FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The grand canyon of Sandaoling

Posted in China, Sandaoling by folkestonejack on November 12, 2012

The last time I was at Sandaoling, in December 2009, almost all trains out of the pit were pushed or ran tender first (as can be seen in my video of two coal trains passing at It didn’t deter enthusiasts travelling out there to see the incredible spectacle, but there was no doubting that it limited the photographic opportunities.

Since then, there have been a few changes and the coal trains are no longer loaded directly at the coal face. Instead, the coal is transported by conveyor to a loading tower and only from here by train. The new loader necessitated a switch to loco first operation which has delighted railway photographers as it offered the prospect to photograph coal trains climbing out of the pit chimney first.

At the same time, diesels have replaced steam on the connecting line between the mine and the state railway interchange at Liushuquan so our focus on this trip is more tightly focused on the open cast mine and the line to the two nearby deep mines. For most of the photographers on our trip the priority was to get some good shots of the chimney first coal trains and the best place to see this was at Kengkongshan, which our tour leader appropriately described as the grand canyon of Sandaoling.

A train of empties works its way backwards through the grand canyon of Sandaoling

The curve at Kengkongshan provides a great panorama from almost every angle. The most obvious viewpoint, next to the road, is a wide ledge running the length of the pit edge. From this point you can easily access a lower ledge or head to track level. The sight is as spectacular wherever you stand and gawp!

You can get a small flavour of the Kengkongshan experience in a couple of videos that I took – available on youtube at and

Gallery from Kengkongshan

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