Steam in China - December 2004
by Derek Jenkins
Hegang, Huanan, Jixi, Mudanjiang, Tiefa, Fuxin, Pingzhuang, JiTong, Baotou, Baiyin, DaGu
Hegang, 13/14 November
Arrived via an internal flight Beijing - Harbin and then onward by train N19. The big hole is now devoid of any railway action and a number of electrics sit, rotting away at the shed. The passenger service is much as I had seen it before and was all steam hauled. The timetable (daylight trains) is set out below. The Qingshishan line now only sees a passenger service between 1/6 and 31/8. Train 22 is worth a look at Xingshan as the previous arrival disgorges a teeming mass who throng the tracks as the loco runs round and the departure is chimney first. The climb from Fuli to Dalu is a good place to photograph inbound (chimney first) passenger trains and on 14th November Train 2 consisted of 8 coaches and was banked. There is a regular outward coal and inward empties shuttle between Fuli and the Power Station which was steam on 13th and electric on 14th. Xingan Mine is being redeveloped and the work has obliterated the narrow gauge here. There are good mine backdrops here although the passenger train stopping point here is well on the Fuli side of the mine. The shed had a number of locos sitting around doing nothing but generally Hegang was worth a 2 day visit.
Locos seen (All SY) : In steam 0555, 0799, 0905, 1370, 1464, 1498, 3013, 3014, 3023. OOU : 0354, 0472, 0498, 0561, 0635, 1030, 1685, 3024.
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Huanan, 15/16 November
The first time I visited Huanan the road from the North was a glorified cart track and the journey seemed to take half a lifetime but now the new (almost traffic less) motor highway whisks you there with ease but it's not as much fun.
We hired one of the railbuses for 2 days to make sure that we were in the right place at the right time, which indeed we were on the hill section. We were not in the right place when the railbus driver contrived to run his machine into the rear of a coal train but fortunately it was a minor collision. As ever, when I am at Huanan, there was snow but the weather on the 15th was pretty vile with a vicious wind. The following day was much better. The action was much as previously reported - not a host of trains but quality shots.
In steam were 04, 011 and 043. OOU : 041, 044, 168.
Jixi, 17/18 November
From Huanan it was back on the motor road to Jixi. We covered Chengzihe, Donghaikuang and Didao on the first day and Hengshan and Lishu on the second. In truth we could have spent 2 more days. The early morning lineup at Chengzihe was as good as ever and the nearby washery provided many donkey cart and SY pictures. Donghaikuang has good mine backdrops but once the loco has a loaded train underway it just shuffles along. Didao was busy. Incoming trains work hard here and a walk of less than a Km gets you to the right place. On my 2 previous visits to Hengshan almost nothing had moved but this time I was in luck with a banked train of empties storming up the hill to Zhangxin followed by another unbanked (but still storming) train. At Lishu , as usual, not a lot was happening. The washery looked like it had been out of action for days. There are probably only one or two trains a day , at the best of times, up the improbably steep bank here. This is the only place in China where I have seen wooden bodied hopper wagons.
Locos seen (all SY and all in steam)
Chengzihe : 0237, 0590, 0863, 1018, 1058, 1437, 1544
Donghaikuang : 0639, 1545
Didao : 0407, 1205, 1213, 1446
Hengshan : 0341, 0746, 0898, 1095, 1340, 1369
Lishu : 0477, 1118.
Mudanjiang Power Station, 18 November
With a bit of time to spare before we caught our train to Tieling we took a diversion to the Power Station and in steam here were QJ 1675 and JS 6242.
Tiefa, 19/20 November
The system that put its faith in the newest SY's has now decided that ageing DFH3's are the future. The oldest seen dates from 1977. Whilst the passenger trains remain exclusively steam all but one coal train seen was diesel. Even worse power on the Faku line is now in the hands of brand new DF4's 7720/1. Apparently 6 more diesels are due to arrive soon but, it is said, the plan is to retain steam for passenger trains and shunting. Bizarrely , in the works, KD6 487, recently acquired from Pingzhuang, is undergoing a full overhaul with tourist train traffic the objective. In steam were 1255, 1412, 1683, 1749, 1751, 1767, 1772. In works was 1771 and the rest were hanging about forlornly at the back of the works.
