Next Tours: 18 November - 2 December 2016
Sandaoling & Fuxin
25 February - 20 March 2017
Fuxin, Sandaoling & Shibanxi
China Real Steam Tours
email me - - if you are interested in this tour
Linesiding with John
See details below of the next tour to Sandaoling and Fuxin in November 2016. Details will follow shortly of a March 2017 tour to Fuxin, Sandaoling & Shibanxi
A deposit of £400 secures your place on one of these tours. Your deposit is fully refundable until the tour has 6 full participants signed up or the tour is declared go. The tour may be declared go with less than 6 people.

Once the tour is declared go, you deposit is partially refundable. The level of the refund will depend on the amount of time and expense already incurred on your behalf.

If you cancel 30 days or less before the tour starts, your withdrawal would have a major effect on tour economics and your deposit is not refundable.

In the unlikely event that I need to cancel the tour for whatever reason after declaring it 'go', the limit of my liability will be the full refund of any monies paid to me by those who have signed up for the tour. I would only take this drastic step in the most extreme circumstances after exploring all of the less drastic alternatives.
Click here for my standard tour terms and conditions
Updated 4 April 2016
email me - - if you are interested in this tour
You can read about the previous two China trips here:
I was especially pleased with my March 2015 tour photos which can be seen here:
Click here to read about the March 2016 tour here:
This page is no longer being updated and will disappear in September 2016 - please click here for my new website
Version 2

Two new China Tours to choose from

November 2016 Tour
Tour Itinerary November 18 – December 2 2016

Part 1 guided by Jun.

November 18 - Day 1 arrive Beijing Airport, transfer to the tour Hotel, meet up with group and guide and dinner at hotel

November 19 - Day 2 – Beijing – Hami flight, arrive Hami, transfer to Sandaoling by private bus and first look at the railway

08:50 PEK(T3) 12:20 HMI CA1267    Aircraft:73G
(The additional cost of this flight will be advised when it has been booked. Flights will not be booked until after the tour is declared 'go'.)

November 20-24 - Day 3-7 – 5 full days at Sandaoling

November 25 - Day 8 – morning at Hami, transfer to Hami airport, overnight in Beijing

17:40 HMI 20:40 PEK(T3) CA1268    Aircraft:73G
(The additional cost of this flight will be advised when it has been booked. Flights will not be booked until after the tour is declared 'go'.)

Current plan: Jun sees group off at Hami Airport but remains at Sandaoling. Alan meets the group at Beijing Airport. Those joining Part 2 should plan to arrive on Day 8 to meet up with Alan and the group at the group hotel.

Part 2 - days 9 -15

November 26 - Day 9 – transfer to Jinzhou Nan by semi-high speed train, tour bus Jinzhou Nan – Fuxin, possible first look at Fuxin – visit to depot - overnight Fuxin

D41    09:52     Beijing     13:32    Jinzhou [Liaoning] South
(or similar)

November 27-30 - Day 10-13 - 4 full days at Fuxin

December 1 - Day 14 – morning at Fuxin, transfer to Jinzhou Nan, semi-high speed train to Beijing, transfer to airport hotel

D102     14:54    Jinzhou [Liaoning] South    18:31    Beijing
(or similar)

December 2 - Day 15 – breakfast and free transport to the airport, end of tour

Alan remains with group until the morning of Day 15.

The airport and airport hotels are close to the Beijing Railway Museum (a taxi ride away). If anyone wishes to arrive early or leave later, advice can be given on how to get there. If this is your first trip, you may also want to spend a few extra days to visit the general tourist sights such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven or the Ming Tombs.

China Steams On – It's still the best Real Working Steam destination left!

We saw 21 – 24* steam locos in use during my February – March 2016 tour of classes C2, JS and SY. Although this tour visited 5 steam locations, only 3 of these really give the sort of activity that justifies getting on a flight to China these days.

I plan another full China tour in March 2017 but Sandaoling, one of these remaining 3 locations, has an uncertain future and a visit in November before another Chinese New Year (when decisions are often taken about the future) seems prudent.

The November Tour will visit Sandaoling and Fuxin. You can visit just one of these or both systems and join and leave the tour in Beijing. The tour will us daily Air China flights from Beijing to Hami and Hami to Beijing to get us swiftly to and from Sandaoling. Taking these 2 flights effectively saves 2 full days over using the overnight trains. The cost of the flights are an addition to the tour price and will not be known until closer to the tour start. As a guide price, they could be an additional Yuan 1000 – 1500 each way which would add Yuan 3,000 or so to the tour price.

