Korean State Railway
Map of rail lines in North Korea
|Dates of operation||1946–|
|Predecessor||South Manchuria Railway,
Chosen Government Railway,
various private railways
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
762 mm (2 ft 6 in)
1,524 mm (5 ft) (dual-gauge Tumanggang to Rajin)
|Electrification||3000 V DC (1,435 mm)
1500 V DC (762 mm)
|Length||4,725 km (2,936 mi) (1,435 mm)
523 km (325 mi) (762 mm)
134 km (83 mi) (1,524 mm)
|Ministry of Railways of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea|
|Chosŏn'gŭl||조선 민주주의 인민 공화국 철도성|
|Revised Romanization||Joseon Minjuju-eui Inmin Gonghwaguk Cheoldoseong|
|McCune–Reischauer||Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk Ch'ŏldosŏng|
The Korean State Railway is the operating arm of the Ministry of Railways of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (조선 민주주의 인민 공화국 철도성, Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk Ch'ŏldosŏng) and has its headquarters at P'yŏngyang. The current Minister of Railways is Chon Kil-su, who has held the position since 2009.
The railway lines of North Korea were originally built during the Japanese occupation of Korea by the Chosen Government Railway (Sentetsu), the South Manchuria Railway (Mantetsu) and various privately owned railway companies such as the Chosen Railway (Chōtetsu). When Korea was partitioned, the Kyŏngwŏn Line was divided at the 38th parallel, and on 25 August 1945 the Soviet Army began operating trains on the Kyŏngŭi Line north of Sariwŏn. In May 1946 it was made illegal to cross the 38th parallel without a permit, and on 9 August of that year identification cards were made compulsory for rail travel in the northern part of Korea.
The beginnings of the Korean State Railway as an independent entity can be traced to 10 August 1946, when the Provisional People’s Committee for North Korea nationalised all railways in the Soviet occupation zone, but its actual establishment dates to 1948, when the People's Democratic Republic of Korea was established. The Pacific War had left Korea's railways massively damaged. However, reconstruction work began immediately after the partition of Korea, and when the Korean State Railway was formally established in 1948, it had 3,767 km (2,341 mi) of railway was in functional condition, including the restoration of the electrification on the Yangdŏk-Ch'ŏnsŏng section of the P'yŏngra Line, and the new electrification of the Kaego-Koin section of the Manp'o Line. Also in 1948, the assets of the Chosen Government Railway were formally divided between North and South, leaving the KSR with around 500 steam locomotives, 8 electric locomotives, 1,280 passenger cars and 9,154 freight cars.
Other new construction took place prior to 1950, but the Korean War which broke out on 25 June 1950 undid these gains, leaving North Korea's railway network devastated. Through the Korean War, much of the infrastructure and many of the locomotives were destroyed. On 31 December 1950, the Kyŏngŭi Line was divided. A train, consisting of the locomotive Matei 10 and 25 cars, going from Hanp'o to Munsan was ordered to stop at Changdan by the US Army, and was destroyed. The locomotive is now on display at Imjingak. With the aid of the Chinese People's Volunteer Corps, by the time of the ceasefire signed on 27 July 1953, 1,382 km (859 mi) of railway lines had been restored. The DPRK received aid from a number of socialist countries such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania during and after the war in the form of locomotives to replace those that had been destroyed in the war.
On 5 February 1954, an agreement signed between China and the DPRK on cross-border train service, and a Beijing-Pyongyang through-train service began on 3 June of that year, using China Railways rolling stock. Within three months after the armistice, 308 bridges with a total length of 15,000 m (49,000 ft) were either repaired or newly built by railway corps volunteers, 37 stations were rebuilt as the railway network was restored to its pre-war status. With extensive Soviet and Chinese assistance, the railways were rebuilt and further expanded. A replacement railway bridge was opened over the Taedong River in P'yŏngyang on 17 June 1954, and three months later, on 25 September 1954 the Kangwŏn Line was reopened between Kosan and P'yŏnggang. The Yalu River Bridge between Sinŭiju and Dandong, China, which had been severely damaged during the war, was rebuilt before war's end, The connection with the USSR across the Tumen River was first established during the Korean War in the form of a wooden railway bridge opened in 1952; By the mid 1950s this bridge had become insufficient for the traffic on the line, and the Korean-Russian Friendship Bridge between Tumangang and Khasan, USSR was opened on 9 August 1959.
