The International Steam Pages
Steam in China, January 1999
Mike Tyack kicks off the New Year with a report from JingPeng and Baotou, December 26, 1998 to January 10, 1999.
The 14 days on the ground were spent in 2 areas only 3 days at Baotou, principally for the JS action on the Shiguai line, with the filler of the suburbans if necessary + 8.5 days at Reshui for my annual fix.
The group consisted of 8 English, 4 Australians, a token German (sorry Joachim!), and copious bottles of Baileys to celebrate the New Year.
BA transported the European contingent, and anyone travelling out of Heathrow needs to be aware of the enforcement of a 6 kilo hand luggage restriction on BA flights. This caused serious consternation, repacking of camera equipment and participants boarding the aircraft draped with camera bodies & looking like onion-sellers after all, who is prepared to take the chance of cameras & camera boxes going into the hold? As it was, one piece of luggage was not reunited with its owner until three days into the trip. You can get by without clothes but cameras are another matter!
Ground arrangements were made with her usual efficiency by Mrs Sun of China Liaoning, and we were accompanied throughout by her brother.
My thanks to both Bryan Acford & Duncan Cotterill for their help and advice, which made our three days here far more rewarding than if we had started from scratch. Workings on the Shiguai branch were more or less identical to what we had expected, as follows:-
The eastbound freight in the morning followed the passenger. In mid-winter the sun had already set by the time the afternoon return left Shiguai.
A clear & cold day with stunning visibility all day long.
A hazy start to the day, with cloud increasing.
The morning freight did not run at all. Shiguai pilots were JS8325 & 8327. We were told that an afternoon freight was expected at Houba at about 1400/30, but, by this time the weather had given up the ghost completely, so, instead of being miserable waiting for a single train, we decided to adjourn to Baotoudong and assess the afternoon suburban activity. The smog, gloom and general Baotou crud revealed:-
After dinner, a late evening visit to Baotoudong station revealed 4 arrivals between 2110 & 2150 as follows:-
Dawned clear, although a little hazy closer to Shiguai, as the general grot drifted up the valley.
We had already realised that the afternoon freight would not leave Shiguai in daylight, so returned to Baotoudong. Note both afternoon eastbound coal empties (28 & 30/12) were very light trains only 5 or 6 wagons, compared with at least double that in the morning. We were too late back at Baotoudong to see T945, but arrived 5 minutes ahead of the Linhe passenger.
On a day when Baotoudong was so clear, you could see for miles & miles if you really wanted to, that is!
New Years Eve 31/12 was spent in transit, the highlights being in reverse order:-
Started off as you would expect clear & cold, albeit at 20C a good 10C higher than I had been expecting. There has clearly been no snow there at all since early December, as all snow was old & hard-packed, which, at least, prevented the Reshui wind from removing what little remained. The Jingpeng side remains quite adequately covered, towards the summit on the Reshui side is surprisingly white, but further towards town it is dull China brown.
Booked and actual activity daily was as follows:
What a start the dreaded 50xx series light engine movements in profusion. But all was not lost as 5042 turned out to be a short train.
Started clear, with high cloud building up during the day.
Clear early, but got hazier as the day progressed. Getting warmer!
The mysterious 2818 took 8 hours+ from Daban to Shangdian! Did one of the locos fail shortly after leaving Daban by mid-afternoon, the station master at Shangdian was at a complete loss to explain its whereabouts!
Note 4127 taking just 2 hours from Haolouku the following day the same train would be even quicker!!
The previous nights weather forecast had showed a front sitting from east to west across China, with a massive Siberian high to the North, so it was no surprise when high cloud started to increase from dawn. Intermittent bursts of sun during the day. A strong wind developed as the day progressed. Warm approaching zero during the day, which is ridiculous for the time of year!!
Trains 4127 & light engine 5042 just go to show that there is a frequent variance between booked and actual departure times from both Haolouku and Daban.
Overcast, intermittent breaks in the cloud during the morning, completely socked in by the afternoon.
For the second successive day, a 12.00 approx departure ex Haolouku was through very early.
At last! A cold, clear morning, but with a brisk N to N/W wind. The temperatures had started to plummet to something closer to those expected: -20C.
A massive gap in proceedings from 1030 onwards typical when the weather improves!. We were to find out why! The ballast wagons brought over (probably by 5704 the previous day & dumped at Jingpeng) were picked up by 4125 and offloaded in the Xiakengxi area.
DF4 at Jingpeng!! Not as bad as it seems, however! Train 4136 contained a brand new DF4D No 4010 (1998 works plate) in blue & cream livery as final item in front of the guards van. The engines were ticking over, presumably to prevent icing up, with crew in the cab. The assumption is that the DF4 was heading west to its new home
Cold & clear with a brisk Northerly wind: -30C
Another very thin day east-bound with the ballast train (5701) nowhere to be seen.
Started misty, but cleared mid-morning. Cold, biting wing, gusting from the North/North West: -35C + wind chill. Now thats more like it!
By 1130, neither 5701 or 2851 had left Haolouku, so what looked like a promising set of times was already in tatters! As on 6/1, 5701 reached Xiakengxi at about 1510, and proceeded to unload ballast for the next hour. 2851 had already reached Xiakengxi before 5701 had exited Tunnel 2!
Cold, clear and STILL! 35C at daybreak.
There are occasions which live in the memory for ever. 6760/6577 exiting Tunnel 2 is one of them crisp columns of vertical white exhaust standing proud against the hillside behind, both locos encrusted in a layer of ice and frost turning every wagon from black to grey, steam clinging limply to every wheel. Long may this spectacle continue!
An observation the days schedule is normally confirmed to stations along the line by 5.30/6.00am. The expected days activity is lodged the previous day at about 16.00. If you compare the two, it is quite staggering just how many of the trains advised the previous afternoon have been retimed or cancelled by 6.00am!