Germany : February 2017

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The Harzer Schmalspurbahnen operates a 140km network of metre gauge lines in western Sachsen-Anhalt and uses steam locos on many of its trains. The line retains the feel of a working steam railway and runs through attractive scenery with steep banks that make the locos work for their living. I was there for a week in February 2017 and spent some time photographing electrics on freight around Hannover and Bremen at the beginning and end of the trip.

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China : Nov/Dec 2016

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The steam age is rapidly coming to an end in China but, even at the end of 2016, there was just enough activity to justify another visit. This report covers a three week trip in November and early December to see the SY Class 2-8-2s on the mining railways at Pingzhuang and Wujiu and the JS Class 2-8-2s in the opencast mine at Sandaoling. Observations of diesel and electric locos on the national system and industrial lines are included as well.

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China : Nov/Dec 2015

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Real working steam locos are becoming very hard to find, even in China, but two of the remaining operations are still exceptionally good. This report covers a 3 week trip based around visits to the steam worked mining railways at Fuxin and Sandaoling in November and December 2015. The mining line at Pingzhuang and Fushun’s Old Steelworks were also visited, with mixed results. The report includes observations on the main line, all diesel or electric these days.

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Germany October 2015

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Harzer Schmalspurbahnen operates a 140km network of metre gauge lines in the Harz Mountains, close to the former East-West German border, and uses steam locos on many trains, including the frequent services to the summit of the Brocken, the highest mountain in northern Germany. The railway became a magnet for tourists when the border between the two Germanys re-opened. That probably ensured its survival and transfer of ownership to a consortium of local authorities. Unlike many tourist operations, it still has the feel of a working railway and uses the same locos and rolling stock that worked the line in Deutsche Reichsbahn days. This report covers a seven day trip to the railway in October 2015 and also includes a lot of historical background information as well as details of what we saw during the trip.

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China : Nov/Dec 2014

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With the Rongshan NG line back in action and a new steam worked line due to open at Sandaoling, November 2014 seemed a good time to visit China again. In the event we missed out on both but still had a very rewarding trip. This report covers what we saw at Fuxin and Sandaoling, neither of which disappointed.

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China : Mar 2014

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This illustrated report covers a two week trip to the Baiyin and Tiehejinchang lines in China's western province of Gansu from 3 to 17 March 2014.

Both lines visited use a mixture of steam and diesel traction and, with steam in rapid decline, things didn't turn out exactly as anticipated.

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Germany : Jan/Feb 2014

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An 8 day visit to the Harz Moutains in northern Germany in late January and early February 2014. The aim was to photograph metre gauge steam in the snow on the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen's 140km network.

The report includes a brief look at the current scene in the Hannover area with the emphasis on freight.

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China : Nov/Dec 2013

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A trip to photograph steam locomotives on the best industrial lines, including the huge opencast coal mine at Sandaoling, the largest industrial steam user, with around 17 locos required in traffic every day, and the last large scale user of JS class 2-8-2s. The SY worked Fuxin and Pingzhuang mining systems and the old steelworks at Fushun also featured. Diesels and electrics were not ignored entirely with visits to Beijing's main station and to the Fushun Mining Railway, with its remarkable electrics.

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China : November 2012

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The last few years have seen many of the best Chinese steam locations dieselise, electrify or abandon their rail systems altogether. Just enough survived to justify one last trip in November 2012. This report covers what we found at Bajiaotai, Fuxin, Pingzhuang and Sandaoling during an 18-day trip. There are also extensive observations of the current Chinese rail scene from journeys totalling over 6000km.

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China : November 2011

Chinese steam may be in terminal decline but there are still a few high quality operations good enough to justify another trip. This report covers a very productive three week trip to the north of the country in November 2011, concentrating on the industrial railways at Fula’erji in Heilongjiang, Beitai and Fuxin in Liaoning and Sandaoling in Xinjiang, with brief visits to Shenyang, Fushun and Pingzhuang as well.

