 rooms in the style of a traditional south China house....
Back in the 1990s, there was a mixed train service on the industrial railway to the iron ore mines at Xiewu some 13km south-west of the town, but these days visitors have to make do with the #23 bus instead. This picture is by Jin Ji Zhou, not me!!!!
The railway is operated by the Zhejiang Litie Group Company - for more information (in Chinese) see their website. It now has three SYs (1447, 1536 and 1570, the latter two carry Tangshan 1987 plates) - during our visit 1536 (below) was in use, 1447 was away at Jinhua for minor repairs (it had been in use at the beginning of the month) and 1570 was stored in good order pending overhaul.
Running from just west of the main station, alas, the line is mainly flat and unattractive and, according to the train register, it sees just two or three workings a day, with most likely only one in daylight. As such I cannot recommend it other than for the gricer who has seen everything else or who happens to be in the area for business anyway. We were tipped off about the railway by our good friends Zhao Gang and Ding Feng Yuan and assisted in our visit by their locally based friend Jin Ji Zhou, without whose assistance the railway would have proved almost unlocatable among the many small roads and canals. We found just two worthy photo positions, the first was the stretch of line next to a canal around the 9km mark (shown in Jin's picture too) - to get here take the 9 or 31 bus to just after the point where the routes come together about 8km out. Soon the road joins the railway and after about a further 1km, where the buses turn right across the line, get off and just walk down the track:
A long wait was no problem, just here is a small Taoist monastery:
Where a number of old ladies spend their declining years at prayer:
As always an initial reluctance to be photographed was melted by Yuehong's charms:
On the outskirts of Shaoxing, developments are more patchy, this temple complex survives although all around the old houses have been flattened:
Nearby, while we waited for the train we found traditional Chinese practices like this open air altar:
While messages for the dead were being hand written:
This bridge was our second photospot - although not shown, the train was definitely full length with over 30 wagons:
With no train at all in the afternoon, we visited the complex at the south end of the line where the ore is converted into pellets for onward transmission to the steel works at Hangzhou. Running south from here for some 2km is a double track 762mm gauge railway to the mine loading point operated by overhead electric locomotives (there is a southern extension which sees little use, we had no time to explore it):
In the area above is the main mine with a 610 (600?) mm electrified system:
Public access to the 762mm gauge railway is easy, the 610mm line less so although we had no significant problems. As stated above, the 23 bus from Shaoxing serves the complex and the two narrow gauge railways. Regrettably the local road systems are too complicated to be able to provide a map.