Fuxin, 21/22 November
Stories of this systems demise in CRJ are somewhat premature. In fact it was as busy as I have ever seen it as can be seen from the list of SY's in steam below. The big hole had about 10 electrics in at any one time and a couple of SY on maintenance trains. Coal is still coming out of Xinqui hole but now being loaded in the yard by Xinqui station. We saw a loaded train depart here. Also Wangying mine is producing again and a loaded train was seen from here. The central area was a constant buzz of activity, both steam and electric and the crew change at 08:00 by the works is worth some time There were 4 locos in the works. The removal of the asbestos cladding from one would have caused The Health and Safety Executive apoplexy and this next to a loco being painted! The passenger service remains as before and the sunrise shot between Minzhu and Wangying is worth getting up early for (about 07:05 from Minzhu but nearly always late).
In steam: SY 0076, 0112 ,0126, 0127, 0391, 0576, 0770, 0785, 0940, 0941, 0988, 1210, 1320, 1359, 1378, 1395, 1397, 1818(1414)
In works : 0036, 1319, 1396, 1478 (this not a Nanpiao loco)
Dumped or OOU : 0541, 1460, JF 508, YJ 403
Pingzhuang, 23 November
Arrived at Yuanbaoshan on Train N151 from Fuxin at the ungodly hour of 05:35. Saw the Yuanbaoshan passenger at the usual bridge, excellent just as the sun rose, before some of us took off for Pingzhuang. Busy here but as I had been on a number of previous occasions I decided to concentrate on the line to Gushan and Lijing Mines. There is a substantial climb from these in the Pingzhuang direction and I was rewarded with SY's 1083/84 (both with full deflectors) both grappling with loaded trains on this section.
Other locos seen : In steam 0400, 0463, 0942, 1085, 1425, 1441. Ex works near the stabling point were 1017 and 1079.
From here it was a long drive to Lindong.
JiTong, 24-28 November
We spent 3 days at Lindong before moving on to Daban then one day at Reshui. As has been well reported Daban - Chabuga remained all steam with a number of trains double headed. The line was busy but having the train times was not always a help as a number of trains now shunt at Lindong and one Westbound took over 3 hours from arriving at Lindong to reaching Chaganhada. The new pole line is intrusive in places (especially at Yamenmiao) but the new Pan Mongolian Highway (although not yet properly open) makes a Lindong - Chabuga road journey easy and as it does to the West with Chaganhada a short journey and Dariqiga now easily attainable. There are a couple of good photo spots to the West of Dariqiga station and a train heading East through Gulumanhan just before the sun set was a fine sight. Desperation was clearly creeping in with the loco crews and this was the first time I have ever been offered fake number plates (here's one I made earlier) from a moving train!
It was a sad visit to Daban shed. Things are clearly on the wane. No more to be said on it. We chanced a day at Reshui. Being able to find out which trains were steam helped and the reward was 3 steam Eastbound on an almost still and very clear day. Probably my last time at Reshui so a good way to bow out.
Then it was the DMU Westbound. Despite promises of sleepers for all the party the arcane seat reservation system for this train (and it semed some double selling) meant several were unlucky and an embarrased crew provided accomodation in the crews quarters.
Baotou Steelworks, 29 November
After being decanted at Hohhot by the DMU we took a bus with the slowest driver on the earth (even overtaken by a put put) to Baotou and the Steelworks. Whilst plenty of SY's were in steam many were not doing a lot. No 1 blast furnace (where another furnace is being constructed) is now a diesel preserve although steam still operates at No 4. Steam and diesel work the exchange yards whilst steam still has the slag tipping. A sign of things to come was DF7G 0042 brand new parked by the loco depot.
