Chinese Railways

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Updated: October 2018

This page is about the railways in China. There are these main areas of information:

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Map of Railway Lines in China (large file!)

Train travelling in China

How to travel by train The timetable Signalling system Discussion forum about China Railways
How you get train tickets

Areas with steam locomotives

All lines with steam engines
The Tiefa coal mine railway Chifeng area coal mines Another link to all steam operations (summer 2013)
Shibanxi narrow gauge railway
Sandaoling coal mine

Details about QJ engines History of the QJ engines How to operate QJ steam engines

Areas where use of steam locomotives has finished during the last years

Wuhai Xi to Jilantai branch line JS operation from Tonghua area Baotou and Dongsheng area Yebaishou, Beipiao, Fuxin, Zhangwu area
Dahuichang limestone railway near Beijing (finished 2005) Jitong line, last steam mainline in the world

Other railway topics

General advice about travelling on trains in China Trip reports Using the mail in China for parcels

The Jingpeng pass mafia

Other China Railway links

The Modern China Railways China Railways Timetable Models of Chinese trains China Rail discussion group

Railway enthusiast pages Commercial China railway links Links to tourist guides
Maps and other tourist info
Beijing Chengdu
What I do in China myself (in Norwegian)
The beer with my name

The end of China Rail Steam:

Following the dates for operation of the last CNR steam locomotives:

Chinese New Year, Spring festival (Chun jie)

This festival increases traffic enormously. The New Year's Days change every year. The weeks starting May 1 and October 1, China's National Day, are also very busy. It is best to avoid these periods for traveling.

Jitong line

Click here for the overview and links page with Jitong line information.  The Jitong line used steam locomotives until December 8, 2005. Two locomotives type QJ are kept in working order for special trains.

Steam near Hami, at Sandaoling, in western Gansu / eastern Xinjiang

There is a coal mining area with about 20 JS plus at least three SY near Liushuquan, km 1390 at the Lanzhou - Urumqi line). This is also known as the Sandaoling Coal Railway or Hami Coal Mine. 3000m high mountains provide a scenic background for pictures of the line. The description of the line is as follows:

The connection with the CNR is at Lishuquan. From Lishuquan there is a 14 km "main line" to Nanquan using mostly DF8B.

From Nanquan lines go to several mines. To the Nanquan Open Coal Mine is 13km,  to Beiquan Coal Mine goes 5 km to the north of Nanquan, the line to No. 1 Coal Mine goes 8km northeast of Nanquan, and the line to the South Station and Coal Yard mines goes 1 km southeast from Nanquan. The largest is the open pit mine at Sandaoling, some 3 km west of Nanquan. They still used only steam in November 2010, and still some steam in 2018. You have to pay an entrance fee for every day at the mine office (Mr. Zhang Fu Sheng or Mr. Wang Bing or Mr. Fu Zhong Wei). They provide you with a car, show you around the workshop, or just let you go alone wherever you want to, if you are careful and let them know where you go. Be prepared to be checked up the local police, but they are friendly as well!

Link to details

Link to a trip report with pictures, from january 2008.

Anshan steelworks

The steelworks used a fleet of SYs in its operation until 2003.

Mine railways near Chifeng.

There are two coal mine railway systems around Chifeng. Pingzhuang system: 11 SY + 3 JS including JS 1001 in steam plus KD6 487 dumped. Trip report in January 2008. In addition an electric system in an open cast mine. No access problem. Plenty of action. Steam on track laying trains, to China Rail and to deep mines. More info about this.

Yuanbaoshan. 20 to 60 mins drive from Chifeng, depending on traffic levels. Up to 2 active JS, most with full deflectors. Mixed passenger train with 6 coaches twice a day to Fengshuigou and back. The line serves 3 deep mines, a cement factory and two CNR connections at both ends of line. One of the western branches is very steeply graded. Steam traction was mostly replaced by diesel in 2006. However, even in 2017 they still had 5 JS-engines and only few diesels.

The coal mine at Zha lai nuo er.

Steam was active in this large open pit mine in 2009, with lots of SY both down in the pit and above. They use diesel traction and lorries since late 2009. Trip report from January 2008.

Here is a trip report from spring 2008.

The branch line from Wuhai Xi to Jilantai

This is far west in Inner Mongolia! 387 km west of Baotou. This branch line was served by the last China Rail QJs from Linhe depot until June 2003, and a few JS were shunting at collieries and the stations of Wuhai Xi and Jilantai until end of 2002 (the colliery lines at Wuyhai Xi being a local railway). Schedules were unpredictable. In the best case 3-4 train per day. The line is spectacular, even with diesel traction, with 17 per thousand inclines, and going through some real desert with sand dunes.

The pages about this railway have been removed from the web. If you need info, send me a mail.

The Baotou area and Baotou - Dongsheng - Shenmu Bei line

Baotou-Dongsheng-Shenmu Bei line

This line was opened in the early 1990s and was then completely QJ operated. It belongs to the private Shenhua company. Its main purpose is transport of coal from the coalfields near Shenmu to Baotou. The depot is at Dongsheng. They used to have about 22 QJ, bought second hand from China Railways, most of them from the Linfen area. This railway seemed to just use up their engines and scrap them. New engines came all the time. However, in 2000 the first DF4 diesel locomotives arrived and in June 2002 steam was finished.

Baotou area

Steam here is finished since early 2009.

