The Ji-Tong line stretches for over 800 kilometres from Jining to Tongliao.  This remarkable provincial railway was not opened
until December 1995 and for much of its length it travels over almost totally flat land.  However near the village of Reshui the
line begins to climb up into the mountains towards the town of Jingpeng.  The first European to report on the existance of this
line was a French enthusiast by the name of Julian Blanc, who travelled over the line by train.   It was not long before the first
lineside photographers were making their way to Inner Mongolia to marvel at this feat of modern engineering.

What made this line particualry remarkable  was that the provincial authorities had seen fit to buy a fleet of surplus QJ class
2-10-2 steam locomotives from China Rail to provide the motive power for the route.   Given the amount of traffic using the
route it was usual to use a pair of QJ's between Daban and Haoluku in order to provide sufficient power to haul long freight
trains up and over the summit.   The line is single track with frequent passing loops. and once beyond Galadesitai (Km 517) the
locomotives climbed through the mountains by means of a series of horseshoe curves, massive embankments and two tunnels
before reaching the summit of the line inside the tunnel near Shangdian (Km 494).   Trains approaching from the east would
pause at Jingpeng (Km 468) to build up steam before ascending the pass by means of several spectacular viaducts and four
futher tunnels to reach the passing loops at Shangdian station.  

The combination of winter snows, extreme temperatures (as low as -40 degrees centigrade) and clear blue skies made a visit
to Jingpeng an unforgetable experience and the line became a place of pilgrimage for photographers and railway enthusiasts
from Europe, the USA and Japan.  It was truly the 'Everest Of Railway Photography' and once experienced everything else
somehow became something of an anti-climax.   Sadly it wasn't destined to last.  By 2004 the first diesels were beginning to
make an appearance on the line and the last revenue earning QJ's made their final journey between Daban and Haoluku on
27th March 2005.  Steam remained between Daban and Chabuga for another nine months until 9th December 2005.  Whilst
the line itself remains and has been continuously upgraded ever since, the sound of QJ's hard at work can no longer be heard.  
This page then stands as a tribute to the world's last mainline steam railway.
New Year's Day 1999 and
desperately hung-over from the
previous night's celebrations on
board the overnight sleeper from
Benhong, I climbed the hills
behind Reshui and was
rewarded for my efforts by the
sight of QJ's 7012 and 6828 on a
westbound train between
Tunnels 6 and 7.  Our guide also
climbed the hill to bring fresh
supplies of beer - which by the
time he reached us had frozen
solid in the bottles.

                   1 January 1999
Just to the west of Reshui the
line crosses a small stream and
then the road which leads from
Reshui to the summit.

With QJ 7037 leading 7041,  
the two engines are beginning
to dig in for the long climb
towards the summit.  Since the
distance covered by the train is
much further than that of the
road, it was easy to reach the
summit long before the train
and to get a second
photograph (see above)
1st January 1999
In addition to the numerous
freight trains that used the JiTong
line there was also a passenger
service.  Unfortunately this
crossed the Jing Peng section of
the line in the hours of darkness
and so photographs of passenger
trains on the Pass are rare.  
However it did provide an
excellent way of reaching
Galadesitai and thence to Reshui
and its hotels.

On New Year's Eve 1998, 2-10-2
QJ No.7118 stands at the head of
its train in Benhong station which
is 35km from Jining - the western
end of the line.
Most photographers concentrated
their attentions on the line to the
east of Jingpeng station as this
marked the start of the climb to the
summit at Shandiang but
approaching Jingpeng was a large
viaduct over a river.  Unfortunately
it was a favourite place for
locomotives to blow-down before
arriving in the station and although
QJ6656 can be clearly seen,
QJ6517 and the train are lost in a
large cloud of steam

                  3rd January 2002
Engines normally paused for some
considerable time at Jingpeng
station, taking water and building
up their fires ready for the long
climb.  From this vantage point
above Biligou Viaduct it was
possible to watch the trains leave
the station and enjoy the sight of
them progressing along the side of
the valley before crossing the
concrete viaduct.  The climb to
reach this spot was arduous but
the reward of seeing QJ's 6536 and
7040 hard at work made it all

                       2 January 2002
 "When a man is tired of Jingpeng, he is tired of life;
   for there is at Jingpeng all that steam can afford"
               (with apologies to Samuel Johnson)

Surely there was never anywhwhere else in the world that
could provide a spectacle such as this.  The combination of
intense cold and the need to haul their long trains off the
viaduct and up the 1 in 80 gradient led to spectacular steam
and smoke effects just to the east of Jingpeng.