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China : Nov/Dec 2010

A marathon three-week trip to northern China in Winter 2010, visiting the best of the remaining steam operations at Sandaoling, Jixi, Huanan, Tiefa, Fuxin, Beipiao, Pingzhuang, Yuanbaoshan and Hongmiao. Despite the decline in steam working over the past year, we still saw almost 60 locos in steam.

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China : March 2010

A visit to two of the best remaining steam-worked industrial systems in China. The coal mines around Jixi in the north-east still employ around 20 SY class 2-8-2s on an extensive network of railways running through a mixture of impressive industrial architecture and pleasant countryside. Much further west, at Baiyin, another fleet of SYs serves a complex of ore smelters in the desert. Both operations are threatened with modernisation in the near future and the first diesels had already arrived at Baiyin by the time of our visit.

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China : November 2009

The days when steam locomotives were easy to find are long gone and the best locations are often far from each other. On this trip we set out to visit two of the furthest apart, the opencast coal mine at Sandaoling in the north-western province of Xinjiang and the narrow gauge coal railway at Huanan in eastern Heilongjiang. These are two very different operations yet they share some common features beyond the fact that they both haul coal, most notably the use of banking engines.

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China Feb/Mar 2009

The opencast coal mine at Zhalainuoer is probably the greatest steam spectacle left in the world today but it won’t be for much longer. Railway operations within the big pit are expected to cease later this year and diesels are currently being acquired for the surface lines as well. The opportunity to visit Zhalainuoer for one last time was just too good to miss. We also visited Baiyin, a much smaller operation but with a reasonably long main line featuring semi-desert scenery and steep gradients.

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China : November 2008

A short trip to two of the best surviving steam operations. We planned to start with a couple of days at Jixi, a coal mining centre employing more than 20 SY class 2-8-2s, and then to move on to the narrow gauge operation at Huanan, potentially the best surviving narrow gauge line in China but notoriously unreliable these days. Things didn't quite go according to plan!

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China October 2008

A trip to photograph diesels on scenic lines in the north-east of China, starting with the Tonghua-Hunjiang area then Fushun, Bei'an, Mudanjiang and finishing on the Beijing-Longhua line. As well as the diesels, there are a few industrial electrics on standard and narrow gauges and a handful of steam locomotives as well.

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China : Feb/Mar 2008

After three successful spring trips to North-East China, it seemed time to do something different. This time we travelled west from Beijing to visit three steam operations along the Yellow River. The steelworks at Baotou is largely dieselised but still employs a number of SYs. Further west at Gongwusu, a rarely visited coal mining system uses a couple of JSs. Our final destination was the mine and smelter complex at Baiyin with its active fleet of SYs.

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China : Nov/Dec 2007

This trip turned out very differently to the one we planned. The idea had been to get some shots of Huanan in the snow and have another go at Huludao before the diesels arrived. As we were in the area, it seemed sensible to spend a few days in Jixi as well. In the event, there was no snow and Huanan wasn’t running any trains. Huludao had two brand new diesels and no steam on line work. Fortunately JIxi didn't disappoint and Nanpiao proved to be an acceptable alternative to Huludao.

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China : March 2007

This visit to China started with a few days photographing modern traction around Beijing, including SS4Gs on the busy Datong - Qinhuangdao coal line and 8Ks on the Fengtai - Shacheng route. The remainder of the trip was spent in the North-East visiting three of the surviving steam-worked colliery systems at Jixi, Hegang and Zhalainuoer.

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China : January 2007

Shibanxi had been near the top of my "must visit" list for some time but it was difficult to combine with the best of the remaining steam locations in northern China. There was also a problem deciding when to visit. There just didn’t seem to be a good time of year to go to Shibanxi. The opportunity for a short trip arose in January 2007 so we took the plunge and set off for Sichuan to see what all the fuss was about. On the way, there was time to investigate some rarely reported SYs around Chengdu as well.

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China : Nov/Dec 2006

A winter visit to photograph steam worked coal railways in the north-east of China. We visited Jixi, where SYs work on 5 separate colliery systems, Huanan, a superbly scenic narrow gauge operation and Fuxin, where steam operation continues despite the decline of mining in the area.

