The International Steam Pages

Steam in China, November 1999

Bruce Evans reports on his latest trip:

1.    Beijing Area

Yexi narrow gauge stone railway - still operating with steam Capital Iron and Steel - not visited but one SY seen in steam at the exchange yards while passing on the line from Beijingxi. It appears that the works has acquired some second-hand DF7s as two locos of this type without national railways markings were seen in the yards adjacent to the works. Works just east of Beijingxi Station - both SYs dead.
Pinghu Local Railway - as previously, one JS working, one spare.

2.    Baotou Area

Shiguai line as previous, all JS.
Circle line had only one JS worked passenger each morning and evening. Freights appear to have gone diesel. (A new 1999 DF5 was seen. Several new orange passenger DF4Bs are now working between Hohhot and Baotou and would have released green DF4Bs. DF4Bs work the dieselised circle line turns). Some QJ work remains as one deflectorless loco was seen hauling a freight through Baotoudong.

3.    Dongsheng and 'the Poles'

Electrification masts have gone up between Daliuta and Shenmubei, a section of line that presently appears to still be under construction, and which appears to be worked by steam locos belonging to the 19th Construction Administration. Three QJs and two JSs were seen on this section, one QJ on a southbound coal train. The passenger train from Baotou is however worked by Shenhua QJs, ie. locos from the Baotou-Daliuta line. It logical that the new line east from Shenmubei is also presently being electrified. It is thought that the Daliuta-Shenmubei line forms part of this new line rather than part of the Baotou-Daliuta line. North of Daliuta there are occasional new low-voltage or telephone poles. At Dongsheng depot two QJs with Cishan depot character were noted - possibly additional locos recently acquired from the Beijing Administration. All northbound coal trains seen working through Aubougou had 3 QJs. One interesting northbound train seen further south had a single QJ and was made up partly of coal hoppers marked for the big power station that is clearly visible from the main road at Dalateqi midway between Shabazi and Baotoudong. There is a new road leading to Singing Sands from the 'coal road'. It passes over the railway tunnel and connects with the 'coal road' east of Singing Sands. (Nobukazu Furuhashi was here recently too and reports he saw a DF4  in the morning of November 14th at Aobaogou. It was connected next to a QJ. on a southbound empty coal train. He sent a picture of it to Bruce and we believe it is from another railway and in transit. RD)

4.    Reshui/Jingpeng

Very good with predominantly eastbound coal flows. The news here is the appearance in the area of the "Inner Mongolia AoDu Travel Service" which appears to be aiming at obtaining a large share of the lucrative steam enthusiast market. This travel service is based in Hohhot (Fax (0471) 6262324) but appears to be part of the JiTong Railway. They now handle visits to Daban depot for which a large fee of 200Y is charged and apparently can arrange cab rides too. While it was not apparent at the time of our visit it is now understood that they are trying to charge all enthusiasts arriving at Reshui a daily fee for photographing along the line. Our guide told us that station staff had told him the travel service had instructed station staff in the area not to hand out train times to foreigners using other travel services.

5.    Tongchuan

Seven JFs and two DF7Bs seen working. At no time though were both diesels seen working at the same time. Traffic levels variable. There seem to be up to two banked workings per day (on a high traffic day) with chimney-first JFs between Hongtu mine and the summit tunnel. Trains to Wangshiwa mine appear to be always steam with the JFs working chimney first out of Tongchuan. JF2113 has spoked wheels. A Japanese party of two were chased by a policeman from the Tongchuan Coal Mine Administration while photographing between the summit tunnel and Wangshiwa. These were 4 groups in the area at the time of our visit, including one large Japanese group led by the Railway Travel Sevice from Xian, and it is thought the presence of so many photographers in the area created the problem. Railway staff continue to say that new diesels are on order from the Beijing 7 Feb factory.

5.    Mengyuan-Linfen

The only working steam seen on this Beijing Administration section was an old deflectorless JS shunting at the southern end of Yuncheng yard. This loco was thought to be in industrial service as it carried no Beijing Administration markings. Four JSs were noted dumped at the back of the big loco depot at Houmabei.

6.    Wangdu-Beihe Narrow Gauge, south of Baoding

One loco, with Giesl type chimney, working. Photographic conditions were excellent for the two days of the visit. The pattern of operation from Tangxian was that the loco went out a short distance west in the morning to a quarry near a village named Yangzhuang. Here it collected a load of crushed ballast or concrete stone which it took to Tangxian. Then in the afternoon it took a string of about 6 wagons loaded with sand to the cement works at Beihe - this load was broken into two for the initial long climb west from Tangxian. The train arrived at Beihe late in the afternoon. The loco returned to Tangxian with empty wagons. Wagons were noted at Beihe loaded with stone from a nearby quarry and it is thought these were hauled to Tangxian during the night.

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Rob Dickinson