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Natural Attractions / Trip Ideas

Passing through a sea of rapeseed flowers by steam train

By Linting Hou

March 14

Jiayang steam train in Sichuan Province is a unique heritage for the locals, which attracts many steam train enthusiasts from home and abroad.

Jiayang steam train in Sichuan Province is a unique heritage for the locals, which attracts many steam train enthusiasts from home and abroad.

In Sichuan, the hometown of pandas, there is an almost 60-year-old railway stretching through the mountains. Since its launch, this narrow railway has been the major means of transportation for locals. In modern times when high-speed trains reach farther, Jiayang steam trains, four of them and all relics of the Industrial Revolution, still serve people in Bagou Town and Shixi Town.

Running through Qianwei County, Leshan City, China’s southwest Sichuan Province, Jiayang steam trains are the only working steam trains in China. The railway they run on is characterized by a narrow gauge, which is only 76 cm. Built in 1959, the railway was originally used to transport coal and now mainly provides passenger service. Just like all the steam trains in the Industrial Revolution era, Jiayang steam trains are  completely hand operated. Flags and whistles are the only traffic signals in this area.

A worker adjusting the tracks [Image Credit: VCG]
Lined with cottages, schools, groves and farmlands, this 1.9-kilometer-long railway is an integral part of villagers’ daily lives. In order to facilitate locals’ exports, special carriages are added to carry poultry and livestock. The train was once delayed for one and a half hours because a piglet jumped out of a carriage.

Villagers and their poultry [Image Credit: Guoxing]
Bagou Town, the terminal station of the line, was a mining region in the 20th century. At that time, it attracted many investors to build factories and offices here. The British built some buildings along the railway in the 1930s, and the people from the Soviet Union built some more. After the coal mine closed, many people moved, leaving the empty, old houses standing there.

The Soviet Union-style architecture in Bagou Town [Image Credit: VCG]
The natural scenery along the rail line is attractive in spring when rapeseed flowers are in full bloom. The whistling locomotive puffs white smoke and runs through seas of flowers. This scene draws tens of thousands of tourists to embark the journey annually.

A steam train passing through a sea of rapeseed flowers [Image Credit: VCG]
The steam trains are not fully accessible to tourists. Passenger trains traveling on the same railway do not have glass in the windows and are usually crowded, especially on market days, so if you are after a better travelling experience, try sightseeing trains that are more comfortable and only stop at tourist attractions. The common passenger train departs at 7:00 am, 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm from Shixi Station, and the sightseeing train departs at 10:30 am from Yuejin Station. The whole journey takes about two and a half hours.

Best time to visit: March and April

Ticket: 5 yuan/person (common passenger train);

80 yuan/person (sightseeing train)

Transport: Take the direct bus from Chengdu Chadianzi Long-distance Bus Station and get off at Jiayang Station.


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