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Nanpiao, Tiefa & Fuxin, 19-29 April 2004

A KLM ticket offer to Beijing for € 326 was just too good not to use, so I went off for my 13th (and rather short) trip to China, the day after the new timetable started.

I did not explore anything new, so I will restrict myself to some information that may be useful to other travelers, especially while Duncan’s new timetable is not out yet.

Nanpiao

After an uneventful & comfortable flight, arrival in Beijing dead om time on April 19. Procedures at the airport were swift as ever, but the airport bus was rather delayed. Police blocked the road till a heavy Mercedes, waiting aside a North Korean plane, had left & was out of sight.

Arrival Beijing Zhan 11.00, to find there is a new & very convenient train (2589) to Jinzhou, BJS dep 11.40 and Jinzhou arr 18.03. Also stops at Huludao. I had a soft sleeper (RMB196) for me alone, nice after a relatively short night on the plane. In Jinzhou, to a hotel right out of the station RMB100.

The Nanpiao train is retimed to 07.30 again. Coaches are lettered ‘’Jinzhou-Nianpiao’’ by the way. Room 207 at the hotel was not available but they had another, equally suitable but more expensive room (RMB 100) – quite OK. What is NOT OK is that the second diesel is jused on passengers at random, even to the extent of changing locos in Xiamaozi. Makes planning of photography very difficult. So I did not spend as much time in Nanpiao as I originally intended to.

Tiefa

From Nanpiao to Tiefa (21 April) I took a taxi first to Jinzhou, then train N143 Jinzhou dep 07.30, Shenyang arr 10.07. Very comfortable, also has soft seat but I did not bother to upgrade. Should be in time for the 10.25 to Daqing, but the train was 15 minutes late. Still made the connection though, as it is cross platform.

In Tiefa, I stayed at the red hotel near the station again. Excellent service, RMB100.

It has often been mentioned that photographic possibilities in Tiefa are limited. It is true, but if you just want to experience a steam operated railway with lots of traffic, then it sure is the place to be. For example, on 23 April at 07.15 there were six steam locos in Sanjiazi station (all SY) Or the same day between 14.30 and 15.00, five departures behind steam, one of which JS, and two steam hauled freights seen in the distance on the Wangqian & Daming lines.

The DFH is used intensively on heavy trains to/from Faku. The JS as well, but sees also use on the line to Daming. Double headed SY’s are also used on Faku trains.

Train 307 has been retimed and now departs Diaobingshan 08.52 instead of 09.14 – probably to give better connection to China Rail in the new timetable.

I doubted before whether I should get a photo permit. I did not, and only once a lower railway official asked for it. He was perfectly satisfied with my Dec 2002 permit.

People around Tiefa are at least as friendly as those around Nanpiao. While waiting along the line, school children brought me food & drinks for example.

I also got a nice haircut done for RMB5,-- . Same price as in indonesia or Myanmar, which surprised me – I assumed the standard & cost of living in China to be much higher than in those other countries.

Fuxin & back to Beijing

I used the express bus to go to Shenyang, RMB 18,--, leaving 05.20. I was at Shenyang station before 07.00, so plenty of time to get a train ticket for a very crowded train to Fuxin dep 08.20. Afternoon & next morning in Fuxin, nothing new to report.

For nostalgic reasons I decided to go to Beijing via Chengde, the route I took quite a lot of times in the old days. The Chengde train no longer has an imitation soft seat (hard seat with RMB 15 surcharge and table cloth), and was very full so I decided to go to the hard sleeper for the 10-hour journey to Chengde. Cost RMB 59 and proved to be quite comfortable. Better price than back in 1995 by the way, when Rob Dickinson & I took hard sleeper on the same train from Yebaishou and were charged RMB 119 each…..

In Chengde, as expected only DF4’s on the steelworks line. Bus 5 now has new and very comfortable minibuses but they are of limited use to gricers now ….

Good bye to steam

For me, this was meant as some sort of good bye trip to steam. I know, there will be steam at remote obscure industrial locations for years to come. But the days of real large scale steam operation are numbered, and I did want to experience that for a last time. No taxis, just relax, walk along the line and watch the trains. Tiefa proved to be an excellent location for this purpose.

My twelve previous trips were all between November & March; and I am glad they were, looking at the video results of this last trip. Having said that, black smoke does make a nice change, and the weather was good. Sunny on most days, slightly overcast on two days, the occasional sand storm ( late evening or night), rain only on the last day (travel from Chengde to Beijing).