The International Steam Pages

Narrow Gauge Steam in China

In general I no longer report on steam operation in China owing to the behaviour of various tour groups and individuals who have spayed money recklessly in the last few years. Hence the page below is now very dated. However there is plenty of of information on Florian Menius's former website which Dave Fielding has taken over, SY Country. Note also I have posted a June 2006 China Steam summary courtesy of Bernd Seiler of FarRail tours. 

Before we went on our 1999 China bash, Peter Nash tried to do a survey to identify which lines are  known to still operate with steam.  It turned out that there was no convenient single source of up-to-date information, so I have decided to try to bring together what we know to encourage more people to visit these lines and, just as important, encourage further exploration of lines which have almost certainly never been visited.  Basically I have listed the systems by province with a brief description and location (which assumes readers have the new Quail Atlas), together with references to the journals and links to Internet reports. Assume the railways are 762mm gauge unless otherwise stated.

Please note there is now a corresponding page for non-CNR standard gauge steam railways (added 2nd January 2002).

This report covers only those lines which have been reported steam operated since about 1995.  It therefore excludes most of the lines listed in the IRS China Book because the information is inadequate, too old or steam is known not to be used anymore.  A copy of this book makes essential reading if you planning an exploration trip - just count the number of lines never visited or not visited for over 10 years! Ideas for further inclusions and places to explore would be greatly appreciated and you should also check Florian Menius's web pages because he has reports which are not available on my web pages.... Look under 'Steam Lines'.

With dieselisation/closures, most of the original entries are best described as 'ex-steam' and with this number likely to grow, I have moved such entries to a separate section at the bottom (first entries 19th January 2003). Invariably they will be linked in the list below.

Recent changes include (the dates refer to the visits themselves, not the dates the reports were filed):

Alihe (March 2001)
Arxan (March 2003)
Chanting (October 2000)
Chenjia (February 2003)
Dahuichang (November 2004)
Dongfanghong (October 2000)
Ganhe (April 2002)
Guangyuan (November 2000)
Handan (December 2001)
Huanan (December 2004)
Jiyuan (August 2003)
Nanyang (May 2002)
Pengzhou (March 2004)
(March/April 2002)
Shibanxi/Jiayang Power Company (March 2011)
Suiling (January 2001)
Wangdu/Tangxian (September 2003)
Weihe (March 2003)
Weijuan (October 2004)
Xihe (November 2000)
Xilin (November 2001)
Xingyang (December 2008)
Yabuli (January 2001)
Yexi (February 2002)
Yinghao (November 2004)
Zhanhe (March 2002)

Jeff Lanham is researching narrow gauge railways in China. He has come up with 'some that got away'. If you know anything about these systems, he would be delighted to hear from you (updated 29th May 2007).


Huanan Coal (ex-Forest) Railway 256km north of Mudanjiang on the Jiamusi to Boli line. Continental Railway Journal 113 reports it serves a coal mine at the southernmost end of the line and the active fleet is six 0-8-0s (Ted Talbot was told 10 when he visited Chaihe Works in December 1998). John Tickner was here in March 1999 and found six 0-8-0s - 004, 011, 041, 043, 055 and 168 of which 055 was in steam for no apparent reason as the railway was not operating just a daily railbus at 08.00.  He got the impression that the railway had been working the previous October/November. Robert Palmstrom was here in 1997. Ted Talbot was here in November 1999.

It was working as above when Ralph Weibl visited in early January 2001, with two locos in use, reducing to one with the approach of Chinese New Year. The Steam and Safaris Tour in November 2001 found it quiet and had to charter their own train. Adrian Freeman was here in December 2001. See Bernd Seiler's site for a September 2002 visit. Derek Jenkins visited in late 2002, I was here in October 2003, Adrian Freeman in January 2004 and Michael Rhodes in February 2004. I have posted my own report from October 2004 and it was still working well in December 2004. 

Note that the photogenic forest area at the top of the line has endemic Japanese Encephalitis and visits in high Summer are inadvisable..... 


