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I traveled the 1999-built line to Kashgar in two daylight segments, and while I would like to be proved wrong, I think it is probable that Sandaoling is the westernmost outpost for steam in northwest China, with the single exception of the Bagang steelmill.
There is no evidence that a line heading south along the eastern shore of Qinghai lake (from about km 290 on the Xining-Golmud line) ever existed. Such a line is shown on the Nelles "Northern China" map.
This SY-powered 40 km long line interchanges with the CNR at a yard located right at the Haishiwan station (see map 1 of 4), 110 km east of Xining at km post 62. The line then continues west along the CNR as the northerly track of a double track configuration, then turns north upgrade into a very rugged canyon (see map 2 of 4). This canyon can be reached in about 5 minutes from the city center of Haishiwan by a road which allows many excellent views of the railroad on the opposite side ofthe canyon. The railroad goes through a tunnel cutting through a bend in the canyon which includes a dam. Beyond this tunnel the line goes downgrade through the still very impressive canyon until the valley opens up into the heavily industrialized area of Yaojie from about km 10 to 14. Here spurs go to two locations east of the mainline.
A yard and engine terminal are at Yaojie (see map 3 of 4) and a street bridge north of the yard provides an excellent place for observing the operations. Trains starting north from the yard face a significant grade, and the sound is impressive. The line contiues through a congested urban environment until crossing the river about km 16. The line continues north through agricultural area until it crosses a high bridge with residential apartments to the west and enters the area of the aluminum smelter noted as Heqiaogi on the Rhodes map. Here a second yard is located between km 23 and 24. Sidings go into the aluminum smelter from this yard. Just north of the yard a branch to the right (east) goes downgrade to a power plant on a large bridge. The mainline goes upgrade over its own large bridge and continues north through rural scenery at the base of mountains (see map 4 of 4), including two tunnels and running on a ledge around the end of a side ridge. Nanlingcheng and its industrial facility are in a narrow gorge with rocky, sharply-peaked mountains on its west side. I made no attempt to investigate inside the factory, but it is switched with steam, SY1097 making a lot of loud accelerations and whistling while I was there.
While I understand that some have said this 40 km line (not including three spurs probably totaling another 8 km) is really two separate operations, its km posts appear to be continuous from one end of the line to the other. There may be another engine terminal on the line, and the spurs and details of the smelter area and Nanlingcheng industrial facility deserve further exploration.
Facilities for travelers in Haishiwan include the Lian Hai Hotel, which has nice rooms at 120 Yuan per night, and is located on the main east-west street (see map 1 of 4) and on the west side of the city's main plaza, which has some sculptures and a fountain plus a life-size concrete dinosaur surrounded by a lush lawn which is kept that way by a strong fence. On the east side of the plaza is the traditional architecture of the Baitiahe restaurant. Private dining room 101 has a view of the trains, including the west end of the interchange yard. Steam goes all the way to the east end of the interchange and retuns to the west end via CNR tracks through the passenger station. From the hotel to the west end of the interchange yard is a 3 minute walk (cut through the empty lot behind the dinosaur). The dramatic scenery of the canyon starts only about 5 minutes away from the hotel by taxi.
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