Nanpiao was one of the later steam discoveries and begs the question as to whether there are still any more lines in this vast
country still awaiting their first visit from enthusiasts and photographers.  The system was first explored by Louis Cerny as
recently as October 2003 and early western visitors were a cause for astonishment and wonder to the local population.  
However this railway is not located in some remote part of China but a mere 35 - 40km from the city of Jinzhou, a city through
which many enthusiasts have passed en route to Shenyang, Tiefa and the far north of China.   

Nanpiao can be reached by train or by road from Jinzhou but has few hotels, most of which are far below the standards
demanded by most tour groups.  The CNR line goes to Hungjia where the mine railway has its eastern terminus.  The hotel
mainly used by enthusiasts is right opposite the station and steam departures could be heard both day and night.  The mine
railway then continued to the main exchange yard at Xiamiaozi where the main shed and stabling point were located.  Two
branch lines run for 30 - 40km further west and north to Sanjiazi and Linghe respectively.  Rob Dickinson's site has a
map of the
system which is broadly accurate and which I used throughout my visit in December 2003.

At the time of my visit the line had six active SY's and two operational diesels.  The majority of traffic appeared to use the line
towards Linghe although a new power station some 3 - 4km along the Sanjiazi branch generated some additional traffic on
that line.  Two mines on the Sanjiazi branch appeared to produce only small amounts of coal in comparison to the one at
Zaojiatun which was constantly busy.   Alongside the line to Sanjiazi were a considerable number of hand operated mines with
only the most primitive of equipment and no doubt an appaling safety record!

Sadly steam operations came to an end at Nanpiao in 2010 although the coal railway itself is believed to continue operations
using diesel traction.  What follows is a record of this wonderful little system and its people.
I arrived in Nanpiao by means of
the CNR passenger train which
worked through from Jingzhou.  I
alighted at Hungjia and quickly
booked myself into the local hotel
which is right next to the station
Trip Report for full details)
I was then just in time to see
SY0638 arrive and run around its
train ready for the morning train
to Xiamiaozi..  The line bisects the
main street and is a most unusual
and interesting location in which
to enjoy steam.  A 1 yuan ride took
me to Xiamiaozi ready for a days
I had been warned that boiler first
train workings were somewhat
rare at Nanpiao but within an
hour of arriving at Xiamiaozi ,and
having found a suitable
photographic location, I was
rewarded by the sight of SY1478
leaving the yards with a short train
of empty wagons bound for
As with all such industrial
locations, there was a great deal of
hanging around waiting for
something to happen.  Most of the
locomotives are employed in
shunting duties at one or other of
the collieries and movements
between mines were fairly limited.  
On this occasion SY1299 is pulling
away from Zaojiatun with a long
train of empty wagons bound for
A wonderfully industrial scene as
SY1017 shunts in the yard at
Zaojiatun mine.  The Nanpiao
lines ran broadly south to north
meaning that boiler first workings
tended to come 'out of the sun'
meaning that most shots were
backlit to some degree.  Only
tender first workings enjoyed the
best lighting conditions.
At 15.00 there were supposedly
simultaneous departures from
Xiamiaozi to Sanjiazi and to Linghe
with the afternoon passenger trains.
In theory this should have provided
the dramatic spectacle of two SY
hauled trains running side by side
for the first half-mile or so from the
station.  In reality there was
anything up to ten minutes between
the two trains leaving Xiamiaozi and
therefore little chance of
side-by-side running

On the first afternoon of my visit I
took up position and waited with
bated breath.  The first train to
arrive was the Linghe train made up
of six coaches.  To my delight the
train to Sanjiazi ran as a mixed train
with a wagon full of pit props and a
number of empty coal wagons
between the engine and the
coaching stock.  Such sights were
rare and the mixed train really made
my day.

