In general I no longer report on steam operation in China owing to the
behaviour of various tour groups and individuals who have spayed money
recklessly in the last few years. Hence the page below is now very dated.
However there is plenty of of information on Florian Menius's former website
which Dave Fielding has taken over, SY Country.
Note also I have posted a June 2006 China Steam summary
courtesy of Bernd Seiler of FarRail tours.
Before we went on our 1999 China bash, Peter Nash tried to do a survey to identify
which lines are known to still operate with steam. It turned out that there
was no convenient single source of up-to-date information, so I have decided to try to
bring together what we know to encourage more people to visit these lines and, just as
important, encourage further exploration of lines which have almost certainly never been
visited. Basically I have listed the systems by province with a brief description
and location (which assumes readers have the new Quail Atlas), together with references to
the journals and links to Internet reports. Assume the railways are 762mm gauge unless
Please note there is now a corresponding page for non-CNR
standard gauge steam railways (added 2nd January 2002).
This report covers only those lines which have been reported steam operated since about
1995. It therefore excludes most of the lines listed in the IRS China Book because
the information is inadequate, too old or steam is known not to be used anymore. A
copy of this book makes essential reading if you planning an exploration trip - just count
the number of lines never visited or not visited for over 10 years! Ideas for further
inclusions and places to explore would be greatly appreciated and you should also check
Florian Menius's web pages http://www.sy-country.co.uk
because he has reports which are not available on my web pages.... Look under 'Steam
With dieselisation/closures, most of the original entries are best described as
'ex-steam' and with this number likely to grow, I have moved such entries to a separate
section at the bottom (first entries 19th January 2003). Invariably they will be linked in
the list below.
Recent changes include (the dates refer
to the visits themselves, not the dates the reports were filed):
Alihe (March 2001)
Arxan (March 2003)
Chanting (October 2000)
Chenjia (February 2003)
Dahuichang (November 2004)
Dongfanghong (October 2000)
Ganhe (April 2002)
Guangyuan (November 2000)
Handan (December 2001)
Huanan (December 2004)
Jiyuan (August 2003)
Nanyang (May 2002)
Pengzhou (March 2004)
Shanhetun (March/April 2002)
Shibanxi/Jiayang Power Company (March 2011)
Suiling (January 2001)
Wangdu/Tangxian (September 2003)
Weihe (March 2003)
Weijuan (October 2004)
Xihe (November 2000)
Xilin (November 2001)
Xingyang (December 2008)
Yabuli (January 2001)
Yexi (February 2002)
Yinghao (November 2004)
Zhanhe (March 2002)
Jeff Lanham is researching narrow gauge railways in China. He has come up with 'some that got away'. If you know anything about these systems, he
would be delighted to hear from you (updated 29th May 2007).
Huanan Coal (ex-Forest) Railway
256km north of
Mudanjiang on the Jiamusi to Boli line. Continental Railway Journal 113 reports it serves
a coal mine at the southernmost end of the line and the active fleet is six 0-8-0s (Ted
Talbot was told 10 when he visited Chaihe Works in December 1998). John Tickner was here
in March 1999 and found six 0-8-0s - 004, 011, 041, 043, 055 and 168 of which 055 was in
steam for no apparent reason as the railway was not operating just a daily railbus at
08.00. He got the impression that the railway had been working the previous
October/November. Robert Palmstrom was here in 1997. Ted Talbot was here in November 1999.
It was working as above when Ralph Weibl visited in early January 2001, with two locos
in use, reducing to one with the approach of Chinese New Year. The Steam and Safaris Tour
in November 2001 found it quiet and had to charter their own train.
Adrian Freeman was here in December 2001. See Bernd Seiler's
site http://www.farrail.com for a September 2002
visit. Derek Jenkins visited in late 2002, I was here in October 2003, Adrian Freeman in
January 2004 and Michael Rhodes in February 2004. I have posted my own report from
October 2004 and it was still working well in December 2004.
Note that the photogenic forest area at the top of the line has endemic
Japanese Encephalitis and visits in high Summer are inadvisable.....
