The International Steam Pages


The Yunnan Railway Museum

We were in Kunming at the start of a two month odyssey through Burma, Thailand and Laos - you can read more about the trip and staying in Kunming, also a short excursion on what little is left active of the Yunnan-Vietnam railway inside China.

If, like me, you have had trouble staying awake at Beijing's mausoleum of a railway museum, then the Yunnan Railway Museum at Kunming Bei station will be something of a revelation. About half the station has been converted to exhibit a mass of old photographs (mainly of the period of the construction) and artifacts of the French built metre gauge railway which opened between Haiphong and Kunming in 1910. Also included are a large topographical model which shows the passage of the railway through the mountains and numerous models of the line's rolling stock including steam locomotives. There are reproductions of many original documents, which are naturally in French, but there are both Chinese and English translations. Allow at least an hour to browse everything, the only disappointment to me was the scarcity of pictures of the railway in operation (both in steam and latterly diesel operation).


The museum is easy to get to using the #23 or #K1 buses from Dong Feng Square, alternatively it is linked to the main station by the #78 bus. It is open 10.00 to 16.00 on Tuesday to Sunday (ie it is closed on Monday) and admission is a reasonable CNY 10.

This is a trolley in the main museum:


The rolling stock exhibits are housed separately in what appears to have been part of the locomotive and carriage shed complex some couple of hundred metres west and next to the railway line - the friendly staff at the main museum insisted on escorting us there but perhaps they were just bored as we were the only visitors to either place!

Of course for me the star of the show in the rolling stock section was 600mm gauge Baldwin 0-10-0 29, accompanied by a coach and various goods wagons, all wooden bodied - in fact more than enough for them to use as templates for making reproductions should they ever decide to re-open that part as a tourist operation...

Similarly on the metre gauge there is 2-8-0 KD55 583 with a couple of coaches and a 1926 box van. Of the 5 metre gauge steam locomotives reported in Kunming some year back, two are in Beijing, we didn't make any attempt to check out the others. 

Perhaps of equal interest is a Michellin railcar with, not surprisingly given its name, rubber wheels!

Of no special interest (at least to me) is Burma (Myanma) Railways ST 774 donated by that government together with a very strange tourist coach:

Tucked away at the back of this shed were two duplex pumps dating from the building of the railway - the first stationary steam engines I have ever seen in China. One was unmarked but this one is from Hayward, Tyler of London - for us this is a further link with Burma as we saw one of their horizontal engines powering a rice mill north of Shwebo in 2007 - the company still exists:


Rob Dickinson

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