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Photo Tours &
Railfan Tours

China Dampflok JS Sandaoling Tanago Eisenbahnreisen Erlebnisreisen

China: last chance

• Tiefa, 8. - 11. january 2019

• Sandaoling, 12. - 19. january 2019

China: last chance

It's getting serious: in September 2020 the opencast coal mine in Sandaoling is to be closed, so that the last performances of the JS steam locomotives before the heavy coal trains from the opencast mine for unloading will come to an end. 
So experience real, unadulterated plan steam again at the world's largest steam locomotive show! Hard working steam locomotives in industrial use, sky-high steam mushrooms, flying sparks, fantastic sunrises and sunsets, heavy trains 7 days a week, around the clock. Steam locomotives as far as the eye can see.

In addition, we also let it steam in the coal mining area around Tiefa: SY1771 and SY1772 will cover 4 days of photo trains only for our group on the network of the coal railway. We will focus on the daytime peripheral locations on bridges and dams of the extensive coal railway network, as well as night shots in typical mine surroundings with winding towers and brick bunkers! In addition to an authentic coal wagon train, as it was common in the past, we recreate the once extensive workers' traffic with a SY and 5 green passenger cars. 


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No. of participants min. 10 - max. 24
Duration 8/11 days
Meals half board
Price from 1.990 €
Open for bookings Open for bookings
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Your itinerary:

Coalmine steam in Tiefa

8 January 2020, Wednesday:
Meeting of all participants at Shenyang airport at 12:30. Shenyang offers many flight connections via Beijing or Shanghai, Lufthansa also arrives non-stop from Frankfurt in Shenyang today. Our departure time at Shenyang Airport is coordinated with all important arrivals from Europe. Talk to us, we will help you to book an optimal journey!

From the airport we drive with our group bus about 2 hours to Tiefa (also called Diaobingshan) and start with the first pictures of our special trains! The two SY with one freight and one passenger train each are already waiting for us. On our plan are sunset pictures on one of the big river bridges, as well as night shots of both steam locomotives in a typical coal mine atmosphere! We count on the locomotives SY1771 and SY1772, both built in 1999 in the locomotive factory Tangshan.

Normally the mine railway administration prefers a train composition SY-GmP-SY for the special trains, in order to be able to transport all participants in the train, as well as to let the train run uncomplicated in each direction. This arrangement is absolutely not prototypical, and we will therefore have one passenger and one freight train each covered with one SY. We will ride in the passenger train and thus reach the most beautiful photo spots along the routes. The disadvantage of this solution is that we have to have our locomotives turned occasionally in order to achieve an optimal train appearance at all times and to avoid tender ahead journeys (although these were also typical for the train movements in Tiefa during plan steam times). The locomotives are turned by a triangle in the centre of the mine railway network.

Around 19 o'clock we reach our centrally located hotel in Diaobingshan (Tiefa).

Overnight stay in Sandaoling.
Meals: Dinner.

9 January 2020, Thursday:
In the last 3 years the mine railway administration has made great progress in the implementation of special trains: if in the beginning you were driving "just for fun" and didn't pay attention to the position of the sun or the freedom of motives, the basics are now much more professional and we are happy that our comments and ideas have also contributed to the improvement of the special train quality.

It was more difficult to convince the train to let the photo trains run exclusively for our group … originally they wanted to release our event for Chinese photographers as well! Who has once experienced a Chinese special trip, will do everything to never have to experience such chaos and unbelievable ruthlessness again. We didn't buy our exclusivity quite cheaply and can therefore offer you the usual Tanago photo train quality even in Tiefa!

Also today we drive again with 2 SY-covered photo trains and begin with sunrise pictures at one of the big bridges of the net. As soon as we have these pictures in the box, we will send 1 SY home, and with the remaining passenger locomotive we will work through the other motives of the route. Around noon we are back in Diaobingshan and allow ourselves and the locomotive personnel a break.

In the afternoon we return to the track with a SY in front of an empty coal train and concentrate on the crossing of the channel and the photogenic sea passage (if frozen, we will see). We reach the photo points by bus and on foot. 

Hotel in Diaobingshan.
Meals: Breakfast, dinner.

10 January 2020, Friday:
We are today on different parts of the network with 2 trains (passengers and goods). For this the locomotives have to be adapted to the different sun positions and photo possibilities. More than on the other days it is therefore necessary not only to let the photo trains run according to the timetable, but also to clock our own activities very precisely!

Sunrise bridge shots with both trains are the first on the program. Afterwards we will shunt our trains and rebuild a typical 2-train operation (overhauls, shunting, double exits) in one of the photogenic mine stations with classical Chinese coal mine architecture. Afterwards both trains will be united and we will steam with opening credits over the main line in the direction of lunch break! 

In the afternoon we will arrange the typical activities at the Plandampf times with 2 trains in another mine station: while one SY ranks in front of its freight train, the second SY goes through the station with the passenger train! Where can you still experience this in China today - except with our special trains in Tiefa?

We will be repeating this game throughout the afternoon at various stations and different mine facilities with a variety of motifs, our two SY's being available all the time for sham journeys. For today's night shots we will return to one of the ends of the route and take night shots in one of the larger mines that have never been photographed before. 
Due to the long distance of the mine from the city we will not return to the hotel until about 22 o'clock.

Hotel in Diaobingshan.
Meals: Breakfast, dinner.

11 January 2020, Saturday:
Altogether there are still 3 routes in the mine railway network of Tiefa served by the regular diesel trains: Daqing, Sanjing, and Faku. During our visit to Tiefa, we travel on all three branches of the network with our special steam trains. Unfortunately there is no regular passenger service anymore, the older ones will remember the long steam-covered passenger trains, the meeting of all trains in the junction station, and the parallel exits in the "golden times" of steam traction. We won't be able to recreate everything, but our 2-train operation comes very close to the original!

In order to save some time with our current program and not always have to send our SY's to shoot, we will mainly go to the photo sites by bus today. We start with sunrise pictures with one of the big overburden mountains in the background. The train set will consist of one SY and 5 green cars. Throughout the morning we will be travelling between the mine and the "Central Station" in Diaobingshan. Even if the modern residential development has already worked its way very close to the station, beautiful pictures of the train under the big pedestrian bridge are still possible!

Around noon we have to say goodbye so slowly and steam with our train on the main line of the mine railway to Daqing, where we arrive around 13 o'clock. There we have the opportunity to visit the two steam locomotive museums of the mine railway company before we take the bus to Shenyang airport (2-3 hours drive). Our excursion to the mine railway Tiefa ends at the airport around 17 o'clock!

Meals: Breakfast.

If you fly home from Shenyang, you will arrive in Europe on the morning of the next day (12 January). If you travel with us further to Sandaoling, you fly first to Peking, spend the night there near the airport (in the travel price included), and fly the next morning further to Hami.

Mine steam in Sandaoling

January 12, 2020, Sunday:
Meeting of all participants at Hami airport at 12:00. Hami is connected to Beijing by a daily direct flight, which leaves the Chinese capital around 8am in the morning. Depending on the selected long-haul flight and its arrival time in Beijing, a direct transition or an overnight stay in Beijing is possible/necessary. 
Alternatives exist via Chengdu or Shanghai, but often with an additional overnight stay in Hami. Talk to us, we will help you to book an optimal journey!

From Hami we drive with our group bus about 2 hours to Sandaoling and start with the first pictures of the JS steam locomotives.

Overnight stay in Sandaoling.
Meals: Dinner.

13 January 2020, Monday - 18 January 2020, Saturday:
The Sandaoling open pit coal mine offers us the largest steam locomotive show in the world every day for 24 hours: about 6-7 JS class steam locomotives (3 or 4 in open pit and 3 for shunting and transport to the mines in Erjing) move heavy coal trains day and night. Pure action!

