Sandaoling, Fuxin, class JS, 2-8-2 class SY, 2-8-2"> Sandaoling, Fuxin, railway tours"> Last Real Steam in China 2017: <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Sandaoling</st1:City></st1:place> and Fuxin

The Last Remains of the Age of Industrialisation: Steam in China

Steam in Fuxin will finish by the end of June 2016. Hence we can't run our tour as planned. Instead we offer a final visit to Sandaoling as an extension to our tour to North Korea, starting December 4th and finishing in Beijing December 12th. The itinerary can be found in the North Korea program.

Winter Steam Spectacle in China: 08.01. – 21.01.2017, new: (03.) 04.12. - 12.12.2016

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

The dinosaurs of the age of industrialisation are almost extinct. But there are two water holes left: Fuxin and Sandaoling. Each of those two had nine locos in steam in early 2016. There are more steam locomotives scattered all over China, but locations with one or two shunting locos, rarely moving and, at best, they produce boring situations in endless yards and on short links to industrial sites which are either inaccessible, not photogenic, or both. The narrow gauge line of Shibanxi is a tourist Mecca and in my opinion you would be better going to Wales if you want to see a properly preserved line. The plastic and, sometimes, colourful wagons in the trains are hardly worth the long journey down there. However, the last two really worthwhile locations still offer steam at its best: fighting against the physical limits of adhesion, they climb steep gradients with their trains of coal, ash and spoil, three elements which will become a thing of the past in a few decades too.

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

Both recent winter tours to China which I’ve considered to be the last, turned out to be extremely successful, especially from the photographic point of view. It’s amazing what the dusk of steam can still produce for memorable moments and grandiose video sequences. Neither recent winter tour included a proper winter, at least to northern Chinese standards. Hence we’ll offer it again, the -

Scraping the Barrel Tour No. 2

Yes, that’s exactly what it is. Our tour will cover all the remaining steam operations that are worth visiting in the last, but fading empire of steam, China. These are Sandaoling, the famous open cast mine still thrashes its nine 2-8-2 JS locomotives over steep gradients; and Fuxin, where a fleet of six SYs has to push heavy trains up to the spoil dump and propel coal and spoil trains around the mines, yards, dumps and power plants.

I won’t say anything about the last tour to China anymore, the last steam is still so good that it’s likely I’ll continue to offer these places until diesels have taken over or the last track has been lifted, which is the close future of Sandaoling. It’s not certain that Sandaoling will still be running all nine steam locos in 2017, but the odds are high that they’ll finish steam soon after our visit.

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

No matter whether you’re a newcomer to steam in China or a well experienced gricer who just wants to say goodbye to the era of steam, this tour is made for all your needs.

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin



Please find the new program in the North Korea itinerary.




Flight to Beijing


Arrival in Beijing by 12 noon, by charter bus to Beijing main station, overnight train 2103, departure from Beijing main station 15.36 hrs


06.17 hrs arrival in Fuxin. Visit to the mine system of Fuxin (class SY), today we’ll focus on the spoil dump, hotel in Fuxin


Morning visit to the stabling point of Fuxin during shift change, in the afternoon our focus lays on the lines between the mines and the power plant, hotel in Fuxin


Visit to the mining railway system of Fuxin and visit to the workshop, hotel in Fuxin


Visit to the mine system of Fuxin, today we’ll focus on the famous spoil dump again, Night shots near the level crossing and in the depot, hotel in Fuxin


Last visit to the busy sites of Fuxin, early afternoon we’ll go by charter bus to Junzhou Nan and board train D16 to Beijing main station (17.57 – 19.37 hrs); charter bus to a hotel near the airport


Morning flight from Beijing T3 to Hami (CA1269 08.55 – 12.50 hrs), charter bus to Sandaoling, spectacular steam in Sandaoling (class JS), visit to the accessible points of the open cast mine of Sandaoling. We’ll focus on the mainly chimney first operating coal trains which need to work hard to bring the coal from the loading station in the pit to the loading place. Hotel in Sandaoling


A full day dedicated to the uphill thrashing coal trains out of the open cast pit of Sandaoling. Hotel in Sandaoling


Today we’ll focus on the unloading point of Sandaoling, where the coal trains deliver the coal to the washery. In addition we’ll watch out for the works train, which often carries a steam crane. Hotel in Sandaoling


Another visit to Sandaoling. In the morning we’ll visit the line to the deep mines Yijing and Erjing where loaded trains are usually run chimney first. In the afternoon we’ll visit the eastern end of the mine with the coal trains. Maybe we can take a sunset shot. Hotel in Sandaoling


The best location for genuine steam in the world: Sandaoling. It’ll never become boring!


Time to say good by to the open cast mine of Sandaoling. One more time we’ll take pictures and videos of the famous last heavy coal trains out of the pit. Around noon we’ll return to Hami and fly to Beijing (CA1270 16:20 – 19:25 hrs). Hotel in Beijing


By hotel airport shuttle bus to the airport and return flight home, arrival in Europe in the same evening


Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

Line description

First of all, we are at the edge of a steam-free age, we can’t rule out that some of the lines on the list may have changed to diesel locomotives before we arrive or even closed down completely. The itinerary is based on information from January 2016, a year before we go to these sites. There is no substitute if a line is dieselised or closed. No guarantees, and virtually no refunds are possible. But: we’ll, as usual, make the best out of the opportunities and change arrangements to see as much steam as possible.

Sandaoling has become the Mecca for railway enthusiasts. In the moon-like countryside there are plenty of photographic opportunities. The time we’ve planned for the visit to the steamiest hole on earth won’t be boring. We’re sure that you’ll still find new positions on the last day of our visit and may think about extending your stay rather than leaving earlier.

All coal trains from the loading facilities deep in the pit need to climb out of the open cast mine to reach the unloading point. This is an almost 3 miles thrash for the heavy trains. In the best case you can witness this spectacle about every 20 minutes to half an hour. Sometimes there is a gap of up to four hours, but then it starts again! Most, in the best case, of the coal trains are hauled chimney first out of the pit.

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

The pushed trains in the open cast pit are “push-pull” trains with a small signal cabin built on the platform of the last wagon of each train. With a semaphore on the roof of these “cabooses” the loco driver gets the signal forward. This is an unusual operation pattern in China and well worth photographing. Xibolizhan is now an almost deserted station which sees occasionally a diesel train to the new mine only.

Sunsets in Sandaoling can be amazing as well. There are quite a lot of reasons to go there but the main reason is that normally there are nine JSs working in the area! Where else in the world can you find such a concentration of steam motive power?

A visit to the workshop is, again, possible, but the lower levels in the pit are not permitted any more. In the open cast mine there are several cameras, so an unauthorised visit is not recommended either. But we’re allowed to walk down to the first station after the loading point. On this section, from the unloading point to the first station inside the pit, you can take dozens of good shots. Conclusion: still the greatest steam show on earth.

In early 2016 Fuxin had an operation of more than half a dozen SYs with nine in steam (one of them only standby). Several diesels are in use as well. There are very interesting shots with grim industrial and mine backdrops possible. The daily line up at the shift change is a sight in itself. Many of the small houses along the lines have been demolished and replaced by concrete apartment blocks now but there are still many positions left which are worth pointing the camera at. Small and larger coal mines and new apartment blocks next to the line predominate in the railway area. A level crossing just at the stabling point offers plenty of opportunities with road traffic on two, three and four wheels as well, while the little depot and the tidy workshop are really good and rare these days.

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

Fuxin in 2017 will be just a glimpse of what it has been, but even this little part is such a powerful playground for photographers and video film makers that there is hardly any competition from Europe. The density of possible exciting industrial shots per square inch is similar to what you can find in Europe per square mile, in the best case!

The centres of steam operation which are the stabling point, the depot and the workshop require that we pay for a permit. The allowed stay is, unfortunately, limited, especially in their workshop. However, one hour is a good while for capturing plenty of good stuff.


Small Print

We thought about flights to Urumqi/Wulumuqi when flying in from Europe. But these flights are infrequent from Moscow, Istanbul, Astana or St. Petersburg. The other problem is the connection to Hami, there are daily flights from Beijing and some from Xi’an, but not from Urumqi. In addition, the flights to Beijing have very competitive prices in the winter season, something you can hardly find to Urumqi. Hence we decided to fly to Beijing and then use domestic Air China flights.

The tour was planned in January 2016. Hence it’s not certain that all lines will still have steam. In the unlikely case that one line is dieselised or closed before we arrive, we will make different arrangements to see as much steam as possible.

We expect a morning temperature around minus ten to minus 20 degrees Centigrade in the north and up to zero degrees Centigrade in the western part of China. The photo equipment usually has no problems with these temperatures, it’s only the batteries. When not using them you should pack them in a warm place. We can warm up in our charter bus any time, so it’s not too difficult to stand the hard winter with the right clothing. The recent winters have been very mild during our stay in China, afternoon temperatures up to some eight degrees above zero are possible as well.

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

The voltage in China is 220 Volts, 50 Hz. You’ll need an adaptor for the power outlets. China uses the European mobile phone (GSM) standard.

This tour is designed for both dedicated photographers and video film makers. Our philosophy is to provide opportunities to get that perfect sunrise shot rather than a time consuming 5-star breakfast buffet. Breakfast and lunch may be served as a packed meal. Dinner is planned to be a proper (Chinese) meal. Times for meals can vary. Beverages are not included in the tour price.

We’re planning to do some night shots. Please take an appropriate tripod with you. Yes, even in the digital age a tripod does help a lot when it comes to tricky light situations!

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

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin

The hotels used will be of medium class but in remote areas, i.e. Sandaoling, it is very basic. A hot shower and a private bath are available everywhere.

The overnight train rides are booked in soft sleeper class (four berth compartments). It is not guaranteed that we can get soft sleeper tickets, but it’s very likely. In an unusual case, 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. Single bed compartments are not available on overnight train rides.

Hygienic and environmental standards in China do not conform to Central European, Australian or North American expectations. Carrying some toiletries in your photo bag is hence advisable. Please bear in mind that accommodation and transportation in China falls 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.

Steam in China: Sandaoling and Fuxin



Please check the prices given in the North Korea itinerary.

Winter Steam Spectacle: Sandaoling For a Very Last Time 12 to 25 participants £2,460
03.12.2016 – 12.12.2016 6 to 11 participants £2,770
  Single room surcharge £245
Registration Deadline: 25.08.2016
This is the former China tour, now an extension to North Korea.

The price includes:

Not included are:

Steam in China: Sandaoling


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