The International Steam Pages

The Greatest Steam Show on Earth - Jalainur - November 2008

Click here for our main (November 2007) Jalainur report.

We spent 2 weeks filming here in early November 2008 and found intensive steam operation. 

  • Yuehong was repeatedly told by staff that they expected the railway would be history by the end of Summer 2009, but at the same time the eastern levels were being shifted some 30 metres sideways and much track moved. Up to five steam cranes were operating in the pit on most days.
  • Coal extraction was occurring flat out, at least 7 coal trains were in regular operation, on occasions these were being combined to produce a double length train to the transfer shed. This would have reduced congestion on the most intensively used sections. 
  • Spoil was being tipped at the south end of the pit at three levels. This meant fewer trains at Nanzhan and on the two days we visited there, we didn't see any tipping beyond; trains were just coming in for servicing.
  • There was much truck movement on the west side, most of it originating slightly above the exposed rich coal seam at the bottom of the pit. Any spoil was being used mainly to back fill the area next to the transfer shed.

On the morning of one of 5 days when weather conditions were almost perfect, at least 20 steam locomotives are visible looking south from the north end of the big pit. As always, the problem was not so much cloudy weather as periods of strong, gusting winds blowing steam everywhere and dust into the eyes, together with wrecking video sound effects.

In the two or three full days that most visitors allocate to Jalainur, there is barely time to look at the 'other railway' which serves the deep mines in the area beyond watching trains depart from the transfer sidings next to the washery. This is a shame as anywhere else in China today it would be considered a major attraction. Lines run west and then to the north and south, workings are 'as required', the south line is particularly attractive for photography, but operations are complex. The fact that it also serves a power station means that coal empties and fulls work in both directions, there is also some pick-up freight work.

The transfer sidings at Dongfanghong have been raised so that the only trains facing a stiff climb are now those conveying coal from the big pit washery, these now depart west (instead of east previously) and may be double headed. At other times they are worked in two sections. A small army of looters will be waiting in the new headshunt...


Teddy Bear's picnic? 1416 heads a train on the south line west of the big pit.


On a day of sunshine and clouds, a train for the southern power station hammers up the bank west of the big pit.

Rob Dickinson