The remote region of Sichuan in Southwest China is known for its mountainous terrain, beloved pandas, and devastating earthquakes. Within this rugged landscape lies the Jiayang Valley, a vibrant community with no roads for cars, trucks, or buses. However, it’s not completely cut off from the outside world. The small, unglazed carriages of a working, narrow gauge steam railway carry passengers and cargo through the valley.
This is the story told in “Little Train,” a documentary that follows the last remaining steam railway in China. Built over seventy years ago to transport coal out of the Jiayang Valley, the railway has since evolved into the primary mode of transportation in the region. It carries workers to their jobs, children to school, and even pigs to market. On the cramped train, passengers all vie for space in the train’s small, unglazed carriages.
Despite its importance to the community, the railway is under threat. With the village’s mine shutting down, the locals are actively fighting to keep the railway alive. They are forced to hand-make replacement parts for the aging steam locomotives. And when the boiler goes, all could be lost. The villagers search far and wide just to find a company that can build a new boiler for them. But that alone isn’t enough; they also need to figure out how to get it to the isolated Jiayang Valley.
While China is making leaps in technology, from the maglev to bullet trains, “Little Train” takes us deep into the quiet backwaters of the nation —home to over half of China’s population— where technology struggles to keep up with the needs of a small community. This heartwarming, eye-opening documentary is not to be missed. Get on board “Little Train” and see how a small railway with a big heart made such an impact in the remote regions of China.