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China : Feb/Mar 2006

A return visit to the best of the Manchurian industrial lines. Most of the trip was devoted to visiting the steam worked colliery systems at Meihekou, Jixi and Zhalainuoer. A day exploring in the area east of Harbin turned up a new steam location but three months too late. Although the emphasis was on steam, diesels working on the main lines weren't ignored.

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China : November 2005

A visit to several recently discovered steam worked industrial systems in Xinjiang and Gansu provinces in the north west of China, including the massive opencast coal mine at Sandaoling where over 30 steam locos were in daily use.

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China : September 2005

The Daban to Chabuga section of the JiTong Railway was still steam worked in September 2005 but the diesels started to take over at the beginning of October. This report covers my last trip to see steam on this wonderful line, the last steam worked main line on the planet. We also spent a few days on the excellent Huanan narrow gauge railway in north-eastern Manchuria.

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China : Feb/Mar 2005

This report covers a short trip to some of the best steam worked industrial railways in the North East of China during early March 2005. We visited Meihekou, Jixi, Dayan and Jalainur. Winter in the North East can be unbearably cold but spring tends to be warm and wet. For a brief period in between it's not too cold but still bright and sunny. Fortunately, our trip coincided with this transition and we enjoyed virtually unbroken sunshine for the duration.

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China : Jan/Feb 2005

Bryan Acford reports from his 20th Anniversary trip to China, visiting Pingdingshan, Yuzhou, Xingyang, Tiefa, Lindong, Yuanbaoshan and Pingzhuang.

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China : Dec 2004/Jan 2005

This was a short trip to Central China where several of the operations in the Xuzhou area sounded interesting. We were attracted partly by the presence of high deflector QJs as well as locos from the final batch of 20 built in 1988. There were risks of course, not least from creeping dieselisation. However, the situation was far worse than we had anticipated.

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China : Nov/Dec 2004

With the diesels rapidly taking over at Jingpeng we made one last visit there to bid farewell to what had been the greatest steam show on earth before moving on to Lindong for some more big steam action.

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China : September 2004

A very successful trip to JIngpeng Pass in perfect late summer weather with blue skies, green hills, cold mornings and clear light. A real glint and silhouette spectacular. Unbeknown to us at the time, diesels started to work over the pass within a couple of weeks of our visit. We also visited Lindong in poor weather and then trekked north to the excellent Huanan narrow gauge operation.

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China : Feb/Mar 2004

Bryan Acford's report of his visits to Dahuichang, Lindong and Jingpeng in late winter 2004.

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China : February 2004

An all industrial bash covering Tongchuan and its celebrated JFs, Pingdingshan, Nanpiao, Huludao and Tiefa plus visits to the Beijing and Shenyang museums.

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China : December 2003

A winter visit to the industrial railway at Nanpiao followed by the inevitable trip to JIngpeng and Lindong.

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China : September 2003

Bryan Acford's report from JIngpeng following our visit to Lindong and Chabuga.

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China : Aug/Sep 2003

A return visit to the JiTong line in late Summer when the hills were green and Jingpeng Pass was deserted. After a week or so I teamed up with Bryan Acford to visit Lindong and Chabuga.

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China : Feb/Mar 2003

A late winter trip to Jingpeng Pass followed by the industrial railways at Yuanbaoshan, Pingzhuang and Tiefa. The trip finished off with a last visit to the superb Weihe Forestry Railway less than two weeks before its closure.

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China : Nov/Dec 2002

The usual November trip to the JIngpeng Pass and Lindong / Chabuga areas on the JiTong line with a short visit to Pingzhuang and Yuanbaoshan mine railways as well.

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China : Sep/Oct 2002

Our first Autumn trip to China and our first visit to the industrial railways at Pingdingshan, in Henan province, and Yuanbaoshan and Pingzhuang, south of Chifeng. We also spent some time on Jingpeng Pass and around Lindong and Chabuga on the JiTong Railway and paid a brief visit to the Dahuichang narrow gauge line in Beijing.

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