The International Steam Pages

An afternoon on the Kunming Metre Gauge, 2009

We stopped off in Kunming en route to Burma and visited the Yunnan Railway Museum at Kunming Bei station. I confess that I had not bothered to do any recent research, but my impression had been that the railway was effectively defunct (or at best mothballed) in the Kunming area, with 'all' the metre gauge coaching stock reported sent to Burma and the rebuilding of the link to Vietnam removing all through traffic.

The station itself is a pale shadow of its former self these days but a few local trains are running This is the timetable with effect from 15th June 2008:

A journey out on 8867 and back on 8868 was a cheap and pleasant way of killing an afternoon. Apart from riding some of their former coaches in Burma in 2007, I am sure this is as close as I will ever get to a proper ride on this classic railway. Yuehong was told that the service to Shi Zui 12km west is quite new, until June 2008 there had been no passenger trains for at least 20 years. Certainly it had no proper platform at the terminus. In the opposite direction the trains run to Wang Jia Ying, 23km away. I don't have my Quail atlas with me to check this.

It was a pleasant enough run through the outskirts of Kunming, the trackside is getting a massive (and expensive) makeover to turn it into some kind of garden railway 

The view from the window was frequently more typical of south-east Asia than China and it's always nice to see road users frustrated at level crossings. 

Every Chinese city these days needs a fake ancient pagoda in a park and Kunming is no exception:

Apparently, it will become some kind of light rail system in due course, but in the meantime we had the seven coach train almost to ourselves.

Staff comfortably outnumbered passengers, no wonder everyone looked so happy.

The British planned a railway from Burma into Yunnan, of course it was never built, but Shi Zui is as close as the Chinese metre gauge gets these days. Operationally, the most interesting feature is a flat crossing with some branch of the standard gauge CNR. There can't be many places in the world where metre and standard gauge exist let alone cross - and in this manner?

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson