The International Steam Pages
Hegang Mining Railway, January 2001
I have been back in China again with Peter Nash, bashing the minor lines which have had increasing attention from mainstream (="QJ/JS rule, OK") enthusiasts. Click here for my report of Daguichang, Yexi, Weihe, Suiling and Shuangyashan. For a flying start in Hegang we owe a debt of gratitude to Ted Talbot and Nicholas Pertwee for their pioneering trip in November 1999. We think we have added significantly to previous knowledge and I think those three gricers who opted out of the north-east and went to Baotou missed a good spot in Hegang.
Owing to space limitations on my server, the images from this report have been removed (15th June 2004).
January 9th - Hegang
We had planned at least one more day in Shuangyashan but when we woke up it was snowing, so we caught train 4136 at 11.52 to Jiamusi. It was late but it didn't matter as we had a two hour connection for train 6547 at 15.51. We had an excellent lunch on the train and by the time we drifted into Hegang at 18.00 we were feeling quite mellow. We walked across the square outside the station through the snow, ice and traffic to a small hotel. We were given the 'blue room' which had most facilities including a hot water system which announced its presence loudly at 19.00. At 80 Yuan it was good value but why did the phone keep on ringing? We went next door for dinner where we were given a very nice set meal. The manageress's 21 year old daughter spoke English and was summoned back to talk to us and then proceeded to sing a couple of songs on the Karaoke (Dave McLeod where were you?), mercifully the Titanic theme was cut short after 10 minutes. No doubt there are 'better' places in this large sprawling town but this is very convenient.
It dawned bright but very cold and stayed that way all day. The hotel displayed a map of the city area which I mistakenly assumed showed the main extent of the mining railway system. We quickly located the Mining Railway station and locomotive sheds which are due east of the CNR station. They are some distance by road as the bridges are 500m north and south of the CNR station, but it is easy to walk through the CNR station and across the tracks. A fair number of SYs were in steam and there were no security problems, in fact everyone was very friendly and we saw passenger train 42 arrive with SY 1030 and a couple of steam shunting movements although it was clear that photography would be difficult with virtually all SYs facing north. We decided to walk north-east to inspect the big hole and the branches marked on the hotel map. The big hole no longer had railways in it, although we did see several mines and one electric hauled train, but no trace of steam. A rethink was necessary and we headed back to the hotel on a #2 bus which dropped us right outside. We tried to reconcile the timetable and the city map with the aid of the hotel staff but without success and headed back to the station with a borrowed map. Here we determined which trains ran south and which north and decided to go south on train 5 in the hope there would be enough daylight left to get some shots of the return working. There was plenty of time to have an excellent noodle soup just south of the station before boarding the train. It was well heated, with bench seats and a growing number of passengers. Initially we paralleled the CNR line but after the second station we climbed over it, passing an SY at one of the mines in the distance on a train. For a short while the line ran east-west through a mining area which would provide a good photographic opportunity for the morning arrivals, before swinging south again when we passed SY 0472 at one station. At our destination (I would guess after about 20km) the loco ran round its train and there was the opportunity of a couple of station shots before the light failed, but the electrification poles were rather intrusive. We had hoped for a cab ride on SY 1498 but were put back onto the train. We resolved to go for the morning shots despite the stupidly early start and the likely temperatures. No doubt there is less activity here than I had seen at Fuxin, but with patience there were very good shots to be had albeit 'under the wires'.
We staggered onto train 41 (SY 1030 as the day before) at 06.20 and alighted at the third station out (Fu Li, 10km). The numerous staff in the station control cabin were more than a little surprised to see us, but the warmth of the room and the welcome was much appreciated. We watched train 2 go north (SY 1498) from the veranda as the sun was not yet up sufficiently for serious photography and saw SY 1370 arrive tender first on a coal train from the south (SY 1370 was also reported in Fuxin in March 2000!). We walked back down the track past the spoil heap and on to where the electrification poles shifted from north/west to south/east thus ruining any photographic prospects. We photographed train 3 (tender first 1498) and then train 42 (1030) from below the line in low light and then climbed the spoil heap to wait for train 4 (1498) to return for our 'master shot'. At this point a west wind built up which quickly removed the haze, froze us half to death and completely ruined the photograph. So we walked down towards the CNR line where we had seen the spoil train again (SY 0498) and found it sitting on the embankment trying to unload its frozen contents. It was time to warm up so we walked up the CNR under the overbridge and down to the main road where we found a #14 bus which took us straight back to the station/hotel (the #3 bus seems to use the same route).
For the afternoon we planned a trip on train 25 on the northern line. We watched train 5 leave with 1498, 0905 arrive on a short a short train of coal wagons from the south and an unidentified SY arrive on a short train tender first from the north. Much to our surprise from what we had heard and worked out we found electric 1503 on train 25 and facing south. Nevertheless we climbed on and set off round the 'inner U' shown on the map. Fairly soon we passed to the west of the big hole we had visited the day before and passed a yard full of stored electric locomotives. Almost immediately, we saw an SY (1685) on an engineers train with a crane 'in steam'. So we piled out at the next station and charged down the hill over a makeshift bridge to photograph the it. We found 1685 round the corner stabling the stock. Looking behind us, we found ourselves on the edge of another big hole, almost certainly the Xing Shan referred to in Ted Talbot's report. We saw a couple of the older 14xx electrics pass by and at least one further SY way below before the cold got the better of us. We went back up the hill, down a few alleys and climbed on to a passing #6 bus back to town vowing to return the next day. On the bus we met an English speaking lady who said she worked in a nearby steelworks (one for the next set of explorers to check out!).
We thought we had the buses worked out so we had a lie-in till 07.30 and caught a #3 bus to where the new road to Jiamusi turns west and took a taxi down the old road to the level crossing east of Fu Li. Walking down towards the spoil heap we heard a whistle and just had time to get into position as 3014 came past smokebox first with four spoil tippers - a great bonus. Train 3 was late today and 42 (1030) was held so the sun had risen enough for me to climb the spoil heap (dodging the rocks which came flying down from the top as they were tipped) and get a better shot than the previous day's disaster - but the full sun shot is still needed. Once again the wind got up so we stayed low for 1498 on train 4. We found that #14's southern terminus was just short of the level crossing but half way back to town the bus turned left and left again and headed south unlike the previous day! On the way we yet again saw an SY on spoil tippers near the CNR bridge - this must be a regular job for an SY. We jumped out and transferred to a passing #6 which got us back safely to the hotel/station.
After an early lunch we took a #6 bus to Xing Shan. The sight from the public view point at the south end was magnificent. Within the 'hole' we saw four electric locos on trains and three SYs on engineers trains, together with several large face shovels. Suffice to say that we spent a very interesting hour here (details on application). We recorded the stored electrics (see below) and then completed out trackbash to the end of the line on train 25, where we found another mine, which we noted had an electrified narrow gauge system like the mine at Fu Li. At this point we returned to town on the #6 bus to avoid waiting an hour on train 26. Our very successful visit to Hegang was over and we left town on train 606 bound for Suiha and onto Suiling.
Locomotives seen at Hegang:
0472, 0498, 0555, 0642, 0683, 0905, 1030, 1370, 1484 (Rob Pritchard suggests this may have been 1464), 1498, 1685, 3013, 3014, 3023, 3024. All were in steam except 3023 and all faced north except 0683 and 1370. We also saw 1685 on the north line facing the opposite way to which we expected having seen it earlier, but there seem to be triangles in the Xing Shan open cast area.
Ted Talbot reported 0354, 0635 (and ten more of the same locos we did).
1418, 1423, 1428, 1501, 1502, 1503, 1506, 2302, 2303, 2304, 2305, 2307, 2308.
Ted Talbot also reported 1504, 1505, 2301, 2306
151, 153, 154, 1404, 1409, 1413, 1414, 1424, 1426, 1434, 1435
Hegang Mining Railway Passenger Timetable
We were given a duplicated copy of the timetable which is displayed in trains. An older version is displayed at the Hegang Mining Railway station which is similar except that it includes an evening return train on the north line leaving Hegang at 18.40. The names are courtesy of the young lady in the restaurant next to our hotel for which many thanks are due - the Anglicisms come from the unintended translations (please notify errors and omissions!).
South Line (Branch 1 Northbound)
South Line (Branch 1 Southbound)
South Line (Branch 2)
North Line (Southbound)
North Line (Northbound)
23 does not appear in the published timetable but without it 24 is unbalanced - I do not know if it runs but have put in old times.
Here is a very primitive map of the mining railway system as we saw it in just 3 days, hopefully it will encourage other visitors to come here and add to our knowledge - the line north of the central station is unexplored and I am not even certain that the line marked to the west is where the other steam passenger goes although it does reach the junction marked! :