The International Steam Pages
Steam in China Winter 1998
Bryan Acford has been in China again - he covers (inevitably) Jing Peng but also some less well known standard gauge lines.
This report covers a private trip from 22 February to 8 March. We were a group of 6 persons and all ground arrangements were made by CLSPA. The objective of the trip was quality lineside photography although we generally tried to gain an impression of working arrangements. All locations have been recently documented so this report will seek to expand upon already published material.
Obviously I am happy to personally answer any more specific questions since it is not a good idea to publicise ones activities in closed areas.
This winter in China has been mild with little snow and our experiences bore this out. It seemed that spring had come and rivers were thawing, making access to some places difficult. Although some mornings were around 10C, the sun quickly warmed the air to around freezing. By the time we left Jingpeng trains were climbing the bank with no white smoke at midday!
The arrangements made by CLSLPA were first class throughout and they seem to have headed off the problems at Jingpeng which had been caused by Chifeng CITS, although the two operations remain very much in competition.
Dahuichang Limestone Railway 22/2/98 (12.45 to 15.00)
We made an official visit paying 200RmB each for the privilege. On the sg YJ287 was in steam but doing nothing. It appears to have run through the end wall of its shed! Any movement looks to be of limited interest since the loco will mainly operate tender first.
The ng was in full swing throughout our visit. This contradicts previous suggestions that operations are from 1400 to 0200. Our guides say that it works all day. Locos 1 & 4 were working trains of 30+ tubs and a round trip was taking around 35 40 minutes, so there was an uphill working every 15 20 minutes. No 4 was producing plenty of clag but No 1 (??? Rob D.) was less vigorous. The dumped loco is No 01 which differs from previous reports. I fully agree with Rob Dickinson that this is a superb operation, even if it has an element of lawnmowers hauling wheelbarrows.
Bao Shen line 23 & 24/2/98
We spent 2 days on this private line but were plagued by poor weather and got no photos in sun. As previously reported the headquarters of the line are Dongsheng (100 km) and the sections north and south of here are worked separately. The grades are similar to Jingpeng at around 1 in 100 but the locos seem to be worked harder with 30 wagon loaded trains being worked by single locos rather than double headers. As a consequence the locos are rather work stained with, rarely for China, evidence of burnt smokebox doors.
On the loco front there are at least 3 QJ with high smoke deflectors in use (1891, 1892, 1969). Also some of the QJ in the 60xx series are old dating from around 1969, part of the original 12 wheel tender batch which previously worked in the Datong and Baotou area.
North of Donsheng
The line climbs towards Dongsheng and the most interesting feature is at km45, an 800m long viaduct built in the river bed alongside a multicoloured rock face. The viaduct goes straight into a tunnel and from high above the tunnel mouth there are a variety of photo positions throughout the day. The viaduct is opposite The Fabulous Singing Sands, a local tourist spot (but not in mid-winter) and it is possible to include sand dunes in some of the photos. We spent most of 23 Feb here seeing:
Locos take water at Shabazi (km50) and from Singing Sands it appeared that the line climbs through some quite interesting scenery with some shorter viaducts over some side valleys. Road access to Shabazi is possible but after that it may require some legwork to investigate positions unless one can drive along the river bed (probably possible in winter when everything is frozen).
The station is at almost the highest point in the town and has little photographic potential. There are about 6 roads in the yard and these are used to re marshal the trains from the south into rather longer ones for the downhill run to Baotou. For this duty one of the QJ is usually on pilot duty. The main depot is here and it includes a large repair shop.