North Korea had inherited a fairly extensive network of 762 mm (30.0 in) narrow-gauge rail lines from both Sentetsu and formerly privately owned railways. One of these was the Hwanghae Line running from Hasŏng to Haeju. After nationalising the Chosen Railway's narrow-gauge lines in the Hwanghae region in April 1944, Sentetsu had decided that traffic levels between Sariwŏn and Hasŏng were sufficient to merit construction of a shorter standard gauge line to replace the existing narrow gauge line; the work was completed quickly, and by September of that year the new , 41.7 km (25.9 mi) "Hwanghae Main Line" was opened. However, the rest of the line from Hasŏng to Haeju remained narrow gauge. The Hwanghae Main Line was, like most other lines, extensively damaged in the Korean War; refurbishment of the Hwanghae Main Line was completed in 1956, and Kim Il-sung visited the reconstruction works in June of that year. Conversion of the Hasŏng—Haeju—Haeju Port section to standard gauge took place in 1958. Work was carried out by youth "volunteer" teams, who finished the project on 12 August 1958 – 75 days after work began. In honour of the efforts of the youth volunteer teams, the Sariwŏn—Haeju line was given its current name, Hwanghae Ch'ŏngnyŏn Line – Hwanghae Youth Line. The Haeju—Haeju Port section and the former Chŏngdo Line were made part of the Ongjin Line at that time.
Construction of new lines continued through the 1970s and 1980s, such as the Ch'ŏngnyŏn Ich'ŏn Line opened on 10 October 1972, the Sŏhae Kammun Line over the West Sea Barrage on 24 June 1986, and the Pukpu Line, completed in 1988. Other new lines have been or are being built in the 21st century, such as a line from Tongrim on the P'yŏngui Line to the Sŏhae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang, and a new, shorter standard gauge line to replace the narrow gauge Samjiyŏn Line.
Electrification of the Yangdŏk–Ch'ŏnsŏng section of the P'yŏngra Line was completed with Soviet assistance on 25 May 1956, but the large-scale electrification of North Korea's rail lines began only in 1958, and by 1973, when the electrification of the P'yŏngra Line was completed, over 1,300 km (810 mi) of lines had been electrified, realising the goal of electrifying all major trunk lines. By the end of the 1970s, the goal of eliminating steam power from the primary trunk lines had been achieved. By February 1985 the total length of electrified standard gauge rail lines in North Korea stood at over 1,500 km (930 mi). Electrification continued through the 1990s, with the Sinhŭng Line being electrified in 1992. The electrification of the Hambuk Line was finished in 1995 with the wiring of the Hoeryong–Namyang section, while the electrification of the Kŭmgangsan Ch'ŏngnyŏn Line was completed on 15 April 1997.
|1944||Pokkye||Kosan||Kyŏngwŏn||53.9||Sentetsu; Destroyed during Korean War.|
|1948||Yangdŏk||Ch'ŏnsŏng||P'yŏngra||50.8||Destroyed during Korean War|
|1948||Kaegu||Koin||Manp'o||Destroyed during Korean War|
|25 May 1956||Yangdŏk||Ch'ŏnsŏng||P'yŏngra||50.8|
|31 March 1960||Myŏngch'ŏn||Rodong||P'yŏngra||23.3|
|1 November 1968||Kowŏn||Hongwŏn||P'yŏngra|
|10 October 1970||Myŏngch'ŏn||Ch'ŏngjin||P'yŏngra|
In addition to the construction of new lines and electrification, the Railway Ministry also established various other railway-related undertakings, such as the Kim Chong-t'ae Electric Locomotive Works, the P'yŏngyang Railway University, and rolling stock factories in Ch'ŏngjin and Wŏnsan, etc.
