The International Steam Pages


Non-steam Narrow Gauge Railways round the World

This is a relatively recent page (May 2011) and is very much an embryonic offering, it is just a brief introduction and it will only serve its purpose if readers send me reports of their travels or ideas for inclusions. Originally I planned to concentrate on industrial operations but there seems no reason to exclude common carrier railways although I would expect to put very little emphasis on purely tourist operations. I would particular welcome current information from surviving Indian narrow gauge lines.


I have been a narrow gauge steam freak for over 30 years, back then, many countries boasted working narrow gauge steam - by which I mean (by and large) railways with a gauge of less than one metre, but which are not 'miniature' again it is an arbitrary decision on my part. Now those countries with real narrow gauge steam can be counted on the fingers of one hand and nowhere is it remotely plentiful. 

Many steam enthusiasts have naturally stepped sideways to visit and record non-steam narrow gauge railways which are in similar decline. While living in China, I had access to all kinds of such railways, human powered as well as those using internal combustion, battery and overhead electric locomotives. Personally, I am not yet ready to mount dedicated expeditions but I have spent increasing time looking at such systems when I happen to be in an area for steam activity. As always, updates, additions and corrections will be very welcome, but please send European information to Steve Thomason (see link below).

The following sites also provide useful information:


If you are interested in narrow gauge steam then check out
our ISV DVDs. These are properly researched quality
documentary films with a story to tell.
'National Geographic Stuff' said one purchaser.


I don't include gratuitous advertisements to commercial products, but I am happy to make exceptions for

Narrow Gauge World, a bi-monthly UK publication with a significant international slant

Voie Etroite a bi-monthly French publication with a significant international slant


Latest additions are a Tanzanian sugar railway (updated 10th June 2014), the Sambhar Salt railway in India (8th May 2014), a steamy good news update from Russia (1st April 2014), Indian update (25th March 2014).

China

Wilson Lythgoe's visits in April 2013 (17th May 2013)

An April 2013 visit to some narrow gauge lines in Central China (2nd May 2013)

These reports are of Wilson Lythgoe's visit in November 2012 (added 28th November 2012):

John Raby has been to the following lines in Sichuan (added 4th May 2012)

These reports are of Wilson Lythgoe's visit in March and April 2011:

These reports are of John Raby's visit in August 2009:

A minor Classic from John Raby's 2001 Bash

Over my many visits to Shibanxi I have added brief reports on short coal mine railways in the area.

Egypt

  • Egyptian Sugar Mills (2009) - Lok Repoirt's article on this has now vanished
  • However, this YouTube video from March 2012 shows continuing activity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AlkUOPyaNE (19th December 2013)

Fiji

Despite threats of closure, there is still a significant amount of rail borne cane traffic. John Browning has posted a blog of his September 2012 visit - http://trainrover.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/tuesday-august-28-2012-bula-welcome-to.html (added 19th October 2012).

India

Many Indian Railways lines have closed or been converted to broad gauge, there are a few industrial systems no doubt but these are under-reported. One such system is that at Sambhar Lake for collecting salt and Scott Jesser was there in April 2014 (8th May 2014).

Wilson Lythgoe has produced a 2012 survey of the known survivors (16th April 2012)

There are trip reports on the IRFCA site, if you read this one - Upper Class to Sheopur Kalan http://irfca.org/apps/trip_reports/show/402 - you'll probably want to get on a plane and go and experience it for yourself.

David Watson adds (25th March 2014):

Katwa - Balgona Visited 5th February 2014. Services were being operated by a 5 car DMU. It is possible to leave Kolkata in the morning and take a suburban EMU to Katwa in time to get the 12.50 for Balgona. The ride is interesting but pretty bumpy. The NG train connects with another BG EMU at Balgona for the short ride to Barddhaman which has a regular service to Howrah. No signs of Gauge Conversion work were noted. More here: http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/visiting-narrow-gauge-railways-in-india-t197779/2/#post1719286.

Gwalior - Sheopur Visited 28th February 2014. Took a short trip from Gwalior to Ghosipura (first stop). Train hauled by NDM5. No signs of GC work. More here: http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/visiting-narrow-gauge-railways-in-india-t197779/3/#post1719575.

Dholpur - Bari Travelled 1st March 2014. Exceptionally busy train with a full roof load of passengers. Train hauled by ZDM5. Again no signs of GC work although there have been reports that it is imminent. More here: http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/visiting-narrow-gauge-railways-in-india-t197779/3/#post1719866

Indonesia

There's not just steam narrow gauge in Java::

Java Sugar season 2012

This page has links which show samples of Java sugar 'critters':

  • http://members.fortunecity.com/elteecee/critter/critter_page.html  (Link is dead by May 2012)

Here's a little something out of the ordinary:

Russia

Alex Malianov has supplied a survey of surviving narrow gauge railways of Russia - an extraordinary list with many of them at death's door (updated with a steamy good news story, 1st April 2014). For a visual summary of the motive power and rolling stock, see this YouTube clip which is a collection of stills from narrow.parovoz.com - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xm-CdqlFaBc (added 1st August 2012).

Thomas Kautzor has posted a report of his own visit to one:

Taiwan

Some sugar mills still operate narrow gauge railways, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAR1BOX6VT0 for example from 2008.

Tanzania

Where once there were a number of sisal railways in Kenya and Tanzania, rail haulage survives only in one that has been converted to sugar. Thomas Kautzor visited in May 2011 and Geoff Warren has now added a 2013 update (10th June 2014).

USA

I was amazed to hear from Trevor Heath that a number of steelworks operate 3ft gauge systems, also

  • US Gypsum operation in far south central California about 30 miles west of El Centro which is 3ft gauge and uses two Alco Diesels built around 1980 from the same build group as the White Pass and Yukon 114. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Gypsum#Active_narrow_gauge_railroad. This May 2012 picture is from Brian Garvin (added 20th June 2013):


Other countries where I believe there are 'real' narrow gauge railways still at work, suitable links would be welcome.

Australia

The Queensland sugar mills still have extensive 610mm (2ft) gauge systems.


Rob Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk