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Steam in Sha`anxi Province

by Bruce Evans

TONGCHUAN, PUCHENG, HANCHENG AREA - 10 TO 19 APRIL 2004



1. Xi’an Area – 10 April

The passenger loco depot adjacent to Xi’an station contained large numbers of SS7D and SS7E electrics as well as a few SS1s, several orange DF4Bs and three BJs.
Between Xi’an and Xinfengzhen stations, east of Xi’an, SS1s, SS6s and several 6Ks were noted on freights while shunt and pilot duties noted were all DF7, DF7B and DF7C.
Freights on the new line south towards Ankang appear now to be mostly double-headed SS4/SS4G.

Locos seen:
DF4B: 2388.
DF7: 0130, 0184.
DF7B/S: 6048.
BJ: 3252.
SS1: 648, 649, 654.
SS6: 0044.
6K: 034, 056.

2. Xinfengzhen to Hancheng and return – 10 and 11 April

On 10 April travelled hard-seat on a half-empty orange DF4B-hauled train that left Xi’an around 7am arriving at Hancheng around midday and returned the following day on a similar service.
The first section from Xinfenzheng to Zhangqiao is busy with many DF4/4B-hauled freights. This section carries Hancheng/Houma line as well as Yan’an/Yulin/Baotou line traffic. The Yan’an line now carries considerably more traffic following the full commissioning of the extension through to Shenmubei where it connects with the Shenhua Baotou-Shenmubei line. A number of the DF4Bs seen were ex-Zhengzhou presumably cascaded by the new DF8Bs now used on the Zhengzhou-Xuzhou line.
Nothing of particular interest was noted on the outward journey in terms of possible steam operation on mine or industrial lines. The CNR line in the vicinity of Heyang is impressive as there are a number of horseshoe curves and viaducts as the line descends in the eastwards direction. (This would have been a great area for photography in steam days.)
Most of the few passenger trains on the line are now 2xxx DF4Bs hauled but a few workings by the remaining Xi’an-based BJs were seen. Freights were all noted as DF4B with around 20% double-headed.

Locos seen:
DF4B: 1046, 1141, 1152, 3978, 6310, 7340, 9331, 9334.
DF7B: 3117.
DF7C: 5317, 5341.
BJ: 3203.

3. Hancheng Area – 10 and 11 April

Hancheng is the division point between Zhengzhou and Beijing Bureaux and locos are exchanged here. There is a “turn-around” loco depot and a small yard shunted somewhat surprisingly by very new Xinfeng-allocated latest shape maroon/bronze DF7C 5682.
The CNR line east of Hancheng now sees 2xxx DF4Bs on passengers and green DF4/4Bs on freights.
To the west of Hancheng station there is (or was) a branch extending about 8-10km to the northwest. This apparently served mines but now appears closed. The trackwork over the section close to Hancheng was partly overgrown and showed no signs of recent traffic. Just west of Hancheng station there is a new coal mine for which new track was being laid. CNR staff at the station, depot and on the track construction (as well as the taxi driver) were pretty certain that there was no steam operations in the vicinity.
At Baicun, one station east of Hancheng, there is a 6-8km long coalmine line extending to the northeast and serving the Liaoyuan coalmine. This line, however, has been diesel-worked for several years. 1994 Shijiazhuang-built TH9 diesel-hydraulic 026 was stabled in a shed at the mine. Mine staff confirmed that there was no steam here.

Locos seen:
DF4: 0037, 0405, 0621.
DF4B: 1140, 1152, 1456, 2259, 2295, 2384, 2479, 2500, 3725, 3978, 6430, 7342.
DF7C: 5682.
TH9: 026.

4. Tongchuan Coalmine System – 12 to 18 April

Four JFs continue in service here alongside 5 diesels (2 DF7Bs, 2 DF7Cs and 1 DF7F). Two of the JFs are generally in use each day on trains to and from the Wangshiwa mine with the other two in steam as backup locos. The working and backup locos were exchanged on Saturday 17 April.

Up to three trains are worked to the mine during daylight each day. On some days there can be no trains. Only one diesel working to Wangshiwa was seen during the time and this happened after one particularly busy day and on a morning when both JFs brought trains down from the mine between 8.30 and 9.30am. Mine railway staff as well as CNR staff at Tongchuannan indicated that at least two more diesels are on order. They did not feel though that they would arrive in the very near future so one more autumn and winter of JF operation may just be a possibility. (During a visit late last year a mine employee at the diesel stabling area indicated that only one further DF7C was on order).

All mine railway staff encountered on the visit were very friendly and there was no approach made by anyone to charge for photographing. The visit was made at this time of the year as the spring peach and apple blossoms, yellow rapeseed fields and the fresh greens of the wheat fields and poplar trees bring a very welcome infusion of colour compared to the often bleak winter scene. The levels of smog were generally less than in winter but loco exhaust was almost non-existent with daytime temperatures up to 25C.

Locos seen:
Tongchuan Coal:
JF: 2113, 2182, 2368, 2369.
DF7B: 3135.
DF7C: 5217, 5218.
DF7F: 7001.

CNR:
DF4: 0457.
DF4B: 3580, 9186
DF7B/S: 3065

For the week based at Tongchuan the services of Mr Kong Xian Sheng, an excellent local taxi driver, were used. He had driven me on two previous occasions and knows the locations on the Tongchuan system as well as initial locations on the Pucheng-Baishui line described later in this report. He has also driven Sun Xiaolan and her colleagues to the coalmine system at Yaocun where JSs may still be working. I can strongly recommend Mr Kong.
Mr Kong’s telephone numbers are 0919-2886932 at home and 1309-8185832 (cell).

5. Xi-Yan Joint Venture Railway, Pucheng – 14 April

Pucheng, some 80km east-southeast of Tongchuan, is the interfacing station between CNR and the now extended and busy Xi-Yan (Xi’an-Yan’an) JV Railway as well as the connection point for the Pubai (Pucheng-Baishui) coalmine railway. Several hours were spent here on 14 April.
According to a Xi-Yan JV railway worker at the station the railway now has a loco fleet consisting of 4xBJs, 2xDF4Ds, 2xDF10Ds, 4xDF7Cs, 8xDF8Bs (recently acquired for the new Yan’an-Shenmubei section), around 20xDF4Bs and 2xDF1s (understood to be withdrawn at Yan’anbei where the main loco depot of the JV company is located).
In addition a number of locos from the 20th Railway Construction Bureau work freights on the lower section of the Xi-Yan JV line between Pucheng and Podicun. The Bureau apparently has around 12 DF4/4Bs on the line. A Xi’an-based CNR DF4B was also seen on this section and was thought to be rented to the Bureau. The Bureau has a loco facility at Podicun about 40km from Pucheng.

A Xi’an to Shenmubei passenger train service has recently been introduced using hard-seat and hard-sleeper coaches.

Locos seen:

Xi-Yan JV locos:
DF4B: 9117.
DF7C: 5508.

20th Bureau locos:
DF4: 0179, 0256, 0968 (or 0988)
DF4B: 9185 (loaned from CNR?)

CNR locos:
DF4B: 1027, 1138, 1139, 1143, 1154, 2459, 3728, 3981

6. Pubai Coal Mining Administration Railway

This line extends from Pucheng through Hanjing and Baishui to Dongpo where it physically connects with the Tongchuan Coal Mine line. The operations centre and loco depot are at Hanjing.
The line serves several mines in the Hanjing, Baishui and possibly the Dongpo areas. There are also a number of power stations and industries connected to the line – it sees more general traffic than the Tongchuan system. The yard at Hanjing is used to break up trains for distribution to the various individual mines and other users and for assembling long trains for onward haulage downhill to Pucheng CNR/JV station (there is also a Pucheng coal mine railway station).

There are five QJs, 6429, 6449, 6871, 7021 and 7291(the Datong experimental loco converted back to a straight QJ and sold to industry in the early 1990s). All are in working condition. The first DF4B, from Dalian, is on order. All locos face away from Pucheng, i.e. loaded trains are tender-first.