The West P'yŏngyang Railway Factory, which had originally been a major rolling stock repair facility opened by Sentetsu, was established on 10 November 1945, and the manufacture of small electric locomotives for use in mines began there in 1956. It underwent a major expansion in 1959 with Polish assistance, with work completed on 29 August 1959. In 1961, it was renamed P'yŏngyang Electric Locomotive Works. The prototype of the DPRK's first domestically produced mainline electric locomotive, the Red Flag 1, was completed there on 30 August 1961, and Kim Il-sung visited the plant for the occasion and chose the locomotive's name personally. Over the following years, over 150 were built. Following the execution of South Korean revolutionary activist Kim Chong-t'ae, a member of the Revolutionary Party for Reunification, the factory was renamed in his honour in 1969. Kim Il-sung paid another visit to the factory on 27 September 1987, to inspect the first completed production unit of the Red Flag 6-class articulated 8-axle electric locomotive.
The Wonsan Railway Factory, later renamed 4 June Rolling Stock Works, became operational after reconstruction and expansion with Polish assistance on 15 June 1957. It has played a vital role in the production of rolling stock for the Korean State Railway since then, producing a wide array of freight cars of Chinese and domestic design.
After the electrification of part of the narrow gauge Paengmu Line was completed in August 1991, a railway modernisation plan was begun in 1992; however, ongiong economic difficulties since 1994 have led to the deterioration of rolling stock and infrastructure, significantly reducing operational capacity and efficiency.
In July 2000, talks began between the two Koreas to discuss the reopening of the former Kyŏngŭi Line that once ran between Seoul and Sinŭiju via P'yŏngyang; this line is now split between the P'yŏngŭi Line in the north running from Sinŭiju to P'yŏngyang and the P'yŏngbu Line from P'yŏngyang via Kaesŏng to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and Korail's Kyŏngŭi Line, which runs from the DMZ via Torasan to Seoul. Work in the South began almost immediately, and service was restarted on the 6.1 km (3.8 mi) Munsan–Imjingang section of on 30 September 2001, and on the 3.7 km (2.3 mi) Imjingang–Torasan section on 12 February 2002. Groundbreaking ceremonies took place in September 2002 for the reconstruction of the Kaesŏng–Torasan section across the DMZ and the reconnection of the former Tonghae Pukpu Line on the east coast, which is presently split between the North's Kŭmgangsan Ch'ŏngnyŏn Line from Anbyŏn on the Kangwŏn Line via Kŭmgangsan to the DMZ, and the southern section of the former Tonghae Pupkpu line from the DMZ to Chejin. The reconstruction work on these two lines was begun on 14 June 2003.
2004 saw the worst known railway disaster in North Korea when an explosion at the station in Ryongch'ŏn destroyed buildings in a large swathe around the city's station, killing 54 and injuring 1,245 people in the blast itself and the subsequent fires, according to official casualty reports. A wide area was reported to have been affected, with some airborne debris reportedly falling across the border in China; the Red Cross reported that 1,850 houses and buildings had been destroyed and another 6,350 had been damaged. The basic restoration of the station was completed within a week, and DPRK–China international train service was reinstated on 28 April.
P'yŏngyang's central railway station underwent a major renovation in 2005, which included the restoration of walls, the installation of new waiting room doors, and the installation of a large neon sign.
Although the reconstruction work on the inter-Korean rail lines was nearly complete by March 2006, it wasn't until 17 May 2007, nearly seven years after negotiations on the subject began between North and South, that they were finally reopened. An agreement on cross-border operations had been made between the Korean State Railway and Korail already in April 2004, but three subsequent attempts to run trains failed, until finally the military authorities on both sides adopted a security agreement on 11 May 2007, allowing the reopening of the lines on 17 May. The reopening consisted of two ceremonial trains, one over the western line from Munsan to Kaesŏng (27 km (17 mi)), and another over the eastern line from Kŭmgangsan to Jejin. The western train was operated from south to north by a Korail locomotive and five coaches, while the eastern train was pulled by a Korean State Railway locomotive and five coaches; each train carried 150 invited guests from the South and the North.
