Meihekou is about 150 miles north-east of Shenyang and can be easily reached by train from that city or via Siping on the
Shenyang - Harbin line.  However this formerly steam worked industrial system is as approximately 15km south-west of
Meihekou and links to the CNR at Heishantou.  In steam days most visitors seemed to stay in Meihekou and travel to the system
daily but there is a perfectly good hotel in Hongmeizhen (Yijing), the operational centre of the line, which was no more than 200
yards from the action!  A taxi from Meihekou should cost no more than 20 - 30 yuan and takes about 30 minutes.

The line is about 20km long and links together four deep mines.  The exchange sidings are at Heishantou which is joined to the
system by a branch line of about 3-4km.  A total of six SY's were used to move wagons between the mines.  There was also a
daily passenger service consisting of four round trips from Sijing to Sanjing.  This went over to diesel haulage in October 2004
but subsequent locomotive failure saw the service revert to steam once again.  Despite the small number of locomotives there
was a very busy pattern of movements and also several electric narrow gauge lines to maintain an interest in this system.  
Although not particularly photogenic in terms of scenery the mines made attractive industrial backdrops.  All locomotives faced
south - a mixed blessing since most loaded trains came into Yijing from the south and were thus tender first.  However the large
loaded trains for Heishantou were boiler first and the passenger trains provided good photographic opportunities.

Steam operations appear to have come to an end at sometime in 2010 and by April 2011 all but one steam locomotive had
disappeared - although the mining railway itself remains open and diesel worked.
The centre of operations was
at Yijing where the
maintainance depot was
located.  Locomotives
returned here from Sijing to
take water and it was rare
for this location to be devoid
of at least one locomotive.  
On this occasion SY0791
takes water while SY1216
shunts wagons in the yard.

                   December 2004
The level crossing at the
southern end of the yard at
Yijing provided an excellent
vantage point for watching
trains being shunted or
leaving for the mines to the
south.  SY1216 sets off with
a short train of loaded
tipper wagons bound for
Erjing mine.                      
                  December 2004
Having worked the morning
passenger train from Sijing to
Sanjing and back, SY1564
has returned to the main
yard at Sijing to take water.  
All of the locomotives at
Meihekou were in externally
good condition with polished
boiler bands and headboards.
                    December 2004
A case of appearances being
deceptive! What at first sight
appears to be a classic piece of
banking turns out to be
SY1216 standing at the head of
its train while SY1564
continues to take water.
                    December 2004
Several of the mines have
600mm guage electric
railways which are
independent of the main
system.  The line at Yijing
crosses over the main yard on
a bridge Although the line was
in regular use I was unable to
get an electric train crossing
the bridge as a steam
locomotive passed below.
                 (December 2004)
The bridge did however
provide rather a nice vantage
point from which to survey
the main yard at Yijing as SY
1217 runs down to take coal
at the mine loading point
(December 2004)
The short mid-winter days
meant that only two of the
four return passenger workings
were in daylight.  The low light
and crisp exhaust combine to
make a fine shot as SY1564
works the afternoon passenger
between Yijing and Erjing

                      December 2004
A 2 yuan bus ride the following
morning took me to Erjing
where a short walk to the south
of the station provided an
excellent location to
photograph SY1564 working
the morning passenger train to

                     December 2004
SY0791 standing at the head
of a long train of loaded
wagons in Yijing yard prior to
them being worked via the
branch line to the CNR
exchange sidings at  

December 2004
SY1564 standing outside of
the locomotive depot at
Yijing.  During my visit the
shed was home to SY1664
which was in light steam and
DFH5 No.4010 which was
busy going nowhere.
Meanwhile SY1445 was
dumped out of use to the
right of the depot.

                  December 2004
SY1216 brings a short train
of tippler wagons from Sijing
past the coal loading plant
at Yijing.
            (December 2004)
On my last morning I took a
taxi to Sanjing to photograph
the arrival of the morning
passenger train.  The train is
seen here climbing towards the
station behind SY1564 which
was the regular passenger
engine during my three day

December 2004
My original plan was to ride
the passenger train back to
Yijing but as we arrived at
Erjing a long train of empty
wagons was waiting to enter
into the mine yard.  Time for a
change of plan and a chance
to catch SY1217 with its
distinctive decorated
smokebox as it started its
heavy train.

December 2004
A swift piece of relocation put
me in place to catch the same
train as it headed past the
winding gear of Erjing mine.  
With temperatures standing at
about -20 degrees the exhaust
effects were magnificent - as
was the sound of the SY hard
at work

December 2004
I walked from Erjing back to
Yijing pausing en route to
capture the afternoon passenger
train which was also in the
hands of SY1217, which had
earlier passed me working
tender first towards Sijing.

                         December 2004
When steam operation finished on the JiTong line there was much talk of the 'end of steam in China'.  Whilst it is true that
mainline operations had finished,  systems such as Meihekou still offered plenty of opportunities to see and enjoy steam hard
at work.  Fortunately no-one decided to run a steam charter there or attempt to influence the normal day-to-day workings.  
As a result there was a warm welcome from crews and workers and no attempt to extract money for photographic permits
or access to workshops etc.  It was possible to ride the passenger trains and pay only the local fare - not some vastly inflated
rate invented especially for visiting 'bignoses'.  This was genuine working steam at its best.  
With the afternoon shadows
beginning to lengthen there was
just time to catch SY1216
taking a long train of loaded
coal wagons from Yijing to the
exchange sidings at
Heishantou.  As the light slowly
faded I spent the remains of the
afternoon watching the
shunting operations in Yijing
yard before heading for
Meihekou City and a train
south to Huludao

                        December 2004
Like most of the shots on this site,
this is a unique photograph in so
much as I was the only person on
hand to record this particular
moment in the life of the railway
at Meihekou.  No gallery of
photographers jostling for position
- no opportunity to send the
engine back and do it again if
someone messed up.  That was the
joy of photographing steam in
China as an independent traveller
It was clearly a mystery to many
Chinese as to why a foreigner
would want to spend time and
money to travel to the country to
photograph something which to
them was an everyday part of the
scene.  Only latterly did Chinese
photographers begin to capture
what by then was a rapidly
disappearing part of the country's
tradition and heritage
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