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Suileng Forestry Railway, May 2006

by Wilson Lythgoe


Sunday 28 May & Monday 29 May 06

Having a couple of days spare on my recent Chinese trip I decided it could be worthwhile to check out the forestry railway at Suileng before it was too late. Arrived at lunchtime on an overly crowded train from Harbin. Taxi to the Jin Du Binguan, 123Y for a good single/twin, private facilities, although hot water for a couple of hours in the evening only.

Armed with the great maps, timetable and details off the Farrail website (many thanks) took a taxi back to the China Rail station and then started walking north to find the narrow gauge station. It took just over one and a half hours to reach as stopped to watch the cranes being used in the transhipment yard to move logs around. On arrival at the ng station a diesel was shunting and experienced no problems taking photos and generally checking things out.

Enquired about Monday's passenger service and using the Farrail timetable was told 251/252 to and from Linxing leaving at 7.48 would be running. Back to the hotel on local bus 3 which starts from the ng station. (To get to the ng station from the Jin Du Hotel catch the number 3 heading in the direction of the China Rail station although it goes nowhere near this station. I was also told that you could get a taxi to go to either of the train stations by saying "railway station" and showing your small finger to get to the ng or thumb for the CR although didn't try this method.)

Arrived back at the ng station just before 7 the next morning. A tiny railcar (seats for 8 but counted 19 of us in it later) plus a small carriage with locals already hanging out the windows formed the morning train. Half the carriage was already full of parcels and freight to the roof plus all vestibules and doorways full of more cargo.....believe me I am not exaggerating. Realized there was no way I could board this train let alone cope with a day on it in these conditions so took a couple of photos and stood around waiting for it to leave.

All of a sudden I had 2 new best friends who ascertained I wanted to travel.......2 locals were then moved from their positions on the side opposite to the drivers seat in the railcar and I was put in this prime position with a great view thru the front windows. One of my new best friends started collecting money from all and sundry (apart from me), she was the ticket collector, and once that was done my other new best friend climbed into the drivers seat, started the motor, and away we went just after 7 (so much for 7.48!). Two hours were spent waiting at Shiliujing at cross another railcar, carriage and freight wagon which I assume had come from Shitoushan and an extremely long freight train (empty wagons, some with huge blocks of stone and some gravel wagons).

Turned out to be a real local service stopping at stations, between stations and anywhere else as needed with a maximum speed around 30km per hour. Arrived at Linxing just after 1....a mere 2 and half hours late. One o'clock may have been the return trip time as new passengers climbed straight on, but my new best friends and I headed off for lunch......turned out to be chips with peanuts and coriander (a great mix too when you haven't had western food for a while) and stir fried aubergines (another of my favourites). The return trip got under way about 2.30 and back into Suileng at 6.15 after crossing another railcar heading up country.

During the course of the day my new best friends had supplied me with numerous cold water bottles, let me get photos during stops, and yelled when I strayed too far. We got back to Suileng and the bite came on, they wanted 100Y for their days efforts.....I didn't even raise a protest. I had had a great day and without their help would not have been able to travel anyway, let alone enjoy the day to the extent I had. Had I paid properly I believe it would have cost me about 40Y for everything but the benefit of two front seats all day, lunch, etc just made things so enjoyable I didn't begrudge them their little perk.

If anyone else gets the opportunity to visit Suileng do it before it's too late)…it's a fantastic experience not to be missed if you are into the narrow gauge!

Wlison Lythgoe

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© 2006 Wilson Lythgoe