It's planned that the tour will be guided by by Jun (Liu Xue Jun) in Sandaoling and Alan (Wang Feng) in Fuxin. These two are part of a small group of very experienced Chinese steam tour guides. They have always provided a quality service not just to me but to other tour groups and tour operators. I will work with Jun to make all of the pre-tour arrangements. At the moment, I do not plan to participate in this tour as I have family commitments at that time but Jun and Alan are well able to guide the group without me around.

Tour Impressions

Picture this: a steam loco on a decent train working hard through interesting surroundings in good photographic light. The sounds of air pumps, air horns, chime whistles and the two cylinder beat echoing off the sides of an open cast pit fill your ears. Plenty of steam and smoke and no fences or barriers to stop you changing positions to be on the best side for the light. Front-three quarter, side view, silhoutte, glint, contre jour, close up, wide angle and telephoto shots-a-plenty to be had. Regular action repeated every 30 minutes or so but always with a few surprises thrown in. The chance to walk the track without restriction to new locations between trains or relax and wait for the next train. All of this with real working steam – nothing fake about this, but with the latest cameras and video cameras to record the action... and it's 2016!

Tour Attractions

On the steam side:

- see the last Chinese open cast mine with frequent JS coal trains leaving the mine along with additional locos serving the deep mines. Up to 12 JS locos in use. Sunrise and sunset shots and an early morning shift change with 4-5 locos and trains being prepared for the day's work. The surroundings are stoney desert and the Tianshan Mountains – highest peak 7,439 metres – visible on clear days
- See the last Chinese deep mines with a significant steam-operated rail system with 5 or more SY locos in use hauling coal trains and propelling spoil and power station ash trains up the spoil tip. Visits to the stabling point (around 5 locos at shift change) and the depot (operating locos coal, water and take sand during the afternoon) included.
- Permission to access areas of the open cast mine at Sandaoling with photo/video permission and to access company areas including the spoil tip at Fuxin along with visits to the stabling point and depot included.
- Visits to the workshop at Sandaoling (currently only working as required with a skeleton staff), the store of locos at Sandaoling and the workshop at Fuxin (which is also very quiet these days) will be optional and subject to access being available. We will check if a visit can be arranged and if it is worthwhile. Additional costs will apply to these visits. There is always 'free' steam activity for those who choose not to partake in any special visits.
- Spend enough time at the selected real steam locations to properly explore the system, take shots at various places at various time and allow for bad weather or unexpected events that could reduce the effective photographic time.

This is real steam. No steam movements will be arranged or chartered. There will often be several steam movements happening at different places at the same time and the challenge is guess where to be when something happens. Our guides Jun and Alan will help you be at suitable locations to get the shots.

On the group side:

- Small group (around 6 people) with obvious advantages at photo locations and more chance that the whole group will enjoy other aspects of the tour including meals and each others' company.
- Single rooms as standard (no single supplement but a discount if you wish to share with a friend)
- Three meals a day including bottled water always available and soft drinks or beer with lunch and dinner if you wish
- No tip surcharge or kitty – any optional tipping of guides and drivers is at your own discretion. Any mandatory 'tipping' will be covered by tour funds
- Flexibility and the opportunity to do your own thing. First timers will be guided so they can be at the right place at the right time. Old hands can choose to do their own thing if they wish. (A mobile phone with either a Chinese or Hong Kong/Chinese SIM or an overseas mobile phone that will work in China is recommended if you want to wander off.)

This tour visits the best two standard gauge steam locations in China with both surviving classes in use (JS and SY). Both classes are 2-8-2s but while the JS appears more traditional, the SY is a modern steam loco design. Both are powerful mixed-traffic designs with the JS being used for freight and passenger work on China Rail in the past. The SY was the final steam loco class for industry and was also used on passenger trains on industrial systems. The last SY passenger finished in 2015. Both Sandaoling and Fuxin are coal railways

5 full days and 2 half days (total 6 days) at Sandaoling with up to 12 JS in use on the separate open cast and deep mine systems. The major focus will be on the open cast system (6 locos with 4-5 in use at any time) where the action is frequent and we should have good access inside the open cast mine and at the stabling point, unloading area and to most of the track. Activity on the deep mine system is less frequent and less photogenic (unless the Tianshan Mountains are visible as a backdrop) and access is much more restricted. The deep mines also have diesels but the open cast is 100% steam with 4 JS hauled coal trains in action and 1 engineers train (March 2016 status). Optional visit to the workshops (additional cost) if there is any activity there. The open air store of around 30 locos (JS and SY) in a secure compound may also be available for an additional charge.

