The following morning and time for
our last few shots before departing
for Harbin and the south.  It's
8.00am and the first rays of the
morning sun glint on the tender of
No.30 at Weihe station on 27
December 2001.
Northern China used to have a large number of narrow gauge railways built to carry timber.  These were mainly in remote
rural areas and in some cases were very extensive - over 150km long with large numbers of branch lines (a singularly
appropriate term in connection with forestry!)   The lines were 2' 6" (762mm) gauge and Class C2 0-8-0 tender locomotives
were the most common locomotive type.  However the combined effects of deforestation and the increased use of road
transport has led to large scale closure of many of these lines.   Of those that survive, none are now steam operated although
some tour operators occasionally arrange special trains on some systems.  The system at Weihe closed at the end of the
logging season in 2003 although a tourist railway has been mooted using the locomotives from the line.

Sadly what follows is therefore now an historic record of this wonderful railway line which I was fortunate enough to visit in
December 2001.   The visit was made with a group but all the trains were authentic workings and absolutely no effort was
made to interupt the normal pattern of operation.   This could be frustrating at times as we waited long periods for trains but
when they did arrive there was the thrill of seeing real 'working steam'.  The general pattern seemed to be to load logs during
the short daylight hours and then bring trains in at night although some loaded daylight trains were seen on the move.  Perhaps
the most memorable of these was a train which arrived early in the morning - perhaps delayed or running late from the
previous evening.   We used a minibus to move from location to location although 'chasing' was almost impossible given the
state of the roads (unmetalled) and the ice which covered them!
Our visit to the North-East of China
was blessed with fantastic weather
and preceeded by a light dusting of
snow - a terrific combination for
photography.  In this picture Class
C2 0-8-0 No.54 passes with a train
of empty log wagons between Weihe
and Zhenzhu
This has to be one of my all-time
favourite shots from my travels in
China.  We were looking for a
suitable location to photograph C2
class No.53 and came across this
group of children playing on the ice
near the village of Xiping.  Although
they were curious they quickly
forgot we were there and carried on
with their games as the train came
into view and passed them by.  For
these children it was an everyday
experience - for us it was pure
No.54 making a spirited departure
from Pinglin after having stopped
to take water.   Words are almost
superfluous - this was simply
railway photography at its very
best - crisp, cold conditions, blue
skies, snow on the ground and, of
course, steam in action.
No.33 has turned on the triangle at
Dongfeng and has collected a long
line of loaded wagons ready for the
journey to Weihe.  The completed
train is seen standing in the loop at
Chonghe awaiting the arrival of a
train of empty wagons from Weihe.
This is what we had hoped to see
and having persuaded our guide and
driver to take a chance with the
roads beyond Pinglin we were
rewarded with the sight of Class C2
0-8-0 No.33 leaving Chonghe with a
loaded log train heading for Weihe
With the road now clear No.53 sets
away from Chonghe and begins the
long climb up to the summit at
Shuangfeng.  Although of
diminuitive size and with tiny
driving wheels the C2 class engines
were exceedingly powerful.  We
followed the train in the failing
light as far as Shuangfeng where we
enjoyed the sight and sound of the
locomotive thrashing the final few
hundred yards towads the summit.
Driving out towards Xiping the following morning we became aware of a column of smoke heading towards
us.  We rapidly did an about turn and chose this spectacular location just in time to see an early morning log
train pass through Zhenzhu on its way to Weihe behind locomotive No.33.  This is almost certainly a late
running train which would normally have arrived overnight.

