The Huanan Forestry Railway (762mm) was located between Mudanjiang and Jiamusi in the Heilongjiang province of
North-East China.  The last surviving section of line ran from the outskirts of Huanan City to a number of small coal mines at
Hongguang, a distance of some 47km.  Originally this was an extensive system of some 350+km, build in the late 1940's, to
carry timber but the forests were worked out and the last logging trains ran in 1996.   Traffic levels were extremely variable
but on a good day there could be up to four trains working in each direction.  On a 'bad day' it was possible to stand at the
lineside all day without seeing any action at all! Trains comprising eight empty wagons would leave Huanan and travel across
a long level section before starting to climb near the village of Tuoyaozi.  The line wound upwards and round a large
horseshoe curve before reaching the summit and descending to Li Xin.  The locomotive was turned at Li Xin on a triangle and
was then used to bank the next full train up to the summit before returning and hauling its train tender first to the mines just
short of Hongguang.    Sadly the line closed on 4 April 2011 and coal from the mines is now transported by road lorries.
The main depot for the line was located in the suburbs of Huanan where locomotives were serviced and maintained.  It was
fairly simple to follow the line by taxi as far as Tuoyaozi but here the road ran out and the only way to reach the summit was
by motorcycle taxi or by walking the final six or seven kilometres.  My only visit to the line was made in  December 2004 and
is fully described in my
trip report which can be found elsewhere on this site.  Due to the previous heavy snowfall I was able to
enjoy the spectacle of line clearance operations before heading for the more scenically interesting section beyond Tuoyaozi.
C2 0-8-0 No.041 stands in the yard at
Huanan awaiting the clearance of the
line on 23 December 2004.  The
extreme cold meant that leaking
steam was always going to a problem
for this photographer!
Time to get the trains running
again!Having assembled a short rake
of wagons there was a blast on the
whistle from No.168 and from all
round an impromptu track clearance
gang assembled and climbed aboard
ready to head out of Huanan and
tackle the various drifts which had
closed the line.
Standing around in the yard at
Huanan was quite cold enough so
goodness only knows what
temperatures were like in the open
wagons once the train started to move
and a wind chill factor was added on!  
Amazingly the human cargo looked
and sounded cheerful enough as they
set off.
My original plan had been to take a taxi from Huanan to
Tuoyaozi and then find a way to the summit.  My taxi driver
had already informed me that the road to the village was
impassable but when the track clearing train left Huanan he
showed commendable willingness in trying to follow it for as
far as possible.  Given the state of the roads (and the taxi) this
was an interesting undertaking but he was keen and away we
went.  The train itself was making slow progress at best and
had to make frequent stops to allow the track to be cleared
manually by the men on board.  We meanwhile had to make
frequent stops to wait for bulldozers and other vehicles to try
to clear a way through the snow.  As a result we frequently
overtook the stationary train and then found ourselves
overtaken in turn by the train while we were stationary.  I
spent much of the day dashing across snow covered fields with
frequent falls into snow covered and thus unseen ditches!
No.168 makes good headway along a
section of relatively clear track while
the taxi is held up waiting for the next
section of the road to be cleared.  My
antics provided plenty of entertainment
for the loco crew and the hardy souls
huddled in the wagons behind.
No mechanical assistance for the train
crews!  Time to get busy with the
shovels and hand clear the snow from
the line to allow the train to head
further on up the line and re-open the
Throughout I was constantly reminded
of that wonderful British Transport
Commission Film "Snowdrift At Bleath
Gill" - little had I ever imagined I would
witness scenes like these
All good things must finally end and
eventually my taxi driver indicated that it
wasn't possible to go much further and
that we should return to Huanan while
the train continued up the line.  It had
been great fun - my driver had gone well
beyond the bounds of duty and so we
went back the way we had come and ate
a hearty meal of steamed dumplings in a
small backstreet cafe.
Next morning it was time to try again
and my taxi driver from the day before
was confident that we could reach
Tuoyaozi without problems.  En route
we stopped at the depot to check the
situation and found 0-8-0 No.044
standing in the yard awaiting the day's
Shortly after our arrival No.004
appeared on a loaded train from
Hongguamg and ran onto the depot
for turning and servicing.  All in all it
looked like the day might be
successful with some line action.
The journey to Tuoyaozi was easily
made and having secured
accommodation it was time to check
out the steam.  In the event there was
not long to wait as a loaded coal train
appeared and after a brief pause outside
the village it made a splendid sight as it
traversed the village.  The long journey
to Huanan was already more than
Surprise of the day was No.41 heading
up the line with a single coach!  
Presumably the poor weather had
proved more than a match for the diesel
railcar which normally handled
passenger traffic and an alternative
means was required to get villagers to
and from their homes.
Christmas morning dawned bright and
clear and presented more opportunities
for photography.  No.41 pauses outside
of the village with its loaded wagons to
release the wagon brakes which have
been applied to prevent the risk of
running away down the hill .............
...... and so allowing me enough time to
slither and slide my way down through
the village and find another vantage
point from which to enjoy the spectacle
However the best was yet to come!  I had resigned myself to
taking photographs in and around the village - no great hardship
- and although I had walked someway up the line the heavy
snow and icy sleepers made for extremely hard going.  There was
no way that a motorbike could reach the summit either and so
that was that ........ or so I thought!  
Midway through the morning I was aware of shouting and
looking over to the road I saw a horse, a sledge and my host
waiting for me to join them!  In no time we were away and off up
the hill towards the summit.  There appeared to be no great rush
- despite my concern that a train might be approaching - and
eventually after an hour of so we reached the horseshoe bend in
the line where we stopped and waited.  It was soon obvious that
my travelling companion had more knowledge than I possessed
and after a short while I could hear the far-off sounds of a
locomotive climbing the bank.  Before long the train came into
sight and I was treated to an amazing sight and equally amazing