In steam: SY 0501, 0502, 0710, 0711, 1517, 1521, 1631, 1677, 1719, 1723, 1727, 1731, 2015, 3012
OOU : 264, 0392, 0422, 0823/4, JS 58001, YJ 232.
From Baotou it was train 1717 to Baiyin.
Baiyin, 30 November-1 December
The railway here is run by the Copper Smelting Company. It was said to be on the verge of bankruptcy (whatever that means in Chinese terms). Certainly the big hole where the ore was mined has closed and the track to it lifted. Stories of large numbers of locos operating here are fanciful. The roster requires just 6 SY in steam. They operate the passenger service and shunting and trip workings and are kept in good condition. The railway authorities are pleased to see visitors and those planning to go here are urged to make contact beforehand as this will ensure access to the works/ shed and stored locos. The operation was clearly once much larger , borne out by the Works being able to perform full overhauls. Despite thin times here there were some gems. The passenger service (which is absolutely heaving with customers and thus requires long trains) climbs into the hills up a steep and winding valley with resultant photo opportunities. On 1 December an icy track caused the Shenbutong morning passenger a host of problems with it down to walking pace (with the third crew member balanced on the boiler working the sanders) allowing it to be photographed twice on its climb. Also there is a trip working to the restricted area (shown on several maps of the system) which returns around 11:00. This line is sharply curved and steep as it enters the yard and caused the loco to stall. This looked like an everyday occurence as the loco had a crew of 5. Driver, fireman, again a man sitting on top trying to work the sander and 2 others spreading soil and sand from previous efforts on the track. The resultant wheel spin, sparks and clouds of dust were spectacular with the driver stoicly edging SY 0206 forward. The whole area is thick with smelters and chemical works (probably interesting ones as one tank wagon had come from Hamburg! and certain box cars bore skull and crossbones) and heavily polluted. With the wind in the wrong direction the pollution even finds its way up the valley.
In steam SY 0206, 0965, 1047, 1470, 1581, 1583
In works 1103
OOU SY 0135, 0139, 0194, 0701, 0819, 1013, JS 8021, 8082, 8224, 8350
Passenger Timetable (Up hill - chimney first)
|Baiyin Shi (by CNR station)||07:35||07:50||15:15||16:10|
|Baiyin Gongsi (Company Platform by Loco works)||07:40||07:55||15:20||16:15|
|LiuGongli (km 6)||07:51||08:06||15:30||16:25|
|Sanyelian (Upper)|| ||-||15:50|| |
|Shenbutong|| ||08:30||16:00|| |
We then headed to Baiyin Xi station for the journey East. Unfortunately the station policeman was very old China. The very appearance of Westerners on his platform was an affront and the production of a camera was a crime beyond his wildest imagination.. Then it was train 1718, via Zhongwei (sadly now infested with SS3) to Qintongxia.
Dagu Railway, 2-4 December
We visited Daba to begin with. This is not without its risks as the CNR station policeman abhors visitors so it's best to go to the steam stabling point. Everyone connected with the steam operation could not be more friendly. QJ 6832 took off almost immediately with a train of empties. We managed to get in front of it by Lingwu. Traffic generally is thin but there are good photo positions between Lingwu and Guyaozi. Access to this section is not easy. There is a turn off the Lingwu - Guyaozi road by a mobile phone mast and another used by sand lorries at KM post 1282 on the road but what seem like excellent photo positions attained by using the latter are not so good as there is a level section of line which the trains charge up to then drift along (sometimes almost stopping) then suddenly charge away again. The depot was visited and it was noted that empties for the mine are now chimney first rather than propelled. On the last day we spent time at the Yellow River bridge where the first inbound train took a tender first pilot which fortunately was put inside the train engine.
In steam: QJ 6545, 6832, 7061, 7194, 7200, 7205
OOU QJ 1465, 7195
From here it was back to Beijing. En Route at Linhe several steam locos were seen stored. It was too dark to identify whether they were QJ or JS and by daylight the train took the long way round via Xuanhua and at the Steelworks there SY 0356 and 0559 were seen.
Derek Jenkins: email: firstname.lastname@example.org