Thanks to a new operational management, even more pictures of heavily loaded coal trains coming out of the opencast mine are now possible. This is a unique spectacle when the JS rush to the surface under full steam from the lowlands of the open-cast mine - on the last few metres wird´s then with the power occasionally very close, even walking speed with the usual hard exhaust blows of the JS is not unusual.

Experience this raw unadulterated elemental force as long as you can!

Sandaoling offers something for everyone: the newcomer to China steam as well as the old hand who wants to enjoy the fantastic pictures of the steam trains fighting their way out of the open pit mine.

In 2020 we want to give each of our fellow travellers enough time for this really unique steam locomotive paradise and will stay a full 6 days in the mining area of Sandaoling. We visit the loading at the "blue tower", the whole way from the loading to the coal washing, the unloading places themselves, the way to the underground mine Erjing, the workshop and the depots of the railway - and all this by day & night!

Of course, the unique spark flying pictures of the JS storming out of the open pit mine are also on the program. If desired, every night.

We have the permits to photograph the loading facilities where powerful shovel excavators load the black raw material into the freight wagons. The workshop also offers beautiful motifs - but whether steam locomotives will still be used for major repairs in 2020, or whether permits will still be issued at all due to a larger police presence on site, remains to be seen.

What else? Yes, of course the sunrises and sunsets. Fantastic. We know when and where we need to be for the best shots ... come with us, there won't be many more possibilities for full steam ahead in winter!

Hotel in Sandaoling.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our lunch is often packaged or served as a simple snack on the spot. Under no circumstances will we go to a restaurant for lunch!

19 January 2020, Monday:
You may say 6 days in Sandaoling is more than enough, but you will find (like many other photographers) that there should have been a few more days. There are always new motives, and even the "old places" remain great after the xten visit.

Nevertheless we have to say goodbye to the biggest steam show in the world and take our bus to the airport in Hami. There the journey ends in the early afternoon: You have connection to the plane to Peking, and from there home. Arrival in Europe would be the next morning (January 20, 2020).

Meals: Breakfast.
But now it is still not over …

During the planning of the tour we received requests from absolute China fans who wanted to visit the famous ice festival of Harbin – according to the motto "if you are already there …".

The festival is absolutely worth seeing during the day and at night. You have to have some patience and indulgence with local photographers, who (due to lack of mental capacity or social competence) stand in front of you even during an obvious picture, but it offers so many unique motives that it is worth it to be there in any case! 

So on January 19, 2020 all visitors of the ice festival will fly to Harbin after the sandaoling part and reach the city in the late evening (flight not included in the travel price). 
Overnight stay in a tourist class hotel in Harbin.

20 January 2020, Tuesday - 22 January 2020, Wednesday:
The spectacular ice festival inspires photographers in winter with its atmospheric works of art made of ice and snow, which are spread all over the city and are wonderfully illuminated at night. In weeks of work, ice artists create huge copies of famous sculptures and buildings from all over the world.

Not only do we visit the ice sculptures, but we also photograph the Songhua River, where the ice blocks are made by hand, where ice fishermen spend their days, and where the older population of the city meets in general - an infinite abundance of motifs! If we are lucky, we also experience the famous winter swimming, when the especially hardened ones plunge into the icy floods of the Songhua...

We will also be able to photograph the famous snow leopards - unfortunately not in the wild, but in the city's snow leopard park!

Hotel in Harbin.
Meals: Breakfast, dinner.

23 January 2020, Thursday:
Early in the morning we take the bus to Harbin airport, where the journey ends. Via Beijing or Shanghai you can fly home where you will usually arrive in the late afternoon of the same day.

Please note that our rail program corresponds to the steam traction status in March 2019. Changes up to the start of the trip may occur and will be taken into account in the final itinerary.

Please also note the important information on steam traction and flights to and within China(s) for this trip, which can be found in the "Comments" section.

