Linesiding with John

Tours & Videos

  December 2018
Updated 18 December with an illustrated report on my visit to Sandaoling 8-15 December in 8 parts

Day 1 - Arrival - Part Day - Pipe, Coal Yard, Washery, Kenkou, North Rim
Day 2 - Kenkou, Dongboli, Ba-erzhan, Washery, Pit Rim north & south
Day 3 - Kenkou, Dongboli, Pipe, Ba-erzhan
Day 4 - Kenkou, Dongboli, South Rim, Erjing, Yijing, Washery Branch
Day 5 - Dongboli, Ba-erzhan, Blue Loader, North Rim
Day 6 - Workshop visit
Day 7 - Dongboli, Coal Yard, Washery Branch, Ba-erzhan, North Pit Rim
Day 8 - Departure - Part Day - Dongboli, Pipe

China Narrow Gauge II Tour March-April 2018 Open for Bookings - See Below

Sandaoling photo by Liu XueJun used with permission
Recent Reports
Former Index Page

Contact Me

This is the latest version of my Index page dated December 2018. I update this monthly around the beginning of the month. Below, you will find a version of my latest email update which goes out to those on my mailing list. Email me if you would like to receive this by email. My previous Index page has been renamed Recent Reports and has links to tours and visits in the last few years primarily to China, Bosnia and Indonesia. That page will be adapted to its new role. 

The world's remaining real steam
(by which I mean working industrial steam locos excluding fireless)
Real working industrial steam is now down from 4 to just 3 countries; Bosnia, China and Indonesia with around 10 separate operations in total (ignoring remaining fireless in Europe). Trevor Heath reports via Rob Dickinson (22 November 2018) that at Hwange coal mine in Zimbabwe 'the crews were unwilling to use steam and had damaged it, as such a diesel was being sent down from TJ when needed." and that "This probably represents the end of 'working steam' in the continent."
and removes Zimbabwe from the list of real working industrial steam countries.
(There are still working fireless in Germany, Austria and Slovenia:

In Bosnia, China and Indonesia in many cases the remaining operations are just one loco in steam and action can be sporadic or infrequent. The only reliable operations with more than one loco in use are the Sandaoling Coal Mine Railways in China and Purwodadi Sugar Mill (for 4-6 months of the year) in Indonesia. If we include fireless, 2 additional locations can be includes in Indonesia at Pagottan with 3 locos and Semboro with 2 locos in use. I have discounted Shibanxi in China which has become very touristy but the two (tourist season) or three (off season) daily local passenger trains can be steam if the steam-outline diesel is not used. In Bosnia, the three operations using steam are close together but with only one loco in use at Dubrave and Sikulje and maybe one in use at Oskova on the narrow gauge and all short shunting operations, a visit really needs charters now to make it worthwhile.

Real working steam remains a major focus of my trips but with its imminent demise, I also arrange trips to see narrow gauge (and occasionally standard gauge) industrial railways.

March-April 2019 China NG II Tour - Tour open for bookings with enough people to run already
Winter Sandaoling Tour December 2018 - Let me know if you would like reports by email
Summer 2019 Java Tour - More expressions of interest needed for me to take this further
Bosnia Tour October 2018 - Should we do it again and include Mokra Gora, Serbia?
This Months Videos
Just for Fun

Statfold Barn June Event Videos - now available on YouTube
Just For Fun 1 - A souvenir you can make for your house/garden

Tracks to the Trenches 3 - Footage from the Saturday available on YouTube
Just For Fun 2 - A souvenir you can make for your house/garden

Jurassic on Regular Passenger Trains on the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway
Just For Fun 3 - Railway Novels

Night Train at Statfold Barn September 2018
Just for Fun 4 - Railway Novels II

Eritrea & LCLR Videos - November 2018
Just for Fun 5 - Uses to which narrow gauge railways are put


China Narrow Gauge II 16 March - 9 April 

Baishui Coalmine Sichuan by Ichiro Junpu, used with permission

This tour is now open for bookings and I already have 5 people confirmed which was enough for Jun to confirm a few days ago that we can run this tour. A few more places are available.

Full tour details are available here:
This tour starts in Chengdu. Unless you can arrive in Chengdu by early-mid morning on 17 March, please plan to arrive the day before and meet up at the group hotel or at the airport next day. This is because we will have a 4 hour plus transfer to Guangyuan on 17 April with a request to stop at Pengzhou (former ng line, plinthed loco en route).