Xingyang There is a short line some 30km west of Zhengzhou first report by Bruce Evans in February 2003. It carries clay for brickworks. Greg Howell visited in September 2003 but did not choose a day with any activity. For most of 2004, visitors found it shut down, but the Globe Steam tour in October 2004 found it working again. As a result, I got here as quickly as possible in November 2004 and was totally charmed by it. A later report of my December 2008 visit is now available.

Inner Mongolia Province

Arxan Forest Railway The railway is some way west of Qiqihar. Originally reported closed and lifted, local reports (dated 1997) state it has a tourist use in part.

Sichuan Province

Shibanxi/Jiayang Coal Mine

Li Nan (17th June 1999) visited this fascinating 762mm gauge system which has C2s used over its 20km system for passengers and coal (between Qianwei and Leshan). See Bernd Seiler's December 2000 report. Steam passenger with electrics on most freights. I was here in December 2001, it is a great railway just a bit of a shame about the weather. Derek Jenkins found little change in March 2002. Bernd Seiler has put some excellent pictures of this railway on his website Bernd Seiler was here in November 2002. Derek Jenkins visited in late 2002. For a delightful photo essay taken in November 2002, see Heinrich Hubbert's site - Greg Howell found if still working in September 2003 and John Middleton was here 10 days later. I spent several days here in November 2003, the report contains almost no operational details but may just convince one or two gricers to come out of retirement.  David Whitfield was here in December 2003, Michael Rhodes in February 2004 and I could not resist yet another visit in March 2004. For a view of the way China is changing read the local news report from May 2004. See the reports on Florian Menius's pages for more information, also Bernd Seiler's visit in October 2004. Exceptionally I have added a report of my fourth visit here in June 2006, my fifth visit in June 2007, my sixth visit in March 2008, my seventh visit in June 2009, my eighth visit in March 2010 and my ninth visit in March 2011.


See Bernd Seiler's December 2000 report. 100% steam in a totally closed area..... Do not attempt to visit this line unofficially.

The following is a list of former steam lines.


Dahuichang Stone Railway. This line is some 30km south-west of Beijing and uses C2 0-8-0s on a short double track system. There is a report of my visit in January 1998 (and several other similar but briefer ones have also appeared). Many reports state that it does not operate at weekends but a November 1999 visitor found it working on a Sunday. In January 2000, I spent two afternoons here. The first showed it to be the busiest steam operated railway in the world with 8 trains in an hour! The second was less auspicious when the afternoon's operations ground to a complete halt at 14.15.... Still working in November 2000, again in January 2001 and October 2001 (another visit at this time). Working normally in December 2001 when I had an afternoon here. Still working in October 2003, December 2003 and when I visited in March 2004, although under serious threat from closure on 'pollution grounds' - not so much the railway as the limestone plant it serves. There is a full description of the line available (added 21st November 2004), it includes a map and access information.

Handan As well as having a steelworks (with SYs and YJs) World Steam 96/6 reports there is a local railway serving the mine with five 0-8-0s steamed daily although a subsequent report speaks of trains on occasional days. Bruce Evans visited in December 2001 but could find no sign of activity on the railway - the shed was locked up... (Shades of my visits to Jiyuan.)

Tianjin Salt Railway Little is known about this except that Chaihe Works is reported to have recently overhauled at least one steam locomotive from it. (See the new Quail Atlas for the location.) If you fancy making a name for yourself, then check this one out Bruce Evans found only diesels when he visited....

