The International Steam Pages


Non-steam Narrow Gauge Railways round the World

This is a relatively recent page (May 2011) and has since remained very much an embryonic offering, it is just a brief introduction and it will only serve its purpose if readers send me reports of their travels or ideas for inclusions. Originally I planned to concentrate on industrial operations but there seems no reason to exclude common carrier railways although I would expect to put very little emphasis on purely tourist operations. I would particular welcome current information from surviving Indian narrow gauge lines.


I have been a narrow gauge steam freak for over 30 years, back then, many countries boasted working narrow gauge steam - by which I mean (by and large) railways with a gauge of less than one metre, but which are not 'miniature' again it is an arbitrary decision on my part. Now those countries with real narrow gauge steam can be counted on the fingers of one hand and nowhere is it remotely plentiful. 

Many steam enthusiasts have naturally stepped sideways to visit and record non-steam narrow gauge railways which are in similar decline. While living in China, I had access to all kinds of such railways, human powered as well as those using internal combustion, battery and overhead electric locomotives. Personally, I am not yet ready to mount dedicated expeditions but I have spent increasing time looking at such systems when I happen to be in an area for steam activity. As always, updates, additions and corrections will be very welcome, but please send European information to Steve Thomason (see link below).

The following sites also provide useful information:


If you are interested in narrow gauge steam then check out
our ISV DVDs. These are properly researched quality
documentary films with a story to tell.
'National Geographic Stuff' said one purchaser.


I don't include gratuitous advertisements to commercial products, but I am happy to make exceptions for

Narrow Gauge World, a bi-monthly UK publication with a significant international slant

Voie Etroite a bi-monthly French publication with a significant international slant


Latest additions are passenger services on the Russian narrow gauge (updated with pictures 23rd October 2019),  Burgas Salt Railway, Bulgaria (4th October 2019), Java sugar 2019 (25th June 2019), South African sugar line (4th June 2019), John Raby's visits to Oil Palm plantations in Malaysia and a miscellany of industrial lines across China (9th April 2019). .

Previously: Tully Sugar Mill in Australia (27th October 2018), Industrial Railways in North Sumatra, Indonesia (16th June 2017, another report 20th March 2018), Ukraine timetables (8th February 2017), an oil palm railway in Malaysia (20th December 2016), an Indian ng update (mixed news, 13th May 2016, lots of bad news, 8th November 2015), Java sugar report 2015 (11th May 2015), a list of working forestry railways in Russia (16th April 2015), developments on a museum peat railway in Russia (1st January 2015), a 'new' peat railway and associated museum in Russia (27th November 2014), Fiji blog (26th September 2014), North China update (26th August 2014), Java sugar 2014 blog (8th August 2014), a Tanzanian sugar railway (updated 10th June 2014), the Sambhar Salt railway in India (8th May 2014), a steamy good news update from Russia (1st April 2014), Indian update (25th March 2014).

Australia

The Queensland sugar mills still have extensive 610mm (2ft) gauge systems, one such is Tully and I have received some pictures of the mill's railway in operation in August 2018 (27th October 2018) courtesy of Graeme Daniel.

Bulgaria

There is a 600mm gauge railway which transfers salt from the pans in Lake Atanasovsko north of Burgas (on the Black Sea) to a nearby processing facility. Rod Smith paid a brief visit in September 2019 and his report and pictures give a flavour of this operation (4th October 2019)..

China

Health Warning - many of the lines described here have subsequently closed!!!

John Raby organised a small group which experienced diesel and electric (including battery) power across a swathe of China from the south-west to the north-east (9th April 2019). The link is an index to the day to day reports which are presented as PDFs (Abobe Acrobat Reader or similar requred).. 

Shibata Taro's update on the Jincheng Reed Railway which includes the Fuzhouwan Salt Railway (26th August 2014)

Wilson Lythgoe's visits in April 2013 (17th May 2013)

An April 2013 visit to some narrow gauge lines in Central China (2nd May 2013)

  • Nanjing narrow gauge by Robin Gibbons (http://www.railwaysofchina.com/nanjing.html dead by October 2014)

These reports are of Wilson Lythgoe's visit in November 2012 (added 28th November 2012):

John Raby has been to the following lines in Sichuan (added 4th May 2012)

These reports are of Wilson Lythgoe's visit in March and April 2011:

These reports are of John Raby's visit in August 2009:

A minor Classic from John Raby's 2001 Bash

Over my many visits to Shibanxi I have added brief reports on short coal mine railways in the area.

Egypt

  • Egyptian Sugar Mills (2009) - Lok Repoirt's article on this has now vanished
  • However, this YouTube video from March 2012 shows continuing activity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AlkUOPyaNE (19th December 2013)

Fiji

Despite threats of closure, there is still a significant amount of rail borne cane traffic. John Browning has posted a blog of his September 2012 visit - http://trainrover.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/tuesday-august-28-2012-bula-welcome-to.html (added 19th October 2012). John has since been back again and a further comprehensive report starts here - http://trainrover.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/monday-1-september-2014-lautoka-mill.html

India

Many Indian Railways lines have closed or been converted to broad gauge, there are a few industrial systems no doubt but these are under-reported. One such system is that at Sambhar Lake for collecting salt and Scott Jesser was there in April 2014 (8th May 2014).

Wilson Lythgoe has produced a 2012 survey of the known survivors (updated 13th May 2016), this following John Browning's February 2016 visit (11th May 2016)..