Xingyang There is a short line some 30km west of
Zhengzhou first report by Bruce Evans in February 2003.
It carries clay for brickworks. Greg Howell visited in
September 2003 but did not choose a day with any activity. For most of
2004, visitors found it shut down, but the Globe Steam tour in October 2004
found it working again. As a result, I got here as quickly as possible in
November 2004 and was totally charmed by it. A later report of my
December 2008 visit is now available.
Inner Mongolia Province
Arxan Forest Railway The railway is some way
west of Qiqihar. Originally reported closed and lifted, local reports (dated 1997) state
it has a tourist use in part.
Shibanxi/Jiayang Coal Mine
Li Nan (17th June 1999) visited this fascinating 762mm
gauge system which has C2s used over its 20km system for passengers and coal (between
Qianwei and Leshan). See Bernd Seiler's December 2000 report.
Steam passenger with electrics on most freights. I was here in
December 2001, it is a great railway just a bit of a shame about the weather. Derek Jenkins found little change in March 2002. Bernd Seiler has put some excellent pictures of
this railway on his website http://www.farrail.com.
Bernd Seiler was here in November 2002. Derek Jenkins
visited in late 2002. For a delightful photo essay taken in
November 2002, see Heinrich Hubbert's site - http://homepage.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/heinrich.hubbert/.
Greg Howell found if still working in September 2003 and John
Middleton was here 10 days later. I spent several days here in November 2003, the report contains almost no operational
details but may just convince one or two gricers to come out of
retirement. David Whitfield was here in December 2003, Michael Rhodes in February 2004
and I could not resist yet another visit in March 2004.
For a view of the way China is changing read the local news report from
May 2004. See the reports on Florian Menius's pages http://www.sy-country.co.uk/qjc/trips.htm
for more information, also Bernd Seiler's visit in
October 2004. Exceptionally I have added a report of my
fourth visit here in June 2006, my fifth visit
in June 2007, my sixth visit
in March 2008, my seventh visit in June 2009, my
eighth visit in March 2010 and my ninth visit in
See Bernd Seiler's December 2000 report.
100% steam in a totally closed area..... Do not attempt to visit this line
The following is a list of former steam lines.
Dahuichang Stone Railway. This line is some 30km
south-west of Beijing and uses C2 0-8-0s on a short double track system. There is a report of my visit in January 1998 (and several other similar but
briefer ones have also appeared). Many reports state that it does not operate at weekends
but a November 1999 visitor found it working on a Sunday. In January 2000, I spent two
afternoons here. The first showed it to be the busiest steam operated railway in the world
with 8 trains in an hour! The second was less auspicious when the afternoon's operations
ground to a complete halt at 14.15.... Still working in November 2000, again in January 2001 and October 2001 (another visit at this time). Working normally in December 2001
when I had an afternoon here. Still working in October 2003, December
2003 and when I visited in March 2004, although under serious threat from closure on 'pollution grounds' - not so much the
railway as the limestone plant it serves. There is a full
description of the line available (added 21st November 2004), it includes a
map and access information.
Handan As well as having a steelworks (with SYs and
YJs) World Steam 96/6 reports there is a local railway serving the mine with five 0-8-0s
steamed daily although a subsequent report speaks of trains on occasional days. Bruce
Evans visited in December 2001 but could find no sign of
activity on the railway - the shed was locked up... (Shades of my visits to
Tianjin Salt Railway Little is known about this except that Chaihe Works is
reported to have recently overhauled at least one steam locomotive from it. (See the new
Quail Atlas for the location.) If you fancy making a name for yourself, then check this
one out Bruce Evans found only diesels when he visited....
WangBai Railway This line starts at Wangdu
is several hundred metres north west of the China Rail station on the JingGuang main line,
170km south west of Beijing. There is a short report in Continental Railway Journal 113,
but I visited here in March 1999. Read about what I found.
Patrick Rudin was here in December 2000 and steam was still working the upper section of
this line as before. See also Nigel Lawrence's October 2001 report
and a very comprehensive report from Jan Willem van Dorp at
about the same time. I found it running a diesel service with a skeleton staff in January 2002, although steam had been used very recently as confirmed by another visitor. Bernd Seiler was here in November 2002 and found it (temporarily???) closed.