The rest of the day was spent at the summit waiting for a
returning train (see below) before we headed back to the village
as evening fell (actually late afternoon as the sun sets about
3.45pm in December)  Our return journey was spectacular for its
speed and for me falling of the sledge on at least two occasions!  
Sitting here today - exactly four years later - it seems an
incredible adventure and certainly it could have only occurred to
a solo traveller.  No tour operator could ever have arranged such
a thing nor the party which was held in my honour that night
with villagers coming to inspect the foreigner, with the teacher of
English from the 'local' secondary school walking five miles to
avail himself of the opportunity to speak with me in my own
Almost at the summit - No.041 remains
reasonably sure footed as it brings its
load of empty wagons up the final few

My excitement was further increased by
the thought that it would almost
certainly bank the next train of loaded
wagons up the bank from Li Xin
I guess that you can't get everything in life ......... having arranged my transport in the optimum photo position it was simply a case of
sit back and await the masterpiece ......... and sure enough it wasn't long before I could see two plumes of exhaust heading in my
direction.  Sadly I had underestimated the effect of the cold on my camera which managed the first shot before steadfastly refusing to
take anything else until the train had passed and was out of sight!!  The best laid plans etc.  (above left)

However we returned to the summit in time to catch the banker returning back towards Li Xin but to my surprise it was not in fact
No.041 but No.044 which had performed the banking duties  (above right)
The glorious weather of the previous
three days disappeared on the morning
of 26th December ...... as, slowly,  did my
hangover! No.168 brings a train of empty
wagons up through a very grey Tuoyaozi
and over the little river bridge close to
the abandoned(?) gold mine workings.
Things improved somewhat during the
morning and around about mid-day
No.004 appeared down the hill and
paused in customary style to release the
pinned down breaks before heading on
towards Huanan with its load of coal.
Continuing camera problems led me
to resort to my 'pocket digital'
which I normally only use for taking
pictures of the locals.  However the
result was surprisingly good and I
managed to capture No.041 leaving
Tuoyaozi and heading for Huanan.
Despite the relatively small number of
trains each day there is always
something to keep one interested and
in a remote rural village this is likely to
be of an  agricultural nature.  Main
Street in Tuoyaozi provides the setting
for this delightful bucolic scene
My final morning in Tuoyaozi was
blessed with some of the best weather
of my stay - and a total absence of
steam action.   Only the return of the
railcar from Li Xin broke the quiet of
the morning - running once again after
its enforced lay-off
My faithful taxi driver collected me
from Tuoyaozi and drove me back to
Huanan.  From there I was able to
take a bus to Jiamusi and then a train
south to Siping and another taxi to
reach Meihekou.  There was however
sufficient time to stop off at the depot
once again and take a few more shots
of locomotives at the depot including
Despite being a small scale operation with a limited number of steam movements in any 24 hour period (if any at all) this
little railway had a special place in my heart and those of everyone else who came to enjoy the unique spectacle. I felt its loss
more keenly than almost any other system save for the Jingpeng line.  I simply consider myself extremely fortunate to have
been there and to have shared in the simple life of the villagers of Tuoyaozi.
Home Page
Java - Sweet Dreams
Cuba - Steam In Paradise
Adventures In Foreign Lands - Personal trip reports - 1999 - 2008
Zimbabwe - Garrett Heaven
Germany - Narrow Gauge
Poland - Coal and Capitalism