The International Steam Pages


Steam in China, November 1999

Duncan Cotterill reports on his latest trip (with a report from Bryan Acford from Baotou appended, also a report of Barry Burns' pre-tour trip to Chengde and Fuxin).

INTRODUCTION

This report details a trip to Jingpeng Pass on the Ji-Tong line in late November 1999. Flights from/to London with British Airways were booked through Regent Holidays of Bristol (Tel 0117 921 1711, Fax 0117 921 4866). For arrangements on the ground in China we used China Liaoning Steam Locomotive Photography Association based in Shenyang.

TRACTION & TRAFFIC

On the steam front there were no surprises with 100% QJ operation continuing. Traffic levels varied from 2 to 5 eastbounds and 4 to 5 westbounds per day in daylight, averaging 3.6 eastbound and 4.6 westbound (including an average of 1 westbound light engine movement per day. Trains which could not have possibly caught the sun on the climb from Galadesitai or Jingpeng to Shangdian have not been counted. The low totals on some days are thought to be due to bad weather occuring to the east or west. The imbalance in traffic levels noted on previous trips continues with one or two westbound light engine movements most days, easily identifiable by their 50xx train numbers. Most freight trains continue to run with the usual 28xx and 41xx numbers. We were initially confused by a number of 57xx workings which turned out to be trains carrying out work in section such as ballasting. These were usually normal freight trains with a few ballast wagons added at the front. Ballasting was being carried out at Shangdian and near Xiakengzi and other track work such as replacing rails was in progress on the eastern slope. Disruption to normal services was minimal.

WEATHER REPORT

The weather proved to be the biggest obstacle to successful photography. When we arrived, temperatures were rising to about +15C in the afternoons, eliminating all traces of exhaust unless you were lucky enough to catch a rare puff of black. After a couple of days, the cloud rolled in, the temperature plummeted to -15C and snow fell. A day or so later a low of -23C was recorded. The cold weather was accompanied by a persistent and bitter westerly wind making photography all but impossible in the mornings when the smoke blew to the sunny side and difficult at any time due to swirling exhausts and frozen fingers. In these sort of temperatures the wind speed is far more critical than the absolute temperature. Still air at -25C is no problem at all but -10C in a strong wind is an unpleasant ordeal. The first few days of the cold snap were rather cloudy with a few sunny breaks every day but after a few days the cloud melted away leaving crystal clear blue skies.

THE HASSLE FACTOR

Unfortunately, the line's popularity with photographers has led to problems again. The Ji-Tong Travel Service, an offshoot of the railway, is trying to grab a share of the action for itself by levying an RMB50 per person per day fee on all visitors. This is on top of the RMB100 per person, per visit paid for a photographic permit. Mrs Sun believes there is no legal basis for this and is attempting to challenge its legality via the PSB. In the meantime, visitors have little option but to pay the fee as the Ji-Tong mafia appear to have the support of the local police. Needless to say, you get nothing in return for the money.

DAY BY DAY OBSERVATIONS

Saturday 20 November 1999

Group met at Heathrow Terminal 4 for a lightly loaded BA 039 747-400 flight to Beijing.

Sunday 21 November 1999

Some spectacular views of the mountains north west of Beijing resembling islands in a sea of mist. Our arrival was delayed about 20 minutes by the same fog. The new terminal at Beijing is now open, a distinct improvement on the old cramped facilities but no faster on the baggage handling front. Our guide, Sun Xiaogang, brother of Sun Xiaolan, met us and we set off for the city. After a wander around a couple of shops, an abortive visit to the China Railway Publishing House (moved again but closed on Sundays) and a leisurely lunch we boarded train 573, the 16:32 from Beijing Nan, bound for Chifeng. The previous favourite for this journey (train 557 from Beijing Bei) has been replaced by a through train from Hohhot and soft sleeper reservations from Beijing aren't as readily available as before.
Seen at Beijing Nan:
NY7 0029 on westbound 4 coach local dep 1615
BJ 3227 on westbound passenger
DF4 0020 on westbound passenger
The DF4 was of particular interest, being one of the "new" style angular bodied machines in blue and cream livery as carried by the 5000 series DF4C. The builders plate was Datong 1998. The number duplicates the original DF4 0020, now about 30 years old but presumably still in traffic.
A few minutes out, we passed the main passenger diesel depot for Beijing Hauptbahnhof, crammed with many DF11, several DF10F twin units and a few BJ (including half a twin unit), DF4D 0001 and some NY6 and NY7 hydraulics.
East of Beijing, the yards at Shangqiao hosted several DF4B, DF7, DF7B and SS1. No ND4 were seen.
Train 573 is routed via Miyun, Chengde and Longhua rather than the conventional route to Chifeng via Changping. Darkness fell soon after leaving Beijing and nothing of interest was seen en route.

Monday 22 November 1999

Arrival at Chifeng was at a very uncivilised 03:36 but we didn't hang around for long, being on the road by 03:52. The one advantage of the unspeakably early arrival was that we were in Reshui nice and early and on the lineside photting before 09:00. Before long, we met up with Barry Burns and the advanced guard who'd travelled out a week before (see separate report from Barry).
The weather was sunny but unseasonably warm and although there was still some snow in shaded gullies, the exhausts had disappeared by early afternoon.

Monday 22 November 1999

QJ +QJ ???? EB Goods E of Galadesitai 07:26
QJ6996+QJ6735 ???? WB Goods LC above Galadesitai 08:44
QJ6925 ???? EB Goods Liudigou 09:00
QJ6996+QJ6735 ???? WB Goods Appr Summit Tunnel 09:17
QJ7137+QJ6388 2825 EB Goods Brickworks Valley 11:15
QJ6760+QJ6274 4120 WB Goods E of Xiakengzi 12:10
QJ7040+QJ6110 4137 EB Goods Ex Curved Viaduct 12:33
QJ6375+QJ6517 4122 WB Goods W of Xiakengzi 13:30
QJ7041+QJ6356 4139 EB Goods W of Xiakengzi 13:59
QJ6878+QJ6687 2824 WB Goods W of Xiakengzi 14:15
QJ6639+QJ6579 4124 WB Goods E of Xiakengzi 14:15
QJ6876+QJ6230 4145 EB Goods Below Shangdian 15:52
QJ6876+QJ6230 4145 EB Goods Appr Galadesitai 16:35

Tuesday 23 November 1999

Another, sunny day.
QJ6639+QJ6351 4155 EB Goods Arr Shangdian 07:38
QJ7012+QJ6925 ???? WB Goods Brickworks Viaduct 08:15
QJ6274+QJ6375 ???? WB Goods Dep Xiakengzi 09:35
QJ6356+QJ7040 4132 WB Goods W of Xiakengzi 11:42
QJ7137 4125 EB Goods W of Xiakengzi 12:10
QJ6735+QJ6996 2818 WB Goods Shangdian 12:37
QJ7137 4125 EB Goods Liudigou 13:00
QJ6760+QJ6517 2820 WB Goods Appr Liudigou 14:09
QJ6388+QJ6110 4127 EB Goods LC above Galadesitai 15:11
QJ6687 4102 WB Goods Below Tunnel 7 16:21
Once again the day was marred by high temperatures and lack of exhaust from around 10:00 onwards. In the late afternoon thin cloud built up from the north west and the temperature dropped significantly before sunset. Two more groups, led by John Tickner and Nils Huxtable respectively arrived but there was plenty of room for everyone.

Wednesday 24 November 1999

What a contrast! There was snow on the ground and it was still falling when we left the hotel. Snow flurries continued all day but there were also a few bright spells and breaks in the cloud.
QJ6517 4131 EB Goods Ex Jingpeng 08:21
QJ +QJ 5044 WB Light Hongguan Viaduct 08:40
QJ6517 4131 EB Goods Appr Shangdian 09:06
QJ6687+QJ6639 2825 EB Goods Ex Tunnel 1 09:55
QJ6925+QJ7012 4153 EB Goods Curved Viaduct 10:35
QJ6828+QJ6638 4112 WB Goods LC above Reshui 12:24
QJ6110+QJ6388 2851 EB Goods Above Liudigou 12:34
QJ6828+QJ6638 4112 WB Goods Appr Summit Tunnel 13:00
QJ7009+QJ6389 2857 EB Goods Hongguan Viaduct 14:21
QJ +QJ 5046 WB Light W of Xiakengzi 14:32
QJ7009+QJ6389 2857 EB Goods Curved Viaduct 14:35
QJ7009+QJ6389 2857 EB Goods Appr Tunnel 4 14:55
QJ6996+QJ6735 2828 WB Goods Tunnel 3 16:20
QJ7137+QJ6517 4114 WB Goods LC above Reshui 16:50
Note QJ6517 was on the first eastbound and the last westbound - must have had a quick turn round at Daban.