WangBai Railway This line starts at Wangdu Bei, which is several hundred metres north west of the China Rail station on the JingGuang main line, 170km south west of Beijing. There is a short report in Continental Railway Journal 113, but I visited here in March 1999.  Read about what I found. Patrick Rudin was here in December 2000 and steam was still working the upper section of this line as before. See also Nigel Lawrence's October 2001 report and a very comprehensive report from Jan Willem van Dorp at about the same time. I found it running a diesel service with a skeleton staff in January 2002, although steam had been used very recently as confirmed by another visitor. Bernd Seiler was here in November 2002 and found it (temporarily???) closed. Greg Howell found no activity in mid-December 2002. By July 2003, Zhang Xin Sheng told me "This line has reopened recently, but using diesels! Steam can be chartered this year plus some freight wagons! No passenger wagons at all! Passengers either stand in freight wagon or chase train by bus (but not the whole line)! A tour group in September 2003 attempted a charter but found the whole line almost moribund and could only manage a short trip east from Tangxian which was totally unphotogenic. This must be the end here.....

Yexi Stone Quarry This very short line is a few km north of Capital Iron and Steel, west of Beijing. I 'discovered' this in December 1995 and my report appeared in World Steam and Continental Railway Journal.  I have added some notes and pictures (now including how to get there). It was still working in January 2001 but a North American group I met at Zhanhe in March 2002, found it closed, the two locos bricked up and everything worked by road.


Chaihe Forest Railway This railway has closed although the workshops overhauled some steam locos for some time afterwards.

Chanting Forest Railway Hideki Sakurai confirms (2nd October 2000) "This railway was located in west part of Hailin city and was operated by Changting Forestry Bureau. It is known as Dahailin Forestry Railway in Japan. This operation was closed on May 1998. They had used diesels in summer and steam in winter as others do. At present the former main station, Dahailin, is used as the bus terminal. Sheds are used for machine repair shops etc. A coal bunker and a water tower are remains. Size of yard could be almost same as Yabuli, but all rails and engines has already been sold for scrap."

Dongfanghong There appeared to be two systems here (both quoted to use steam) according to Continental Railway Journal 107 (Autumn 1996) - but see below. Hulin on the Jixi to Dongfanghong line and at Dongfanghong itself. Ted Talbot was told it is still steam worked in November 1999, but I have since been told by Hideki Sakurai "We heard the forestry bureau in Dongfanghong shut down their railway operation and took off the track in Sep 98. They also changed their name to Dongfanghong Gonglu Guanlichu (Road administration). Now they use trucks (lorries)." The Donfanghong system itself is confirmed derelict. Hideki Sakurai adds (2nd October 2000) "However, Mrs. Quan, manager of Japan-Korea Dept. of CITS Mudanjiang kindly has called up several authorities and confirmed that 1) there is no narrow gauge railway in Hulin and 2) only one system, at which I visited in late Apr, existed under Dongfanghong Forestry Bureau."

Shanhetun Forest Railway This railway is 144km south east of Harbin on the line to Jilin. Unfortunately most steam workings at the Shanhetun end are nocturnal. Click here for a March 2001 report and a January 2002 report. Mark Lanham submitted a very full report from February 2002 and I was here in February/March 2002 (pictures added 5th April 2002). Bernd Seiler was here in late March 2002. A report in early November 2002 stated the line would not reopen.

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Shuangfeng Forest Railway Shuangfeng is 79km north east of Suihua on the line to Nancha. It is mentioned in Continental Railway Journal 114 as having a C2 present but not in steam.....

Suiling Forest Railway This railway is north of Harbin on the line from Suiha to Beian. Unfortunately most steam workings were nocturnal. I visited in January 2001 and found the line dieselised.

Tongbei Forest Railway. John Raby's December 1998 report states it has closed.

Weihe Forest Railway Weihe is on the main line between Harbin and Mudanjiang, just west of Yabuli. It is a busy system which also operated a steam passenger service You can read Duncan Cotteriil's report of a March 1999 visit. I was here in January 2000, this has got to be the most accessible and photogenic forestry operation in China today. I was back in January 2001 and found it working in much the same was as my previous visit. There are links to several more recent visits in the China section of the main web page. Click here for a March 2001 report. Adrian Freeman was here in December 2001, he was told that the railway will close in June 2002 (I have since had a report that steam operation will cease on April 10th with maybe a railcar continuing for the time being)... Mark Lanham submitted a very full report from February 2002 and I had my third visit in March 2002 (pictures added 5th April 2002). Bernd Seiler was here in late March 2002. By February 2003, it was commonly agreed that the railway was in its final season. I could not resist making a final visit.... Like other visitors we had a fabulous time. On 20th March 2003, Greg Howells told me that he had been informed by Sun Xiaolan that the railway had closed 'today'. As Greg comments (and I wholeheartedly concur) it was not a good day for the world.