Baotou Xi had about 40 steam engines in autumn 1996, and Baotou Dong some 20. The Baotou Xi based QJ hauled freight towards Huhehaote until early 1997 and towards Linhe and Shizuishan until 1996. Baotou Dong kept about 20 JS and 5 QJ in service until early 2001. Their service was the Baotou ring line passenger trains, some trip freights, shunting at different stations in the Baotou area, an all station stopping passenger train to Linhe, and passenger and freight towards Shiguai. The passenger trains and the Shiguai line gave some hard work. The QJ were mostly used for shunting.

Baotou steelworks also has a large fleet of steam locomotives (types YJ, SY, JS), but the first diesel engines arrived in already in 1996. Some other factories around Baotou, as well as the mines at Shiguai, also have either SY or JS. Steam is still in use in 2006!

The Baotou suburban trains have been DF4 hauled since the end of 2000! The Baotou to Shiguai Traffic was taken over by DF5 in April 2001. This means: the only steam left after 2001 was Baotou steelworks and a few other factories. Dieselisation of the steel works was finished in 2008.

The Yebaishou area

Steam finished in this area at the end of year 2001. Yebaishou based QJ served long distance passenger trains until mid 1997, the local passenger service from Chaoyang to Beipiao until 2001, and freight trains until the end, on the lines towards Fuxin, Lingyuan and Chifeng. JS used to shunt at Yebaishou and Pingzhuang Nan. The link for descriptions of this area as well information about the last year of steam operation is:

The Fuxin area

China rail steam finished in this area at the end of year 2001. Fuxin based QJ served the line to Shenyang until 1998, later they still served freight trains on the lines to Jinzhou, Beipiao and Yebaishou. Especially the line towards Yebaishou contained spectacular uplopes. JS engines used to shunt at Fuxin. The link for descriptions of this area as well information about the last year of steam operation is: Some steam operation in the coal mines at and near Fuxin remains with locomotives class SY. Fuxin depot overhauls QJ engines for Jitong railways, even in 2004.

The line from Tongliao via Zhangwu - Xinlitun to Dahushan.

Steam finished in this area at the end of 2001. QJ used to haul freight here. The first DF4 in freight service came in 1998. Link for descriptions of this area as well information about the last year of steam operation. The line was double tracked before 2010 and is then diesel only, with DF4B, DF4C, DF4DK and DF11.

Details about different Chinese steam locomotives

Duncan Cotteril has been working on a database of Chinese steam locos, collating details of which locos have been reported where and when. The result is a file of over 20000 sightings of more than 4000 locos of an amazing 50 classes. Currently I do not have the link.

Detail information about the QJ engines

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The Signals at China Railways

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Trip reports

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The Modern China Railways

Building projects, new technology, new lines etc.

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The Chinese timetable

China Rail normally updates the timetable twice a year. A major update is typically on October 21, a minor one in April. Major new services and train accelerations are from that date on.

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Models of Chinese trains:

Bachmann Models of Chinese locomotives and cars.

Bachmann has models of several QJ, JS, SY, DF4B, DF4D, DF8B, DF11, DF11G, SS1, SS4, SS8, CRH3, as well as cars and bridges and is constantly issuing more.

Bachmann China (in Chinese).

The model shop in Beijing:

Yinke Model Shop or ECHO model shop, e-mail address, Telephone 010 - 82612930, 010 - 82616577, 010 - 82616569

To get there, go to Xizhimen Subway station in northwest of Beijing. Go out "D" exit. Turn right, walk for 350 meters, go down into pedestrian underpass, come up other side of street, continue in same direction you were going before (west) for 200 meters, you will come to 732 bus stop. Take this bus, it is about 25 minutes in midday traffic. Sit on the right side and you will see two shops side-by-side, the Leishen Model and Toy shop with blue sign, and Echo Train shop in smaller lettering on a red sign.

If taking a car, it is quite close to a place called Bao Fu Si Nan. The bus crawls, the car could probably do it in half the time.

Apparently they have a new service there. For Y750, you can bring in photographs of your favorite Chinese locomotive and they will detail one for you to look like the original. This service takes about two weeks.

Besides Chinese locomotives, they have an extensive German locomotive and rolling stock collection, many British pieces, and a lot of American models in HO. They also have some very large scale models.

There are also shops in the shopping centers called YAN SHA, SAI TE, NEW CHINA.

The probably simplest way to purchase Bachmann and Lilliput products is to go the department store of the Lufthansa centre, in Chaoyang district, and to go to the toy department. They have the whole range of products of US, British, German, Swiss and of course Chinese railways produced in China under the Bachmann or Lilliput brands. Most of these are HO scale, they also have some N gauge. The staff is quite helpful, and you can pay with a credit card or Chinese bank cards.

The address of the Lufthansa center:
Beijing Lufthansa Center , 50 Liangmaqiao Rd., Chaoyang District, 100016 Beijing. (Actually, it is the junction of that road with the 3rd ring road, in the NE part of the town, 500 meters before the highway to the airport). It is a big commercial centre quite well known in Beijing where, in addition to Lufthansa (and other airlines) offices, there is a Kempinski Hotel, a New Friendship store (it is called Yansha Shangdian in Chinese), and the Hard Rock Cafe. There is no metro in that part of the town, but several bus lines. Taxi 10 Yuan from Dongzhimen.

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Some Chinese railway links:





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