07-39 8320, T803 app Houba
07-55 8322 west of Houba, westbound goods (crossed at Houba)
09-10 8001 app Houba eastbound empties
09-55 8320, T804 app Houba
11-55 8001 with 8327 banking arr Houba, westbound goods
13-55 8322 pass km16 eastbound empties
15-55 8322 banked 8325 east of Houba, westbound goods
Wuanshuiquan bridge 1715 1800
Various DF4 trains
QJ (no deflectors) as pilot
17-46 8279, depart on T943
06-38 8320, T941 west end of Baotou Dong Marshalling Yard
06-46 QJ7059 arrived in yard tf with transfer goods from west
06-54 8280, T903 departed
06-55 8328, T931 departed (approx 200 metres behind on parallel track)
07-05 QJ7059 departed le to west
07-17 8279, T921 departed
We then headed down to the Singing Sands viaduct for the rest of the day
09-06 6348, T851 ex Baotou
09-25 QJ, northbound loads
10-03 QJ, southbound empties - short train
10-20 QJ, northbound loads
13-24 3068, southbound empties
14-56 QJ, northbound loads
17-15 6711, T852 to Baotou
17-30 QJ, southbound empties (sundown was 17-20 !!)
We drove the appalling road to Dongsheng, arriving 19-30 after a very slow journey
dodging the blue coal lorries.
Drove down to Aobagou where the staff gave a very accurate summary of
the days sparse service, complete with should have been here yesterday
08-30 6014 arrived from south with loads
6289 crossed on southbound empties
09-30 1969 arrived from south with loads
6018 crossed on way to bank following train
10-40 7044 on southbound T851
11-20 6473 + 1611 banked 6018 on northbound loads
15-45 6289 on northbound T852
There being no further trains we headed to Dongsheng depot where we found
Dumped 6040, 6662, 6020. Stored 6194 Cold but recently used 3161
In steam 2977, 6249, 6289, 3068, 6017, 6247, 6018.
Interesting the locos we had seen earlier appeared to have worked through to
Also it seemed that the allocation was being deliberately painted out on the tenders.
Drove down to Aobagou early and it was another thin day
06-50 QJ southbound on T855
06-56 2 x QJ plus QJ banker northbound
07-30 QJ 6247 le southbound
The only northbound train forecast was 3 x QJ again at 11-30 so we headed for Singing
Sands in the hope of more action. Things were even worse. We arrived at 0920 (just in time
to miss the passenger)
10-28 QJ 2586 northbound loads
12-50 QJ 1611 southbound empties
14-55 QJ northbound loads
17-15 QJ 1891, T852 northbound
The sun disappeared into the haze, a precursor of overnight rain.
We awoke to cloud and rain but still headed for Houba in the hope of a
break. The road to Shiguai was blocked by an accident, but our resourceful driver followed
some coal lorries for about 5km along a river bed and we finally ended up west of
Hongfengling just after T803 had passed!!! We then joined the next river bed track to
Houba and waited for the morning freight which did not run. By 0930 it was starting to
snow and we watched 8280 pass on T804 at 0958.
We headed back into town and visited Baotou Dong servicing point. The wooden depot
building is derelict and contains a dumped JF.
On shed were the 4 passenger locos. 8279, 8280, 8320 & 8321. Around 1200 QJ6519
worked in from Linhe on T756 and came on shed along with 8328 from the pilot.
We took T516 to Beijing at 1516. As we left 8279 was preparing to take T943. We passed
8005 shunting at Dong Xing (the first station east of Baotou Dong). The only other working
steam en route was an ex works JS in steam at Hohhot depot (presumably heading west).
There was snow on the mountains behind Hohhot and on the ground at Jiningnan.
We arrived at a gloomy Beijing Xi at 0515 and judging by the amount of
water on the lower levels Beijing Xi has a drainage problem (it hasnt got any !!).
We left one of our number in Beijing to take the Tuesday flight back to London. We then
took CJ6144 to Changchun arriving at 1210. En route we had crossed snow covered hills so
our spirits rose in anticipation of getting some snow on our boots (we were of course to
On arrival we drove across to the depot which is now overlooked by a new road. The only
steam was QJ6086 & 6851 being serviced (presumably having worked in from the Baicheng
area), along with SY0537, 0984 and 3 others (all cold) in the depot building and around
the turntable. All the depot environs and buildings looked clean and smart, a sure sign
that those nasty dirty steam locos seldom visit nowadays!!
