The International Steam Pages

Shibanxi Holiday 2009 - Long March to Ma Miao

Click here for the main Shibanxi Holiday 2009 page.

Click here for the Cable Railways homepage.

Similar systems are shown in other pages on this site:

This map shows how this walk fits in with other walks described in our 2009/10 reports:

A small poster produced by the Jiayang Company suggested an interesting day out for us would be to walk down the valley 'road' below Bagou the 7km to Ma Miao, a boat onward the 12km to Da Ma and then by road through Qianwei back to Shixi for an afternoon train. And so it proved... This is an interesting map seen at the Huangcun Mining Museum, the course of the Shibanxi Railway is clear. Ma Miao is east and south of Bagou, an old tramway is marked on the map but it has long disappeared. There is a further tramway marked in the bottom right corner, connecting two rivers - we were assured this too has disappeared - it may be the one shown on the Huangcun Mining Museum Photographic Collection page.


What I had not properly appreciated until after we did the walk was that until 1959 when the Shibanxi railway opened, all the coal produced in the Bagou valley was brought this way on pack horse and transferred to boats here - see these two (Chinese language) pages for old pictures (added 15th June 2009):

Water borne transport including Ma Miao - (link broken 5th April 2019) 
More on Ma Miao - (link broken 5th April 2019)  

We picked a day when it hadn't rained for 36 hours but was cloudy and there was no point to video the trains. In fact it was a slow slog for two hours, although the scenery was attractive:


I had been half way to Ma Miao twice before in 2003/4 researching some small coal mines with push railways, but I had been told by another visitor they had all been closed following a government crackdown, which was true for as far as I had been before, about one hour down:

I was glad I had recorded them while active as they used the fascinating small gauge of 300mm (1 foot). Heading on we passed another closed mine which I had not reached before and then our luck turned, the small statues being to the 'mother' god and those of prosperity and safety:


The next mine was working albeit to 600mm gauge and everyone was very friendly:

It was a shame that there was no time to wait for a 'train' to come up, (but we did revisit and get some action pictures), similarly at three other mines, one of which was associated with a small (new) brickworks. The coal pickers seemed oblivious of the beautiful surroundings:

After a couple of hours we reached Ma Miao, a village perched on the hillside overlooking a water filled gorge.

The buildings were a mixture of ancient and modern, the former extremely attractive, the latter hideous of the white tiled variety which makes them look like giant public toilets:

Other than retracing our steps, we thought we had only the choice of a four hour wait for a putative bus at 16.00 over the 15km mud/dirt road to Tang Ba (between Qianwei and Shixi) or negotiating with the owner of the sole ferry to charter his boat. In fact we were wrong - see Bagou Short Circuits for more information, but basically you can walk up the side valley on the west side just before Mamiao.

 It was over to Yuehong to obtain an affordable price, CNY 100, for the one hour trip to Da Ma. We had brought our lunch with us too (not shown is the bread and duck):

Along the way we passed a closed coal mine which had just water borne access (there are others similar still working further up the valley, but by 2010 we believe all were road connected): 

 It was a budget breaker but well worth it, the scenery was stunning.

The presence of the speed boat and the widening of the water suggested that we were above one of Sichuan dams which of course we were. The ferryman called up a taxi to meet us at journey's end and all too soon we were whisked back into 'civilisation' through Qianwei and to Shixi in time for the 14.00 train up the hill to our Bagou base. It had been a very enjoyable day out.

Right now the number of tourists visiting here is quite small, especially outside public holidays, but when the Leshan - Yibin expressway is completed in a couple of years it (and the railway at Shibanxi) will become much more accessible. The separate muddy tracks from Mamiao to Huangdan and Bagou will be sealed 'soon' and that will allow minibuses to connect the two attractions as part of a day out circular tour, so if you fancy the trip do it in the next year or so. If you will have a Chinese speaker with you please get in touch and we will pass the mobile phone number of the ferryman so you can arrange for him to be at the right end of the water for you - a much better option than a speed boat.

Rob Dickinson