The International Steam Pages

Two Visits to the Suileng Forestry Railway
28th – 29th May 2006 and 27th April 2013

Wilson Lythgoe writes:

I first visited Suileng in May 2006 and reported on SY Country soon after. I wasn’t able to illustrate the report back then but can now and some of those photos, along with the report, may interest.

“Having a couple of days spare on my recent Chinese trip I decided it could be worthwhile to check out the forestry railway at Suileng before it was too late. Arrived at lunchtime on an overly crowded train from Harbin. Taxi to the Jin Du Binguan, 123Y for a good single/twin, private facilities, although hot water for a couple of hours in the evening only.

Armed with the great maps, timetable and details off the Farrail website (many thanks) took a taxi back to the China Rail station and then started walking north to find the narrow gauge station. It took just over one and a half hours to reach as stopped to watch the cranes being used in the transhipment yard to move logs around. On arrival at the ng station a diesel was shunting and experienced no problems taking photos and generally checking things out.

Enquired about Monday's passenger service and using the Farrail timetable was told 251/252 to and from Linxing leaving at 7.48 would be running. Back to the hotel on local bus 3 which starts from the ng station. (To get to the ng station from the Jin Du Hotel catch the number 3 heading in the direction of the China Rail station although it goes nowhere near this station. I was also told that you could get a taxi to go to either of the train stations by saying "railway station" and showing your small finger to get to the ng or thumb for the CR although didn't try this method.)

Arrived back at the ng station just before 7 the next morning. A tiny railcar (seats for 8 but counted 19 of us in it later) plus a small carriage with locals already hanging out the windows formed the morning train. Half the carriage was already full of parcels and freight to the roof plus all vestibules and doorways full of more cargo......... 

Realized there was no way I could board this train let alone cope with a day on it in these conditions so took a couple of photos and stood around waiting for it to leave. All of a sudden I had 2 new best friends who ascertained I wanted to travel.......2 locals were then moved from their positions on the side opposite to the driver’s seat in the railcar and I was put in this prime position with a great view thru the front windows. One of my new best friends started collecting money from all and sundry (apart from me), she was the ticket collector, and once that was done my other new best friend climbed into the driver’s seat, started the motor, and away we went just after 7 (so much for 7.48!). Two hours were spent waiting at Shiliujing at cross another railcar, carriage and freight wagon which I assume had come from Shitoushan and an extremely long freight train (empty wagons, some with huge blocks of stone and some gravel wagons).

Turned out to be a real local service stopping at stations, between stations and anywhere else as needed with a maximum speed around 30km per hour. Arrived at Linxing just after 1....a mere 2 and half hours late. One o'clock may have been the return trip time as new passengers climbed straight on, but my new best friends and I headed off for lunch......turned out to be chips with peanuts and coriander (a great mix too when you haven't had western food for a while) and stir fried aubergines (another of my favourites). The return trip got under way about 2.30 and back into Suileng at 6.15 after crossing another railcar heading up country.

During the course of the day my new best friends had supplied me with numerous cold water bottles, let me get photos during stops, and yelled when I strayed too far. We got back to Suileng and the bite came on, they wanted 100Y for their days' efforts.....I didn't even raise a protest. I had had a great day and without their help would not have been able to travel anyway, let alone enjoy the day to the extent I had. Had I paid properly I believe it would have cost me about 40Y for everything but the benefit of two front seats all day, lunch, etc just made things so enjoyable I didn't begrudge them their little perk.” 

That was back in 2006 and I’d had such a great time I always intended to revisit. I looked at the possibility in 2011 but was advised ‘there is no passenger service either in Suileng or in Xinglongzhen’ and there the matter rested until this year when I put Suileng on the agenda again.

After six nights at Xinglongzhen I only had two nights remaining for Suileng though, before I needed to head for Harbin, so it was only going to be a quick visit. It was a long one hour thirty six minutes standing in an extremely smoky and crowded vestibule of train 4031 from Xinglongzhen but once settled into a 139Y suite at the Jindu Hotel, followed by some comfort food at the nearby Dicko’s, I was suitably revived and ready to venture forth.

As in 2006 Bus 3 still terminated outside the narrow gauge station but once in the yard things did not look promising. There was rust on all the tracks, not a lot, but enough to look as if it had been a few days since a train had passed over them. Maybe the logging season had already finished……. 

As I wandered through the yard towards the servicing area and workshops it soon became obvious I had the place to myself. There didn’t seem to be another soul around but it did give me the opportunity to roam freely. Mind you there was little to see until I came across five of the lines engines sitting outside a shed. (SN-99803, 99804, 99806, 99807 & 99808)

Wandering in the opposite direction I found a number of loaded wagons…….

Beyond this point was the main unloading yard with two large gantries and a large number of empty wagons in the sidings but with very few logs to be seen. Heading back to the station I found two men pushing a bogie wagon: there was life here after all! They were friendly and curious as what I was up to and I wanted to know if there were any trains. We quickly established that the railcar service was long finished and there were no other trains running.

As I headed off for Bus 3 I pondered on the passenger exit from the platform. It was similar to what could be found at small China Rail stations throughout the country and I wondered when the last paying passengers had passed through its gates.

On the way back to the hotel I visited the Culture Park to check out the railway display comprising C2 031021 with guards van……. 

….and SN-99809 plus carriage.

Back at the hotel I checked other visitor’s reports about Suileng on my suite's computer. Bernd Seiler, after his 2005 visit, listed the line as having eight diesels with one being used as a spare parts donor: I’d seen six so that left one and the spare parts donor unaccounted for. In January 2010 Derek Jenkins mentioned C2 021 being stored in a shed in what appeared to be good working order. Was this the loco now plinthed or had numbers been changed with another?

That evening I asked the hotel receptionist when the hot water would be turned on. Like my previous visit it was for two hours at night but there was also a long palaver relating to 06.00 to 08.00 in the morning. She may have meant there was also hot water then but being a cautious chap I chose to shower that evening. It was a wise choice as at 06.00 the next morning both water and electricity were turned off but breakfast was available!

I’d been in China for twenty eight days now, it was close to going home time and I wasn’t really enjoying Suileng. I’d definitely been spoilt by all the ng action at Xinglongzhen and Suileng had turned out to be a non-event. No water or electricity was the final straw! I decided to head for the China Rail station and a Harbin bound train...Australia was calling me home.

Rob Dickinson