We spent the afternoon at the loco works. There was rather less activity than my
previous visit in 1995. Around 10 locos were in various states of overhaul and others were
being cut up. The big news was that a new SY was under steam test and we saw it being
moved from the Erecting Shop to the Paint Shop. It had no visible numbers. Our guide was
told it was 3032, but we wonder whether it was really 3023. It was apparently destined for
Pilots: SY1158, JS5740 Boiler JS5328
Erecting Shop SY????, JS8052, JS6021, QJ6912, QJ6284, QJ6135, QJ7101
Paint & Test JS8049, JS8008 (Baotou), QJ3193, QJ unident
Dump JS5036, QJ1385, JS5785, QJ3405 plus others, also bits of JS5743 & others
Our guide said that they only overhaul forest, mine and local railway locos
Im not convinced unless there are some ownership arrangements in areas like in Inner
Mongolia which are not CNR.
We took the 2100 train to Tumen as far Dunhua where we arrived at 0345, just as the
Tuesday 27th October
We grabbed a couple of hours sleep at the Dunhua Station Hotel and emerged into the
gloom at 0630.
At the level crossing west of the station we established the following freight paths:
Eastbound arrivals 07-02, 08-26, 09-30, 11-50, 13-07, 16-15
Westbound departures 07-10, 08-30, 11-56, 14-40, 15-25, 16-44 (mostly banked) These
workings are apparently still largely steam. The QJ we saw were all clean and smart and no
7108 even had a red star on the smokebox, a rare sight these days!
Our sightings (in heavy rain) at west end of station
07-10 DF4C + JS5427 banking dep westbound
08-10 7166 arr eastbound goods
08-35 7084 + JS5425 banking dep westbound
This train collided with a vehicle at the next level crossing and the whole train returned
to Dunhua yard at 09-15. The QJ had sustained some damage to its cylinder area and various
people spent the next couple of hours inspecting the damage.
09-30 7082 arr eastbound goods
09-55 DFH3 0006 arr T781 from west (terminated)
10-14 DFH3 0097 dep T768 westbound
10-40 7108 arr eastbound goods
12-01 7166 + 7084 + JS banker departed on original train
Various DF4 hauled goods had arrived from the east and there were other DF4 hauled
Dunhua Depot (1330) - 7108, 7082 plus DF4, DF4C & DFH3 0006, also 3 dumped QJ
inside the depot building (inc 2800)
Faced with continuing rain and a long journey to Longjing we set off a 1400 and passed
DF4 + JS 8062 (ex works) wb goods app Dunhua
QJ light heading to Dunhua
DF4 + QJ assistant wb goods at Erhtaohotzu
QJ wb trip freight at Mingyuehkou
We also checked out the Dashitou Forestry operation, having previously been told that
it had closed. This was true, the whole logging operation appeared to be out of use with
no logs in the main wood yard. We could see approx 5 dumped ng diesels in the distance but
given the absence of operations didn't investigate further.
We called at Chaoyangchuan depot and were a bit surprised to find nothing in steam,
just a DFH3 and long dumped JS6006 & QJ2203.
At 1630 we saw JS5664 leaving Sanfengdong with a northbound log train so our immediate
concerns were allayed.
Chaoyangchuan Longjing Kaishantun / Helong
We had planned to spend a couple of days on this system before heading on to Tumen to
find out what steam operation remained there and check out the new local railway to
On arrival at Sanfengdong the following morning we were informed that the passenger
trains were now diesel along with some of the freight (since 1 October). We were obliged
to stay in the area for a total of 5 days in order to hunt down the remaining steam
workings. It transpired that three JS (5457, 5664 & 5757) and three DFH3 (0017, 0018
& 0265) were running the service. The JS were in poor condition and were struggling
terribly on the climbs to Sanfengdong, even stopping to blow up on occasions. Their
external state was also poor with leaks and visibly burnt smokebox fronts, a far cry from
my previous memories of smart locos throughout NE China. There was also a pilot at
Chaoyangchuan, we saw both 5548 and 5427 on this duty. Given that the track has been
relaid with concrete sleepers, and realigned in places we felt that steam on this system
was on its last legs.
It also seemed that the operation of the system was different from previous reports.