Travel prices, per person

For the Tiefa programme (8 - 11 January 2020):

2,390 Euro in half double room if booked by 31 May 2019
2,490 Euro in half double room for bookings from 1 June 2019 onwards
   210 Euro single room supplement

For the Sandaoling Programme (12 - 19 January 2020):

1.990 Euro in half double room for booking until 31 May 2019
2.260 Euro in half double room if booked from 1 June 2019
   310 Euro single room supplement

For the Sandaoling & Tiefa programme (8 - 19 January 2020):

4.360 Euro in half double room for booking until 31 May 2019
4,740 Euro in half double room for bookings from 1 June 2019 onwards
   520 Euro single room supplement

For the Sandaoling and Tiefa programs we need at least 10 participants, please book until 31 October 2019!

For the Harbin Programme (19 - 23 January 2020):

   990 Euro in half double room for booking until 31 May 2019
1.180 Euro in half double room for bookings from 1 June 2019 onwards
   180 Euro single room supplement

For the Harbin program we need at least 6 participants, please book until 31 October 2019!

The tour price includes (depending on the booked program):

  • Photographs of the coal mine in Sandaoling;
  • Dongbolizhan railway station for shift change;
  • Repair works in Sandaoling (if permission is granted);
  • All SY-covered special trains in Tiefa as per programme;
  • Visit to the Harbin Ice Festival;
  • Visit of the snow leopard park in Harbin;
  • Night shots wherever possible;
  • All bus and train transfers as per programme;
  • Accommodation and meals as advertised;
  • Tanago information material;
  • Tanago tour guide (German/English speaking), plus local tour guide.

Not included in the tour price are the arrival and departure in China, all transfers not mentioned, all expenses of a personal nature (minibar, telephone, cleaning, etc.), visa for China, tips.


unfortunately, the Chinese government is inexorably tightening the price screw for visas. Also we as organizers are not spared by the price increases, quite the opposite, we pay even more than private applicants by the value added tax.

Therefore we offer you for these trips either the possibility to get the visa through us, then we charge you 210 €. Alternatively, you can commission a visa service to handle the application for you. Depending on the company you have commissioned, you can save a few euros here. Or you can apply for the visa at the Chinese representations in Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich yourself.

We are looking forward to a new and most likely very last pilgrimage to the Chinese steam locomotives! We were so often wrong with the date for the steam end in Sandaoling, although we have been travelling the country for 30 years - but now it really seems that after 2020 there will be no more steam winter in Sandaoling!

Information about the trip and about the international and domestic flights:

As already described, the future of steam traction in Sandaoling is uncertain: in March 2019 a large commission met in Sandaoling to discuss the last years of open pit mining. Status of the talks on 15.3.2019: coal production will not be further reduced, and the mine will operate at the current production rate until the end of January 2020, after which production will decline continuously until the final shutdown in September 2020. But it wouldn't be China if a party official somewhere didn't make a different decision and everything came in a completely different way.

In other words, there are some special conditions for this trip that you accept with your booking:

we reserve the right to cancel part 1 (sandaoling) of the trip at very short notice and without notice if the steam traction in the opencast mine has either been drastically restricted or has come to a standstill before our trip. In this case we will refund all payments for the land program.
All other individual expenses and costs (visa, arrival and departure to China, other individual arrangements) will not be refunded by us.

If you instruct us to also arrange the long-haul flights for you, we will book Air China from/via DUS,FRA,MUC to Beijing, as only Air China allows a partial refund of already booked and issued tickets, the cost of cancellation here is 290 € per person and ticket.

If you book your own long-haul flights, we assume no liability.

All flights from Europe to China arrive in China the following day, for the return flights of our Sandaoling program (travel part 1) we have oriented ourselves to the "night flights", on which you depart after midnight in Beijing, and arrive the same day in the morning in Europe. If you have any other wishes, please contact us.

