China lurches ever forward into a modernized future, but it's keeping one leg of a train route firmly in its turbulent industrial past.
A short bus or motorcycle taxi ride from Chengdu, the bustling capital of Sichuan Province with more than 14 million residents, the Jiayang Railway trundles back and forth between Shixi and Bagou, site of a former coal mine. It's the last narrow-gauge steam passenger train service in operation anywhere on the planet, making it a tourist draw.
China built the narrow-gauge steam train line in 1958 to haul coal and the original steam engines are still in use. Covered in rust, they look even older than they are and max out at about 20 mph on the 12-mile stretch of railway.
As the coal mining faded, so did the towns on the route. Bagou's population dropped from a peak of 20,000 to about 1,500 today.
Though the train's tourist draw could keep these towns from further decline, the out-of-time look is part of what makes it such a compelling destination.
Coal continues to be transported on the tracks, though via electric trains and from a different mine. The steam trains are considered a national cultural treasure and are maintained for passenger and tourist service.
The trains are a natural draw for train enthusiasts from Britain, Germany, America and Japan, who can choose to ride in air-conditioned cars or in passenger cars used by local residents where seats are not guaranteed. A growing number of Chinese tourists also are making the trip to see a piece of industrial China. One stop along the route still has murals from the cultural revolution.