November 2014
11-17 November
18-22 November
23 - 26 November
3-5 November
6-10 November
These boxes are hot links. Click on them to go to the reports.
Rongshan must be unlikely for the February - March trip. At best it can be included as Rongshan or Shibanxi but the odds must be that we would end up at Shibanixi with perhaps just a short visit to Rongshan to check the current status but only if the group really wanted to take a chance that nothing will be operating and are happy to explore the yard and the coal mine, walk the line and leave after 1-2 days.
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There will be a similar tour in February - March 2015
Chris Webster, Paul Molyneux-Berry and Mike Jackson report on their return to Chengdu from Guangyuan via Mianzhu, Hanwang and a tourist narrow gauge line with Zebedee as guide. The report below is mainly from Chris with additional comments from Paul and Mike.

15 November:
We had a good run down to Mianzhu, arriving about 12:30.
No road holdups, one comfort stop and sunny weather all the way so able to appreciate the scenic route.
After lunch headed for the earthquake damaged area. First stop the station obviously.
Perfect timing as no sooner had we arrived than a trip working of vans arrived from the branch hauled by what we assume was now the privately owned diesel equivalent of the SY's. We followed it back down the branch on foot where it recommenced shunting whilst we went in search of the stored SY's, but we found only one, 0418 which was dumped at the end of a siding although sheeted over to protect it. Zebedee's enquiries revealed that the other two locos had been sold, we believe to a museum or for plinthing elsewhere rather than for scrap.
We then explored the damaged town before heading up a road which appeared to follow what had been the trackbed of the line up to the coal mine and what was shown on the tourist map in town as "earthquake damaged small train station". Although not signed as such we found the latter, together with the remains of a stone arch bridge and adjoining abutment wall overturned by the quake. At this point the road was deteriorating into pools of mud which eventually defeated all of us except for Paul who continued and reached the mine loading area.
Here he found one low side wagon part buried in muck and undergrowth, an odd length of rail and piles of both timber and concrete sleepers. The rail fixings on the latter confirmed it was 2ft 6" gauge.
The mine loading structure was still intact and there were remains of a smaller (600mm?) System feeding the top of it with at least one vehicle of some sort on it.
The trackbed appeared to continue beyond the unloading area and head further up the valley. (Serving further mines possibly?)
Paul did try to venture to a higher level of the mine but this area was still inhabited and he was met by someone who clearly objected to his presence so made a strategic withdrawal!
Back down in the SG station area just beyond where the track currently ends, there is a large and quite badly quake damaged stone structure with a ramped approach at the mine end which was clearly where transhipment of coal took place between narrow and standard gauge. There were no rails remaining at either level (the top NG area having now being turned over to a vegetable patch!)
Paul did a quick search on SY country and could find no mention of a ng line here being visited, and clearly we haven't been able to Google it either, so it would be interesting to find out more. Was it actually still working in 2008 at the time of the quake or abandoned prior to that?
Having arrived back at the station, perfect timing again saw a green DF4 (I think - no doubt somebody will correct me if I'm wrong) arriving on a mixed freight. The private diesel reappeared to collect wagons from it and there was a gang of guys clearly getting ready in the station coal yard to receive wagons.
I left them to the shunting to visit the earthquake museum and see if it had any photos of the railway either before or after the quake. I had no luck but Cliff said there was a brief shot of miners and a mining loco in one of the videos playing.
We then headed back to town for dinner and some of us took a walk around the very lively town square. I'll let Mike send you a photo of the motorised panda!
That concludes day 1, we will see what Zebedee guides us to tomorrow.
Hope you guys had a good journey and the post tour goes more to plan.

Paul wrote:

I'm not certain that the mine I walked to was a coal mine. There wasn't much evidence of 'universal blackness' although that can dissipate with time.
The SY country listing for the fertiliser works has a tentative mention of apatite and phosphate mines?
I'd love to find out more but I suspect there isn't much info out there.

This is the mine near Hanwang that I walked to:,104.1523803,314m/data=!3m1!1e3


16 November:

Chris reports on their second day:

Today was a long travel day although we didn't hit much in the way of holdups.
Spectacular scenery but weather was wet to start, drying up later.
The GPS was somewhat confused by a closed bridge diversion at one point but got us to the ng line in the tourist park via some interesting roads.
Only the section between the first 2 stations (of 4) was operating, for the princely sum of 15 Yuan single fare per section, so a return fare for the full length when operating would be 90 Yuan, so clearly aimed at rich tourists!
As you suggested it runs very much on demand so we had to raise the crew from their slumbers to run a train, although we were not the only passengers.
The stock comprises 4 four wheel diesels and maybe 20 four wheel coaches. The locos were double ended and were possibly a mining type dressed up with a larger body.
Coaches were clearly custom built and several looked as if they hadn't been used for some time.
Mike has all the loco details we could glean from the plates.
We did the journey one way and photographed the return working departing.
As the prospect of a subsequent train was uncertain we then decided to walk back on the wooden walkway that runs along the valley side. Signposted as being 1200m long this was clearly the "crow flies" distance and also neglected to mention that it climbed halfway up the valley side in the process before dropping down again!
All of a sudden 15 Yuan seemed like a bargain and we wished we'd walked along the track.
Having said that a further train didn't run until after we'd got back to the main station.

