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Friday, July 11, 2014

Travelogue -- Exploring the North Korean Railways





North Korea has an extensive railway network, first built during the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula in the early twentieth century.  Much of the system was destroyed as the Japanese fled Korea following the end of the Second World War.  After the founding of the DPRK in 1945, the rebuilding the railways became central to the reconstruction of the nation's economy, and the dramatic power of the railways became a powerful ideological symbol within the North Korean narrative of socialist reconstruction and economic development.

Today North Korea's railways are the principle means of cargo transport, while the passenger railway network connects the largest cities in the country with the capital Pyongyang -- and indeed the outside world.






























North Koreans require permission to leave the country, which is granted almost exclusively to perform state business or visit relatives in China or Russia.  For the few that do traverse the incredible divide between "The Socialist Xanadu" and the outside world, there exist very few paths of travel, and the railways are by far the most economical.  Thus the railways are a fascinating microcosm of life in-between the divide.  


For the tourist, the railways are one of the rare opportunities to interact with everyday North Koreans, and see life as it exists in the countryside and far away from the glimmering capital city of Pyongyang.    

Trainspotting in the DPRK is truly unique.  Locomotives and carriages are of mostly of North Korean make, but a mix of second-hand Chinese, East German and Soviet rolling stock can also be found.  Photography is of the railways is very sensitive, but with permission from your guides it is possible to capture some incredible shots -- especially on our rail tours to North Korea.   


All photos below are by Retro DRPK curator and Koryo Tours tour leader Christopher Graper, except where noted.  I am particularly grateful for the many photos shared by former tourists with whom I had the pleasure of traveling.  Simply email me if you would like to have your photo credited.


KS 28/27 BEIJING TO PYONGYANG



Pyongyang Central Railway Station.  August 2013.  


Pyongyang-Beijing KS28 awaits departure from Pyongyang Central Railway Station.  April 2012.  Tourist photo.




Pyongyang Central Railway Station March 2012
KS28 rolls through the North Korean countryside.  April 2012.  Tourist Photo.



Beijing to Pyongyang international carriages indicate KS27/28 route in Korean and Chinese.  International carriages are operated on alternating days by Chinese and North Korean railway carriages and crew. 




KS28 pauses around 03:00 in Shenyang, China. Photo Sam Glover


Train KS28 arrives at Beijing Station after traveling 24 hours through North Korea and China. Tourist photo.  

























NORTH KOREAN LOCOMOTIVES



North Korean locomotives are emblazoned with revolutionary banners and slogans.
All railways are operated by the state. 




Korean locomotives on display at the Three Revolutions Exhibit in Pyongyang.  August 2012
Korean locomotives on display at the Three Revolutions Exhibit in Pyongyang.  August 2012



Korean locomotives on display at the Three Revolutions Exhibit in Pyongyang.  August 2012


Korean locomotives on display at the Three Revolutions Exhibit in Pyongyang.  August 2012.

THE VIEW FROM YOUR WINDOW


North Korean domestic carriages.  2013 Tourist photo.
North Korean dining car.  Tourist photo.


Shop talk on the North Korean railways.  Tourist photo.


North Korean countryside between Pyongyang and Sinuijiu.  Tourist photo.


North Korean countryside between Pyongyang and Sinuijiu.  Tourist photo.

NORTH KOREAN TRAINSPOTTING -- EAST COAST



Grade-crossing near Wonsan, North Korea.  Tourist photo.




Cargo train between Oranj and the Mount Chilbo region, North Korea.  Tourist photo.


Cargo train between Oranj and the Mount Chilbo region, North Korea.  Tourist photo.


Cargo train between Oranj and the Mount Chilbo region, North Korea.  Tourist photo.


Cargo train between Oranj and the Mount Chilbo region, North Korea.  Tourist photo.


Cargo train between Oranj and the Mount Chilbo region, North Korea.  Tourist photo.


Cargo train between Oranj and the Mount Chilbo region, North Korea.  Tourist photo.


Cargo train between Oranj and the Mount Chilbo region, North Korea.  Tourist photo.


Cargo train between Oranj and the Mount Chilbo region, North Korea.  Tourist photo.


Cargo train between Oranj and the Mount Chilbo region, North Korea.  Tourist photo.


Domestic passenger train traveling north from Chongjin Central Station.  Chongjin DPRK September 2012.  Tourist photo.


Railway maintenance vehicle with hitchhikers.  Chongjin DPRK. September 2012.  Tourist photo.


Way in the background -- Hamhung Commuter Narrow-gauge Railway connecting Central Hamhung with industrial areas in Hungnam and the seaside town of Majon.   


Cargo train south of Wonsan traveling towards the Kumgang region.  September 2013.  Tourist photo.


Cargo train south of Wonsan traveling towards the Kumgang region.  September 2013.  Tourist photo.

RAILWAY MUSEUMS and PROPAGANDA 



Massive diorama depicting the construction of the railways at the Museum of Railway Construction in Pyongyang.  August 2013.


Mural in the Museum of Railway Construction


Tile mosaic in the Pyongyang metro depicting railways and steel production.  August 2013.



Japanese steam locomotive at the Wonsan Revolutionary Museum.  July 2013.







 Our rail tours to North Korea -- Read more!

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