Golden Autumn in Northern China, JiTong extension & JiTong Autumn Steam

Golden Autumn in Northern China: 20.09 - 04.10.2005
JiTong Autumn Steam: 29.09. - 09.10.2005
JiTong-extension: 03.10. - 09.10.2005

forestry line Huanan near Lixin

Enjoy Northern China at a time when forests are colourful, temperatures are fresh but still pleasant and the morning chill guarantees wonderful steam exhaust effects.

We'll also go to the border with North Korea to photograph one of the last Mikas (2-8-2), built in the 1930ies, in regular service.


Itinerary Golden Autumn in Northern China

Date Itinerary
20.9. Departure from Frankfurt/Main to Beijing
21.9. Morning arrival Beijing, visit to the railway museum in Beijing, overnight train 2537, departure Beijing 14.10 hrs
22.9. arrival Tonghua 06.41 hrs, visit to the steelworks Dongtonghua (SY), hotel Tonghua
23.9. Charter bus to the North Korean-Chinese border at Ji'an. We'll photograph the daily freight train from Manp'o to Ji'an which is expected to be hauled by a North Korean Mika (steam is not guaranteed!). Charter bus back to Tonghua, overnight train N191/194 to Changchun, departure at 21.52 hrs
24.9. Arrival Changchun at 07.17 hrs, continue at 07.38 hrs by train 1489, arrival Xinglongzhen 12.09 , visit to the depot of the forestry railway Xinglongzhen (diesel), hotel Xinglongzhen
25.9. Charter train on the Xinglongzhen forestry railway with steam (C2), in the late evening continue by overnight train 4137 to Jiamusi, departure 22.56 hrs
26.9. Arrival Jiamusi at 06.20 hrs, charter bus to the Huanan forestry railway (C2), we'll visit the section Huanan - Touyaozi, hotel Huanan
27.9. Narrow gauge railway Huanan, visit to the pass section Touyaozi - Lixin, hotel Huanan

Why so many days in Huanan? Klick here!

28.8. Huanan, visit to the pass section Touyaozi - Lixin, accommodation in private houses in Lixin (without any comfort, restrooms, etc., "hotel" class: three black holes), alternative for people who can't stand it: hotel Huanan
29.9. Huanan, pass section Lixin, return to Toujiaozi and charter bus to Hegang, hotel Hegang
30.9. Coal mine railway Hegang (SY and electric locomotives), in the evening continue to Jiamusi, overnight train 2008 to Changchun, departure 20.20 hrs
01.10. Arrival Changchun 07.43 hrs, breakfast and continue to Tongliao by train 4272/4269, departure 10.13 hrs, arrival Tongliao 14.45 hrs, continue to Tianshan (Chabuga), hotel Tianshan
02.10. Line siding between Chabuga and Lindong (QJ and QJ+QJ), hotel Lindong
03.10. Line siding in the section Daban - Lindong, afternoon by bus to Chifeng, overnight train 2560, departure 20.20 hrs to Beijing
04.10. Arrival Beijing Bei 06.14 hrs, day room and breakfast in a hotel near the airport, flight back to Europe, arrival in the same evening

Itinerary JiTong extension & JiTong Autumn Steam

Date Itinerary
29.09. Departure to China
30.09. Arrival Beijing, visit to the railway museum, train K265 to Siping, departure 14.00, arrival Siping at midnight (hardsleeper), hotel Siping
01.10. Meet the other group in Siping, continue by train 4272/4269, departure 11.55 hrs, arrival Tongliao 14.45 hrs, charter bus to Tianshan (Chabuga), hotel Tianshan
02.10. Line siding Chabuga - Daban (QJ and QJ+QJ), hotel Daban
03.10. In the morning line siding Daban - Lindong

JiTong-extension starts here

Afternoon and evening visit to the Depot in Daban, hotel Daban

04.10. Line siding between Daban and Chabuga, hotel Lindong
05.10. Line siding between Daban and Chabuga, hotel Lindong
06.10. Line siding between Daban and Chabuga, hotel Lindong
07.10. Line siding between Daban and Chabuga, hotel Lindong
08.10. Early morning line siding Lindong - Daban, ca. 9.00 hrs charter bus to Pingzhuang, visit to the open cast mine Pingzhuang (electric locos from the former GDR, SY and JS), Evening return to Chifeng, overnight train 2560 departure 20.20 hrs to Beijing
09.10. Arrival Beijing Bei 06.14 hrs, brief stop at a hotel near the airport for having a shower, return flight to Europe, arrival in the same evening


Line descriptions

Dongtonghua has a medium sized steelworks. Although they wanted to replace all steam locomotives by diesel by 2004, there small fleet of locomotives still contains some steam locomotives. So the chance that they will still use two to three of their well kept SYs is good.

Every odd year, the North Korean railways are responsible for the traffic over the border into China. So in 2005 freight traffic from Manp'o in North Korea to Ji'an in China will be handled by North Koreans. In 2003 they used one of their Japanese built Mikas for the daily international freight train. In 2005, a mix of diesel and steam haul these trains. We planned a full day to wait for the Mika passing the border to China. Although there is a timetable for this international train (arrival Ji'an in the early afternoon), freight trains and especially this particular train can run before or, more likely, far behind schedule. We are not allowed to take a picture of the border bridge itself. Anyhow, there are some good photographic possibilities on the Chinese side. In addition we'll take a close look at the North Korean locomotive while shunting in Ji'an.

