The International Steam Pages

Shibanxi Holiday 2009 - Waterside Collieries

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It was time to return to Ma Miao, east and south of Bagou on the map, our plan was to take a boat up to the dam below Huangdan (bottom left) visiting the waterside coal mines on the way. 


It was raining when we left Bagou, but not significantly, and we made good progress. This time the mine featured before was working and I spent an hour here mainly shooting video. The battery electric loco wa s in pieces and all horizontal movements were man powered. The first skips up were spoil which ascended the incline to be dumped:


Later coal of dubious quality surfaced and was stockpiled:


Tipping of the next wagon didn't go quite to plan, I have the extraordinary action on video:


When I reached Ma Miao, our expected ferry was not available and we joined what appeared to be a regular Monday public ferry, with the promise it would go further than normal if we paid... By now the sun was out and I was wilting after all the rush to get filming complete, we had brought just one camera to keep the weight down. Even a cold beer couldn't revive me:


The scenery was magnificent again, of course, and in due course we lost our passengers:

The 'excess' to go further turned out to be excessive as the first coal mine was just round the corner and the water level was so low that the boat could go no further, but that was put down to experience.

After which the boss decided I had done enough photography, so we walked on finding the end of a 600mm gauge tramway clearly used for shipping out coal. In June the water level has been deliberately lowered in anticipation of the summer rains so it would not have been easy to ship out at the moment. Walking on we found the home made motive power under the coal loader:

Up above, the trackwork was a wonder to behold, 300mm and 600mm although it seemed very likely that the former was disused. It was lunch time, we had more mines to visit so we saw very little movement, save one of their two diesels seen backing into the mine. This was clearly an expanding operation and a clear recipient of some of the trees we had seen being stripped out of the hills on our previous trip to Huangdan.

There was one more coal mine before the dam, a relatively new and large operation, clearly prosperous as the owner was constructing a large concrete girder bridge across the gorge to avoid using the dirt road behind his mine. As a result the cableway and the ferry would shortly become redundant. It was still lunchtime at there was nothing of any significance visible on the small amount of railway which was not underground:

We went over the ferry, one of the passengers was the deputy mine manager who told Yuehong that this mine used diesels (I certainly saw no sign of spare batteries). All the motor cycles parked on the other side belonged to miners and eventually Yuehong persuaded one of the bridge engineers to give us a lift to Huangdan, he said that the new bridge was costing some CNY 5,000,000 which gives a clear sign of how profitable these mines can be. It turned out we had chosen a bad day for our trip, because not only were we missing some rare sun in the Shibanxi area but the the mine in Huangdan was not operating, possibly because there was a big fair/market in the town.

So we relaxed and caught the (last) bus at 15.30 over the hills to Shixi, it took 90 minutes, mainly because half the road is not properly made up and we passed four more working coal mines, three of them not far from Shixi although it was impossible to see anything of their operation. This meant we were in good time for the last passenger train up to Bagou, frustratingly there was wall to wall sunshine the whole way, I had never seen such beautiful light in the Shixi/Yuejin area but there was no way to take advantage of it.

We saw two different timetables for buses between Qianwei and Huangdan (via Shixi but NOT Yuejin), they showed variously 6 or 7 return journeys a day between the early morning and afternoon - the 08:30 from Qianwei would make a good connection with the first train down of the day from Bagou. The fare was CNY 13.

Rob Dickinson