Greg Howell found no activity in mid-December 2002. By July 2003, Zhang Xin Sheng told me
"This line has reopened recently, but using diesels! Steam can be chartered this year
plus some freight wagons! No passenger wagons at all! Passengers either stand in freight
wagon or chase train by bus (but not the whole line)! A tour group in September 2003
attempted a charter but found the whole line almost moribund and could only manage a short
trip east from Tangxian which was totally unphotogenic. This must be the end here.....
Yexi Stone Quarry This very short line is a few km north
of Capital Iron and Steel, west of Beijing. I 'discovered' this in December 1995 and my
report appeared in World Steam and Continental Railway Journal. I have added some notes and pictures (now including how to get there). It was still
working in January 2001 but a North American group I met at Zhanhe in March 2002, found it
closed, the two locos bricked up and everything worked by road.
Chaihe Forest Railway This
railway has closed although the workshops overhauled some steam locos for some
Chanting Forest Railway Hideki Sakurai confirms (2nd
October 2000) "This railway was located in west part of Hailin city and was operated
by Changting Forestry Bureau. It is known as Dahailin Forestry Railway in Japan. This
operation was closed on May 1998. They had used diesels in summer and steam in winter as
others do. At present the former main station, Dahailin, is used as the bus terminal.
Sheds are used for machine repair shops etc. A coal bunker and a water tower are remains.
Size of yard could be almost same as Yabuli, but all rails and engines has already been
sold for scrap."
Dongfanghong There appeared to be two systems here
(both quoted to use steam) according to Continental Railway Journal 107 (Autumn 1996) -
but see below. Hulin on the Jixi to Dongfanghong line and at Dongfanghong itself. Ted
Talbot was told it is still steam worked in November 1999, but I have since been told by
Hideki Sakurai "We heard the forestry bureau in Dongfanghong shut down their railway
operation and took off the track in Sep 98. They also changed their name to Dongfanghong
Gonglu Guanlichu (Road administration). Now they use trucks (lorries)." The
Donfanghong system itself is confirmed derelict. Hideki Sakurai
adds (2nd October 2000) "However, Mrs. Quan, manager of Japan-Korea Dept. of CITS
Mudanjiang kindly has called up several authorities and confirmed that 1) there is no
narrow gauge railway in Hulin and 2) only one system, at which I visited in late Apr,
existed under Dongfanghong Forestry Bureau."
Shanhetun Forest Railway This railway is 144km south
east of Harbin on the line to Jilin. Unfortunately most steam workings at the Shanhetun
end are nocturnal. Click here for a March 2001 report
and a January 2002 report. Mark Lanham submitted a very full
report from February 2002 and I was here in
February/March 2002 (pictures added 5th April 2002). Bernd Seiler was here in late March 2002. A report in early November 2002 stated the line
would not reopen.
Shuangfeng Forest Railway Shuangfeng is 79km north east of Suihua on the
line to Nancha. It is mentioned in Continental Railway Journal 114 as having a C2 present
but not in steam.....
Suiling Forest Railway This railway is north of Harbin
on the line from Suiha to Beian. Unfortunately most steam workings were nocturnal. I visited in January 2001 and found the line dieselised.
Tongbei Forest Railway. John
Raby's December 1998 report states it has closed.