In December the sun is rapidly
sinking behind the hills which
surround the town and the shadows
begin to grow rather long making
these shots difficult.
Sunrise at Xiamiaozi as SY0973
shunts around the yard.  It was
possible to catch the first train of
the day from Hungjia before
daybreak - travel up to Xiamiaozi on
the footplate - and enjoy the
morning sunrise.  On this occasion
the sun quickly  moved into snow
clouds and so I spent the rest of the
day sampling the local beer and
enjoying the sights, sounds and
smells of the local market!
My presence in Nanpiao caused a significant stirring as very few Westerners had visited the town and probably even fewer had
finished up in the local covered market!  At first the stallholders were reluctant to have their pictures taken but once they
were able to see themselves on the screen of my pocket digital camera suddenly everyone wanted to get in on the act!  It
brightened up an otherwise dull day for me and a fairly mundane one for them.
Although the daylight hours are
short during December and January
this is more than compensated for
by the low temperatures which give
dramatic smoke effects when
engines are working hard.  SY1017
leaves Zaojiatun with a wagon
loaded with pit props
One that got away!  A disadvantage
of travelling without a guide is that
it is not always possible to
determine exactly what is going on.  
I had spent some time watching
SY0973 shunting around at
Zaojiatun and had attempted by
means of charades to determine
whether or not it was heading
towards Linghe.  The drivers
reaction seemed to indicate that he
was simply shunting - and so I was
hopelessly out of position when a
short while later he set off with a
long train of empty wagons banked
by SY1479
Another afternoon and another
attempt to see the simultaneous
departures - and once again they
weren't simultaneous!   SY1478
heads away from Xiamiaozi with
the train to Linghe with the train
to Sanjiazi about to depart in the
And sure enough a few minutes
later along came SY0893 with the
afternoon train to Sanjiazi
The scenery at Nanpiao is far more
attractive than at other industrial
systems such as Tiefa and Fuxin.  
On one of the mornings I managed
to get a footplate ride all the way
from Hungjia to Sanjiazi and then
back to Ziamiaozi.  This was a
wonderful experience and caused
much astonishment and amusement
to both passengers and railway
staff.  We seet off in darkness but by
the time we started our return from
Sanjiazi the sun was up and it was
clear we would have another
beautiful day.  On the way back to
Ziamiaozi we were held in a loop at
Fuloonshan to wait for SY0638 as it
took  empty wagons up the branch
towards Sanjiazi
One of the afternoons I explored quite a long section of the Sanjiazi line on foot and came across many examples of small
independent mines operated with the minimum of machinery and largely dependent on man-power.  This looked an incredibly
hard and dangerous life and was somewhat in contrast to the large mine at Weizigou - although safety records in Chinese
mines are generally poor no matter what their size.  I waited at Weizigou for a train to appear but sadly my wait was in vain.
However i was lucky enough to see
SY1017 as it came light engine
through the rather senic landscape
around Shagotun
My final day at Nanpiao began
with a taxi ride to the mine at
Zaojiatun and the opportunity to
see SY1478 shunting wagons in
and around the yard.
I hoped that I might be lucky
enough to catch another banked
train of empty wagons as they
headed from Zaojiatun to Linghe
but my efforts were rewarded only
by SY1429 heading out light engine
Back to Hungzia and time to put into a place a somewhat audacious plan.  My first task was to engage a motorcycle taxi
similar to the one seen above right, with a driver who looked like he might be up for the game.  Then a long game of
charades ensued as I attempted to explain that I was going to photograph a train leaving Hungjia and try to photograph
it again en route to Xiamiaozi ........ and then again leaving Xiamiaozi.  Eventually he caught on and looked willing
although it remained to be seen whether his machine would be up to the task.
And we're off ......... SY1017 heads
away from Hungzia as my taxi
driver revs his engine and waits for
me to leap into the rear
compartment ..........
....... and after a few heart stopping
moments as we negotiated our way
out of Hungzia it was onto the open
road and the thrill of trying to
overtake the train AND find a
photographic location.  We bounced
over the tracks and I raced up the
line just in time to catch the train as
it approached Xiamiaozi ..........
........ and the encore!  Having
rejoined the taxi we drove through
Xiamaiozi until we reached the
signal gantry on the north side of
the station.  With no one around to
stop me there was time to climb the
gantry and take an aerial shot of
the train as it left the station and
headed for Linghe.  Great fun and
all for 20yuan or so to my driver.
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