Thursday 25 November 1999

Another cold, mainly cloudy day with a few snow flurries but more sunshine.
QJ6639+QJ6687 ???? EB Goods Brickworks Viaduct 07:40
QJ7012+QJ6110 4073 EB Goods Hongguan Viaduct 09:53
QJ6638+QJ6828 4128 WB Goods Curved Viaduct 11:01
QJ6760+QJ6388 4169 EB Goods Appr Tunnel 1 11:34
QJ6375+QJ7040 2834 WB Goods Ex Tunnel 4 12:46
QJ6389+QJ7009 4175 EB Goods Ex Tunnel 3 13:40
QJ6230+QJ6356 4142 WB Goods Ex Tunnel 3 14:30
QJ6878+QJ6274 4127 EB Goods Appr Tunnel 4 15:26
QJ +QJ 5042 WB Light Xiakengzi 16:08

Friday 26 November 1999

QJ6110+QJ7012 4157 EB Goods Ex Jingpeng 08:40
QJ6110+QJ7012 4157 EB Goods Ex Tunnel 2 09:14
QJ6375+QJ6828 2838 WB Goods E of Liudigou 12:27
QJ6735+QJ6356 5048 WB Light Liudigou 13:00
QJ7137 4139 EB Goods Liudigou 13:00
QJ6375+QJ6828 2838 WB Goods Ex Jingpeng 13:53
QJ6735+QJ6356 5702 WB Light Jingpeng 14:00
QJ6388+QJ7009 4041 EB Goods Arr Jingpeng 14:50
QJ6388+QJ7009 4041 EB Goods Appr Xiakengzi 15:40
QJ6878+QJ6230 5702 WB Goods Dep Xiakengzi 15:45
QJ6639+QJ7040 2818 WB Goods Summit Tunnel 16:18
The last train was a mere 2 empty coal wagons. I suspect that there's a numerologist working at Daban. Who else would roster QJ6375 and QJ6735 on successive workings?

Saturday 27 November 1999

QJ6274+QJ6687 4106 WB Goods Liudigou 08:16
QJ6274+QJ6687 4106 WB Goods Liudigou 08:51
QJ7012+QJ6517 4155 EB Goods Xiakengzi 09:01
QJ7041+QJ 5xxx WB Light E of Jingpeng 10:07
QJ7137+QJ6351 5701 EB Goods Hongguan Viaduct 10:50
QJ7137+QJ6351 5701 EB Goods Appr Shangdian 11:50
QJ7137+QJ6351 5701 EB Goods Appr Liudigou 12:50
QJ6375+QJ6828 2824 WB Goods Dep Liudigou 13:00
QJ6735+QJ6356 4102 WB Goods Arr Liudigou 13:43
QJ +QJ6878 5046 WB Light Curved Viaduct 14:40
QJ6925+QJ6996 5703 EB Goods Curved Viaduct 15:17

Sunday 28 November 1999

At last! A cold clear sunny day but not many eastbound trains.
QJ6230+QJ6878 4143 EB Goods Appr Shangdian 07:17
QJ6388+QJ6389 ???? WB Goods Ex Shangdian 07:25
QJ6638+QJ6639 ???? EB Goods Tunnel 7 09:49
QJ6687+QJ6274 4106 WB Goods Ex Galadesitai 10:39
QJ6687+QJ6274 4106 WB Goods Appr Tunnel 6 11:04
QJ6876+QJ7041 2820 WB Goods Ex Tunnel 6 12:20
QJ6828+QJ6375 4110 WB Goods LC above Reshui 12:55
QJ6828+QJ6375 4110 WB Goods Arr Liudigou 13:12
QJ6356+QJ6735 4112 WB Goods Arr Liudigou 13:46
QJ7012+QJ6517 4141 EB Goods Curved Viaduct 14:43
QJ6351+QJ6996 4153 EB Goods Ex Tunnel 1 15:53
QJ +QJ 5046 WB Light Liudigou 16:15

Numerological heaven! QJ6388 and 6389 must have crossed QJ6638 and 6639 at Jingpeng or Xiakengzi.
Bryan Acford's party left for Baotou in the evening (see separate report from Bryan).