At 1730 on 23 Feb we found:
South of Dongsheng
The line apparently climbs all the way from Dailuta. A good base is Aobogou (km107) which is the last station before Dongsheng. There are 2 viaducts (one of 21 spans) to the north of the station and two to the south with the line winding around through cuttings and along embankments. The locos work very hard as they grind up the grade from the water stop at Shashagetai (km127) all the way to Dongsheng. They can be heard and the clag seen for over 30 minutes as they approach. There is a board at Aobogou station giving details of the expected workings, along with the locos, each day. On our visit we found that this was not entirely accurate with, for example, a planned double header becoming a pair of single headers. The load for a single QJ is 30 wagons but there are a few long trains which are double headed with a banker. Downhill the empties are approx 45 wagons so there are less trains and more light engines going down to collect loads. Another feature of this section is occasional trains which are doubled headed QJ with a banker. The staff at Aobogou know when this working is scheduled, it was expected around 1700 on the day of visit.
On 24 Feb at Aobogou we saw:
By now it was snowing hard and we feared our ability to find our way back into town along tracks and across thawing rivers so we headed back into Dongsheng where it had not snowed and by 1415 the sun was shining!!
At Donsheng we saw:
We headed back to Baotou quickly re entering the gloom and it rained during the evening. En route we passed a train of southbound empties around km40 at 1600
Baotou Area (CNR)
It seems that the suburbans are still steam worked. We saw two JS on trains at Baoutou Dong at 0615 on 23 Feb. There are 8 trains per day (loading to around 12 coaches) on the Baotou Ring line, as follows:
We also saw QJ6836 (without deflectors) shunting at Baotou Zhan
We visited this line on 25 Feb. After 2 days of poor whether around Dongsheng, we awoke to fog and general gloom following heavy overnight rain. As we drove across Baotou it started to snow, and as we drove into the hills there were about 5cm of fresh snow. We arrived at Shiguai at 09-15 having seen a JS hauled freight passing the branch junction. This must have arrived in Shiguai around 0900. The branch is approx 30 km long with the summit at Houba (km20). The westbound climb from Shiguai to Houba is 1 in 50 for much of the journey and there are some good positions as it winds up a wide river valley. The eastbound climb into Houba is at least 1 in 50 (maybe steeper) for empty trains and they climb into Houba up a narrow valley. Since Shiguai is a closed town the best approach is probably to drive up to Houba where the station staff were friendly and gave us details of workings.
Another curio at Houba is a donkey hauled plateway serving a tiny drift mine (maybe worked by convicts). The tub of load coal is winched to the surface and a donkey then drags it 80 metres along the surface to the point where it is tipped out for loading into a lorry.
The JS at Baotou cant last much longer and are well worth a visit. Indeed, how many cities have a steam hauled suburban service in 1998?
We left Baotou on T43 at 00-40, arriving Shishuizhan 07-02, from where we drove to Dawukou.
Ping Ru line
We had a permit to visit the line, arranged by CLSLPA. This covers photography from Pingluo to Zaowo and in the area around Liu Shou Gou. It appears that the sections either side of Dawukou are worked separately with through trains being remarshalled in the yards at Dawukou. The depot at Dawukou has an allocation of 25 (I dont know if this includes the 5 dumped locomotives). We saw evidence of coal loading points at Daedengou, Shitanjiang and Hulustai, in addition to the mines at Rujigou. According to the dates on the tunnels the line was built in 1969. Our observations failed to detect any pattern to workings, particularly when added to other visitors' notes. We have to assume that the freights generally run to where there is traffic available once they leave Dawukou.
In addition to the main branch there is a short branch to a factory about 10 km south of Dawukou. This leaves at the level crossing at the west end of town and runs in the shadow of the mountains. We saw a JS light on this section so they may work trains. We also saw a train on this section but didnt identify the locomotive.
Throughout our visit the weather was clear and sunny, although the Dawukuo area became hazy on the afternoon of 28 February.
Drove to Liu Shou Gou seeing locos in yards at Daedengou and Shitanjiang
Whilst we were at LSG we saw a train which only went as far as Hulustai. There was a loco in the yard at Daedengou as we drove back to Dawukou.
