The International Steam Pages

Shibanxi - Minimum Gauge Operation

Frankly, I have to admit in general that push systems are to working steam railways what pornography is to real sex, both are great in moderation but neither is quite as good as the 'real thing'. The 300mm (!) gauge colliery railway at the top end of Sichuan's Shibanxi railway is, however, a little bit special. I make no claim to originality, others like Hiromi Masaki have been here before. Being extremely committed in other directions, I had not bothered to check their sites before I came, I just noted some advice from John Raby to check it out during my visit. Thanks are due to all concerned for pointing me in the right direction. 

(On my last morning in Bagou, I spent a couple of hours exploring and found no less than four more 300mm gauge mining railways, three operational, one abandoned. I am sure there are more, perhaps many more. I am not putting details on my web pages because I am reasonably certain the mines are operating unofficially. If you want more information please get in touch.)

The pictures are a compilation of two visits to the line on successive days.

This is a general view of the top end of the 0.5km system, showing the offices and the tunnel mouth into the mine with the waste tipping area on the left:

On my first day, there had been early morning visits from two Japanese parties which may have explained why the management was less than welcoming.  Before I was thrown out, I saw empties entering the mine. I missed the mass downhill run later as I was 'taking water' on the station, but I caught up with this side of things next day when I had no problems visiting. Here a succession of full skips leaves the mine:

Often they stop here to 'oil up':

The little bridge is an absolute delight:

Gravity favours the loaded skips, the line passes through a small scale stone quarry: 

Note the single blade points, the empties take the loop line to the left if more fulls are to come down:

Often a traffic jam builds up at the bottom:

The workers are on 'piece rate', so each skip has to be weighed:

And the result carefully recorded:

The skip is now ready to be taken forward:

To wait its turn to be tipped:

It is time for a well earned rest:

The skips then moves to the tipper:

Every care is taken to ensure no coal is returned to the mine:

This is the view looking up:

And this is where it all ends up.

It is time for the empties to head back up the hill:

Taking care to avoid derailments on the points, they turned right this time:

Because it was a meal break:

After which the whole cycle starts all over again:

Rob Dickinson