Shibanxi: The Railway

Shibanxi Twilight DVD - now available
includes Twilight at Bagou (7.5 mins), From the Lineside (21.5 mins), Tunnels (4.5 minutes) and Trip up the Line (25.5 mins)

This 19.84 km line owned by the Jiayang Power Company operates 4 return passenger workings which leave Shibanxi (Shixi) at 0700, 1030, 1400 and 1730 and usually arrive back at least 30 minutes before the next departure. Departure from the top end is roughly 80 minutes after departure from Shibanxi. After leaving Shibanxi, the train stops at a halt, Sanjin (Yuejin), Mifeng, Caiziba, Xianzhenjiao, Jiaoba, Bagou, Huangcunjin (Qidianzhan). Hold ups on this single track line can occur when returning to Sanjin and the line shared with the electric-hauled coal traffic as well as when crossing steam-hauled freight trains.

The line is well covered in SY-Country and you are recommened to go there for additional information and maps.

This was my second visit and I had two objectives, to stay in Bagou to experience life at the far end of the line and to investigate the coal mine which supplies the coal traffic to Shibanxi. For details of the mine, see Shibanxi: The Mine. It's much changed since Rob Dickinson's visit. I also took more interest than usual in the people and the surroundings and you can see more of this at Shibanxi: The People.

As usual, my aim was to secure good video that I can turn into a long but interesting DVD for enthusiasts who don't like plastic trains and staged events. I was able to secure about 3 hours of moody video in cold, cloudy and often misty conditions. The sun tried to shine once but it was then hot enough to destroy the steam effects. The coal traffic was suspended due to mine inspection and upgrading. 2005 has been a terrible year for mine accidents and there are now real attempts to improve mine safety. Although the mine was closed, they did still need supplies bringing up, principally concrete blocks to be used for tunnel lining. In return, they sent down two coal trains in the 7 days that I was there using stocks in the bins. There was also bamboo traffic down (for the paper mill) and bagged cement uphill (for local construction). Pigs were being moved to market at the rate of 1-2 per down train (see Shibanxi: The People).

C2 0-8-0 No. 7 was used exclusively on the passenger workings and sister No. 14 was used on the limited freight and coal traffic as well as one two-coach special to Mifeng for a visiting tax official. There appeared to be a third loco in steam at Shibanxi, number unknown. Only one electric was seen in use and no sign or any more. From my previous trip, I was expecting 2-3 electrics.

These annotated stills will give you a flavour of the visit 18-24 December 2005 and the forthcoming DVD.

In December it doesn't get light until close to 0800. This was the first train of the day arriving at Bago in early light.


Night shots at Bago can be effective and the last train up around 1830 was the one to go for (and hope that the crew remembered to turn off the headlight while stopped.

At Huangcunjin No. 14 arrives with concrete blocks, collects some coal wagons and then propels both back towards the bins where the wagons of blocks will be left.

The short tunnel between Mifeng and Ciaziba provides one of the best shots in bad weather.

While Mifeng has its own charm.

The line has been compared to the Darjeeling Himalaya Railway and this shot shows why.

And unlike Darjeeling, the two diesels at Shibanxi now look more unloved than ever.

Shibanxi: The People

Shibanxi: The Mine

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