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While brand-new ash pits and water columns for steam locomotives are in place at Bayinkulun (mid-point on the line) and at Xilinhot, I was informed that no steam had been used on the line since its opening 1 August, 2002. However, four steam locomotives (QJ 6409, 6414, 6623 and 6991 - ex Yebaishou and Fuxin locos) were in storage at Xilinhot. Appliances atop the boilers were wrapped in burlap, and the main rods were removed. The wreck train stationed at Xilinhot has a steam-operated crane.
The most interesting section of the line is a 10 kilometer section located from 35 to 45 kilometers south of Xilinhot, where the line climbs southbound on a grade up to 1.2% using one horseshoe curve and much additional curvature. Wuriku and Huitengliang have one passing track, while Bayinkulun has three passing tracks. All three of these intermediate stations on the line have fully-staffed stations, which are located on the east side of the line.
The coal traffic that was the main justification for this line has failed to develope, the story being that no buyer can presently be found for the specific qualities of coal
that exists in large quantities underground near Xilinhot. It was not expected that this situation will change in the next five years.
The line is now thus mainly a passenger operation, with a mixed train daily in each direction (the train I was on had two passenger cars and two freight cars), plus two pairs of every-other-day passenger trains. The only freight traffic for the mixed is one small petroleum complex and public freight spurs at Xilinhot. The potential passenger and local freight traffic is sure to be affected by the recent opening of a much-improved highway generally paralleling the new line.
A positive aspect noted is that areas that seemed to be approaching near-desert status during my construction visits in 2000 and 2001produced good crops of grass this year, as evidenced by freshly-harvested hay in fields along the track, and fatter animal flocks.
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