Monday 29 November 1999

Another brilliantly sunny day and our last at Jingpeng. Unfortunately the most evil cold westerly wind made photography virtually impossible in the morning. Anywhere that was right for the wind was wrong for the sun. Even where the wind seemed right, the smoke swirled unpredictably. Very frustrating.
QJ6638+QJ7137 4167 EB Goods Brickworks Viaduct 07:30
QJ6876 50?? WB Light Hongguan 08:30
QJ6517+QJ7012 4169 EB Goods Hongguan Viaduct 09:09
QJ7041+QJ6878 2820 WB Goods Arr Jingpeng 10:28
QJ6375+QJ6828 4102 WB Goods Halt above Xiakengzi 11:32
QJ6996+QJ6351 4171 EB Goods Side Valley 12:05
QJ6110+QJ6925 4125 EB Goods Xiakengzi 12:45
QJ +QJ 4104 WB Goods Liudigou 12:53

We then returned to the hotel to pick up our luggage, meet up with John Tickner's group with whom we would travel back to Beijing and begin the long drive to Chifeng. The wild, wide open prairies looked superb in the strong winter sunlight but the wind made it very uncomfortable outside. The last few km into Chifeng were very slow with a long stretch of roadworks followed by sheet ice on the streets in the city centre but we still made it in 4 hours dead from Reshui. An excellent dinner in the station restaurant was enlivened by a visit from a large brown rat which scurried across the room before disappearing behind the radiator cladding then poked its nose out for a second look. We left Chifeng on train 560 at 20:31 for Beijing Bei behind an orange liveried DF4.

Tuesday 30 November 1999

The longest day. Arrival at Beijing Bei was on time at 06:28. This station has changed little since I first visited it in 1984. It was then called Xizhimen and hosted several QJ and JS, sadly long gone. The narrow street leading from the station also maintains much of its charm with touts for bus operators shouting out destinations and many small snack bars and restaurants doing a brisk trade in spite of the early hour. Once we'd found our bus and rounded up one of our number who didn't, we were off. The contrast couldn't have been more dramatic. From the fast disappearing Beijing of small old buildings on narrow streets we emerged into the bold new glass, steel and concrete city, straight onto the freeway and a complex interchange (Noodle Junction?) that wouldn't have looked out of place in L.A.
After a couple of hours at the Airport Hotel to freshen up, we continued to the airport and checked in for the uneventful return flight to London.

CONCLUSIONS

Of the 4 visits I've made to Jingpeng, this was by far and away the worst for weather and produced less trains than expected. Ironically, visitors before and after us saw much more traffic. There have been some adverse comments recently about there being more in China than Jingpeng Pass and referring to it as the "idiot hill". Granted there is more in China but for action photography of steam hauled trains in the landscape, there's nowhere half as good in China, or the rest of the world for that matter. In spite of the relatively poor weather, Jingpeng Pass remains the best steam destination on the planet. I can't wait to go back.

Loco Lists (Based on Hans Schaefer's October report).

Note that we saw 23 out of 44 active locos, virtually all several times over. Other locos almost certainly passed in the 14 hours of darkness every day and were therefore not recorded. There seemed to be a fairly even spread of locos across the different brigades except the 1st Brigade which produced none at all. The only loco seen that wasn't on Hans' list was decorated QJ6579 which was seen again on 29/11 by Bryan's group at the west end of the line. It must have been en-route from Daban to Baichi after depot attention when we saw it on the 22nd.

  B’gde 22/11 23/11 24/11 25/11 26/11 27/11 28/11 29/11
2645 2                
6110 5 x x x x x     x
6125 5                
6135 3                
6230 6 x     x x   x  
6274 2 x x   x   x x  
6301 6                
6351 5   x       x x x
6356 4 x x   x x x x  
6375 2 x x   x x x x x
6388 4 x x x x x   x  
6389 4     x x     x  
6517 6 x x x     x x x
6576 1                
6577 6                
6579 x                
6580 1                
6631 5                
6638 2     x x     x x
6639 6 x x x x x   x  
6687 2 x x x x   x x  
6735 3 x x x   x x x  
6760 4 x x   x        
6763 6                
6828 4     x x x x x x
6876 2 x           x x
6878 3 x     x x x x x
6884 1                
6911 3                
6925 6 x x x     x   x
6992 2                
6996 4 x x x     x x x
6998 4                
7002 1                
7007 6                
7009 5     x x x      
7010 1                
7012 5   x x x x x x x
7037 1                
7040 3 x x   x x      
7041 3 x         x x x
7048 5                
7063 1                
7137 3 x x x   x x   x
7143 5                

B'gde = Brigade - Each of Daban's locos are allocated to one of 6 Brigades (Links in British terminology?).
X = loco seen on the day indicated.

and on to Baotou - Bryan Acford

After a final and largely successful day at Jingpeng, 5 of us headed west on Train 712 at 2138 on 28/11/99. We had QJ6998, an old friend from visits to both Hexipu and Zhongwei, on the front for the first stretch. We quickly organised a hard sleeper berth and when we awoke QJ6304 (decorated front) was in charge for the final section to Benhong. At the west end of the line we passed QJ6997, 6579 (decorated) and 7052 on goods. On shed at Benhong was QJ6764 and three others whilst an example without deflectors was on pilot duty.