Part 1 Sichuan & Chongqing (16 March for) 17 March - 25 March (9 days)
Rongshan (expected defunct but probably interesting to confirm and have a look at what has happened here), 6 small coalminers in this area, 2-3 mines near Dazhou and the long electric line at Honglu near Yongchuan
Train transfer Chongqing - Chenzhou or leave/join tour in Chongqing

Part 2 Hunan and Henan 26 March - 31 March (6 days)
Matian diesel coal railway and other lines nearby, Yujian tourist railway C2 steam charter
High speed train to Beijing (31 March) then fly to Jiamusi (1 April) or leave/join tour in Beijing

Part 3 Heilongjiang 1 April - 9 April* (9 days)
Hegang sg electrics and ng coal mine railways, Huanan C2 steam tourist train, electric ng cement railway near Haolianghe and more
Plane transfer to Beijing 8 April - depart for home on 9 April

The full tour is 24 days and people can join and leave along the way but preferably at the beginning or end of Part 1, 2 or 3. For Part 2, it will be much easier to join the tour in Chongqing rather than Chenzhou (which has no nearby airport).

The idea for my second China narrow gauge tour is that we start from Chengdu, China and travel across the country east to Zhengzhou stopping at narrow gauge lines along the way. The route from Guangyuan (the city close to Rongshan, 4 hours north of Chengdu) to Chongqing has around 10 narrow gauge coal mine lines. There will be time to find out what if anything has happened at Rongshan. We also plan to visit the long 762mm electric line centred on Honglu near Yongchuan. We will then move on by train to Hunan province where there are a further 11 narrow gauge lines but we will focus on Matian and 2 other lines near to Chenzhou before taking a high-speed train to Zhengzhou in Henan with a visit planned to the Yujian narrow gauge steam and diesel tourist line currently under construction. We expect to have one or more charters here. The final part is a trip to Heliongjiang coal country for both ng and sg action including sg crocodile electrics at Hegang, an electric ng cement railway and Huanan now reviving as a steam tourist railway.

To see narrow gauge lines we plan to visit, please see

To read about the lines in Heliongjiang, see Peter Haworth's report of his recent trip

You can read about the previous China Narrow Gauge I tour here:

Sandaoling in Winter Tour 8-17 December
Linesiding with John or should it be Linesiding with Johns?

The group who visited Sandaoling in January 2018 without me - I'm making up for it now!
I'm not sure who to credit for this photo. Perhaps Juergen Wisckow first left?

This goes ahead but as a private tour for just 2 of us, both Johns. If you would like to receive emails about what is happening at Sandaoling including the opportunity to ask questions and hopefully get some answers while we are there, email me to be added  to my list for these reports.

Please contact me if you would like to receive live reports from Sandaoling.
You might wonder why we are going to Sandaoling for a brief visit in winter when days are short and temperatures are low but just think about the steam effects! It's the last great steam show, it's still available (just) and us two mature individuals can still do it (just)! You never know, we might even get snow. If anyone is interested in a private visit to Sandaoling this season - with arrangements by Jun - or a group visit next season on a Linesiding with John tour, please let me know.

I've uploaded a portfolio of Jun's 2017-8 Winter Photos

You can read what the 'Linesiding without John' group achieved here:

As an archive item, the details for the proposed tour are here: This can be taken as a guide to any future Sandaoling tours. The earliest a new tour could run would be October 2019 with the window October - January 2019.

Java Sugar Mills 2-3 weeks in the 23 July - 22 August period

My thoughts at the moment:

In order to work this up as a detailed and costed tour with arrangements in place with local guides, I need more expressions of interest. I won't start negotiating with the local guides unless I'm fairly sure there is enough interest to run the tour. End January is probably decision time.

These are the rough ideas:

Use Yogya-based Agus as driver/guide with Combo for a short time in the Situbondo area.
Depart UK (- 1)
Fly to Jakarta or Surabaya (arrive + 1)
Meet up in Yogya (+2)
Train or plane from Jakarta or Surabaya (my own choice would be train from Surabaya)
Yogya - 1 mill (+3)
Solo for Tasikmadu - 1 mill in passing (no overnight), continue to Madiun (+4)
Madiun - 4-5 mills (2 with real working steam, conventional and fireless) (+5, 6, 7)
Train to Probolinggo for (+8)
Kedawung - steam charter, field lines (+9)
Lumajang for (+10)
Jatiroto - field lines (+11, 12)
Jember for Semboro - field lines, fireless (+ 13)
Prajekan in passing on way to Situbondo (+ 14)
Situbondo for Wringinanom field lines (+ 15)
Olean field lines (+ 16)
Asembagus mill re-opened? field lines still in use? (+ 17) (or repeat Wr or Ol)
transfer to Surabaya and home* (+ 18)
arrive home (+ 19)
(depart home adds 1 day = 20 days)

* or add a few more days in Situbondo to explore the Wringinanom field lines at leisure and enjoy this small East Javan town and the beach at Pasir Putih.