Commercial freight operations were finally restarted on 11 December 2007, with the first train carrying construction materials from Munsan in the South to the Kaesŏng Industrial Region, and footwear and clothing on the return trip to the South. This service, operated by Korail, has been interrupted several times as a result of political events between North and South that have caused the closure of the industrial district. The industrial district was most recently reopened on 16 September 2013 after a five-month shutdown. At the same time, passenger services were reopened on the eastern line to carry passengers to the Mount Kŭmgang Tourist Region, although that service was discontinued in July 2008 after the shooting of a South Korean tourist.
In 2008, work began on the reconstruction of the line between Tumangang Station on the DPRK-Russian border and the port of Rajin, where construction of a new container terminal to handle freight traffic from Asia Pacific countries to Europe. This, which would cut down considerably on transit time when compared to shipping by sea. This project fits within the framework of a cooperation agreement made between Russia and North Korea in 2000, and is viewed as the first step in the reconstruction of a Trans-Korean mainline, which would allow the shipment of goods by rail all the way from South Korea to Europe. The project included restoring 18 bridges, 12 culverts and three tunnels with a combined length of more than 4.5 km, as well as laying 54 km of four-rail dual gauge (1,435 mm and 1,520 mm) track. A transfer terminal at the port is nearing completion, along with dredging and construction of a quay, storage areas, industrial and office buildings. A single control centre will manage future operations on the line, which will be capable of handling up to 4 million tonnes of cargo per year from the port. Operation and management of the upgraded line, which cost over 5.5 billion rubles (excluding the cost of the port upgrades), will be handled by a joint venture of the Russian Railways and the Port of Rason, which has formally leased the line for 49 years. The upgrade work was officially completed on 22 September 2013.
Pak Yong-sok was the Railways Minister until his replacement by Kim Yong-sam in September, 1998. In 2008, an inspection of the railways was carried out by the National Defence Commission, revealing massive corruption, as a result of which Kim Yong-sam was removed from the position and handed over to the State Security Department. He was then replaced by the current Railways Minister, Chon Kil-su, in October 2008. The investigation revealed that railway workers had stripped nearly 100 locomotives held in strategic reserve for wartime use, selling the parts as scrap metal; as the minister responsible, Kim was held accountable and was removed from his post, and was reportedly executed in March 2009.
On 8 December 2013, an agreement was reached between North Korea and a consortium of Chinese companies to construct a high-speed railrway connecting Kaesŏng, P'yŏngyang, and Sinŭiju. The project is to be a build-operate-transfer arrangement, in which the construction, scheduled to take five years, will be funded by the consortium, which will then operate the line for 30 years, after which the Railway Ministry will take over operations and complete ownership of the line. The rail line is to be a double-track line of about 400 km (250 mi) with an operating speed of over 200 km/h (120 mph).
On 21 October 2014 a groundbreaking ceremony for the Sŭngri ("Victory") project to modernise the P'yŏngnam Line from Namp'o to P'yŏngyang and the P'yŏngdŏk Line from P'yŏngyang to Chedong was held. The project, supported by Russia, is intended to form the first stage of a larger-scale cooperation with the Russian Railways as part of a 20-year development project that would modernise around 3,500 km (2,200 mi) of the North Korean rail network, and would include the construction of a north–south freight bypass around P'yŏngyang. The overall project cost is estimated to be around US $25 billion, and it is expected that exports of coal, rare earth and non-ferrous metals from the DPRK to Russia will provide the funding for the project.
Also subordinate to the Railway Ministry are five major industrial concerns: the Kim Chong-t'ae Electric Locomotive Works in P'yŏngyang, the 4 June Rolling Stock Works in Wŏnsan, the Ch'ŏngjin Railway Factory, the 7.6 Vehicle Parts Factory and the Pyongyang Rolling Stock Repair Works. Of these, the Kim Chong-t'ae Works and the 4 June Works are by far the most important.
There are four research institutes subordinate to the Railway Ministry for scientific research, design review, and the exploration of new technologies for the design and production of rolling stock (the P'yŏngyang Railway University, also subordinate to the Ministry, also takes part in design work and design review), and product inspection; inspection of the products of the factories is also undertaken by the national quality inspection board.