4 full days plus 1 half day and possibly a short time on the arrival day (total 4.5 days +) at Fuxin with 5-8 SY in use moving coal, slag and fly ash between mines, the power station and the spoil tip. We hope the Wulong Mine will be back in action as this adds to the intensive activity in a limited areas which is easy to walk and drive around. Visit the stabling point for the morning shift change and the depot for afternoon maintenance and coaling. Optional visit to the workshops (additional cost) if there is any activity there.

New for this trip
Internal flights Beijing – Hami (for Sandaoling) and Hami – Beijing save 2 days compared to taking overnight trains. While this is more expensive than the trains, the time saved allows for the same extended stays at Sandaoling and Fuxin in a tour that is 2 days shorter than using overnight trains.

Whole tour or just one part
You can choose to participate in the whole tour or Part 1 or Part 2.

Whole tour discount
Participants for the whole tour qualify for a 5% discount.

Early Booking Discount
Sign up for this tour by 18 July to qualify for a 5% early booking discount.

Previous participant discount
If you have been on a previous Linesiding with John tour, you qualify for a 5% discount.

Important note on discounts
The maximum total discount available is 10%. Discounts only apply if there are 6 or more participants for the whole tour or part tour. Discounts will be applied to any portion of the tour with 6 or more people signed up. The tour can run with 2-5 people so a discount on the basic tour price cannot be guaranteed. The internal flights Beijing - Hami - Beijing are in addition to the tour price and are not included in the discount offers.

Tour Prices

The tour prices are in Chinese Yuan. You can check exchange rates at Prices are for ground arrangements only Beijing to Beijing. Flights to Beijing and China visas will be arranged by you not by us although we will provide paperwork to assist you apply for your China visa and give informal visa advice.

Whole Tour - 18 November - 2 December - 15 Days

Yuan 21,000 + Beijing - Hami and Hami - Beijing flights extra
(You may qualify for up to 10% discount - see notes above)

Part Tour - Part 1 - 18 November - 26 November - 9 Days

Yuan 12,600 + Beijing - Hami and Hami - Beijing flights extra
(You may qualify for up to 10% discount - see notes above)

Part Tour - Part 2 - 25 November - 2 December - 8 Days

Yuan 11,200
(You may qualify for up to 10% discount - see notes above)

If you wish to sign up for this tour, you can do this with the payment of a £400 (fully refundable) deposit to me in the UK or a Yuan 4,000 deposit to Jun in China (refundable but remittances to China are much less easy to refund).

Please let me know if you are interested in this tour.


While there are several other surviving steam lines in China, most operate with one loco in steam and with only occasional action or with limited access. Unless you are a hardened enthusiast tracking down every last working loco and prepared to travel a long distance for one loco that may not move and to stake out a location for a day or more waiting for action, these two locations are the last two which can be guaranteed* to deliver frequent interesting action and access with official permission to most areas of the operation.

*This is real working steam so things outside our control can go wrong – derailments, periodic shutdowns, slowdowns, security clampdowns, closure, etc. are all possible but these have not affected any of my previous visits to Sandaoling and Fuxin.

Should anything change at either Sandaoling or Fuxin before the start of the tour or after it has started, the group will be consulted about how to react. While there are limited other steam and rail options left in China especially close to Sandaoling, the guides and I promise to offer the best alternative plans for the groups' consideration.

John Raby
25 March 2016

Spring China Tour 2017
25 February - 20 March
Fuxin, Sandaoling and Shibanxi

Please read the information for the November tour above as an introduction to this tour. The Spring tour is different as follows:

The tour visits the 2 best standard gauge and the only narrow gauge steam railway in China - Fuxin, Sandaoling and Shibanxi.

Shibanxi is a narrow gauge steam line which also has electric-hauled coal trains on the lower section. While the line maintains 3 daily return passenger trains (2 at the weekend and during the tourist season), a visit during the main 'yellow flower' tourist season sees many regular tourist trains as well as extra tourist trains to meet demand and 5 C2 locos in use. The publicity around the spring flowers and steam trains running up a remote valley brings in large numbers of Chinese tourists so you need to enjoy 'people watching' and not worry too much if they get in your shots!

