China Blog 2009

Jinzhi Tielu (Jincheng Reed Railway)

24-25 July

This 762mm railway runs from the paper factory at Jincheng about 30 km north east of Jenzhou for over 100 km towards Panjin. The line appears on maps with a northern and two southern branches. It can be clearly seen using MapBar. Enthusiasts have spotted this railway before from the high-speed line or from buses on the expressway from Huludao towards Shenyang but as far as I know, I am the first railway enthusiast to have visited this line. It seems that Japanese enthusiasts have not yet rediscovered it. (Any corrections to these assertions welcome.) This is a shot of the paper factory.

This was a former Japanese steam line (same gauge?) which was destroyed around the end of WWII and later rebuild by the Chinese.

There are at least two types of loco in use. One is a 4-wheel diesel with gear or chain drive inside the heavy frames. The other appears to be a rod drive 0-6-0 diesel. Above the running boards, both types of loco are similar which suggests that they may both be from the same factory. The builder was not identified.

The depot is visible on Google Earth. On the ground, I didn't attempt to go around as there was plenty of security and signs saying this is a protected area. These two pics are the closest I got.

Leaving the depot and sidings, the line crosses the main road.

There are crossing huts on both sides and signalling/communication is by mobile phone. Loaded trains stop before the crossing before being allowed to proceed.

The next feature of the line is a low bridge over a stream. We saw a PW train here on the first day (see illustration above) and a loaded train on the second day.

Shortly after the 3km post, the line crosses under the new high-speed line.

On day 2 we went further (to the passing loop at km 6.5) and along the way saw the typical km posts. This is km 5.

The 'station' at Beizhang at km 6.5 has two types of signals (homemade semaphore and electric) but both are disused and replaced by the mobile phone! As you can see, the line goes on straight forever. We didn't walk beyond this.

The station was a former Japanese guard post according to the locals. I wonder if Japanese sources can tell us more about the origins of this line?

The trains are haystacks on wheels behind a diminutive loco. There are some similarities with Java sugar cane trains but also differences. The reeds are piled higher and there seems to be a rudimentary safety feature which allows the driver to know if the train splits in two. A string is run along the length of the train to a crew member on the final unloaded wagon. If the string breaks when the train splits, I assume that the guard telephones the driver on his mobile to let him know!

Empty trains go to the loading points between 4 and 5 am and return between 11 am and 4-5 pm. We saw 6 trains (including the PW train) on the first day and 5 on the second plus a light engine movement along the line. Trains sometimes come in pairs and in general, the line operates on a convoy system with the chance to run trains against the flow using mobile phone communication and the passing loops (one seen at the main road level crossing and another at km 6.5). Here are a selection of loaded train pics.

Like many railways, this one likes its crossing signs to show the type of 'train' you might encounter.

On the bus route from Jinzhou to Jincheng, there is another site at Shuangyang (south of the regular China Rail line) that has (or had) a narrow gauge salt line. Google Earth suggest that this has gone but locals report it sees occasional use. I invite any one else who goes to Jincheng to check this out as well and to let me know what they find.

John Raby