The passengers had been retimed and one diesel was fully occupied on the two return
passengers to Helong. Loaded freights from Longjing were being worked up to Sanfengdong in
several portions, either single or double headed (diesel or steam), but this action was
usually in the very late afternoon or during the evening. This meant that there were few
opportunities to photograph the northbound climb to Sanfengdong with steam in daylight.
There appeared to be 5 freight diagrams:
Approx 0200 Chao - Kaishantun (loaded coal), returning thru Longjing approx 1015
0620 or 0850 Chao - Kaishantun (loaded coal), returning at 1200 but then piloting at
Longjing and assisting the afternoon loads up to Sanfengdong
Approx 0430 Chao - Helong empties, returning after the afternoon passenger with loaded
wood, leaving Longjing after 1530
0850 or 1030 Chao - Bajiazi / Fudong mine with empties, running as a pick up - returning
1300 Chao - Helong empties, returning overnight.
One loco may also have been tripping along the main line to Yanji.
We drove the full length of both branches. The Helong line is in a wide valley away
from the main road as far as Bajiazi, but after Bajiazi there is a scenic river gorge
beyond the point where the Fudong mine branch diverges. Traffic on this line was mainly
wood, with a little coal, all heading for the main line at Chaoyangchuan. There is also
gorge just west of Longjing, but access isn't easy.
The Kaishantun branch is much more interesting. Around Badohe (km41) there are climbs
in both directions to summit tunnels set in rolling moorland scenery. There is a good
morning position for loaded trains around km 44 (park on top of the tunnel). There should
also be positions for returning trains from Kaishantun, with a backdrop of the hills
across the border in North Korea. Traffic seemed to be mainly coal to the factory at
Kaishantun (a scruffy border village), with empties and a little finished goods returning.
Sugar beet was also being loaded at Badohe. There is also a railbus passenger service of
sorts and we saw an arrival at Kaishantun around 1145. Also of interest on this line is
the station architecture which is an improvement on the usual bland Chinese designs.
Wednesday 28th October
08-10 DFH3 0017, T762 n Longjing
10-01 DFH3 0017, T757 app Tunnel
10-55 5664 app Tunnel, southbound goods
14-30 DFH3 0017, T758 n Longjing
15-05 5457 s Sanfengdong, southbound goods (continued towards Helong)
16-30 5757 n Longjing northbound goods (stalled on climb with 8 loaded wagons)
17-15 5757 in Longjing station with second portion of train
17-30 DFH3 0017 arrived Longjing with passenger
Thursday 29th October
06-45 at Chaoyuanchan, no locos on shed.
5548 (pilot) on to shed for coal
5664 on to shed for coal - it was due to depart approx 09-30
5457 arrived tf on trip from Yanji direction at 07-50
Also dumped on shed QJ1094 plus one other with no number.
09-40 5664 climbing to Sanfengdong, southbound goods
10-25 DFH3 0265 leave Longjing for Chaoyangchuan with wagon + brake (ex K'tun ?)
11-30 5664 w Longjing, southbound goods - dropped wagons and shunted at Lungshuiping and
14-10 DFH3 0017, T758 app Bajiazi
14-37 5664 dep Bajiazi for Fudong mine with 6 empties
We drove to Helong where DFH3 0018 was on a train, which passed Bajiazi
We also saw a DFH3 hauled train of empties which arrived at Helong around 1540.
Bajiazi Forestry Railway no longer exists. All the tracks on this
attractive operation have been torn up and the trackbed is now a cycle track! The log yard
remains busy but relies upon deliveries by road.
Friday 30th October
By now it was obvious that we would have to start each day by locating
the JS and following them around. We were informed that one loco was at
Kaishantun, due to
return thru Longjing at approx 0930.
08-30 DFH3 0018, eastbound goods app Badohe
09-40 5664, westbound goods, west of Badohe
11-45 5457 leaving tunnel with southbound goods (to Longjing only) - stalled on climb
14-05 5664 south of Sanfengdong with southbound goods
14-20 DFH3 0017, T758 north of Longjing.
Meanwhile it was rush hour at Longjing with 5457, 5664 and DFH3 0018 (ex
K'tun) in the station.
15-05 DFH3 0265 arr from Helong with loads
15-10 5664 dep towards Helong with empties
15-35 DFH3 0018 dep towards Helong with empties
15-45 DFH3 0265 + 5457 dep towards Sanfengdong with 14 loads.