Weihe North

Weihe South

Xilin Mineral Railway This railway runs south west from Xilin which is some 60km north of Nancha. You can read about my December 1995 visit (with pictures). It was working in December 2000, although a Chinese guide I met stated that the mine would close 'in the next year or two'. John Raby was here in March 2001. Click here for another March 2001 report. An unconfirmed report in October 2001 stated it would finish in December 2001. Jan Willem van Dorp was separately here in October 2001. Now Bernd Seiler has emailed from China to say it was closed and lifted in November 2001.

Yabuli Forest Railway Yabuli is on the main line between Harbin and Mudanjiang. You can read about my December 1995 visit (with pictures) and Duncan Cotterill's report of a March 1999 visit. However, it is now confirmed closed and lifted. In January 2001, I was given a map of the Yabuli winter sports area to the south of the town which had marked on it a railway with a picture of a narrow gauge train. A Chinese guide I met in Weihe elicited the information that it was 'about 6km long and operated in the Summer for tourists'. Has anyone any more information/confirmation?

Zhanhe Forest Railway Zhanhe is on the main line north of Beian. It is a busy system with several 0-8-0s active. Michael Rhodes was here in December 1999. There are links to several more recent visits in the China section of the main web page. Bernd Seiler reported (November 2001) "7 steam and 4 diesels working since November 24th. Next season (2002/2003) is for sure steam as before." Just before Chinese New Year 2002, John Agnew's group found this full steam service. However, after the break, all but one of the steam locos was stored and the reduced traffic diesel worked with steam used on Zhanhe shunting only (pictures added 5th April 2002). Now reported closed and track lifting in progress by late 2002.

Zhanhe Map

Detail Map


Jiyuan Coal Railway This is situated some way north of Luoyang. The railway runs partly through the streets of a modern city.  We were unsuccessful here in January 1998 owing to Chinese New Year, but Bruce Evans later found it alive and well. We failed again in March 1999, but it had certainly not closed and Bernd Seiler found it working in November 2000. I found it had been running recently in January 2002, but it appeared suspended for a winter break (again). Bernd Seiler was here in November 2002 but he later reported it closed in August 2003.

Nanyang Local Railway This cut back line runs north from Nanyang to Fengchan and had a daily mixed train operated by a C2 in early 1998. Read my report. By May 2002, Roger Blundell found it closed and lifted.

XuDan Railway This is an extensive system, based on Xuchang which is some way south of Zhenzhou. Back in 1997, this was very busy using C4's on coal trains. Read my pessimistic report from early 1998 and Leslie MacAllister's confirmation from later in the year.

Yinghao this coal railway west of Yima was 'discovered' by Toshiaki Tsujimoto and Sen Chokuto in May 2004. I visited here in June 2004. Several visitors in late Summer/Autumn 2004 were also charmed by it. See the reports on Florian Menius's pages for more information. Also John Agnew and Jeremy Wainright's visit in November 2004. It has since 'died'



