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North Korean Steam in China - November 2003

by Peter Patt

In odd years (e.g 2003 and probably 2005 again), the cross-border rail traffic between China and North Korea is handled by North Korean locomotives. Between Ji`an (China, Jilin Province) and Man`po (North Korea), theses duties are covered by Chinese DF5 diesels (even years) or North Korean MiKa 2-8-2 steam locomotives (odd years).


MiKa 6080, which was observed at Ji`an in November 2003 is the only operational and only existing steam locomotive at Man`po shed! They had a small diesel shunter that was quite busy shunting wagons around. During a 4-hour-long observation period two passenger trains and one freight train passed - all hauled by electric locomotives (sorry, no numbers...)
North Korean locals told me that there isn't any other steam operation around - even a "big boss" said the same. And even the Chinese people who cross the boarder very frequently told me that they haven't seen any other steam locomotive than this one for some years now.

Cross Border Traffic

The cross-border train is a mixed train and runs daily: departure at Man`po is around 12.00. It returns from Ji'an around 14.30. As the engine can't be turned at Ji'an, it returns to North Korea tender-first.
At Ji`an, you are not allowed on the station, when the trains arrives/waits there.

Photography is fairly limited: the big boring border bridge of course (sometimes the Chinese guards do permit pictures, sometimes not). Then there is the spot near the first railway crossing after the border bridge with a gradient against the China bound train. Aerial photographers may find spots on some hills around that crossing (I didn't try it because the weather was to bad). Then there are a few kilometers of Chinese nothing - and finally you arrive at the station. Spirited driving might give you a chance of two linesiding pictures.
I didn't encounter any problems of taking pictures at Ji'an station, neither by the Chinese officials, nor the NK crews (exception: arrival of the mixed train).

A photo gallery from the visit is available on the globesteam homepage: North Korean Steam in China

According to my information, no scrap-metal-steam-locomotive-train that should be exported to China ever arrived. It seems that China refused to accept those "trains" and send them back to North Korea. I got this information from various sources but can't prove it! Peter Patt

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© 2004, Peter Patt , email: garratt1963@gmx.de