"Logging Off" is a compelling and beatifully-shot DVD about the last year of a Chinese forestry railway.
The Weihe Forestry Railway was one of a large number of similar narrow gauge railways in northern China built to exploit large stands of timber and operated by steam locomotives. As the 20th century closed, one by one the railways either shut as the forests became logged-out, or converted to diesel traction. By 2002/3, only at Weihe did steam reign supreme and this DVD is a tribute to the people who operated the railway and brought in the logs that it carried in its final season.
Only in the depths of the Manchurian winter could felling and transportation take place and the harsh conditions are perfectly captured here. Follow the timber cutters as they camp-out in the forest and fight their way through snowdrifts to bring down the logs to the loading points. Watch the locomotives with steam leaking from every joint as they constantly battle to get the empty wagons out and bring back full ones.
Go behind the scenes as steam locomotives on their last legs are prepared in equally hostile conditions, often in the open as the snow streams down. Meet the loco crews and other staff who cheerfully work-on knowing that in just a few more weeks, their jobs will be lost and, like the railway itself, they too will be thrown on the scrap heap.
Du Jianbin and ChenYuehong are Beijing based independent film producers who spent 4 months shooting in Weihe and the surrounding district in the winter of 2002/3.