The International Steam Pages

Huanan - Narrow Gauge Finale? - Update

In October 2003, I made an overdue first visit to the Huanan Coal Railway. Returning in October 2004 and without wishing to give it the kiss of death I have to say that it looked in 'rude good health' with significant investment in trackwork, bridges and station buildings and the steam locomotives looking rather smarter than a year earlier.  Once again I travelled with Heinrich Hubbert, but this time my Chinese partner Yuehong came too and as always charmed everyone we met:

If you too would like to stay up the line please contact Mike Ma ( (link broken 1st November 2019) who can make all the necessary arrangements for you at a very reasonable cost.



004 had just been repainted and was obviously the pride and joy of its crew:


At Xihua, under the watchful eye of the guard dog, a magnificent trench digger was to be sent up the line - reportedly for a fibre-optic cable!


004 breasts the summit with a banked train of coal fulls, the tractor has a load of soya plants. 


And then heads down after the brakes have been pinned:


168 nears the summit with empties:


The abiding memory though is of the autumn colours, first at Lixin:


And then on the horseshoe below the summit:


One of the many highlights of this visit was visiting Hongguang to see the coal mine operations. It seems there are at least five here all operating in similar fashion. In this case the skips (600mm gauge) are winched some 800m underground. Most of the surface workers here seemed to be female. We were assured that reserves will last some 20 years so on that account at least the railway is not threatened:

Rob Dickinson