Operations and Infrastructure
The Korean State Railway operates over 5,248 km of railway, of which 4,725 km (2,936 mi) is 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge, 523 km (325 mi) of 1,524 mm (5 ft) broad gauge, and 523 km (325 mi) is 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) narrow gauge Of the total, about 80% is in regular use. 3,893.5 km (2,419.3 mi) of the standard gauge lines are electrified at 3 kV DC and 295.5 km (183.6 mi) of the narrow gauge at 1.5 kV DC. Manual and semi-automatic substations are used, located 15, 30 or 60 km apart (50–60 km apart on the Kangwŏn Line).
North Korea's national transportation policy focusses on the railway as the primary means of transport for both passengers and freight. Passenger services include both long-distance trains, as well as commuter services for students and workers; freight transport focusses on industrial raw materials and military traffic, as well as import-export traffic. Traffic control is by track warrant.
In recent years, emphasis has been placed on moving away from railway to road transport for movements of 150–200 km or less, due to the greater cost effectiveness of road transport over short distances.
Railways carry a very large portion of traffic in North Korea:
|Passenger - Rail||15.37||49.1|
|Passenger - Road||81.59||50.9|
|Freight - Rail||7.73||92.8|
|Freight - Road||73.39||7.2|
Due to the ageing infrastructure, normal operation is made difficult by chronic power shortages and poor state of infrastructure maintenance. Sleepers, tunnels and bridges are in a critically poor state of repair. Tracks are laid on either wooden or concrete sleepers, using rails of 37, 40, 50, 60 kg/m (75, 81, 101, 121 lb/yd) of domestic, Chinese and Russian manufacture. Riverine gravel and crushed stone ballast is used. Tunnels are of concrete construction; many are in poor condition, having been built during the colonial era. Communications equipment and the semi-automatic signalisation infrastructure dates to the 1970s, and was imported from China and the Soviet Union. The poor state of the infrastructure severely restricts operational speeds - average train speeds are as low as 20–60 km/h (in South Korea 60–100 km/h): only on the P'yŏngbu Line are speeds of 100 km/h possible.
|P'yŏngyang-Hyesan||728.7||18:32||39.7||via Pyongra Line|
|P'yŏngyang-Hyesan||445.4||19:20||23.0||via Manp'o Line|
The railway provides the primary form of long-distance transport in North Korea.
Although the Soviet Army restarted operation of passenger trains just days after the formal partition of Korea in 1945, it was only after the end of the Korean War that regularly scheduled international trains between the DPRK and China were resumed. An agreement on cross-border train service was signed between the two countries on 5 February 1954, and regular operation of Beijing–P'yŏngyang through trains began four months later, on 3 June, using China Railway rolling stock.
In 1983 the Korean State Railway began operation of P'yŏngyang–Beijing trains as well, using its own rolling stock, and since then the KSR and China Railway each operate two weekly round trips between the two capitals. These trains, by far the most important international passenger service in the DPRK, operate via Sinŭiju four times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday). Customs and immigration checks take place at Sinŭiju. The trip takes 22 hours 51 minutes from P'yŏngyang to Beijing, and 23 hours 18 minutes from Beijing to P'yŏngyang. Stops made in the DPRK are at P'yŏngyang, Ch'ŏngju Ch'ŏngnyŏn, Ch'ŏnggang and Sinŭiju Ch'ŏngnyŏn stations. The train is generally composed of eight coaches and one dining car operating between P'yŏngyang and Sinŭiju, two North Korean sleeping cars between P'yŏngyang and Beijing, and three China Railways coaches and one Korean State Railway sleeping car between P'yŏngyang and Dandong, China.
The other major international service is a through train (specifically, a sleeping car) that operates fortnightly between P'yŏngyang and Moscow, which has operated since 1987. This train is generally not open to foreigners other than citizens of Russia as far as Rajin.
There is also an international passenger service from Manp'o to Ji'an, China, in the form of a single passenger car attached to the daily cross-border freight train. This train is not open to use by foreigners other than ethnic Koreans from China.
