November 2014
11-17 November
18-22 November
23 - 26 November
Honglu - This page
3-5 November
6-10 November
These boxes are hot links. Click on them to go to the reports.
Pre-tour predictions and questions: we know that the line is operated in two sections - mines to washery and washery to the China Rail transshipment area. The two sections use different wagons and trains on both sections normally have a caboose on the back. With coal demand generally low, will we see reduced activity or not? This electric narrow gauge line operates like a miniature standard gauge line with heavy rail, electric signalling, fitted air braking and is a slick, modern operation. Most interesting on this trip may be the opportunity to check out another narrow gauge line about 10km away. Google Earth shows this line but no trains are visible. Is this line still operating?
There will be a similar tour in February - March 2015
Click for the Honglu photo folder on Flickr
Yongchuan 4 November

Visit to Honglu Coal Railway

The concrete road after the turn off from Yongchuan is breaking up leading to a slow, painful journey to Honglu.

In the morning some repairs were going on on the Honglu - CR Interchange section so we concentrated on the Honglu Washery to Mine 6 and 7 section. No. 5 was in charge with a 4 wheel caboose. At No. 6 mine we went in to see a double ended battery electric on 600mm track bringing coal from the adit mine to the tipplers for the transfer to the 762mm line. One bit of excitement was when a tipper truck delivered about 8 new mine tubs. After we wondered how they would get them off, they just tipped up the truck and out they fell. One or two landed in a position where they could easily be moved on the track but the rest looked they would need the assistance of a JCB equivalent to separate and move them.

We saw No. 5 make two more trips both to No. 7 mine before heading to the Honglu - China Rail section where services had been resumed. Of the two locos in use, one was No. 2. On shed at Honglu was No. 1 out of use and one other was stabled. Based on that, we think they have 5 locos but I will need to check earlier reports to see if No. 6 also exists.

The Railway was very accommodating and we even had a photos shoot with the company PR team - they like the idea of visiting tourists but creating a tourist line here is rather unlikely. Locals recalled steam locos in use prior to electrification around 1992 but further cross-checking of this is required. The steam locos were all cut up after they finished working.

We think - but need to check - that the coal from the mines to the washery trains and coal from the washery to China Rail trains have different couplings - pin or knuckle - so the locos may be dedicated to hauling one or the other type of train not both. This needs to be checked. We also need to check the gauge - is it 762mm? I have a feeling that Wilson had doubts.

Uploading photos to Flickr from the Yongchuan hotel is a challenge so these may need to wait until we get a better broadband connection - possibly not before Bagou on 6 November.

We plan a short return visit tomorrow morning before driving over to Sanjin on the Shibanxi line.
Yongchuan - Sanjin

5 November

Checked out and first to the China Rail transshipment point. Here the train comes in parallel to CR, reverses round a triangle to the discharge hoppers and a head shunt and pulls forward on the third side of the triangle while discharging and with the train turned and ready for the return run.

Despite road works on the bad road, we managed to get ahead of the train just before Old Honglu. However, we left before discharging was completed.

At Honglu, we discovered that the pin and link coupler adapters are quickly attached to and detached from the knuckle couplers when we saw a loco shunt both types of wagons. The adaptor is kept on the loco when not in use.

The full fleet appears to be - 1 collision damage after hitting a road truck stuck on the tracks, 2, 3, 4 spare and 5. We saw 2, and 5 in use - 5 and then 2 operated unwashed coal trains so there are no locos dedicated to each section. They expect a new loco shortly - an upgraded model 'with air conditioning in the cab' as reported by a keen loco driver.

We then drove via Xujaigou by continuing on Route 206 where there is the remains of an overhead electric 600mm line closed around 2000. Where the road crosses the line the tippler for transferring to China Rail is still in place just to the right but now part of a vegetable garden. The mine is about 10km to the south and is reported still working with road trucks to take away the coal. If mine electrics were used for haulage, they would have had their pantographs mounted on towers to reach the height of the wires (designed to allow road trucks to pass under at crossing? I bet no-one has a photo of the locos!

Then to Rongchuan to get on the expressway for the 3 hour drive to Sanjin via Yibin. The first steam train heard at Sanjin was a 17:30 tourist train empty stock to Shibanxi with loco No. 17! Is this a newly refurbished loco? Will investigate for a later post.