Linesiding with John

Tours & Videos

  November 2018

Recent Reports
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This is the latest version of my Index page dated November 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. 

Winter Sandaoling Tour December 2018 - Goes ahead but as a small private tour
March-April 2019 China NG II Tour - Now including a spring Sandaoling option
Summer 2019 Java Tour - Updated Ideas
Bosnia Tour October 2018 - Should we do it again?
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


Sandaoling in Winter Tour 8-17 December
This goes ahead but as a private tour for just 2 of us. Details are being sorted out with Jun. The only reasons to mention this here is in case anyone wants to join us* or in case my visit in December means that I'm less keen to go back there in April (see China NG Tour 2 below).

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

Tour details are here:

*If you want to join us, you will need to work fast. Ideally, you will be a seasoned China hand who has been to Sandaoling before and know how to get a China visa or have one in your passport already. The dates are still accurate except that you will need to arrive in Beijing by very early morning on 8 December (there is a BA flight that achieves this around 04:30) or the day before (which is when I will arrive on a KLM/China Southern code share flight 06:55). The price you pay will be the cost price. That is, whatever we need to pay directly to a provider (for hotel, transport, food, etc.) or are able to negotiate as a package with Jun.
Please contact me immediately if you want to join us.

China Narrow Gauge II & Sandaoling 16 March - 14 April  (new dates) - tour now includes a Sandaoling option
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 transfer to Guangyuan on 17 April and I'd like to start by late morning for this.
Part 1 Sichuan & Chongqing (16 March for) 17 March - 25 March (8 days)
Train transfer Chongqing - Chenzhou or leave tour in Chongqing
Part 2 Hunan and Henan 26 March - 1 April (7 days)
Plane and train transfer via Urumqi or end tour with high speed train to Beijing
Part 3 Sandaoling, Xinjiang 1 April - 9 April* (10 days but 9 days if included with Part 2)
Plane transfer to Beijing 9 April - depart for home on 10 April
* as mentioned above, if I don't feel a second trip to Sandaoling so soon after my December trip is warranted, there is an alternative Part 3 which would involve flying to Jiamusi, visit Hegang and Jixi to see sg 'crocodile' electrics as well as the Huanan ng steam tourist train and a relatively unknown ng diesel cement railway near Yichun north of Jiamusi. If this appeals more than Sandaoling, please let me know. This would occupy the same 1 - 9 April slot as Sandaoling.

The total tour would be 24 days and people can join and leave along the way but preferably at the beginning or end of Part 1, 2 or 3. This tour is not yet priced.

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. There are 3 more lines close to Chongqing including the long 762mm electric line centred on Honglu. 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 another 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 narrow gauge part of the tour ends with a high speed train the Beijing and then home. However, if you would like to visit the standard gauge steam holdout of Sandaoling at a pleasant time of year for watching trains, wandering over the desert landscape between the Pipe, Kenkozhan, Dongbolizhan and the 'Washery' branch for a variety of phots, you may want to join this standard gauge Part 3 to the world's last great steamy industrial location.

Let me know if you are interested in this tour and you can be involved in the tour planning as it evolves. To see the wealth of narrow gauge available, please see

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

Java Sugar Mills 2-3 weeks in the 23 July - 22 August period
My thoughts at the moment:

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 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