The International Steam Pages
Steam in China, November/December 2002
Derek Jenkins reports on his latest trip leading a Steam and Safaris tour group.
After arrival in Beijing via a late running Air France flight we just had time to make it to Beijing West station for the train with double deck stock to Baoding en route to the Wangdu Stone Railway. A phone call 10 days before departure had confirmed the line was operational but as we reached the railway in Tangxian there was clearly no activity and a general air of dereliction. The loco shed was locked but eventually the key holder was found who claimed that the line had been operational 7 days before. 7 weeks might have been more like it. He said that an order had come from on high to stop quarrying. He had no idea if or when things might recommence. In the shed were C2's 005, 066 & 2816, 2 of which might be runners and diesels 1503/9 the latter of which had no engine. The upper stretches of this line are clearly scenic but will it run again and more to the point can you trust local information? Who knows.
After returning to Beijing, flying to Harbin and an overnight train we pitched up in Qitaihe. Snow on the ground and temperatures well below zero. My third time here but the first arriving by train. Some way out a line shadowed CNR and it was clear from the marks in the snow that a steam loco had recently been on it. This was not a part of the mine railway that I knew so clearly it is even more extensive than thought. Qitaihe CNR station is by a few shacks miles from town - a problem for the unsuspecting visitor. Nothing additional to report from here save that neither QJ was seen. If they have gone that generally means only 3 SY's in steam so a long way for not much unless you are looking for 80 km steam haulage to and from Longhu with the passenger train.
Huanan with deep snow, clear skies and freezing temperatures. A charter train had been organised but unlike the last visit on arrival at the yard no loco was in sight. 041 was found in a shed (it seemed not to have moved since last year) and then 043 appeared piloting a sick 2004 on a coal train. We set off with 043 for what was an excellent day getting to all the otherwise inaccessible places. We were decanted at the summit as 043 made off to pilot 044 up the bank on another coal train. It went on to Hongguang for a further train as we made our way back in a railbus passing 2004 en route on is way out. The best spots on this line are extremely difficult to get to unless you have a charter or take the daily railbus (08:00 from Huanan) and get out and walk. Only problem is that the railbus returns early afternoon. No talk locally of the line presently being under threat.
Attempts to see the Cement Works QJ's here failed. One was down the line and the other has already gone to Jiamusi for scrapping (apparently) ahead of the arrival of the diesels.
Arrived at Tieling, for Tiefa, by overnight train from Jiamusi. This system has been extensively reported on already, so I won't go into detail. Traffic levels were high and two interesting developments are the doubling of the line between Daqing and Qianon and the cancellation of the CNR trains beyond Daqing. The latter means their replacement with steam hauled trains which means that Diaobingshan station now has 4 steam hauled passenger trains in the platforms all at the same time c 14:00. Once again excellent co-operation from the Railway. Yes you have to pay but unlike Reshui the railway get the money and you get something in return.
Weather on the last morning at Tiefa seriously crudded out and put paid to our attempts to make a good run to Benxi. The highway was icy and the lorry drivers intent on turning their vehicles over. Extraordinarily on the Shenyang ring road we saw an ex works QJ on a low loader, its 8 wheel tender on another but were too far away to get its number. Weather at Benxi was still dire but things were busy here making it well worth the visit. The loco shed staff seem to be getting their own museum together with Fireless 5, XK 28 and Pl2 50 being the exhibits. SY's seen here with correct numbers in brackets where obtained :-
701 (0154), 702 (0101), 705 (0223), 710, 711, 714 (0508), 716 (0578), 717 (0579), 719 (0620), 721, 722 (0772), 723 (0818), 724 (0817), 726 (1075), 729 (0403), 730, 733, 734, 735.
From Benxi we took the overnight train to Tangshan and another Steelworks visit.The works system is very extensive and the local guide has to be pestered to get you to the places you want to go to - for instance the JS operate in an area well out of town and away from the main works. Once we had that established there were no problems and indeed no problems of access to any part of the establishment. Loco seen here :-
JS 5069 (OOU), 5992, 8413, 8414 (in works)
Tangshan Colliery. This was a slightly muted visit as there was not much going on. The afternoon passenger trains from the old shaft can be ridden but the local guide tries to rip you off 40Y for the privilege. A bit of exploration found a 1ft 6in gauge system around the back with operational diesels 1 & 2 in a shed guarded by a ferocious dog. Fortunately the owner caged it on a balcony while we had a look. There are also the remains of numerous 3ft gauge battery locos.
Steam seen here :-
SY 0031, 0355, 0964 (no longer with smoke deflectors), 1679.