Much of the area between Pucheng and Hanjing is very polluted thanks to the presence of several cement and similar works. Closer to Hanjing conditions seemed clearer and there are two big curves within 3 or 4km south of Hanjing station. It is a steep climb towards Hanjing in this area. The line continues to climb for another kilometer or two north of Hanjing station.
A significant proportion of the coal transported on the Pubai railway is sent to the Pucheng power station a large facility located along the Xi-Yan JV line about 20km northeast of Pucheng. Traffic on the Pubai line may increase as the railway is working on a plan to route some of the Tongchuan coal over its line to cut down transport costs for coal going to certain customers. .

Hanjing and Baishui are only 6-7km apart and on this section the line crosses two impressive viaducts. The longer of the two, crossing the Baishui River, is a typical Chinese precast concrete deck viaduct with 13 spans and very high central piers. The decks have a substantial “walkway” on each side. This viaduct appears to be in a sag with a steep grade towards Hanjing to the one side and a lesser grade up towards Baishui on the other. On the Baishui side the line enters a tunnel almost immediately after leaving the viaduct.
The second viaduct spans a side valley and is much shorter. It is interesting though in that the northern-most span is a steel girder unit. This viaduct is unfortunately on a steep grade for loaded southbound, i.e. tender-first, trains but the configuration and layout may allow for interesting going-away shots of loaded trains.
The large viaduct described above is easy to reach as the old road between Baishui and Hanjing passes over the south portal of the tunnel close to the viaduct north abutment. There is an easy path down to the obvious phot spots. The access to the old road is on the left immediately after passing through the tollgate (for the new road!) near the power station just north of Hanjing.

The line north of Hanjing appeared to be reasonably busy for a coalmine operation as trains are relatively short, long empty trains having been split at Hanjing. Between around 7 and 9.30 on the one morning of observation at least three empty trains headed towards Baishui from Hanjing.
The section (about 15km) of line beyond Baishui westwards towards Dongpo was not investigated but should offer some impressive locations as for the most part it is located in a deep east-west valley – possibly the Baishui River valley. It would be of value for any future visitors to try to establish where the main coalmines served by the line are – very close to Baishui or closer to Dongpo in the valley?

There is now an excellent road between Tongchuan and Hanjing and if one uses Tongchuan as a base it is possible to get to Hanjing within a little more than an hour. Baishui also has taxis and appeared to be large enough to have at least one “reasonable” hotel.

The Pubai operation is not a Tiefa or Pingdingshan but there are some pleasant and interesting photo locations and there may be more on the attractive section to Dongpo. A combined Tongchuan / Pubai visit is easy to do now.

7. Other Steam Lines in the General Tongchuan and Pucheng Areas

Huangling - Diantou

The coalmine railway between Haungling (about 80km north of Tongchuan on the Xi-Yan JV railway) and the Diantou area to the west has been known to enthusiasts for a few years. It has 6 QJs with apparently 2 DF4Bs now on order. It is an impressive line but at the easily accessible eastern end chimney-first operation (loaded trains) is in the downhill direction.

Podicun – Changcheng (Changcheng Coal Mining Administration)

This line shown on some Chinese maps and which has intrigued me for several years connects to the Xi-Yan JV line at Podicun from where it appears to extend for about 15-20km in a north-easterly direction to the large town of Changcheng.
The line was not visited unfortunately but both JV railway staff at Pucheng and the loco depot manager at Hanjing confirmed that 4 QJs are in use with one DF4B on order. The terrain through which the line passes appears quite rugged from the Chinese map and shows three short tunnels on the line.

The Hanjing depot manager indicated that the direct road between Hanjing and Podicun is very poor. From the map it appears that Changcheng would be the best place to stay to access the line and that there is a reasonable road from Pucheng to Changcheng. It is hoped that another “explorer” will make the time to visit this line in the near future.

Yaoqu

According to Mr Kong, my excellent Tongchuan taxi driver, he visited this area with Sun Xiaolan several years ago. There is at least one coal mine and they saw several JSs here. Yaoqu is around 30km from Tongchuan on the CNR Meijiaping-Qianhezhen line. He indicated that there was a viaduct larger than the big one at Hanjing but it was not clear if this was on the CNR line or on the coalmine line. Another one for the next “explorer” in the area to check thoroughly.

8. Other possible steam locations

Bruce Evans


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© 2003, Bruce Evans , email: bgevans@cm1.hinet.net