The International Steam Pages

The Jianghe Coal Railway 2012

Wilson Lythgoe visited SW China as part of an extended trip. He writes:

One of the high points of my Chinese travels has always been their narrow gauge lines. Whether steam worked or not on most trips, and I’ve done a few now over the last ten years, I seem to have visited at least one narrow gauge line. This trip I visited three: Shibanxi, Jianghe and Yongchuan.

Under its new guise as a tourist railway Shibanxi was a big disappointment. Certainly the railways future now seems to be secure but at the expense of becoming a Disneyland in Sichuan. I doubt if I’ll visit again. 

The purpose of this ‘ramble’ though is to look at what I found at the Jianghe and Yongchuan Coal Railways: one diesel and the other electric operated. Both lines seem to have had very little attention from the rail fan community apart from the occasional visit by a tour. As tours have Chinese guides doing the necessary legwork and use taxis or chartered buses very little information seemed to be available as a ‘DIY’ guide for solo travellers. Hopefully I can correct this for Yongchuan but there is little need now for Jianghe as I discovered.

Jianghe Coal Railway, 7th & 8th November 2012

I’d scheduled two days for this line with the plan being to walk from the halfway village of Taishan to the loading point one day and from Taishan to the unloading area the next. A very wet day on the 7th restricted me to my hotel but it had eased up sufficiently the following morning for me to head out.

I took the bus to Taishan and in hindsight, if I’d given it a little thought as I checked out the condition of the line running through the village, I’d have realised things were not as I hoped them to be. I just assumed though that rain was causing excessive rust on the track and that its condition was normal for a rundown narrow gauge line. I pushed on with the days plan and headed off up the line, hoping a train would come along, checking out suitable photo spots and the stone sleepers.

After a couple of hours I was starting to think that maybe there were no trains running and when I came across some locals, who had just completed loading a trolley, I realised their effort was likely to be the only train I would be seeing this day. A short time later I reached a village that I later found out to be Luoba. There the track divided with one line heading off to the right while the other, going almost straight ahead, crossed the sealed road.

At the road crossing track lengths had been removed so I assumed it was a now closed siding and continued walking up the right hand track which took me to the loading compound. There I discovered, that what had to now only been a suspicion, was turning out to be true……the line was CLOSED. The truck like locos were stored at the entrance to the loading yard and where the loop lines to the loading tower should have been……well they weren’t. All track beyond the locos had either been removed or was now buried under coal dross. Tyre tracks crossed the yard and there was a new weighbridge at the road entrance. Road transport had taken over! The locos cab layout was intriguing especially the sanding apparatus…..

I then returned to the junction and followed the line that headed off to the left. Well I had nothing else to do and it was too early in the day to head back to Chongqing. This took me to another walled compound where I found the rolling stock. This area appeared to house various maintenance workshops but no one was around and it certainly looked as if nothing had happened for some time. 

And that was my day exploring the Jianghe Coal Railway……was it worth the effort….most certainly but having sampled the line I’m now always going to regret I never saw it operating.

Rob Dickinson