We then headed for Chengdu, getting to the hotel about 17-30.
We didn't have time to go to see the plinthed QJ and SY.
Good dinner opposite the hotel and the driver and then Zebedee left us to return home afterwards.
Transfers booked for tomorrow morning to the airport, although Peter managed to change his flight and has left this evening.
And that as they say is that!

Mike Jackson adds:

The line was in the Wenchuan Special Tourist Zone, above the Zhonghe River upstream of 'Moon Lake' but I'm damned if I can read much more of the microscopic print on the tickets for the railway & the entry to the tourist zone.

The tickets are headed 'Fantasy Sanjiang of Wenchuan Special Tourism Zone'

Probably about 25 miles from Chengdu & the access road skirted a lake, passing thru several tunnels before we entered the zone.

There is a large village/small town whose name I can't read [Sanjiang ?] where we stopped for lunch between the lake & the '18 Happy Curves' marked on one of the tickets.
The line started from the Panda Hotel [or 'Pandar' as the signs on the hotel put it].

Further investigations afoot when I get home tomorrow.

Mike +

Paul adds a link for this location:

Try this link:,103.2818322,2529m/data=!3m1!1e3

The line runs from bottom right (Pandar hotel) to top left. I think most of the stations have a blue roof.

Mike has the loco details:

The locos are by the Wanshan Mining Equipment Company of Chanzhou.
Our loco was a JMY40 & standing in the yard was another JMY40 & a WHY40 built between 2002 & 2010 & another similar but unidentified loco in the shed.
Further details available on request.
No running numbers, but possibly named.

A spectacular little line & well worth further exploration altho' the traffic up to it in the tourist season must be horrendous, perhaps the checkpoint restricts the traffic & you have to take a bus.

Mike +
Mojiang - this electric narrow gauge coal line is still operating a passenger service but the mines are closed according to Zebedee. The area is still considered company land and the company is still unfriendly to visiting enthusiasts. Now, it seems, there is less reason to go there.
Fuxin - it's been reported that all steam locos have been turned and now propel chimney first up the line to the spoil tip. This information has since been updated with loco turned again to face the normal way and only 4 steam in use plus one standby and only 2 diesels in use. The steam locos are reported to be very active.

Yuanbaoshan - reported that JS no longer works the passenger train.

Pingzhuang - reported that two SY work trains from the mines to the washery but movements are rate and the locos spend a lot of time sitting around doing nothing. Later updated to two diesels doing all the use with steam not in use.
Tour highlights and the future

A chance to visit Rongshan and see something happening may have been the highlight of the trip for most participants but it was hard work and not totally satisfying. Seeing the last real steam movements before official closure on 10 November 2014 is momentous but I expect that salvage trains will run occasionally for several months on a totally unpredictable basis. I expect the last real train to run at some future date without any enthusiasts there to see it. If we ignore Rongshan, Sandaoling with the mega-thrash from coal trains out of the open cast pit was the real highlight but finding chimney-first steam trains on the new line to Shadunzi is a challenge. Perhaps this will become easier once regular rather than test trains are running. Baiyin was quieter than I have seen it before and the 6-carriage passenger trains can no longer be reliably hauled to Shenbutong with one SY. Having a diesel on the back doing most of the work does not have the same attraction. This occurred on 1 trip out of the 4 we saw. Shibanxi was still good although only 3 short passenger trains a day with only two at the weekend, does mean that you rely on tourist trains for additional photo opportunities. Overall, it seems that we are down to only 4 real steam locations in China that provide reliable and interesting activity suitable for group tours - Sandaoling, Baiyin (in the steam heat season), Fuxin and Shibanxi. At all of these there has already been a noticeable reduction in the amount of steam. Other surviving steam locations such as Tianjin and YaoJie are for the individual looking for something different and prepared to find nothing or not much happening when they get there.

I plan to be back for another trip in spring - click this box to send an email and ask me for details. After that, who knows? Will there be enough left for a winter 2015-2016 trip? The end in coming and one of these next few trips will be the last for sure. Which one will that be?