Another overnight train journey saw us back in Shenyang and on a bus to Fushun. Once a regular venue this seems to have been rarely visited recently. Probably our visit will not encourage others. There was little or no activity in the big hole with only maintenance going on. Many of the electric locos are stored and the only steam we saw in action were SY's 0628, 0629, 9714, 1399. So we set out to find Fushun New Steelworks. We picked up a policeman who took us to the place (a novel experience ) and he knew where an outside line crossed a public road. Not sure where it was but the EMU line is close by. Here were SY's 0725, 1630, 1632. None of these are amongst the locos previously reported here so the stock seems to be reasonably large. The premises are extensive so a formal visit might be worth trying for. Back to Shenyang and onwards by train to Fuxin
Recent reports led me to return here with some trepidation but the fears were groundless. On the 26th traffic levels were down a bit but the 27th was very busy. The answer could be to avoid Sundays and Mondays with most miners now seeming to have the weekend off . Despite reports to the contrary the passenger service is exactly as it always was save that the service and line to Dongling has been abandoned. 7 coach trains still run both to Xinqui and Wangying and some coal traffic still starts from Xinqui albeit from the top of the hole rather than in it. Crew change over at Wulong from c 07:30 is excellent and the 2 stabling areas are good early morning and evening especially the far stabling point at dusk with some very atmospheric scenes. The works was also visited as was the NG system at Gaode mine which provides a very interesting diversion.
Locos seen here JF (all dumped) :- 508, 624, 2345. YJ 403 (dumped), SY 0036 (works), 0076, 0112, 0126, 0127 (OOU), 0391 (works), 0540, 0541 (dumped), 0576 (OOU), 0785, 0849, 0911, 0912, 0939, 0941, 0989 (stationary boiler doing 0002's old job), 1210, 1319, 1320, 1359, 1395, 1396, 1397, 1410 (works), 1818 (really 1414).
Yet another overnight train saw us at Chifeng early morning and then en route to Pingzhuang. The various tentacles of this system provide every opportunity for you to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.Traffic levels are erratic and a lot of the shunting movements more than difficult to fathom. Even so there should be opportunities for shots with good colliery back drops and the line beyond Gushan No1 mine goes into some rural areas if you get a train which I didn't. Plenty of electrics buzzing around as well and the KD6 which is now hidden away and guarded by a dragon lady who was nevertheless bribed with a Mars bar to allow entry to its compound.
Loco seen here :-KD6 487 (dumped), JS 5702, 5758, 6401. SY 0210, 0304, 0400 (stored ex works), 0517, 0798, 0916, 0943, 1007 (OOU), 1083.
Yuanbaoshan. Out early for the passenger train (07:00 from Yuanbaoshan Xi). There are few even vaguely reasonable place to photograph it and having decided on the large bridge (again) the sun rose 5 minutes after the train came. More luck back in Yuanbaoshan, on the steep bank to Gipei where the train engine lost its feet with an overlong train of empties and stalled in front of us. Much attention to the sanders and shovelling earth under the wheels eventually got it away again. Traffic levels were higher here than the previous visit with empties going out to Yuanbaoshan CNR to be loaded from a coal stockpile there. The section just after Maganjwan yard on the way to Yuanbaoshan is excellent for the return loaded trains. Contrary to the previous visit the engine from the afternoon passenger collected loaded wagons at Fenshuigou and took them back to Yuanbaoshan rather than on to CNR at Anqingou whilst the morning passenger had loaded wagons which it presumably took out this way.
Locos seen here :- JS 6066 (dumped), 6246, 6544, 8216, 8218, 8246, 8249, 8250, 8418.
November 30 and onwards
From here on on the Northern trip it was Ji Tong Railway. The Mafia are still plying their trade and anyway everyone knows the script here. A number of new (to the line) ex works locos at Daban and traffic levels erratic as ever (at their lowest during the 2 days of the Ji Tong Steam Festival we were present).
Jiayang Coal Railway. Flew from Beijing to Chengdu and bus onwards to Qianwe. Early start on 9th to get the 05:30 on a more than chilly morning. Decamped at Mifeng on the return as a surprisingly clear day dawned with frost on the ground contrasting strangely with oranges and bananas on the trees. 10 was the passenger engine which most photographed on the big curve followed not long after with 09 with bricks and coal empties. 10 also had the afternoon passenger. Having ascertained from the line office that the freight would also run the following day but before the passenger (it had only run after it because 09 needed attention) it was another early start on the 10th but a much mistier morning. No sign of the empties before 10 again appeared with the passenger. Shortly after 09 could be heard whistling its way into Mifeng but then silence and inactivity. The passenger eventually returned and it transpired that 09 had taken a load of bricks to a village just beyond Mifeng then returned double heading 10 on the passenger. The time before the afternoon passenger was wiled away with the hospitality of a local farmer who provided tea and oranges. A later start on the 11th with 10 on the passenger and 14 now in steam very late on the empties, before we departed for Chengdu.
This is a delightful line running through charming rural areas but if you want to see it get there soon.
The condition of the locos is giving grave concern. All 3 in steam had problems. The word locally is that the service will end shortly and that the line will be lifted and a road constructed.
With a little time before dark in Chengdu we found the Seamless Pipeworks Loco Shed. Here were SY's 0016 (OOU), 0085, 1207, 1244 (OOU), 1612 (OOU0, 1613, 2008 (loco only), 2010 (tender only).