Wuhai to Yinchuan main line
We covered most of this line after dark but still saw a few things of interest. There appeared to be some steam in the Wuhai area. When we got off the train at Shishuizhan on 26 Feb we saw JS8222 on pilot duty. The depot at Shishuizhan had a couple of QJ in steam along with one or two dumped. The main line is poled for electrification south of Shishuizhan. On 28 Feb we saw QJ7089 of Shishuizhan depot heading a long mixed goods along the main line at the station south of Pingluo. There were no electrification poles on this section. When we left Yinchuan on T44 we saw a couple of locos in steam at the depot along with a number of dumped QJ.
It would seem fair to conclude that some steam operation remains on this section, although it is of little interest scenically as far as photography is concerned.
The Journey to Reshui
We travelled on T44 as far as Jiningnan. No working steam was seen in daylight. At Hohhot depot we saw a number of JS and QJ dumped. Jiningnan had around 15 DF4 sitting on shed, along with a number of QJ dumped in the goods yard.
We rode T711 as far as Reshui. We were DF4 hauled as far as Beihong where QJ6304 took over. Beihong had 6 QJ on shed (including 2647, 6354), along with a JS pilot which we didnt identify. QJ 6304 took over and remained on the front until we turned in for the night. The Beihong to Tongliao journey is presumably the longest remaining steam passenger journey in the world but the loco performance failed to set the pulse racing! However, it seems to be an early candidate for diesels (DF8) so track bashers ought to get there soon. The hard sleeper was clean and of especial note was the on train musak. After initial excerpts of The Sound of Music, we were treated to Eric Clapton Tears in Heaven followed by some western disco stuff. Hopefully the tape of The East is Red has been permanently lost!
We arrived at Reshui, on time, on 2 March and deposited our bags at the post Office Hotel which was to be our base for the next 6 days.
We were blessed with 5 days of sunshine, excellent visibility and low winds. There was no snow on the ground, although a little was clinging to the north faces of the mountains. The only problem was the temperatures in the afternoon which reduced the amount of clag. We had two small vehicles, one of which was a Jeep and were able to drive through a number of watercourses to reach the photo spots. In particular we drove all the way to the brickworks viaduct and also managed to drive up to Level 2 above Reshui, a definite advantage of being a small group!
We had decided that most of the photos we wanted were on the west side for trains climbing from Jingpeng to Shangdian, so didnt bother to get train times. In general, loaded trains seem to head east while westbound trains often contain a lot of empty coal wagons meaning that locos dont have to work so hard. Also the valley above Jingpeng is narrow with steep sides and some superb photo positions.
Of note was the number of westbound single headers, almost all being rakes of empty coal wagons (up to 47 wagons) which had previously seemed to be the load for a pair of QJ. We saw no westbound light engines, indeed there seemed to be a shortage of eastbound traffic some days resulting in several light engine workings. One possible reason for the number of westbound single headers is that the loops arent long enough to take the load which a pair of QJ could handle, since the regular pairs of locos were both coming through individually on some days.
A bit of info: The brickworks viaduct is known to the locals as Haodashan (Village by the big mountain) viaduct, whilst the bottom viaduct near Jingpeng is Hongguan viaduct.
Monday 2 March
Tuesday 3 March
No more daylight trains from either side!!
Wednesday 4 March
Note there were no westbound trains for 6 hours and only 3 eastbound loaded trains!!
Thursday 5 March
Friday 6 March
Returned to the hotel early prior to hitting the Karaoke disco at the hotel in the evening (groovy place Reshui!!)
Saturday 7 March
We baled out at 1330 and drove to Chifeng, arriving 1700, ready for 2040 departure which brought us to Beijing Nan at 0624 before continuing to the airport for BA038.
We were well pleased with our trip securing many good photographs. The extra hours of daylight at Jingpeng in early March gave a lot more photographic opportunities. As will be seen, most days we saw at least 5 eastbound trains in light, although westbound traffic seemed much less reliable. It also seemed that trains were more evenly spread through the day when there was traffic in both directions. It was the belief of our guides that the passengers will go diesel during 1998. This was supported by an enthusiast who visited Daban and was told that some DF8 are to be acquired. Apparently DF4 are too heavy for the line. The message must be dont delay if youre still pondering a trip to this area.