Weihe Forest Railway Weihe is on the main line between
Harbin and Mudanjiang, just west of Yabuli. It is a busy system which also operated a
steam passenger service You can read Duncan Cotteriil's report of a March 1999 visit. I was here in January 2000, this has got to be the most accessible
and photogenic forestry operation in China today. I was back in
January 2001 and found it working in much the same was as my previous visit. There are
links to several more recent visits in the China section of the main web page. Click here
for a March 2001 report. Adrian Freeman was here in December 2001, he was told that the railway will close in June
2002 (I have since had a report that steam operation will cease on April 10th with maybe a
railcar continuing for the time being)... Mark Lanham submitted a very full report from February 2002 and I had my third visit in
March 2002 (pictures added 5th April 2002). Bernd Seiler was here in late March 2002. By February 2003, it was commonly agreed that the
railway was in its final season. I could not resist making a final
visit.... Like other visitors we had a fabulous time. On 20th March 2003, Greg
Howells told me that he had been informed by Sun Xiaolan that the railway had closed
'today'. As Greg comments (and I wholeheartedly concur) it was not a good day for the
Xilin Mineral Railway This railway runs south west from
Xilin which is some 60km north of Nancha. You can read about my
December 1995 visit (with pictures). It was working in December 2000, although a
Chinese guide I met stated that the mine would close 'in the next year or two'. John Raby was here in March 2001. Click here for another March 2001 report. An unconfirmed report in October 2001 stated it
would finish in December 2001. Jan Willem van Dorp was separately here in October 2001. Now Bernd Seiler has emailed from China to say it
was closed and lifted in November 2001.
Yabuli Forest Railway Yabuli is on the main line
between Harbin and Mudanjiang. You can read about my December 1995
visit (with pictures) and Duncan Cotterill's report of
a March 1999 visit. However, it is now confirmed closed and
lifted. In January 2001, I was given a map of the Yabuli winter sports area to the south
of the town which had marked on it a railway with a picture of a narrow gauge train. A
Chinese guide I met in Weihe elicited the information that it was 'about 6km long and
operated in the Summer for tourists'. Has anyone any more information/confirmation?
Zhanhe Forest Railway Zhanhe is on the main line north
of Beian. It is a busy system with several 0-8-0s active. Michael Rhodes was here in December 1999. There are links to
several more recent visits in the China section of the main web page. Bernd Seiler
reported (November 2001) "7 steam and 4 diesels working since November 24th. Next
season (2002/2003) is for sure steam as before." Just before Chinese New Year 2002,
John Agnew's group found this full steam service. However, after the break, all but one of
the steam locos was stored and the reduced traffic diesel worked with steam used on Zhanhe shunting only (pictures added 5th April 2002). Now
reported closed and track lifting in progress by late 2002.
Jiyuan Coal Railway This is situated some way north of
Luoyang. The railway runs partly through the streets of a modern city. We were
unsuccessful here in January 1998 owing to Chinese New Year, but
Bruce Evans later found it alive and well. We failed again in
March 1999, but it had certainly not closed and Bernd Seiler found it working in November 2000. I found it had been running recently in January 2002, but it appeared suspended for a winter break
(again). Bernd Seiler was here in November 2002 but
he later reported it closed in August 2003.
Nanyang Local Railway This cut back line runs north
from Nanyang to Fengchan and had a daily mixed train operated by a C2 in early 1998. Read my report. By May 2002, Roger Blundell found it closed and lifted.
XuDan Railway This is an extensive system, based on Xuchang which is some
way south of Zhenzhou. Back in 1997, this was very busy using C4's on coal trains. Read my pessimistic report from early 1998 and Leslie
MacAllister's confirmation from later in the year.
Yinghao this coal railway west of Yima was
'discovered' by Toshiaki Tsujimoto and Sen Chokuto in May 2004. I visited here
in June 2004. Several visitors in late Summer/Autumn 2004 were also charmed
by it. See the reports on Florian Menius's pages http://www.sy-country.co.uk/qjc/trips.htm
for more information. Also John Agnew and Jeremy
Wainright's visit in November 2004. It has since
Chenjia Line. This line runs south-west from Chenzhou
towards Jiahe. Chenzhou is some 374km north of Guangzhou on the 'old' main line to
Beijing. It ran a daily mixed (passenger and coal wagons) and sometimes a coal train or
two with C4 0-8-0s. The initial report by Robin Gibbons in April 1998 is no longer
available, but there is one from September 1998 by Leslie McAllister.
I was here in February 1999. Robin Gibbons was here in December 1999 and again
in September 2001 -
- link broken 5th April 2019). Bryan Acford
was here in November 2001 and found it run down. For a
more subjective report read about my (re)visit in December 2001.
