The International Steam Pages

Steam in China, the Datong Coal Mine Railway

Bernd Seiler reports (10th June 2001) on a railway I had not heard about...

In the south eastern corner of Chongqing Province you'll find an almost unknown steam railway in fascinating countryside. The point that this railway is still unrecorded is especially remarkable because it is shown in the Nelles map.

About 130 km south of Chongqing, the Datong Coal Mine Railway branches off the main line Chongqing - Kunming. In origin it was a narrow gauge railway and the visitor can still find some signs of the former line. In the 1980s the line was converted to standard gauge. To prevent damage by flooding, the new track was laid at a higher level above the river which the line follows.

The line branches off the main line south of Ganshui railway station and immediately crosses the River Qijiang on a big bridge. An even bigger road bridge crosses the river at the same place, itself over the railway bridge. After a small railway bridge which cross above the town, there is a tunnel. At the other (southern) end of the tunnel, you'll find a concrete bridge in the suburbs of Ganshui. Then the line follows the eastern side of the river while the road uses the western side.

After the first few kilometres, the first station in a small valley surrounded by almost unoccupied dark houses appears. It was a city of mine workers, but the mine was closed several years ago. In between, the part from the first to the second station a branch line follows the river while the "main" line gains height above it. The branch line crosses the river and goes into a mine. Our taxi driver called this place Chonggang Tiekuang Chejian (in the following text I'll call it CTC, -jian means mine).

In CTC is situated a roaster and a small locohouse. But the mine is a shadow of it former self, many dark houses minus windows, occupied by otherwise homeless persons, dirt, dark grains of coal all around and so on.

The "main" line runs through a short tunnel and comes out of sight, after a sharp river bend, which it crosses by an iron bridge. The road had now many serpentine twists to gain height and the countryside is outstanding there. After about 30 minutes drive you may reach Datong (not the same pronunciation like the well known Datong in northern China!). To come to the railway again you have to pass this town and bear left at the end of it. Now you have to follow another road with many bends. From this road you have an outstanding overview over the gorge river valley and the railway line at the bottom of this narrow valley. Five minutes later you'll cross the railway again and reach the station Qingqihai. Here is a railway station, the administration, the locoshed and others. The road ends in Qingqihai.

The line goes from here through an uninvestigated valley to other coal mines and seems to be very, very interesting. Road access seems to be difficult however, there was a road in the right direction.

All trains starting tender first from Ganshui. There is no triangle or turntable anywhere on the line. The trains consists out of 33 open, four axle wagons. The gradient is against the empty trains until Qingqihai. I guess there is a heavy gradient in the unknown section behind Qingqihai for what the locos coming chimney first from there.

We observed the following locos, all SY-class:
0037 cold (locohouse CTC)
0329 working
0514 shunting CTC
0656 cold (locoshed Qingqihai)
1148 cold (locoshed Qingqihai)
1197 working
1198 working
1199 working

Rob Dickinson