We use surface transport throughout with no internal flights

The March tour will use semi-high speed trains and overnight sleeper trains. While doing it this way takes longer, there are costs savings (over internal flights) and also a chance to enjoy some long train trips in soft sleeper berths (4 people per cabin) with restaurant cars available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also makes it easier to make alternative arrangements in case of any SNAFUs. These trains and 3 meals a day are included in the tour cost.

Please see the report of the similar 2016 Spring Tour for more information on what to expect during the tour.

Part 1 - 25 February - 3 March

Day 1 – 25 February
Meet up Beijing Airport, transfer to Beijing Station for lunch and semi-high speed D train to Jinzhou. Our tour bus will collect us from Jinzhou South station and take us to Fuxin. Overnight Fuxin.

The tour transport will leave the airport by 11:00. Please make sure your plane is scheduled to arrive by 10:00

D73    14:28    Beijing    17:59 Jinzhou [Liaoning] South
or similar train

Day 2 – 26 February
Fuxin 1
Fuxin has 4+ SY in use of internal coal transfers, spoil tipping, as well as fly ash trains from the power station to the tip. The stabling point, depot and workshop can all be visited (an extra charge will apply for the workshop visit).

Day 3 – 27 February
Fuxin 2

Day 4 – 28 February
Fuxin 3

Day 5 – 1 March
Fuxin 4

Day 6 – 2 March
Fuxin morning then transfer to Jinzhou South and D train to Beijing. Overnight Beijing

D102    14:54    Jinzhou [Liaoning] South    18:31    Beijing  
(or similar)

Option to join the tour in Beijing for Part 2

(Total of 4.5 days at Fuxin)

Part 2 - 2 - 11 March

Day 7 – 3 March
Train to Sandaoling
Z69     10:00     Beijing West    13:02 +1 Kumul (Hami)

Option to leave the tour in Beijing end of Part 1

Day 8 – 4 March
Train to Sandaoling
Z69     10:00     Beijing West    13:02 +1 Kumul (Hami)
Arrive Kumul 13:02, transfer to Sandaoling for late afternoon first glimpse of the open cast pit and JS steam locos in action

Day 9 – 5 March
Sandaoling 1
Sandaoling has up to 12 JS locos in use on two separate systems. We will focus on the open cast mine system where there is more action and we have better access. Depending on the time of day, there are a variety of locations down in the open cast pit, at the exit to the pit, at the stabling point, on the washery branch, etc. A visit to the deep mine system will be arranged near the beginning of the visit and the group can decide how much time to allocate to this. Lunch each day can be taken at a restaurant in town or it can be a packed lunch overlooking the open cast while waiting for trains. In March 2016, the group decided that with long days (07:00 - 19:00) and a long train-crew break at lunchtime that they preferred to have their lunch in town and a short rest back at the hotel from 12:00 - 15:00

Day 10 – 6 March
Sandaoling 2

Day 11 – 7 March
Sandaoling 3

Day 12 – 8 March
Sandaoling 4

Day 13 – 9 March
Sandaoling 5

Day 14 – 10 March
Sandaoling 6

Day 15 – 11 March
Most of the day at Sandaoling prior to transfer to Hami, dinner in Hami, train to Chengdu

K454    21:57    Kumul (Hami)    15:08+2    Chengdu

(Total of 7 days at Sandaoling)

Option to end your tour here and travel back to Beijing from Hami.

Day 16 – 12 March
On the train

K454    21:57    Kumul (Hami)    15:08+2    Chengdu

Part 3 - 13 - 24 March

Day 17 – 13 March Monday
Arrive Chengdu 15:10. Transfer to Sanjin on the Shibanxi Railway calling at Chengdu Airport to collect people joining for Shibanxi portion.

K454    21:57    Kumul (Hami)    15:08+2    Chengdu

Option to join the tour here at Chengdu Airport. BA and KLM both have flights arriving from Europe on this day.