Scenes like this made Weihe an absolute must for lovers of narrow gauge steam but time ran out for this
wonderful system and such scenes are now consigned to the pages of the history books.
With the afternoon light rapidly
fading by about 3.45pm time for
one last shot of the same train as
No.53 passes through Dongfeng as
it heads towards the summit.  We
drove back towards Weihe and
waited as the train, now in
darkness,  thundered its way up the
climb - a wonderful memory of this
fantastic railway
Although in a fairly remote part of Northern China, Weihe was relatively easy to get to from Beijing.  By far and away the
quickest method was to fly to Harbin and then take a local train the last 200km to Weihe.  However it was also possible to
reach Weihe by train from Beijing - a journey of some 1600km.  This involved an 20-hour overnight journey from Beijing's main
railway station to Yabouli and then a short taxi ride to Weihe.  For overnight journeys it is still possible to travel by 'hard class'
or 'soft class' sleeper.  The latter is very luxurious by Chinese standards, with 4 bunks in a self-contained compartment.  'Hard
class' is more basic with six bunks in an open compartment - an ideal way to meet the indigenous population!   The restaurant
cars (generally) serve excellent and freshly cooked meals in the evening and again at breakfast time although there is little to
distinguish between the range of dishes served.  Time to forget the traditional fry up and go native!  
No.30 on the morning passenger train to Liushan approaching Zhenzhu
(above)  Even in 2001 the number of people dependent on the line had
fallen as road transportation increased.  However after heavy snow the
railway was the only way to reach Dongfeng from Weihe.

No.54 brings a train of empty log wagons up the bank between Xiping and
Pinglin (right) The low winter sun caused some problems as much of the line
was in some degree of shadow and good locations were sometimes difficult
to find.
The line from Weihe was fairly flat
as far as  Xiping (approx 18km).   
Beyond Xiping the line climbed
through woodland to a minor
summit before dropping into Pinglin
(approx 25km).  Beyond Pinglin,
the line climbed again to a major
summit in quarry high in the hills
and then dropped to Shuangfeng
before continuing down to
Dongfeng, Chonghe and Yulin.

No.33 climbs towards the first of
the two summits, running through
small birch trees between Xiping
and Pinglin.
Almost all of my visits to China
have taken place over the
Christmas and New Year period
and so I have had many
memorable Christmas Days.  On
this occasion it was made so by
sights such as this  - No.54 leaving
Xiping on the morning passenger
train to Liushan.
What a way to spend Christmas
Day 2001. Locomotive No.54 had
paused for some time at Pinglin and
there had been time to enjoy the
spectacle of the rural railway as
passengers alighted and boarded
the train, squealing pigs were
loaded and unloaded and a vast
array of rural goods transported.  
Having taken water the engine
finally whistled up and then made a
spirited departure from the station
and began the climb to the summit
of the line.
To take this picture was to embark
on an expedition of some
strenuousness.  The summit of the
line was in a quarry south of Pinglin
and to reach it involved a long walk
from the nearest road and then a
climb up the sides of the deep
cutting.  However such exertions
were more than worthwhile when
the No.54 and its train finally came
into sight.
Boxing Day 2001 - another day and
another morning passenger train -
Class C2 0-8-0 No.54 approaches
Zhenzhu with the morning working
from Weihe.  The van at the rear of
the train appears not to be enjoying
any steam heating and it shrouded
in overnight frost.
In addition to transporting lo9gs
from the forest to the timber
factories at Weihe the line also
provided a vital service for the
villages along the route.  Here No.54
takes water at Pinglin as passengers
carry away goods brought up on the
train or wait to board and travel on
up the line.
Class C2 0-8-0 No.54 seen
between Quingshan and Chonghe
with a train of empty wagons.  
These will be loaded over the next
24 hours ready to return to Weihe
Class C2 0-8-0 No.54 arriving at
Chonghe station with empty log
wagons as Class C2 0-8-0 No.33
waits to depart from the station
with a loaded train.  The Weihe line
was single track with passing loops
at strategic points along the line.
Did it ever get much better than
this?  Clear blue skies, a light dusting
of snow on the ground and a
diminutive Class C2 No.30 on the
morning train between Liushan and
Class C2 0-8-0 No.53 leaving
Weihe with a train of empty log
wagons.  We enquired of our guide
as to the use of the timber cut in
the forests above Weihe and
brought to the factory in the
town.  He assured us that is was
used for the manufacture of
chopsticks - the Chinese prefering
to use traditional wooden sticks
rather than re-usable plastic.  
With its huge population this
means China would need about
three billion pairs per day!!  No
wonder the log trains were busy
and the area was rapidly
becoming de-forested.
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