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Sibanxi railway, Sichuan province
The Shibanxi railway is one of the true great railways of China. It is completely detached from the China Rail network using a fleet of popular C2 0-8-0 steamers and for part of the line tiny electric locos for coal only service. Mudanjiang diesels made an appearance sometime ago, but have long been abandoned outside the depot. The line connects a series of very small towns, most of which have no road access and some coal mines in the far end.
My visit in September 2006 was one of the last weeks to operate old style before some very tacky 'tourist coaches' were added to the scene. While the line is still operating, it seems unfortunate that this once essential line is being over-commercialised with the Disney trains, snazzy uniforms and new SY style tenders and rumours are floating around as of 2012 that coal operations will cease. On the other hand it is good to see that China isn't completely abandoning their steam trains.
If you would like to view some video footage from Shibanxi, please click here.
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