They dropped their load at Sanfengdong and returned for the second half
of the train.
Saturday 31st October
We arrived at Sanfengdong at 06-20 and could hear steam on the way from
Chaoyangchuan. 5757 finally arrived at 0705 after an epic struggle on the damp rails with
a short coal train for K'tun.
07-55 5757 east of Longjing
08-45 DFH3 0018 westbound goods leaving tunnel at km44.
09-10 5757 eastbound goods at km44 in sudden rainstorm
11-05 5757 shunting at Kaishantun
11-30 Railcar in gorge west of Kaishantun
12-10 5757 leaving gorge west of Kaishantun.
13-05 5757 depart Badohe
14-02 5757 shunting Longjing.
There being no sign of any loaded timber at
Longjing, so 5757 sat in
Longjing till after dark, a great shame as we thought that the afternoon Helong train was
steam. We could, of course, hear the loaded trains on the hill from the comfort of our
By now we were pretty pissed off with operations here, but on our last
morning our luck turned !
Sunday 1st November
We arrived at Chaoyangchuan at 07-00 and found:
5548, 5664 on shed being prepared for trains and 5757 in light steam
5427 (which had been at Dunhua on Tuesday) was on pilot duties
We were told that a train would leave at 08-50 but there was no traffic
in the yard. After various diesel arrivals a train was marshalled, but why 2 locos ?
DFH3 0017 arrived on T762 and 5548 backed down to take the train on to
Tumen (apparently there had been a diesel failure). 5664 backed down onto the goods. The
08-53 5548 depart towards Tumen on T762
08-55 5664 depart towards on branch towards Longjing
We then coaxed our driver into action and picked off:
09-20 5664 app Sanfengdong Tunnel
10-40 5664 at km44 east of Badohe
All shots in sun on a frosty morning !
We drove to Yanji airport, seeing a light QJ on the main line, before
taking CN6188 to Beijing arriving at 1605. We then drove to Chengde, finally arriving at
2020 and staying in the hotel which overlooks the station.
Monday 2nd November
We had the whole day on the steelworks branch, starting the day in style
by just missing the 0635 departure from the station. We caught the bus to the banking
station and arrived just in time to see the train disappear around the corner!
For the rest of the day we sat on the climb to the summit and saw:
09-45 JS + 2SY downhill
10-55 5789 + 1765 & 1422 uphill
11-15 downhill train
11-50 6403 + 1765 & 1422 uphill
12-02 1422 le downhill
13-45 5720 + 5723 downhill (inc ballast wagons)
14-15 1422 + 5723 uphill
14-25 5723 le downhill
15-03 6403 downhill ballast train
16-05 5720 + 5723 & 6403 uphill
17-10 6403 arr Chengde station le
17-25 6403 depart uphill.
Further bits of info:
Our guides reported that there is a plan to build a by pass line to the
steelworks avoiding the climb through the city. It would apparently leave the Longjing
line somewhere north of the city. We were unclear about the status or timescale of this
John Tickner took our vehicle to investigate the remainder of the system
The line south from the intermediate yard goes to a brewery and has one
or two trains per week.
The line north from the intermediate yard goes to a short distance to a quarry
There are two lines (separately signalled) leaving the steelworks. One heads to Chengde
whilst the other seems to go off to the north. The point where the lines diverged was away
from the road.
Ted Talbot adds: "The branch to the "quarry" is
actually to an iron ore mine, I think, which supplies the steel works. Occasionally, SYs
work down there and bring back hoppers with ore. At the quarry there is an overhead
electric railway, probably NG, which serves the mine proper, but when John Raby and I
drove past it, we foolishly did not stop to investigate!"
The general depression associated with the run down of Chinese steam was
reinforced by the news at dinner that Dawuko was about to close to steam.
Tuesday 3rd November
We made an early start for Beijing and flew back to the UK.
Autumn Weather in China
This proved to be a mixed bag. Apart from a couple of wet days we had
almost unbroken sunshine with superb visibility - far better than I have experienced in
the depths of winter. However, it was also a mild autumn with temperatures quickly
reaching 15C meaning that there was no smoke in the middle of the day. On the other hand
the sun was struggling to get into the valleys until mid morning and several of our best
shots wouldn't have been possible a couple of weeks later. In addition China in the autumn
is much more interesting with the harvest underway, people and animals around and activity
in the fields.
In the end you pays your money and takes your choice !