QJ7012 and an unidentified second engine cross the
embankment and through the quarry at Biligou

                                                                             3 January 1999
Si Ying Mi Viaduct is commonly
referred to as the Horseshoe
Viaduct and is perhaps the
iconic symbol of the line.  This
immense curved viaduct is part
of a gigantic construction which
carries the line through a full
360 degree turn as it climbs ever
onwards towards the summit.  

The early morning light brings
out all the colours in the exhaust
as QJ's 6577 and 6828 thrash
their way across the viaduct
with an eastbound train on 2nd
January 2002
Later in the day - further round
the viaduct and slightly further up
the hill to catch another pair of
eastbound QJ's flogging their way
uphill to Shangdian and the
summit of the line.

One thing was certain - to catch
the best of the action you had to
be fit and also prepared to walk
considerable distances.
However the rewards for one's
endeavours could certainly be
spectacular.  As always much
depended on the mood of the
gods - the weather could change
rapidly and bring a day's
photography to a premature
end.  The biting winds could also
play havoc, whipping the smoke
off the chimney top and blowing
it down across the train.  But ......
when it did all come together   it
was well worth all of the previous
At Km485 the line takes a sharp
curve and heads south, climbing
into what is known as
Brickworks Valley.   The gradient
now is about 1 in 80 and the
train has travelled some 20km
since leaving Jingpeng and faces
a further 10km of climbing to
reach Shangdian.

QJ6828 and 6577 are well in
control of their train as they
climb up into the valley on in
January 2002
QJ's 6905 and 6763 hurry a
long train of oil tanks
westwards down the grade
towards Jingpeng.  The line is
single track and has numerous
passing loops along the way.  
This pair had been held at
Shangdian awaiting the arrival
of an eastbound train and are
now heading for Jingpeng
where they will almost
certainly meet the next train
waiting to climb up and over
the pass.
In the middle of winter the
daylight hours are relatively short
and the sun late to rise in the
sky.  There was much debate as
to whether it would be possible
to get a shot at this location
since it relies on early morning
sun and a train arriving at more
or less the right moment.  
Sometimes everything does come
together perfectly and this was
once such occasion.  The two
unidentified QJ's have just passed
over the viaduct at the head of
Brickworks Valley (the brickwork
chimney can be seen in the
background) and they are about
to plunge into the first of three
short tunnels on the final section
of the climb.
3rd January 1999
Definitely a long climb and a
fairly precarious perch was
required to capture this shot of
QJ6986 and an unknown sister
locomotive between Tunnel 2
and 3.  The western side of the
line seems to have the most
spectacular vantage points and
in winter it frequently has a far
deeper snowfall than on the
eastern side of the summit.

                       January 2002
It was a shot similar to this which
first attracted me to the Jingpeng
line.  The circumstances were to
say the least somewhat unusual.
I was at Boris Luis Santa
Columba sugar mill in Cuba in
April 1998 and after a hard
morning's photography I was
relaxing at a local roadside rum
stall with Ron Lingley and Andy
Clarke  To our amazement there
was a large photograph pinned
to the rear wall clearly placed
there by a fellow enthusiast.  By
the time we had finished our
drinks a plan had been hatched
and eight months later we were
on our way!
One visit to Jingpeng was never
going to be enough although our
1999 trip was blessed with
excellent weather and we
covered most of the well known
locations.  Somewhat concerned
about the potential problems of
the so-called 'Millenium Bug' the
following season was given a miss
as was 2000-2001 but in January
2002 it was time to make a
return for a further six days on
the lineside.