Jianghe Coal Railway
Arrived in Chonqing by overnight train and in a thick mist set out for this line. The mist turned into an all blanketing fog so that when we reached the coking plant end of the line visibility was almost nil. With the line hostile to visitors this was probably a good thing and we set out to walk up the line. Up is indeed the word as from this end it is steep for some way. Eventually we walked above the fog into the sun but nothing appeared on the line. We found a scenic sharp curve and waited and were rewarded when 6 burbled into view with a loaded train shortly to be followed by 4. Don't ask about 2 trains in section on a steeply graded line. These diesels are probably unique. Best described as dilapidated garden sheds on wheels. We carried on to the mine both locos returning en route. Our appearance at the mine caused the gates to be firmly slammed shut by a large dragon lady. It seemed that was the end of the action for the day but late on 6 went out again with a loaded train.
This line too runs through charming rural areas. It is a great pity that the line's management is so hostile to visitors as some information about the days train plan would be very handy.
With a morning to kill before the long train ride to Hechi we ventured off to Dadukou Steelworks. Having had permission to visit again refused it was a question of having to look in from the outside. It is astonishing how locals can get lost in their own city and how few people seem to know where Dadukou is. Suffice to say that we twice inadvertently (and without being stopped) entered the Steelworks. Having made it onto Dadukou CNR platform access to which is through a rod works with red hot rods swishing about the reward was GJ 1063 in steam. Also here were SY's 0357 and 1253 (OOU). Later on the way out on the train we also saw GJ 1007 in steam.
Other than Sujiatun, as far as I know, the only place in China with working tank engines. A huge pity then that some previous visitors behaved so badly as to turn the management here off any further visits.
After the long ride from Chonqing through some astonishing scenery it was Hechi and 3 days of engines in the mist. Mist that reminded me of my time in West Cork and like West Cork it didn't clear. A great pity as traffic level were quite high. 8 trains on the 15th. As usual the train plan was a work of fiction and the mixed was just as unreliable. A new maintenance facility is being constructed at Hechi. I don't think it should necessarily be construed that this is for diesels as presently all Hechi maintenance is done at Luocheng and I suspect CNR are not keen to have steam locos appearing on their lines to get one to the other.
Locos seen here :- JS 5706 (dumped), 8283, 8285, 8288, 8290, 8375, 8376, 8373
We set off for Luocheng midday on the 16th calling en route at Yemao. Here a branch goes off to a Nylon Works. Previous reports talk of this being at Yishan which is incorrect. A trek down some dirt roads found the back entrance to the works and SY's 0917 (OOU) and 1702. The latter is a 1981 product of Tongling Works so not all this series are Tangshan - at least up to 1712 as we shall see later.
On then to Luocheng and past a number of riverside night clubs in Yishan which, we were told, offered interesting services. At the shed at Luocheng were Hechi locos 8284/7 - the latter in steam and 8374/7 again the latter in steam.
After a night in the freezing cold and decidedly spooky Luocheng Hotel it was good to get an early start and ride the only passenger train of the day 06:40 ex Luocheng. 8377 was on the train consisting of a loaded log wagon and 2 coaches. Having parted with 5Y (a bit more like it and for 65Kms) and getting an Edmonson ticket we set off with 6 locals, who got off at the first station, as our only company. The train filled up on its way but most got out at Chayan. How they get home is a mystery as the train comes straight back and that's it. An excellent run past many potential photo spots. Pity about the lack of trains. Outside Sancha we were held for some minutes before a DF4 appeared with JS 8287 (on its way back to Hechi) behind it making huge amounts of steam, on a freight train. Steam still lives on CNR!?? Just short of Sancha is Dulijia bridge and 8377 was photographed here (09:50 ex Sancha) before we continued on our way.
The next port of call was Taiyangcun Cement Works wherein were SY's 1573 and 1623 both in steam before we went on to Liuzhou and the Locomotive and Rolling Stock Works. This is said to be the last big works for steam in Southern China. It was certainly busy but work is going on to convert some of the steam erecting shop for diesels. Works pilots are JS 5454 and 5455 (OOU) and SY 0852. In or outside the works, in various stages of repair, were JS 8286 (from Laibin-Heshan) and SY's 0374, 0529, 0734, 0913, 1026, 1492, 1667, 1712, 3003. 1492 is from Guangshunchang Colliery (between Chonqing and Chengdu), 1712 (another Product of Tongling Works) is from Xiangtan Steelworks and 3003 from Duyun Steelworks (North of Mawei on the Hechi line)
After another long train ride we arrived very early at Ganshui for Songzao Coal Railway. The Railway, once again provided excellent hospitality, with their railbus to meet us and take us to the more inaccessible places on the line as well as along the Xiaoyotou branch. Traffic was sporadic sometimes with no coal available to load and at others with coal but no wagons. Even so this is a spectacular line despite everything being tender first uphill.
Locos here :- SY's 0303, 0329, 1148, 1197, 1198, 1199, 1656 and on the branch 0344 and 0514 (OOU)
We then took the train Ganshui - Chonqing before flying to Beijing and back to the UK and the unreality of Christmas.