On the forestry railway Xinglongzhen there are only diesel locomotives in use. For tourist trains which may run during summer for Chinese tourists they kept one C2 in working condition. We won't charter one of these non-authentic trains, and we will also not charter one of the logging trains. Usual logging trains are much longer than a special could be (they would offer a maximum of five loaded wagons instead of trains with more than 20 as they used to be as steam was the only motive power on this line). In addition, the logging season is the winter, not the autumn. However, most of the forestry lines used to run ordinary freight trains as well, mainly to deliver maintenance equipment to the far branches of the line. We'll charter on of these freight train which is authentic.

The scenery is typical for north Chinese forestry lines. So do not expect tunnels and high viaducts, there are forest, rural villages and hills which are making this line charming.

Once, Huanan was the starting point of a large forestry railway system. This 762 mm narrow gauge railway survived because of the existence of a coal mine 46 km east of Huanan. The remaining line climbs over a pass 2.5 km west of Lixin. From both sides there are steep gradients and sharp curves. The gradient against loaded coal trains is so steep, that every loaded train needs a banker at the rear end of the eight-wagons-train. This operation is the last known regular banked narrow gauge steam train in the world!

Because it's a long way to get there, plenty of scenery and only two to four pairs of trains running during daylight we will spend a reasonable amount of time here. The distance between Tuoyaozi and Lixin is approximately eight kilometres. As there is no passable road we have either to walk or use the daily railcar. Many times we saw the track gang's draisine running just behind a freight trains. This would be another option to avoid long walks The use of local motorbikes is also possible but not recommended. If you know the style of driving in China you can imagine what I mean. Anyhow, it's everybody's own decision. Walking eight to ten kilometres in a whole day is not that far.

If you are uncomfortable with the private houses in Lixin we can arrange the hotel in Huanan for you instead.

The coal mine railway of Hegang uses mainly electric locomotives, built in the former GDR. But, there is still some steam in use, especially for the non-electrified sections of this large mine system. There are many good photographs with an industrial backdrop like mines, loading facilities and huge dumps possible. The access to the mine stations is not always easy. The company do not issue visitor's permits. Until now we could always manage to get access to these interesting stations, but sometimes, it was time consuming. The steam depot is another interesting sight of this line, especially in the night.

Steamy Lindong

The section Daban - Chabuga of the JiTong line offers the last main line steam in the world. During daylight we expect to see some 15 to 20 steam locomotives on the line. The endless wide landscapes with grandiose mountains in the backdrop, grassland, harvesting farmers - there are quite a lot of possibilities for extra-ordinary pictures on this section which stood in the shadow of the now diesel-only Jingpeng pass for years.



The tour is planned with the dedicated photographer and video filmmaker in mind. The itinerary is designed for those who think it more important to get the perfect shot in the morning sun than a substantial breakfast. Lunch can be provided as packed food if the situation (i.e. taking pictures) requires.

Hotels, charter buses and trains represent the standard of our host countries, which may deviate form European expectations. While we will try to avoid long walks, some photo positions may require a bit of an extra effort. The only place where we'll walk a longer distance will be Huanan. Please consider the line description.

It is possible that some of the lines will be dieselised or closed before we arrive. To avoid unpleasant situations of seeing diesels instead of steam we might have to change the itinerary to make the tour successful. We will also have to re-arrange parts of the tour if the upcoming timetable doesn't fit our plans.

Full board is included, but lunches will be sometimes simple, not to say "basic", especially during train rides, while dinners are usually sumptuous. While taking pictures of trains, lunch will mostly be a packed lunch. Alcoholic beverages are not included in the tour price.

The hotels used will be middle class, in remote areas sometimes basic. The train rides are booked soft sleeper (four berth compartments). As the reservation system of China is a typical quotation system where the beginning station of a train normally gets more than 50 % of the available tickets it is not guaranteed that we can get soft sleeper tickets. In such a case we'll take hard sleeper. These are not as hard as their name indicates. A hard sleeper compartment normally comprises six berths which usually are not separated from the floor by a door. Day-trains are booked hard seater. China is often not as clean as you may like it, so please be prepared. Carrying a bar of soap in your photo bag is not a bad idea. The cleanliness of the bedding is sometimes very poor. Especially in the private houses in Lixin you should expect the worst condition of the offered blankets. Please take a small towel with you to have at least something clean on which you can put your head. Single rooms are not available on overnight trains and in the private houses in Lixin.

Please consider, that hotels, busses, railways etc in China don't comply to EU-regulations. We are going there because they don't! It is more dangerous to use these local trains, busses, hotels etc. Accident protecting equipment is as unknown as environment protection, so please mind your steps, watch out before you cross tracks etc. We suggest you take out an overseas health insurance as well as an accident insurance.

Remarks to JiTong extension & JiTong Autumn Steam

If the line Sanggendalai – Lanqi is already opened to the pubic we'll probably visit this line as well. It was told mid-April that this line will be steam operated.

Registration period expires July 23rd, 2005

Later registrations will be accepted if flights and Hotels are still available. If you're not sure whether you can participate or not please announce your interest well in advance that we can hold your place.


Sunflowers alongside the JiTong line


Golden Autumn 10 and more participants 2.240 Euro
20.09. - 04.10.2005 5 to 10 participants 2.360 Euro
  single room surcharge 145 Euro
JiTong-extension 5 to 14 participants 580 Euro
 03.10. - 09.10.2005 single room surcharge 55 Euro
JiTong Autumn Steam 5 to 14 participants 1.680 Euro
 29.09. - 09.10.2005 single room surcharge 95 Euro

Land only (without flight Frankfurt/Main - Beijing): Please deduct 535 Euro from the tour price.

Please let us know with you booking whether your are interested to travel with a small group below ten participants, too.

Minimum number of participants: 5
Maximum number of participants: 22 (JiTong extension and JiTong Autumn Steam: 14)

The price includes:

Not included are:


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