Day 18 – 14 March
There are 2 return passenger trains during the tourist season and many additional tourist trains. Double-heading was employed in 2016. Electric coal trains operate on the bottom section. There will be enough time to travel and (if you wish) walk the whole line and we will spend two nights in Bagou (up the line) with the option to stay at Mifeng (the reversal station). We plan to visit the depot and yard at Shibanxi. Access to the depot depends on the whim of the manager on duty on the day. We were allowed a brief visit to the depot but not the works behind it in March 2016. We expect Friday and Saturday to be the busiest days for the tourist trains. When no more full-line trains can be run, shuttles between Sanjin and Mifeng are also run to provide a taster ride for those who can't get on the full-line trains. Saturday, our last full day should be the busiest day for tourist trains. This is a good day to ride the first train (or walk) to Mifeng and photograph either side of Mifeng before walking back to Sanjin.

Day 19 - 15 March

Day 20 - 16 March

Day 21 - 17 March

Day 22 - 18 March

Day 23 - 19 March
Sunday morning at Shibanxi then transfer to hotel near Chengdu Airport for the last night. We leave around 13:00 to avoid the crowds heading back to Chengdu later in the day. Being in position near the airport ready for flights on Monday gives peace of mind.

(Total of 5.5 days at Sandaoling)

Day 24 - 20 March (Monday)
Fly home from Chengdu – KLM and BA both have flights to Europe on Monday

Note: Although there is no solid evidence, some people think that Sandaoling won't survive beyond Chinese New Year 2017 (late January). Jun who arranges my tours expects Sandaoling to continue. With his reassurance, Sandaoling is included in the tour. Should it not be worth visiting after we have already begun booking flights, etc., it's likely we will propose to extend the time at Fuxin and at Shibanxi. At Fuxin, there may be the option to visit several of the relatively nearby locations that still have at least one loco in steam (Pingzhunag, Tiefa, Tianjin). At Shibanxi, there may be the option to visit to narrow gauge electric line at Honglu (apparently under threat of closure. The other narrow gauge electric line at Mojiang is reported closed and lifted. Should any major decisions such as this be necessary, those already signed up for the tour will be consulted.

Tour Price, Discounts and Deposits

The whole tour (25 February – 20 March) – 24 days - is priced at Yuan 33,600  You may also qualify for up to 10% discount (see below).

Part 1 (25 February - 3 March) - 7 days – Beijing – Beijing is priced at Yuan 9,800. You may qualify up to 10% discount (see below).

Part 2 (2 - 11 March) – 10 days – Beijing – Beijing is priced at
(but given some uncertainty about Sandaoling you may be better to sign up for the November visit if you can. The cost of your return train or plane ticket to Beijing is extra. You are recommended to let our Chinese guides manage you return travel back to Beijing in case any changes are required.)

Part 3 (13 – 20 March) – 8 days – Chengdu – Chengdu is priced at Yuan 11,200. You may qualify up to 10% discount (see below).

For prices for combined Parts 1 & 2 or 2 & 3, please ask.


I have agreed tour discounts with Jun that give everyone who signs up a chance for 5% or even 10% discount. Discounts are given for signing up early, signing up for the whole tour and being a previous tour participant.

The details:

Discounts are available (up to a maximum discount of 10%) as follows:

- 5% discount for signing up for the tour 4 months before the tour start
(by July 18 for the November tour, by October 25 for the February - March 2017 tour)
- 5% discount for signing up for the whole tour
- 5% discount for being a previous 'Linesiding with John' China tour participant

The maximum total discount available is 10%

Discounts will apply as long as there are 6 or more people signed up. The tour may go ahead with less than 6 people for all or some parts but your discount will only apply to those parts with 6 or more participants.


You can secure your place on the tour with a fully refundable deposit of £400 paid to me (or a less easily refundable) Yuan 4,000 paid to Jun. Please contact me for instructions on paying your deposit.

Once the tour is declared go and we start to incur tour costs, your deposit becomes partially refundable. We will only deduct amounts for any genuine out-of-pocket expenses we have.

Your deposit is non-refundable 30 days before the start of the tour as cancellation at this late point puts major financial stresses on the tour.

Balance of tour payments

These can be made by remittances to Jun in China or by paying Yuan cash to the guide at the start of the tour. Remitting money to China can give you a better exchange rate than buying cash and relieve you of any worry about carrying large sums of money to the start of the tour. I may be able to accept a British pound payment to my UK bank account to pay the tour balance (for a few participants). This may be useful to those with UK bank accounts who can remit money to me at no charge. Please contact me if you are interested in this option.

John Raby
4 April 2016

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