Autumn Colours in Northern China

China 24.9. - 03.10.2006


This tour is planned as an extension to our North Korea tour. It can be booked as stand-alone tour as well.

We'll visit the still steamy coal mine lines in the far north east of the country. Beside industrial back-drops you can make some nice rural shots as well.

An outstanding narrow gauge line will give us two calm days. Huanan is the last remaining narrow gauge line in the forests of Manchuria which is still steam operated. An extraordinary feature is that they have banked trains (trains with a pusher engine) from Lixin up to the summit. This spectacle is unique in the world now, as there is no other narrow gauge line any more that has regular, steam banked narrow gauge trains.


Date Itinerary
24.09. Departure Europe to Beijing (Peking)
25.09. Morning arrival in Beijing, lunch, 14.00 hrs continue by train K265 to Shenyang Bei, arrival 21.44 hrs, three star hotel Shenyang
26.09. In the morning we'll go to Tiefa by charter bus. Linesiding along the coal mine system of Tiefa (passenger trains with SY), hotel Diaobingshan
27.09. Morning: charter bus for linesiding along the coal mine system of Tiefa, at noon we'll go to Tieling and board train 1392/1393 at 14.54 hrs. Overnight aboard the train.
28.09. Arrival in Jiamusi at 05.20 hrs, continue by charter bus to Huanan, visit to the narrow gauge line of Huanan (C2 and banker C2), hotel Huanan (two star) or in a private house in Lixin (category 3 black holes but fascinating)
29.09. Linesiding along the narrow gauge line of Huanan, in the evening we'll continue by charter bus to Jixi, hotel Jixi
30.09. Visit to the coal mine systems around Jixi (SY), taking pictures in rural countryside and in front of industrial backgrounds, hotel Jixi
01.10. Another morning to visit the coal mine systems around Jixi, at noon we'll go to Mudanjiang and board train K266, departure 14.58 hrs
02.10. 05.33 arrival Jinzhou Nan, continue to Nanpiao Coal mine railway, charter bus for linesiding, evening train from Huludao Bei to Beijing, departure 18.01 hrs, arrival 21.54 hrs, hotel Beijing
03.10. Return flight to home, arrival in Europe in the same evening


Line description

The coal mine system of Tiefa was dieselised in 2004/2005 for freight service. Fortunately all passenger trains remained steam hauled. According to high ranked officials they'll keep their steam locos running for at least another three years. A diesel-hauled passenger train would be at least twice as expensive as a steam-hauled service. On the four lines there are some 20 steam hauled passenger trains a day, often with several departures within a few minutes of each other. So this system is still worth a visit with some very exciting action and photo locations.

The most scenic part of the system is the line from Diaobingshan (the operational centre) to Faku. Trains pass through a tunnel on this line. As they haven't a turntable nor a wye, locomotives are running tender first in one direction and chimney first the other. It's almost unpredictable which way will be tender first and which one chimney first. A visit to the depot and the stabling point are planned as well. Tiefa's SY's are nicely maintained and include two 1999-built engines. Tiefa has also restored a now unique YJ class 2-6-2 and a classic US-built wartime 2-8-0 (Lima 1943), KD-6 497. With 16 or more participants we'll charter one of these locomotives. Otherwise we'll see these locos at the engine shed.


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-wagon-trains. This operation is the last known regular banked narrow gauge steam train in the world!

Because it's a long way to get there, the scenery is very diverse and attractive, and only two to four pairs of trains run during daylight we will spend two days 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 speeder/track motor running just behind the 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 some fifteen kilometres in a whole day is not that far on a beautiful autumn day. Unfortunately, the only accommodation possible in Lixin is in a filthy private section house with no facilities at all. This is the place where the trains get the banker on the rear. In addition there are wonderful photo positions close to Lixin. As a result, it is worth thinking about spending one night in such surrounding where the locals have to stand the whole year.


The coal mine system of Jixi is one of the steamiest places remaining in China. There are almost 20 class SY steam locomotives serving several different coal mines. Some of them have lines through rural countryside while others offer impressive industrial backdrops. The traffic is somewhat unpredictable, but there are some fixed points: the morning and the late afternoon shift change, when locomotives return to their home. Thereafter trains are running in all directions, sometimes double headed and, rarely, double headed and banked.

Jixi (Hengshan Erchang)

The coal mines around Nanpiao are linked by two standard gauge lines. In January 2006, steam was still in use on these lines. Two BJ class diesel (also quite rare now) disturbed the SY action. Anyhow, there are still sufficient steam hauled trains to make some nice shots. Nanpiao is surrounded by a very interesting mountainous countryside. There are steep gradients, two long bridges and sections of free line as well as industrial backdrops. The steam powered passenger trains in the early morning and in the late afternoon are especially of interest for photography. Because they want to purchase further diesel locomotives second hand it may be possible that this nice system will be completely dieselised very soon.



Small Print

On this trip we will cover long distances by rail. As we're travelling during the Chinese holiday season we may not be able to get soft sleeper tickets, although booked well in advance, but we will do our best to get soft sleepers.

We expect morning temperatures around zero degrees Centigrade (about 32 degrees F) in the far north while in Beijing afternoon temperatures can still reach more than 25 degrees Centigrade (mid-to high 70s F).

The voltage in China is 220 Volts, 50 Hertz. Sometimes you need an adapter for the power outlets. China uses the European mobile phone (GSM) standard.

This tour is designed for both dedicated photographers and video filmmakers. Our philosophy is to provide opportunities to get that perfect sunrise shot rather than a time consuming 5-star breakfast buffet. On occasions lunch will be served as a packed meal. Alcoholic beverages are not included in the tour price.

Hotels, charter buses and trains represent the standard of our host country, which may deviate from European and American expectations. While we will endeavour to avoid long walks, some photo positions may require an extra but worthwhile effort.

The hotels used will be of medium class, but in remote areas sometimes they are more basic. The train rides are booked in soft sleeper class (four berth compartments). As the reservation system in China is a typical quota system where the station of origin typically gets an allotment of 50 % of the available tickets, it is not guaranteed that we can get soft sleeper tickets for all our rides. In such cases we'll use hard sleeper class, which, however, is not as hard as the name suggests. Hard sleeper compartments are open and normally comprise six berths. Short daytime trains may have to be booked in hard seater or hard sleeper class. Hygienic and environmental standards in China often do no conform to European or American expectations. Carrying some toiletries in your photo bag is hence advisable.

Please bear in mind that accommodation and transportation in China fall short of EU/US safety standards. Always use common sense when crossing roads and railway tracks. FarRail Tours cannot be held responsible and will not accept any liability whatsoever in the case of any accident or damage. We suggest you take out a comprehensive overseas accident and health insurance policy.

Registration period expires July 30th, 2006

Later registrations will be accepted if flights and hotels are still available. If you're not sure whether you can participate or not, please let us know your interest well in advance so that we can hold a place for you.



Autumn Colours in Northern China incl. flight from Europe (others please check) from 10 participants 1.890 Euro
Autumn Colours in Northern China as North Korea extension (land only price) from 10 participants 1.280 Euro
24.09. to 03.10.2006 Single room surcharge 185 Euro

The land only price does not include the Europe - Beijing return flights.

Minimum number of participants: 10
Maximum number of participants: 32

The price includes:

Not included are:

Above prices are based on specific bookings with the respective airlines, which have to be confirmed well in advance. Your early booking is hence essential.

Just to get an impression what is happen in Jixi:

Just to get an impression what is happen in Jixi

This tour is arranged by FarRail Tours and will be held in co-operation with Transnico International S.A.


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