Other important long-distances trains include amongst others P'yŏngyang - Kilju - Hyesan (721 km (448 mi), P'yŏngyang - Ch'ŏngjin - Tumangang (1,011 km (628 mi)), P'yŏngyang - Ch'ŏngjin - Musan (813 km (505 mi)), P'yŏngyang - Kŭmgol (570 km (350 mi)), P'yŏngyang - Kowŏn - P'yŏnggang (370 km (230 mi)), Haeju - Manp'o (492 km (306 mi)), Haeju - Sariwŏn - P'yŏngyang - Kilju - Hyesan (855 km (531 mi)), Sinch'ŏn - Sariwŏn - P'yŏngyang - Ch'ŏngjin (858 km (533 mi)) and Sinŭiju - Kaesŏng (413 km (257 mi)).
North Korea has an extensive network of standard and narrow gauge rail lines, roughly forming an H-shape, with an east–west mainline connecting the two north–south mainlines on the eastern and western coasts.
This list shows only the main trunk lines; branchlines are described on each line's page. For secondary standard-gauge lines and narrow-gauge lines, see the main article.
- Hambuk Line: Ch'ŏngjin Ch'ŏngnyŏn–Rajin, 331.1 km (205.7 mi), 1,435 mm (56.5 in) standard gauge (Hongŭi–Rajin dual gauge with standard and Russian 1,524 mm (60.0 in) broad gauge);
- Hongŭi Line: Hongŭi (Hambuk line) - Tumangang (-> Khasan, Russia), 9.5 km (5.9 mi), dual gauge;
- Kangwŏn Line: Kowŏn (P'yŏngra Line) - P'yŏnggang, 145.8 km (90.6 mi) standard gauge
- Kŭmgangsan Ch'ŏngnyŏn Line: Anbyŏn (Kangwŏn Line) - Kŭmgangsan Ch'ŏngnyŏn (-> Chejin, ROK, 101.0 km (62.8 mi) standard gauge
- Manp'o Line: Sunch'ŏn (P'yŏngra Line) - Manp'o, 299.9 km (186.3 mi) standard gauge
- Paektusan Ch'ŏngnyŏn Line: Kilju Ch'ŏngnyŏn (P'yŏngra Line) - Hyesan Ch'ŏngnyŏn (Pukpu Line), 141.7 km (88.0 mi) standard gauge
- P'yŏngbu Line: P'yŏngyang - Kaesŏng (-> Torasan, ROK), 187.3 km (116.4 mi) standard gauge
- P'yŏngdŏk Line: P'yŏngyang - Kujang Ch'ŏngnyŏn (Manp'o and Ch'ŏngnyŏn P'arwŏn lines), 192.3 km (119.5 mi) standard gauge
- P'yŏngnam Line: P'yŏngyang - Namp'o, 55.2 km (34.3 mi) standard gauge
- P'yŏngra Line: P'yŏngyang - Rajin, 819.0 km (508.9 mi) standard gauge
- P'yŏngŭi Line: P'yŏngyang - Sinŭiju (-> Dandong, China), 225.1 km (139.9 mi) standard gauge
Narrow-gauge lines in North Korea are built to 762 mm (30.0 in) gauge. Some are electrified at 1500 V DC. While there are such lines all over the country, the most important ones are in the northern part of the country. The longest of the narrow-gauge lines in North Korea is the Paengmu Line, which runs 191.7 km (119.1 mi) from Paegam to Musan, connecting the standard-gauge Paektusan Ch'ŏngnyŏn Line with the standard-gauge Musan Line.
The Korean State Railway operates a wide variety of electric, diesel and steam locomotives, along with a variety of electric multiple unit passenger trains. The KSR's motive power has been obtained from various sources. Much, mostly steam and Japanese-made electric locomotives, was left over after the end of the colonial era, and this motive power moved the majority of trains between the time of the partition of Korea and the beginning of the Korean War.
The Korean War destroyed much of the North's railway infrastructure, but with extensive Soviet and Chinese aid, along with aid from the rest of the Eastern Bloc - mostly in the form of steam locomotives from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania, North Korea's railways were rapidly rebuilt. During the Ch'ŏllima Movement, North Korea's equivalent to China's Great Leap Forward, Kim Il-sung placed a special emphasis on the electrification of the railways. As a result of this emphasis, many hundreds of kilometres of railway were electrified by the end of the 1950s.
Another important aspect of the Ch'ŏllima Movement was the further industrialisation of North Korea. In terms of industry, the Japanese legacy was a fairly extensive network of railways connecting steel mills, chemical plants and other heavy industries with the many mines of the north - coal, iron, and many other metal and non-metal resources; all of these were further expanded during the 1950s. In 1945, a rolling stock repair facility in P'yŏngyang, eventually becoming today's Kim Chong-t'ae Electric Locomotive Works, which has manufactured almost all of North Korea's electric locomotives since the first Red Flag 1-class locomotive, North Korea's first domestically produced electric locomotive, was rolled out in 1961.
With ample coal supplies to fire steam locomotives, and electrification of the rail network being expanded rapidly after the Korean War, dieselisation was not the priority for the Korean State Railway that it was for many other railways, not starting in earnest until the second half of the 1960s with the arrival of the first diesel locomotives from Hungary and the Soviet Union. Once there, though, they have consistently shared the burden with electric and steam locomotives, taking over the latter's share of work on non-electrified lines gradually. Though still in sporadic use, steam had mostly left the North Korean mainlines by the end of the 1970s, and elsewhere by the end of the 1990s.
Severe floods in the 1990s had taken their toll on North Korea's hydroelectric generation system, and even some mines had flooded - and due to electricity shortages caused by the silting of the dams, there was often little electricity available to run pumps needed to clear the water out of the mines. By the turn of the millennium, the Korean State Railway was having difficulties keeping electric trains running, and the fleet of K62s was insufficient to meet the transportation needs, even though they'd dropped significantly due to ongoing economic difficulties. To alleviate this problem, more M62s from several European countries, along with a sizeable number of second-hand locomotives from China, were imported. At the same time, however, the economic crisis also made it difficult to obtain diesel fuel, and by the late 1990s rail traffic was barely plodding along.
In recent years, extensive work has begun on refurbishing the rail network and power generation capabilities in the country, but diesels continue to play their significant role in hauling passenger and freight trains on the various mainlines, and Kim Jong-un has been placing special emphasis on the refurbishment and modernisation of the railways. Due to ongoing economic difficulties in North Korea, maintenance levels are poor; locomotive serviceability is estimated at 50%. However, recent imports of diesel locomotives from China and construction of newer electric locomotive types are helping to ameliorate the situation.
At the present time the Korean State Railway operates primarily using electric and diesel power, with a wide array of locomotive types. Most numerous and important are the Red Flag 1-class electrics, the Red Flag 6-class articulated electrics for heavy freight trains, and the Kanghaenggun-class electrics, which were converted from diesels; also important are the K62-class diesels, and the various types imported recently from China. Efforts to modernise the motive power stock are also underway, with the continuing construction of Red Flag 5400-class heavy electrics and the latest addition, the Sŏngun Red Flag-class electrics designed to provide greater performance with lower power consumption, along with a program to modernise the K62 diesels with new engines and other upgrades.
In 2002, Swiss-made passenger cars bought second-hand from the BLS Lötschbergbahn entered service on the P'yŏngyang–Hyesan express train, becoming the first Western-made passenger cars to be operated by the Korean State Railway.
Following Kim Jong-un's instruction to improve the image of the DPRK's railways, the uniformly green passenger cars of the Korean State Railway are being repainted into more colourful schemes.
- China (China Railways) - open - same gauge
- Russia (Russian Railways) - open - break-of-gauge
- South Korea (Korail) - not in regular use - same gauge
- Korail, South Korea's national rail operator
- Korea Rail Network Authority, South Korea's national rail owner
- "몽골에 갔던 철도성대표단 귀국". Korean Central News Agency. 9 June 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2015 and its English translation "Delegation of Ministry of Railways Back Home". 9 June 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2015
- "First Session of 12th SPA of DPRK Held". Korean Central News Agency. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
- "Members of DPRK Cabinet Appointed". Korean Central News Agency. 9 April 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
- Hayato, Kokubu, 将軍様の鉄道 (Shōgun-sama no Tetsudō), ISBN 978-4-10-303731-6
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