The East Java section will again focus on mills with diesel field lines, mills with real working steam and the the best mills for internal stationary steam engines. Steam charters are getting increasingly unreliable and may now be poor value for money and no longer satisfying. However, the steam charters at Kedawung are new and it's worth trying to get steam out into the fields there (but I note two visits in 2018 have not had a steam charter due to boiler tube issues). Those signing up for the East Java portion of the tour will be asked whether they would like to also attempt charters at Kedawung,Olean and Semboro and a majority decision will be taken on whether to organise those.

At this point, an expression of interest is all I need.

You can read about the 2017 trip here:

You can read an illustrated summary of Wilson's emails about the 2018 Java sugar cane season at


This tour ran 8 - 14 October with an extension to Mostar (for general railway and non-railway explorations). The tour was successful with wonderful sunny weather and more locos in steam than expected. We certainly didn't expect to see a class 62 (the local version of the WWII USA tank) in action at Oskova in 2018. At the end of the tour, rather than thinking, 'That's the last time we'll do this!' it was more a case of 'Should do it again?' I think we concluded that we wouldn't be able to guarantee the perfect weather nor the quantity of steam on any future visit and that we would want to again try adding Mokra Gora (Serbian narrow gauge) to the tour. Mostar is definitely worth a visit. A report of this tour in the form of daily updates is here If you are interested in a Bosnia-Serbia real and charter steam tour in 2019 or 2020, please let me know.

This month's video
This video features the second of the two full-line charters that we had at Banovici in Bosnia on the recent Linesiding with John tour. We were blessed with good sunny weather and the autumn colours added to the views along the line. The loco for our charter was 83 158 which was the healthier of the two 83s this year.

or go to this page:

Just for Fun
Last month I asked you for ideas on different types of usage for which narrow gauge agricultural and industrial railways have been built. My initial suggestion was:
coal, palm oil, logging, necropolis, hospital, water cress,
water transport (of drinking and mineral processing water),
I should also add water pipeline servicing which I have seen in New Zealand in the Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland.

Others suggestions have been:
dockyard, cranberry, banana, sewerage treatment plants, brickworks, clay, limestone, all sorts of minerals, slate, railway ballast in the form of river stones (there was one in Sumatra), sugar beet, sugar cane
Do you have any more suggestions? I'll try to come up with a longer list next month. Photos would be good.
Meanwhile, Nigel sent me these photos of a harbour railway. It looks like these are hand propelled to the right location and then the hand/powered winch is used to drag a boat out of the water. They must take a lot of sideways force during the winching operation. I wonder how they are secured against toppling over in the process. Perhaps the third rail provides a clue to that.

This looks like a hand winch.

This one appears to have a powered winch with electric power

This month's videos - November
Did you know you can see all of the videos I have uploaded to YouTube over the years here:

Just selecting one of these at random, I offer you 'mallets in Eritrea':

This is the first of 8 parts from an Eritrean video from 2009 filmed on a FarRail tour.

My latest upload to YouTube has been prepared for the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway's AGM on 3 October. By request, I have prepared a short video showing the participation of LCLR stock in the July 2018 'Tracks to the Trenches' event at Apedale.

Salt Railway at Fuzhouwan, China (see Just for Fun below)

Just for Fun - November

While many public railways carry passengers and many industrial and agricultural products or raw materials, other railways are or were dedicated to just one product such as a sugar cane. What other types of single-use railway can you think of? Some easy ones are coal railways, palm oil railways and logging railways. Some more obscure ones are necropolis railways (there was one from London Waterloo), hospital railways (often associated with mental asylums), water cress railways (Hampshire) and water railways (used in Namibia to carry drinking and water for the diamond processing). What are some of the more interesting single-use railways that you have either photographed or heard about? Send me a digital photo if you can for inclusion next month.

Jincheng Reed Railway (used to supply reed to a paper factory), also in China.

This month's video - October
Sit back, relax and watch this gentle night ride at Statfold Barn in the growing darkness with 'Harrogate' in charge of a special run for staff, volunteers and the crew of the steam road and farm vehicles that attended the September Statfold Barn Gala.

Just for Fun - October
There is no Just for Fun this month except to add that there are various Indian and Sri Lankan railway novels including (about Indian) The Penguin Book of Indian Railway Stories, Ruskin Bond (editor) and John Masters 'Bwohani Junction'. From Sri Lanka we have 'Yakada Yaka' by Carl Muller part of the Burgher trilogy. More ideas for good reads that are also railway novels would be most welcome. Email me with your ideas.

This month's video - September
I've uploaded a video to YouTube showing the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway's steam loco Jurassic on regular 2 coach passenger trains this summer. The line now has a short extension and a new run round loop.

Just for Fun 3 - Railway Fiction
How many of you are fans of railway fiction? Not many, would be my guess. However, if the railway background and operating practice is authentic, they can be an enjoyable way to relive the days when steam was in regular use around the world.