Bill Alborough visited in April 2002 and found the mixed running only to Guiyang and
picking up coal on its way back to Chenzhou. In July 2002, it was again operating as a
simple mixed with no coal traffic (Jiahe mine was presumably still closed). Brian Rumary
was here in November 2002 and reports "The passenger service has finished and the
freight service only runs as far as the colliery below Guiyang. Closure in 2003 looks
likely." Although reported closed after extensive flooding in December 2002, see
Florian Menius's web pages http://www.sy-country.co.uk,
a tour group was able to charter a train to Guiyang in February 2003, the line apparently
having no traffic as opposed to being closed! I have since been told informally
hat it has been closed and lifted.
Yiyang Coal Railway. Yiyang is 106km north-west of Changsa which is 700km
north of Guangzhou on the 'old' main line to Beijing. The only description I have read of
it was in Continental Railway Journal 100, which includes a map and a photograph. I visited in February 1999 and found it very run down and
Ganzhou Forest Railway. Ghanzhou is on the 'new' main line from Guangzhou to
Beijing. The only description I had read of it was in Continental Railway Journal 100
(dating from a 1993 visit), which includes a map and a photograph. Robin Gibbons went here
in June 1999 and reported "Very much on its last legs and no steam."
Inner Mongolia Province
Alihe Forest Railway Alihe is 41km west of
Jagdaqi on the Yitulihe line. Apparently it originally ran north for 200km.
Continental Railway Journal 113 reported that 121km are still open with 11 steam
locomotives of which 5 were active with a passenger service. Robert
Palmstrom was here in 1997 and it was his report in CRJ. Ted
Talbot was here in November 1999 and Johannes Müller a little
earlier. Found to be closed in March 2001 (a brief note
that it was open at this time was a mistake by me!! RD).
Ganhe Forest Railway This was reported active in
Continental Railway Journal 113. It is 98km west of Jagdaqi. Ted
Talbot was here in November 1999 and Johannes Müller a little
earlier. Still working in March 2001, (report 1) or (report 2). Roger Blundell rode the train in
June 2001. Bernd Seiler reported in November 2001 'Full operation. Definitely last
year for the full line. Road construction underway." There is an
illustrated report with a map added (10th February 2002). I was here in February 2002 (pictures added 5th April 2002). Bernd Seiler has
emailed: "Ganhe will end its logging season on May 1st 2002. The passenger service
will cease on May 1st too. Do you know what that means? Ganhe never had a logging
"season", it operated 12 months a year. Bus and truck are the new solution! The
road is finished at least up to Yuanjiang (km 58). Farewell, Ganhe!"
Xihe Colliery Railway This metre gauge line runs south
east from Dakunlun on the Boshan branch south of Xibo. Unique 0-10-0s, believed to be
Chinese built derivatives of original Orenstein and Koppel locomotives work three to four
times a day. See the report of my visit in January 1998. It was
still working normally in November 1999 but by November 2000
Bernd Seiler found it closed.
Pengzhou (Pengxian) - Baishuihe Local Railway
Continental Railway Journal 116 reports on an October 1998 visit which found steam on
passenger working although mineral trains were diesel hauled. 5 locos were seen of which 2
were dumped. Robin Gibbons was here in March 1999. Bernd Seiler was here in November 2000. I found the mixed train still steam in December 2001 and Derek Jenkins found little change in March 2002. Bernd Seiler was here in November 2002. A tour group here in March 2003 were
told that steam haulage of the mixed had ceased in December 2002. In March 2004,
local enthusiasts told me that operation had ceased but special steam charters
were still possible.
Weijuan Coal Mine
This apparently had 3 C2s which were used on a twice daily coal train. Click here
for some information courtesy of Li Nan of Chongqing CITS
(March/April 1999). Bernd
Seiler was here in November 2002. Greg Howell found
it still working in September 2003 and Michael Rhodes
in February 2004. See the reports on Florian Menius's
for more information, also Bernd Seiler's visit in
October 2004. Now closed and lifted.