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A short notice trip from 5th-15th March (7th-14th March 'on the ground' in Sandaoling). The pit and the Nanzhan operation were as busy as ever, with four trains serving the pit and four JS shunting/tripping to Erjing deep mine. Yijing mine at the far end of the line is now closed, all staff being assigned posts elsewhere. Loco's in use on the pit circuit were JS8081, 8167, 8173, 8190 & 8225, only four at a time. JS8173 was sent to the depot for attention after our first couple of days there with JS8190 taking its place. JS8197 was dumped on a back road at Dongbolizhan after its failure (or boiler certificate expiry?) and became derailed when being propelled to the storage compound, on the points just outside the gates, on 13th March. It was being re-railed when we left for Hami airport on the afternoon of the 14th. On the Nanzhan side of the operation were JS8053, 8314, 8358 & 8366. A DF8B diesel was also sharing some shunting turns but this could have been because they were one JS down. Decrepit looking JS6204 was being propelled from the depot area towards Nanzhan by JS8358 on the 10th March, presumably to be coaled after depot attention though we never saw it again during our visit. A large train of empty hoppers was usually seen departing from Nanzhan, banked, to Erjing mine about 2-3pm each day, all JS of course. The 'meeting' that took place during our visit has apparently decided, for now, that steam will continue in use until 2018 or even 2019! One possible casualty of all this might be the shovel loading part of the operation, and the coal yard, with just three JS in the circuit to the blue loader. Loco's were being coaxed more, not so much thrashing away from the loader area. The weather was difficult, it becoming too warm for exhaust after around 1030 each day, one exception being a day of higher humidity. Add to that the less than 'thrashing away' type departures, that really reduces the amount of coal exhaust emitted, meant photography was challenging. A lot of high cloud at times was another problem. We visited the depot/workshop two-three times between 11th-13th, accessed from the 'open' south side. JS8173 was receiving repairs while JS8077 was being worked on for a return to traffic. It was taken to be coaled at Nanzhan on the 12th and was back in the depot by the following day, fully coaled. JS8089 was also in the depot, tender and loco both up on jacks, and looked like it was being repaired but could of course have been being stripped for spares. We visited the storage compound as well, a security man escorting us round, but did not really have time for an in depth look at numbers as parts of the area were difficult and we did not want to 'push' our guide! (there are four JS that look the most likely candidates to be considered for a return to traffic on the most northerly line of the compound, and most easily accessible to be removed: JS8080, 8040, 8368 & 8076) No problems were encountered anywhere with access or photography except for them not wanting us to photograph the derailed JS! There are blue 'Staff Only' signs at the top of the pipe and the road down to the Xikeng loader, in English & Chinese. They appeared to be liberally ignored by all! This was a DIY trip and was quite easy. Flights with BA to Beijing (£375 return) and AirChina Beijing- Hami and return (£193). Taxi to/from Hami airport was Y200 each way with the Longmen hotel used, some Y700 for seven nights in a double room. We used local taxi's to get around and found this very convenient and inexpensive. With the continued likely use of steam here, and the pit operation carrying on in the short term, another visit is starting to look almost obligatory!
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