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Relics of the Steam Age Tour
China Tour February-March 2015
Tour Itinerary
email me - jraby@waitrose.com if you are interested in this tour
Linesiding with John
Updated 2 January 2015
Would you enjoy a trip to China and would you enjoy it more or less if you signed up for one of my tours? I offer trips to China to see real working steam but not just that, a chance to interact with the Chinese people, enjoy the scenery, eat the food . . . One way, I thought, to give you an idea of whether you would enjoy China with me, is to put together a collection of what would today be called 'selfies' but which were photos of me in China taken by friends, local guides and fellow travellers. Please see the YouTube slide show below. Can you put yourself in my place and imagine yourself enjoying China? If think you would enjoy a trip with me, I have another trip in early 2015. Email me jraby@waitrose.com for more details.
Standard Terms & Conditions for all China Tours
China Spring Tour
27 February - 23 March,
16 nights, 17 days Standard Gauge Main Tour plus
8 nights, 9 days Sichuan Narrow Gauge Extension

Main tour 27 February – 15 March: Visit the three best remaining standard gauge steam lines in China - Baiyin, Sandaoling and Fuxin (and if still using steam, an option to visit Pingzhuang and Yuanbaoshan on our way to Fuxin)

27 February
Tour starts Beijing airport, transfer to Beijing West station - overnight to Lanzhou arrive 28 Feb
28 Feb - 2 March
1 full days plus 2 half days at Baiyin for the twice daily SY steam passenger train, overnight train to Hami arrive early morning (overnight train gives us more useful time at steam locations compared to a daytime ride on the new high speed train)
3 March – 8 March
6 full days at Sandaoling for steam coal trains (JS) from the open cast and deep mines, late evening train to Beijing
9 March
On train to Beijing
10 March
Arrive Beijing and transfer by private bus to Fuxin SY (or via Pingzhuang if still SY steam)
10 - 14 March
Fuxin - 3.5 days 
14 March
Private bus to Jinzhou Nan late morning, semi-high speed train to Beijing, taxi transfer to airport hotel.
15 March
Fly home (or fly Chengdu for the extension to Shibanxi with time at Rongshan if it is still active)

(10-12 March - If Pingzhuang (SY) and/or Yuanbaoshan (JS) are still using steam, we have the option to have a day at Pingzhuang and Yuanbaoshan on 11 March before continuing to Fuxin on 11 March late afternoon or 12 March morning. If this becomes a possibility, participants will be consulted on whether we should do this or go straight to Fuxin.)

Sandaoling is the highlight of the trip with regular, spectacular coal trains out of the open cast pit (roughly every 30 minutes when things are running well) and long, infrequent trains on the lines to the deep mines including the new mine to the west at Shadunzi which are best done when tipped off by train control that something is due. Spoil tipping by rail has ceased and the rail service can now be operated with 10 locos, half the number of a year ago. 

Baiyin is still worthwhile if the passenger is steam. It's expected that the steam heat season will last until around 15 March which is why we need to visit here first on the spring trip. In November, there was one steam loco in use and one in steam on standby. The steam passenger up the valley to Shenbutong is still as good as ever but with freight activity low, there was little action at Gongsi yard although depot and workshop visits are still of interest.

Fuxin is a replacement for Rongshan in the original main tour program. Even here the number of steam locos in steam has reduced from around 8 a year ago to 5 in November. However, four of these (with one on standby) are reported to do almost as much work as 7 (with one standby) and justify its inclusion in this tour. Steam is still used to work frequent coal, mine waste and power station fly ash trains with diesel numbers also reduced from 3 to 2 in November.

Pingzhuang is currently back to 3 locos in steam (but has also been all diesel recently) and Yuanbaoshan may still use steam on the passenger train. The option to visit these two additional coal mine systems which are close to each other and in the general direction from Beijing to Fuxin will be confirmed closer to the start of the tour or possibly during the tour.

Optional Extension: Visit the only remaining narrow gauge steam lines in China - Shibanxi and, if still operating, Rongshan (Note: 7 December - Rongshan is looking increasingly unlikely)

15 March
Fly Beijing - Chengdu and transfer to Sanjin
16-22 March
7 days at Shibanxi (narrow gauge C2) during the spring flower season (if Rongshan is still active, around 3 days at Rongshan, one transfer day, 3 days at Shibanxi) - late afternoon transfer on 22 March to Chengdu airport hotel
23 March
Fly home from Chengdu (BA and KLM fly on Mondays)

Shibanxi: The tour extension to Shibanxi is timed for the spring flower season when many additional tourist trains are running and up to six C2 locos will be in use. There are also 3 return ordinary passenger trains during the week (2 at weekends) and frequent electric-hauled coal trains on the lower section from Sanjin to Shibanxi. Shibanxi is also a place to relax and enjoy the rural Sichuan lifestyle as well as steam trains especially if staying up the line at Bagou. Should we spend the whole of the tour extension here you will have more chance to enjoy the line, spend time in Bagou and are very unlikely to get bored.

Rongshan: If Rongshan is still active and we know in time, we may fly Beijing - Guangyuan rather than Beijing - Chengdu. Rongshan could be visited at the beginning or end of the extension depending on the news of activity there. (7 December - Rongshan is looking increasingly unlikely)

NB: Tour timed to start long enough after Chinese New Year (19 February), but catch the winter steam-heated passenger train at Baiyin and visit Shibanxi (and possibly Rongshan) at spring flower season.

This tour is open for bookings. There is a discount for previous tour participants.

Please email me for tour pricing.
Email me for full details of the Tour

Tour declared GO 7 December - places still available - book now!