Shibanxi Heaven · 120 mins · DVD
In 2010 the Shibanxi Coal Railway in south-west China can make a very real claim to being the world’s last steam powered, common-carrier railway in everyday operation. It is also narrow gauge, with some 20kms of 2’6” gauge track with 6 tunnels, a reversal and constantly changing semi-tropical scenery including both rural cottages and decaying 1950s Mao era brick flats. Built to carry coal from a number of mines to Shixi, it also has four daily passenger trains, all hauled by C2 class 0-8-0 tender locos. Shot by China residents Rob and Yuehong Dickinson, this great film looks at the coal mines, and both the freight and passenger operations, very much in the context of the industries and people the line serves. The railway is gradually realising its tourist potential, and now has special 'tourist carriages', but when this was shot in 2006 & 2007 the railway was completely unspolit and running purely for the benefit of the local inhabitants who are very badly served by road. Not to be missed!