Here QJ's 6986 and 6828 are
exiting from Tunnel 3 with an
eastbound train.
Another shot which was an act
of faith!  One of our 2001-2
party persuaded us to make the
long climb to be above the exit
to Tunnel 4.  We set off in
pre-dawn light and climbed ever
higher above the road and then
above the line.  On arriving at
our chosen vantage point it was
clear that the sun would not be
on the line for some considerable
time.  Eventually we heard the
sounds of a train heading east
and all we could do was watch
and hope that the sun would
climb high enough to reach the
line.  It was a close run thing but
ultimately the result was
sufficient justification for our
The long climb from Jingpeng is
nearly over for the crews of
QJ 6274 and 6763 as they
approach Km 491 and into sight
of Shangdian and the summit of
the line.  At this point the line is
about 1300 metres above sea
A similar shot taken two years
earlier - slighly lower and
slightly closer to Shangdian.

On this occasion the
locomotives are QJ 6656 and

                   2nd January 1999
Shangdian station is just a few hundred metres short of the summit
which is actually inside the tunnel to the east of the station.  Shangdian
has four roads, two of which are loops and two of which are running
roads.  There are (were?) also a number of semaphore signals to control
movements in the station area and these are Great Western Railway
style lower-quadrant signals

An westbound train has just left Shangdian and is beginning the long
coast downhill to Jingpeng station (above)               1st January 1999

An unidentified QJ is framed between signal posts as it arrives at
Shangdian with an eastbound freight train (right)      1st January 1999
With just a few hundred yards to
go before they reach the summit
the footplate crews of QJ 7040
and QJ 6760 can begin to look
forward to a little rest and
relaxation as they begin the 25km
descent towards Reshui and relief
at Daban summit
Similar thoughts of rest and
relaxation are probably in the
minds of the crews of QJ7037
and QJ7041 as they approach
the summit but with a
westbound train from Haoluku
and beyond.  They can now
look forward to the downhill
run to Jingpeng.  The road from
Reshui crosses the line at this
point providing an ideal
photographic location for those
less able or less inclined to
access other vantage points.

                       2 January 1999
A long train of tank wagons passes
the village of Shi Di heading for
the summit and then on to the

This location was easily accessed
by walking along the track from
Summit Tunnel.
This was actually the last
picture that I took on the
JiTong line.  QJ6378 is single
handed as it brings a long train
of bogie bolster wagons past the
semaphore signals guarding the
entrance to Liu Di Gou station.  
The station itself simply served
as a passing loop and whilst
manned 24 hours a day never
saw passengers.  As everywhere
else the station staff were
welcoming and happy for me to
warm my bones besides their
fire.  Despite the sunshine the
temperature was about minus
15 degrees!

                         3 January 2002
The difference in snow cover
resulting from the lower altitude
and being on the east side of
the Pass is very  noticeable as
QJ7137 crosses a small bridge
between Galadesitai and Reshui
on the evening of 2nd January
1999.  This turned into an epic
stuggle in the fading light as the
single engine struggled towards
the summit at Shangdian.  It
was a great tribute to the skills
of the crew that it made it
without failing or slipping to a
During the 2001-2 trip we made
the 85km trip by road to visit
Daban depot.  At that time it
was the largest steam depot in
the world and we found over 20
QJ's on the shed - some in steam,
some under repair and some in
store.  Chinese railways don't
have engine sheds in the same
was as in Britain, with most
locomotives remaining outside
at all times.  Access to the depot
was achieved without problem -
the Chinese having already
decided that 200 yuan was a
good price to extract from
steam-mad foreigners!
The sheer size and scale of
these QJ's (Qian Jin - 'Advance')
can be best appreciated by
comparing them to the figure
standing in front of the
bufferbeam of QJ6981.  The
overall length of engine and
tender exceeds 90 feet and it
has an operational weight of
250 tons.

QJ7041 and 6981 at stand in
the depot yard at Daban    
Having travelled from Benhong
to Galadesitai in 1999 we
decided to reach Jingpeng in
2002 from the eastern end and
caught the train from Tongliao.  
This provided us with an
opportunity to visit the depot at
Zhelimu and to see locomotives
such as QJ7163 arriving and
departing the depot.  
Locomotives did not work the
full length of the line and were
changed at Chabuga and again
at Daban during our 320km
overnight journey.
Facilities at Zhelimu were far
more basic than those at
Daban depot.  All maintenance,
preparation and disposal work
was carried out in freezing
conditions and a brisk wind
kicked up clouds of ash and
coal dust.  In this photograph
the depot's steam crane is
collecting ash from the disposal
pits as two QJ's take water.
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