4th May 2021 · North Korea

Presenter: Colin Miell

On Tuesday 4th May we welcomed Colin Miell from the LCGB for a Zoom presentation of his ground-breaking travels with the Locomotive Club of Great Britain to the DPRK (North Korea) in May 2014 and October 2015 – a comprehensive look inside this secretive country, covering the railways, towns and cities/local transport, and its people. During these two tours we travelled the length and breadth of the country by rail, with virtually no restrictions on photography!

The first photo was a map of the country showing railway lines and he showed the towns visited:-

  • Pyongyang – the capital.
  • Hamhung – the second largest city, and near to Hungnam and the fertiliser plant!
  • Chongjin – the third largest city.
  • Wonsan – the main port, on the Sea of Japan.
  • Rason – special industrial zone in the far north, near the border with Russia
  • Kaesong – special industrial zone in the far south, near the DMZ/border with South Korea.
  • Anju – small town where tour participants stayed overnight.
  • Hyangsan – where the Buddhist Temple and International Friendship Exhibition are.
  • Sinuiju – small town at the DPRK end of the International Friendship Bridge from Dandong in China.

Their guides were excellent as there was almost nothing they couldn’t photograph. We saw Red Flag locomotives which were the home grown stuff.

The second photo was a NK 2-8-2 JF on a freight working, there followed a Diesel Switcher and several shots of the two locomotives which led their train, number 5105 a Red Flag electric and a Hungarian Type 62 Diesel. The former leader and his son [Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un] had huge statues and photographs everywhere.

The workers’ cottages were similar to the ones in China seen 30 years previously. There were hardly any cars seen and those that were seemed to be for high ranking officials. However, there were plenty of bicycles, buses, trams and trolleybuses. Crops were being grown everywhere in the country areas, with oxen pulling ploughs.

Their train consist was a baggage car, dining car and three compartment carriages. At Anju we saw three locos in the yard along with semaphore signals. They stayed in an excellent hotel which was 15 stories high, with a revolving restaurant on top, but only the first two floors were used as they don’t get the tourists.

Seen along the line were a few more Red Flag locos and a 3-car DMU number 1201.

At Anju we saw five locos in the yard, an M62, some electric locos and finally a China Railways one, a through service.

In the capital they left the station for the main square where many buses, trolleys and trams were spotted. There is also a one line Metro system which had ex-Berlin U-Bahn stock.

At the hotel they stayed at there was a micro-brewery that made black or yellow beer which sold for 50p a pint. They also visited the Railway Museum. On to Ham Hung there was less traffic and we saw some ships in the harbour, a huge Fertiliser Factory and a stranded trolley bus due to a power cut.

At Wonsan the old station is now a museum and we saw an old Japanese Pacific loco allegedly captured from the Japanese!! A Military Personnel train with all the military waving back.

Back to the capital the railway museum was visited, and older diesel and electric trains were seen. The Tatra trams were all ex-Prague trams, and they very kindly did a run past for the group, and we also saw 1950s articulated trolleybuses.

Part 2 was the second visit and started with a shot of a plinthed loco in Vladivostok along with some trams before crossing the border to Rason then down the coast which was very attractive and along the way at the steelworks we saw a Japanese steam loco No. 1319, a 2-6-2T. Also seen were a propaganda nursery, POHYON Temple, a Buddhist building and Hydro-electric dams.

Back in the capital Colin showed a few photos of the Pyongyang Traffic Girls who stood in the middle of the road directing what traffic there was. A ride was taken on the Metro again before heading to the DMZ by modern road coaches on a three-hour journey along a Motorway with barely another vehicle seen. On arriving at the DMZ they went in the building that had the border along the middle of the hut. Also spotted was a blown-up steam loco looking very buckled and misshapen. Once again lovely scenery was seen on the way back to the capital where Dog Soup was taken for lunch. They then went on a Tram charter over the system where a Tower Wagon Tram was spotted. Following night shots of the station a train was taken into China; high speed trains were taken to Hong Kong where lots of the double deck trams were seen. The funicular was seen but not boarded.

A great evening which seemed to please everyone and there were 92 people on line at the finish out of the 98 that joined at the beginning.

A lovely country to visit but not, l fear, one that l would like to live in.

A big thank you to Colin and for David Jackman for once again organising the Zoom technicalities.

Rob Davidson, Watford Branch Secretary