Chenjia Line. This line runs south-west from Chenzhou towards Jiahe. Chenzhou is some 374km north of Guangzhou on the 'old' main line to Beijing. It ran a daily mixed (passenger and coal wagons) and sometimes a coal train or two with C4 0-8-0s.  The initial report by Robin Gibbons in April 1998 is no longer available, but there is one from September 1998 by Leslie McAllister. I was here in February 1999. Robin Gibbons was here in December 1999 and again in September 2001 - - link broken 5th April 2019). Bryan Acford was here in November 2001 and found it run down.  For a more subjective report read about my (re)visit in December 2001. Bill Alborough visited in April 2002 and found the mixed running only to Guiyang and picking up coal on its way back to Chenzhou. In July 2002, it was again operating as a simple mixed with no coal traffic (Jiahe mine was presumably still closed). Brian Rumary was here in November 2002 and reports "The passenger service has finished and the freight service only runs as far as the colliery below Guiyang. Closure in 2003 looks likely." Although reported closed after extensive flooding in December 2002, see Florian Menius's web pages, a tour group was able to charter a train to Guiyang in February 2003, the line apparently having no traffic as opposed to being closed! I have since been told informally hat it has been closed and lifted.

Chenjia Map 

Yiyang Coal Railway. Yiyang is 106km north-west of Changsa which is 700km north of Guangzhou on the 'old' main line to Beijing. The only description I have read of it was in Continental Railway Journal 100, which includes a map and a photograph. I visited in February 1999 and found it very run down and dieselised.

Ganzhou Forest Railway. Ghanzhou is on the 'new' main line from Guangzhou to Beijing. The only description I had read of it was in Continental Railway Journal 100 (dating from a 1993 visit), which includes a map and a photograph. Robin Gibbons went here in June 1999 and reported "Very much on its last legs and no steam."

Inner Mongolia Province

Alihe Forest Railway Alihe is 41km west of Jagdaqi on the Yitulihe line. Apparently it originally  ran north for 200km. Continental Railway Journal 113 reported that 121km are still open with 11 steam locomotives of which 5 were active with a passenger service. Robert Palmstrom was here in 1997 and it was his report in CRJ. Ted Talbot was here in November 1999 and Johannes Müller a little earlier. Found to be closed in March 2001 (a brief note that it was open at this time was a mistake by me!! RD).

Ganhe Forest Railway This was reported active in Continental Railway Journal 113.  It is 98km west of Jagdaqi. Ted Talbot was here in November 1999 and Johannes Müller a little earlier. Still working in March 2001, (report 1) or (report 2). Roger Blundell rode the train in June 2001. Bernd Seiler reported in November 2001 'Full operation. Definitely last year for the full line. Road construction underway." There is an illustrated report with a map added (10th February 2002). I was here in February 2002 (pictures added 5th April 2002). Bernd Seiler has emailed: "Ganhe will end its logging season on May 1st 2002. The passenger service will cease on May 1st too. Do you know what that means? Ganhe never had a logging "season", it operated 12 months a year. Bus and truck are the new solution! The road is finished at least up to Yuanjiang (km 58). Farewell, Ganhe!"

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Shandong Province

Xihe Colliery Railway This metre gauge line runs south east from Dakunlun on the Boshan branch south of Xibo. Unique 0-10-0s, believed to be Chinese built derivatives of original Orenstein and Koppel locomotives work three to four times a day. See the report of my visit in January 1998. It was still working normally in November 1999 but by November 2000 Bernd Seiler found it closed.

Sichuan Province

Pengzhou (Pengxian) - Baishuihe Local Railway Continental Railway Journal 116 reports on an October 1998 visit which found steam on passenger working although mineral trains were diesel hauled. 5 locos were seen of which 2 were dumped. Robin Gibbons was here in March 1999. Bernd Seiler was here in November 2000. I found the mixed train still steam in December 2001 and Derek Jenkins found little change in March 2002. Bernd Seiler was here in November 2002. A tour group here in March 2003 were told that steam haulage of the mixed had ceased in December 2002. In March 2004, local enthusiasts told me that operation had ceased but special steam charters were still possible.  

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Weijuan Coal Mine

This apparently had 3 C2s which were used on a twice daily coal train.  Click here for some information courtesy of Li Nan of Chongqing CITS (March/April 1999). Bernd Seiler was here in November 2002. Greg Howell found it still working in September 2003 and Michael Rhodes in February 2004. See the reports on Florian Menius's pages for more information, also Bernd Seiler's visit in October 2004. Now closed and lifted.

Rob Dickinson