Despite many permissions and "red stamp" on the part of the visited industrial enterprises a certain "residual risk" remains, which we also do not want to conceal. It can happen that permits are obtained in the run-up to our trip with a lot of effort and were reconfirmed the day before - but we remain standing in front of closed doors on the day of our visit because local managers, even village policemen, can make decisions that completely contradict our permits. Even if we have dozens of confirmations in our hands that everything is "guaranteed" as discussed in advance, this is no guarantee at all.

We also ask for your understanding that the extent of the plan steam in Sandaoling as well as the covering of the special trains in Tiefa cannot be controlled and guaranteed by us. In Sandaoling it happens more often that either the loading or unloading of the coal trains is stopped by technical problems at the facilities. Then the traffic from the opencast mine comes to a complete standstill, wenn´s runs badly, even for several hours! Likewise the JS Tender advance can drive, or fail. In Tiefa there are at present only the two SY 1771 and 1772 as operational locomotives. If a locomotive breaks down, this can influence our special train timetable or even completely disrupt it until services fail. Neither we nor the mine railways involved can provide any compensation or reimbursement.

Unfortunately, the central government in Beijing has extremely tightened control over the Uighur population in Xinyang province, where Sandaoling is located. Road checks have been set up everywhere, every office building is secured with anti-tank barriers, and even petrol stations today resemble high-security wings. On our 2019 trip we were closely observed by the Chinese Stasi, but not prevented from taking pictures of the steam locomotives. They just wanted to know where we were and what we were doing... If you have difficulties travelling to a dictatorship to photograph a steam locomotive, please stay right at home. This trip is not for local agitation. If you do not follow the rules, you will endanger the entire group program and will be sent home immediately and without further claims!

The quality of the hotels, roads and other infrastructure cannot be compared to Western Europe. Please do not expect luxury. Our local hotels offer simple rooms with shower/WC, functioning heating and hot water around the clock, as well as free Internet access. Our buses will not reach German standards even in touristically successful cities, the further we lose ourselves in the province, the further the standards of the buses decline. You shouldn't expect functioning heaters or tightly closing doors in all buses.

In China, the law of the strongest applies, according to which terms such as occupational health and safety, accident prevention or even consideration are indeed components of the Chinese language, but they are virtually non-existent in the everyday life of the Chinese. Please be careful and pay attention to your surroundings!

In order to make the best possible use of our time in China, we start early in the morning, take the breakfast with us, usually packed, or have a short stop at a pasta or Swabian ravioli stand, at noon there is usually a small snack on the way, in the evening there is plenty to eat. Original Chinese of course, which usually looks and tastes different than the Chinese at home!

The costs of the land program are a kind of "all-inclusive". Your additional costs on this trip are therefore limited to excessive drink consumption outside the "all-inclusive" or potential extra wishes. In addition, there is only one contribution to the tip box. Calculate as a general order of magnitude about 150 Yuan per day ... If you want to experience the Sandaolinger spark flight every evening, we would have to collect again.

Please also read our comments on the topic of "International travel health insurance". On our trip to China in February 2013, one of our participants fell ill. Without insurance he would have stayed at the Chinese hospital in Fuxin - and would not have been able to fly home. Four days before the beginning of our India Tour 2016 one participant had to cancel due to illness - the cancellation fee was 75%! Don't save at the wrong end, that's what a travel health insurance is for.

Temperatures & Technology:
It gets cold. We have experienced values down to -20°C on previous trips (in Harbin it can get even colder), a sometimes strong blowing wind does not bother you only if you have adjusted your clothes to "winter" in the best way. We generally expect a very dry cold, which is much easier to endure than the humid winter time with us, partly snow. The sun usually shines intensively.

Bring in any case a headgear against wind and sun! Also use sturdy shoes (we will be on the road all day long) and be dressed for "outdoors". Please leave jackets or trousers in bright colours in your wardrobe at home.

Entry regulations:
A Chinese tourist visa is required for entry into China. All participants need a passport, which must be valid beyond the date of travel at least six months and must contain at least 2 free pages. This information only applies to German citizens. Please check the possibly deviating regulations for your home country!

See you soon in China!