There are trip reports on the IRFCA site, if you read this one - Upper Class to Sheopur Kalan http://irfca.org/apps/trip_reports/show/402 - you'll probably want to get on a plane and go and experience it for yourself.

David Watson adds (25th March 2014):

Katwa - Balgona Visited 5th February 2014. Services were being operated by a 5 car DMU. It is possible to leave Kolkata in the morning and take a suburban EMU to Katwa in time to get the 12.50 for Balgona. The ride is interesting but pretty bumpy. The NG train connects with another BG EMU at Balgona for the short ride to Barddhaman which has a regular service to Howrah. No signs of Gauge Conversion work were noted. More here: http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/visiting-narrow-gauge-railways-in-india-t197779/2/#post1719286.

Gwalior - Sheopur Visited 28th February 2014. Took a short trip from Gwalior to Ghosipura (first stop). Train hauled by NDM5. No signs of GC work. More here: http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/visiting-narrow-gauge-railways-in-india-t197779/3/#post1719575.

Dholpur - Bari Travelled 1st March 2014. Exceptionally busy train with a full roof load of passengers. Train hauled by ZDM5. Again no signs of GC work although there have been reports that it is imminent. More here: http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/visiting-narrow-gauge-railways-in-india-t197779/3/#post1719866

Indonesia

Java Sugar season 2019 (25th June 2019)

I believe that the reports below are generally still valid but first hand updates would be welcome. 

However, I also understand that the following mills have closed in the last few years:

(Karangsuwung), Sindanglaut, Jatibarang, Sumberharjo, Kanigoro.

The following may not be officially closed but have not milled in the last few years and are4 unlikely to resume:

Gondang Baru, Watutulis and Tulangan 

Other mills will have small diesel locomotives working road deliveries while in 2018, the following mills had regular diesel hauled field trains:

Wringinanom, Olean, Semboro, Jatiroto, Kedawung.

Asembagus has been undergoing renovation, I believe it is working again, maybe at reduced capacity, and may have field working.

Industrial Railways of North Sumatra, 2017 (16th June 2017)

More of the same in August 2017 (20th March 2018)

There's not just steam narrow gauge in Java::

Java Sugar season 2015 (late addition, 11th May 2016)

Java Sugar season 2014

Java Sugar season 2012

This page has links which show samples of Java sugar 'critters':

  • http://members.fortunecity.com/elteecee/critter/critter_page.html  (Link is dead by May 2012)

Here's a little something out of the ordinary:

Malaysia

United Plantations have several extensive 700mm gauge railways serving their oil palm estates in Lower Perak. Some years back, Norman Drake investigated them in detail and while his findings were not published on the web, they were published by the Narrow Gauge Railway Society in the form of booklet 'Oil Palm Plantation Railways in Malaysia' which may still be available through Marine and Maritime, publishers of Locomotives International, at just GBP 5.00. (https://www.mainlineandmaritime.co.uk/railway/railway/international/oil-palm-plantation-railways-in-malaysia, link broken 1st November 2019).

These railways are on guarded estates and are not accessible to the casual visitor, you must gain prior permission to visit. We did just that in December 2016 and you can read my report to see what we found, one of the locomotives we found was a much rebuilt Motor Rail Simplex of 1948 - the same vintage as your webmaster!

John Raby joined a group from the Narrow Gauge Railway Society in March 2019 and has posted a report on his site (9th April 2019).

Russia

Alex Malianov has supplied a survey of surviving narrow gauge railways of Russia - an extraordinary list with many of them at death's door (latest update 12th September 2015) and he has followed this up with a list of surviving public passenger services (updated 17th March 2017). Mark Torkington sampled the passenger services in September 2019 and has sent me some pictures which I have appended to the passenger service list (23rd October 2019), latest minor addition 3rd January 2020.

For a visual summary of the motive power and rolling stock, see this YouTube clip which is a collection of stills from narrow.parovoz.com - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xm-CdqlFaBc (added 1st August 2012). 

Thomas Kautzor has posted a report of his own visit to one:

South Africa

The Umfolozi Sugar Mill has a 2'6" (762 mm) narrow gauge railway. John Browning visited in 2010 - read his report https://trainrover.blogspot.com/2010/05/friday-saturday-21-22-may-umfolosi.html. He returned in April 2019 (three of his pictures are below) and tells me 'not a lot has changed'. For a local perspective on why it survives read https://shukela.co.za/2018/02/09/plain-train-hauls-sugar-profits/

Taiwan

Some sugar mills still operate narrow gauge railways, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAR1BOX6VT0 for an example from 2008. See also my own 2015 visit for a sample of what you might see although we did not make it to the one or two surviving active sugar mills.

Tanzania

Where once there were a number of sisal railways in Kenya and Tanzania, rail haulage survives only in one that has been converted to sugar. Thomas Kautzor visited in May 2011 and Geoff Warren has now added a 2013 update (10th June 2014).

Ukraine

Alex Malianov has supplied a set of timetables for the three narrow gauge public railways (8th February 2017). 

USA

I was amazed to hear from Trevor Heath that a number of steelworks operate 3ft gauge systems, also

  • US Gypsum operation in far south central California about 30 miles west of El Centro which is 3ft gauge and uses two Alco Diesels built around 1980 from the same build group as the White Pass and Yukon 114. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Gypsum#Active_narrow_gauge_railroad. This May 2012 picture is from Brian Garvin (added 20th June 2013):


Rob Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk