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Steam in China

Zhungeer, Jinchengjiang, Pingdingshan

by Li Weishu


Report on a trip between Nov 20th and Nov 29th 2002

Nov 20th 2002

From Beijing, I catched the flight to Hohhot, arrived in Huhehaote at 13:15, then take bus to bus station, where I took the bus to Zungeer at 14:40. After 3 more hours, I arrived at Zhungeer (135km from Huhehaote) at 18:15. I found a hotel which I supposed to be one of the best in the town. The hotel is privately owned and has got showers. Hot water was available and the room well heated. After dinner, I organised a taxi for the next morning.

Nov 21st 2002

I planned to stay at Zhungeer for 1 and a half day. So, I woke up at 06:00. It still was dark. The taxi driver came at 07:15, the hotel was still locked. After 5 minutes, we were on the way.

Zhoujiawan, the main station for the line is not too far from the town: it's about 4km. There were 6 engines under steam in the early morning. I did not stop at the station. We immediately went out to look for possible photo spots.
The driver was very helpful as he worked for the construction of the tunnel of the line. So he knew the location pretty well. I have to say, it was the worst road I ever rode. Vehicles without 4 wheel drive probably cannot pass the road. The speed of driving is less than 20KM an hour.
The line is similar to Aobaogou, but it's more scenic as the hills are higher and the valley deeper. After leaving the station, westbound trains will climb all the way to the Panlong tunnel, also called "tunnel 1". Then there is a decline followed by a second climb just before entering "tunnel 2". In general, the eastbound trains are climbing on their way to Zhoujiawan.
Sun was up at 7:35, beautiful light on the tracks. But unfortunately there was no activity. Before "tunnel 1", there are several good locations for morning shot. It looks pretty good!

Construction of the line started in Dec.1998 and was finished in Dec2000. Operation started in Dec.2000, too. Total length is 72km long to the collieriy at Zhoujiazi. Stations: Haizigang, Fuxingcheng, Shagedu, Hushi xiyingzi.

Tunnel 1 is named "Panlong", it is 830 meters long and built in 1999. Tunnel 2 is named "Guipan". Unfortunately, I did not reach it, so I didn`t find out its length. But I was told it is over 900 meters long. On both sides of two tunnels there are deep cuttings. So, it`s difficult to take photos but opportunities exist, of course.

At Haizigang, I was told that a empty train would arrive soon. So, I headed to the Tunnel 2. A few minutes waiting, I could see the clag. I took a photo of the double headed train just before they reached the tunnel. The leading engine shut off pretty early while the second engine was still working. It was a long train, which will be split into several parts when coming back, loaded, of course. The train passed the tunnel at 11:32.

I tried to find out what would happen now. I asked at Shagedu. Staff was friendly. They told me that a pair of light engines would come soon. The light engines (QJ 7067 and 6613) passed the station at 14:08.

I was told that a loaded train was expected, too. I drove back all the way to the Tunnel 2 via the old road. Unfortunately, the 23km took me 1 hour and 25 minutes, and I still had not found the railway line again. I had heared any steam engine working. I was sure that the train had not passed yet, so I waited at the tunnel until 16:35 by when the light had gone. I gave up and drove back to town.

I went to Zhoujiawan station again to make sure to miss nothing. The yard was empty when I was there, two QJs in steam (QJ 6572 and 7054) plus 4 engines stored ones (QJ 6827,6995,6944,6655).
Chatting with the staff here, I learned about the pattern of traffic for the railway line:
There are between 1 and 4 loaded trains from the colliery to Zhoujiawan each day but only 1 or 2 long empty trains back to the colliery. Other engines will be sent as light engines.
The line is definitely not busy. The maximum is 4 loaded train per day according to the railway staff. But it does not mean that they all run in daylight! But no train at all during daylight is unusal too. So I had had very bad luck.

22th Nov 2002

As I thought there was no chance to get a loaded train in the morning, I decide to go back to Huhehaote immediately. I catched the flight to Beijing then.

23th Nov 2002

Stayed 1 night in Beijing and took the flight to Liuzhou at 07:50, arrival at 11:00. Then by bus to Jinchengjiang, arriving there at 15:00. Checked in at a hotel, visited the station and tried to find out how to start tomorrow.

24th Nov 2002

It was cloudy, looks like it was going to rain. I arrived at Wenping at 8:40. Some minutes later train 45307 passed. I did not get the engine number.
I went to Bohua then. I have to correct the name of Pohua used by others before. It should be Bohua for future use. I was told by the junction that a train is coming, realized that the mixing train was due to arrive. I had to wait inside the station. I got the departure shot of the mixed train, hauled by JS 8373. Chatted with the railway people for a while then. They confirmed, that there would no more loaded train the after this mixed train except for trains 45327 around 17:00. So I decided to turn round. At Wenping I waited for a while. It began to rain, so I had to hide in a little cave. JS8287 passed at 11:43 with train 45323. I got the shot from the cave. According to railway staff, there were no more trains. Unfortunately, 20 minutes later, a south bound loaded train was in front of me! I was in the nowhere and no way to get a proper location, JS8284 went south bound at 12:05. Frustrated, but still trusting on the words of the railway people I had lunch. After lunch, I heard a whistle. I found out later that the southbound train had crossed at Wenping Station. Both trains had left when I arrived there. I walking down along the track and waited for the mixed train. At 14:53 it showed up.

Asking the railway staff at the station, I was told there was no more traffic. So I gave up. On the way back, at the highway 245km, a northbound train shows up again!
What information did the railway give me? Should I trust them any more? I read the reports from people who visited the line before. I was prepared that trains will run early. A absolutely frustrating day!

25th Nov 2002

Weather was even worse today. So I decide to give up, catched a bus to Liuzhou, and then the train from Liuzhou to Zhengzhou at 15:05

26th Nov

Arrived in Zhengzhou at 10:15 and took train 2221 to Baofeng. Arrival at 15:15. I checked in at a hotel in Baofeng. The hotel looks nice, but they do not have hot water.

27th Nov

I took a taxi imn order to explore the hilly area in the west, which was mentioned in prevoius reports. In fact there are no hills but the line has got some gradients there. I was very hazy though the sky was clear. I saw the passenger train at Xipengzhuang at 09:01: JS6253. I was told that a freight would follow it. At 09:27 I photographed deflectorless QJ2035 with empty coal wagons. At 10:50, the passenger train arrived back, tender first, of course.
On the Pingdingshan Map, the terminus "Gouzhongquan" is incorrect. I spent a lot of time to talk with local people but none of them were able to identified it. Obviously, the western line finishes at "Hanzhuan". But most passenger train will finish at "Gaozhuan". I drove all the way to the west end: not very interesting. So I turned round heading for Pingdingshan.
At 14:12, I made a shot of JS8031 heading towards Baofeng. Then, I went to another crossing near Yangyingzi. There, China Rail and the colliery railway seperate from each other. I saw JS8031 with a freight there.
At 16:32, I heard another train going westwards. I couldn`t see it clearly, but it looked like a QJ. Then I headed to Zongku and the shed area. So I checked in at an hotel in Pingdingshan. I did not realize that the city even has got a 4 star hotel here.

28th Nov 2002

Arrived at Zhongxin Station at 08:15: the station was empty. I walked down all the way to Zhongku then. I found out the real name of this place. Actually, Zhongku should be Zongku, it's not "Central Store", but means "Main warehouse". It is the name of the warehouse the north of the railway. The station ifself is called Shenxi station. It took me 20 minutes to walk to Shenxi. Only 2 minutes after I arrived there, JS 5644 pulled empties wagons to mine No. 1 at 08:41. Once again, the morning was very hazy. There was no chance to take pictures. The yard still had 4 empty wagon trains.

Railway people confirmed that they change shift at 08:00, engines comes out of shed after 08:30. At 08:55, JS8054 left Shenxi westwards. At 08:59, SY1002 began shunting, and left westwards, too 11 minutes later. JS 5644 returned at 09:19. After some shunting, JS6429 headed west at 09:38. At 9:55, JS8030 arrived from Yaomeng power plant from the east. I believe more activities happened. But the poor light and background made me walk down further east. I passed the shed, which contained the following engines: JS6252, JS6292, SY 1010 cold, JS 8065, QJ6786, JS8122 and SY1687. When I noted the numbers, the passenger train from "13th Mine" arrived at 10:08 (JS8031).
I walked down towards the Tianzhuang area. SY0758 shunted in Tianzhuang yard.

10:26 QJ 7186 left westbound
10:46 QJ6813 arrived at Tianzhuang
11:22 JS 6225 arrived, too, JS6525 shunted
11:56 JS 6525 left Tianzhaung west bound

After lunch, I decided to visit the western part of Pingdingshan. I walked to mine No.1 but did not see any train. I gave up after 1 hour. The line is steeper here, but very difficult to photograph. I walked to mine 4 and 6. I finished linesiding at 15:40. Light was weak and hazy the whole day.

Trains, I heard or photographed:
13:17 JS? West bound
13:34 JS 8062 arrive in Shenxi from mine 4 or 6
13:48 heard a east bound train to Shenxi
14:26 heard a west bound train
14:42 freight head to Baofeng
JS 5644 west bound at level crossing of mine 4
15:28 Freight to Baofeng line, parked in station, but did not see engine.

29th Nov

Weather was even worse. No sun and still hazy. I decided to leave Pingdingshan. I took a taxi to Zhengzhou airport and catched a flight to Beijing in the afternoon. I finished the trip at Beijing airport at 15:00.

Summary

Having travelled for over 1 and half months, I'm really exhausted. Though I was not lucky regarding the weather, I still like the places. Especially Jingchengjiang where traffic and scenery certainly will attract more gricers.

If the traffic improves in Zhungeer-Dongsheng line, some master shot will be possible there.

By the way, instead of building a railway to Dongsheng, the local authorities consider to build a railway connection between Zhungeer and Huhehaote. I was told that construction will start soon. The reason for this change is, that they need a close connection to China Rail.

November 2002,
Li Weishu


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© 2002, Weishu Li , email: weishuli@hotmail.com