I think the first book of railway fiction I read after Rev. Audrey's 'Thomas the Tank Engine' books was 'Jennie' by J.B.Snell which is based on the Talyllyn Railway in Wales.

A more recent find was C Hamilton Ellis who is famous for his non-fiction railway titles. However in the 1940s he wrote several ripping yarns based on railways with illustrations by Terence Cuneo no less! The most difficult to acquire was the first one I heard about in 'A Railway Holiday in Spain' was 'Who Wrecked the Mail'. If you can find this or any of his other fiction titles:

The Grey Men (Scottish in WWII)
The Engineer-Corporal (American Civil War)
Rails Across the Ranges (Australian North East)

they are all recommended.

Did you know that the C in C Hamilton Ellis stands for Cuthbert?

Railway Detectives
This seems to be the modern approach to the railway novel. The best writers use their extensive historical railway knowledge and research to create a realistic railway crime story. The lesser ones skimp on the historical accuracy and tell a crime story in a vaguely plausible railway setting.

Andrew Martin
I consider Martin to be the best of the authors in this genre. The specific historical locations are well researched and described and his detective is a former loco driver so he tends to get hands on on the footplate at times as well. The topics include the London Necropolis Railway, WWI in France, WWI in Iraq, Colonial India, etc. All of the railway detective novels by Martin are worth a read.

This one is topical with the WWI 100 year commemorations taking place 2014-2018

Can anyone recommend other railway fiction that I (or other readers of this mailing list) might enjoy?

This month's videos - August
I have a large number of videos on YouTube but I now use this site primarily to make my videos available to a selected audience (those who read this update or who look at my website). You can see all of my videos here:

I try to add new videos each month and this month I am uploading my video from Saturday at the recent Apedale 'Tracks to the Trenches 3' event. Volunteers from the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway were invited to attend, man a stand and enjoy the event as 3 of our stock items were in use - bow-framed Simplex 'Nocton', our unique WWI Ambulance van and a WWI 4-wheel rations wagon.

Tracks to the Trenches 3, Saturday 14 July

Just for fun 2
Sometimes, the only way to begin to appreciate something is to model it. The Alford & Sutton Tramway (1884 - 1889) lasted such a short time and disappeared so long ago that it's hard to image its slow roadside progress along the A1111 from Alford to Sutton on the 7 mile run, climbing up the 'hill' at Hannah and the steam trams running round their trains outside the Bacchus Hotel on Sutton High Street.

There are a few photos (see

and a book by George Dow on the subject but I made a 7 mm ng* model from Smallbrook Studio to try to replicate this photo.

* O scale running on OO track'zeus'-model-of-alford-sutton-tramway-no.-1/3771775

along with a suitable carriage and a couple of trucks. I also needed to replicate the A&ST logo for the sides of the tram and vehicles. I just need a Lincolnshire roadside tramway for it to run on. The loco is vertical boilered No. 1 which was joined by No. 2 and No. 3 both horizontal boilered

No. 1 of 1883 Black, Hawthorn & Company
No. 2 of 1884 Merryweather & Sons
No. 3 of 1885 Dick, Kerr & Company
I wonder if No. 1 was up to the job. I suspect Nos. 2 & 3 ended up doing most of the day-to-day work.

My model with the photo of the original on the left and the Bacchus Hotel, Sutton-on-Sea where the tram terminated and ran round on the right.
When the line closed, all 3 locos seem to have disappeared without trace but surely all or most would have found new use elsewhere around 1890.

My best attempt at the A&ST logo

Have you created models of long lost railways or locos?

This month's videos - July
I have a large number of videos on YouTube but I now use this site primarily to make my videos available to a selected audience (those who read this update or who look at my website). You can see all of my videos here:

I try to add new videos each month and this month they are of Statfold Barn on the occasion of its June 2018 Open Day. If you've been to Statfold Barn, you'll know what to expect. If you haven't be prepared to be amazed by the quantity and variety of narrow gauge steam in use at this private location. If you only have time to look at one, I can especially recommend the views from the front balcony of the parallel running!

Statfold Barn June 2018 Event
1. Linesiding
2. Train & Tram Ride
3. From the Front Balcony
These 3 videos are also embedded below this update for you to watch on this page.

Just for fun 1 (from July)
If you are one of the many who visited China and didn't come away with a souvenir more interesting than a railway spike, how about making your own Chinese railway souvenirs? All of us will have noted and probably photographed the rustic railway crossing signs on industrial and narrow gauge lines. Those photos can easily be the basis for your own Chinese crossing signs. Here are my attempts at copies. The originals appear below my versions.

That's all for this month.

John Raby
29 June 2018