We lunched at Jining Nan and headed out on the 1520 express to Baotou (120kph stock and red DF4). A surprise en route was the sight of working steam around Hohhot. Two QJ (one in steam) were at a factory siding east of the station whilst a further QJ was in steam in the main yard west of the station. Does anybody know where these have come from? As far as I was aware Hohhot has had no regular steam since around 1996. We reached Baotou Dong at 1924 and made the short journey to the Westlake Hotel for a couple of nights. The usual phone calls offering creature comforts were not long in coming.

It was cold, clear and still on 30/11/99 as we headed for the Shiguai line, seeing JS8009 with T803 on the climb to Houba. The train log at Houba showed that for the previous few days there had been 2 daytime and 2 night- time goods every 24 hours. There was a change to the service pattern since last winter with the first train of empties not reaching Houba before 11- 00, suggesting that it did not pass Erdoshahe until after T804 had cleared the branch. We were promised 2 trains, at 11-00 & 13-30 so we settled down to wait on the hill above Xiaodonghua. Gloom set in when nothing had showed by 12-30 so I headed to Houba to check the situation with the station staff. The train was in fact pegged and JS8328 reached the summit at 1300. We were also told that the second train was only 30 mins behind. This was absolutely correct and we just had time to scramble into position for JS8005 at 1330. This late running held the promise of 2 loaded trains in good afternoon light. For once the gods were on our side and 8328 banked by 8325 reached the summit at 1520 whilst 8005 romped up on a short train at 1610. We had picked off 5 trains in perfect conditions for the best day of the trip, so far.

We planned to spend the next 3 days on the Bao-Shen line so after a pre dawn visit to Baotou Dong for a flash of JS8279 on T803 we headed off to Singing Sands for the morning activity. The first surprise was that there is now a through Hohhot - Dongsheng passenger each day. It is made up of white and blue 120kph stock and consequently has the appearance of a blue ribbon on a snowy day! The southbound train crosses the viaduct at 1130 with the return at around 1540. At Singing Sands at 0900 we soon learnt one of the hazards of this line - the crews are very friendly but absolutely blowdown crazy - a superb broadside on a small bridge was ruined by a blowdown as it crossed the bridge (QJ6289 on T851). On arrival above the big viaduct we found the Steam & Safaris party scattered everywhere. There was no morning train of empties and after the 11-30 passenger the smog was rolling down from Baotou to destroy the visibility so we baled out and headed for Dongsheng. We survived the notorious coal road fairly painlessly and were delighted to find that the tolls have been sufficient to start the building of a new wider road parallel. This will, of course, be able to take even more blue lorries travelling faster and deprive the railway of yet more traffic! As we passed through town we saw 6348 & 6270 make a volcanic departure on a long train of empties for the mines. We arrived at Aobagou in time to phot a pair of QJ banked by 6247 on the long viaduct at 1325. The staff at Aobagou told us that another goods was expected at 1530, just ahead of the passenger. In the event 7044 passed through on T852 before 6194 & 6452 banked by 6247 stormed though at 1640 in superb evening light. We adjourned to the plush new hotel before searching out a restaurant not serving Mongolian Hot Pot. It was here that we made the discovery of the trip - a MICROBREWERY serving dark beer by the pitcher! We also understand that a well-known Welsh-Canadian gricer, who was also in the area, had his tubes cleaned whilst 'on shed' during the evening!

On 2/12/99 we were unable to find out the day's workings at the crossing in Dongsheng so we headed straight for Aobagou. There were only two loaded trains scheduled during daylight but a bonus was that high-deflectored QJ1891 was diagrammed for T852 in the afternoon. In the event the loads appeared at 1135 and 1500 with QJ1891 passing, as planned, at 1545. Other QJ seen on line during the day were 6247, 2977, 6192, 6452, 6289, 6249, 6018, 2938, 6017. Of note on this line is the fact that on the easier grades around Aobagou station and the bridges the trains are wound up unusually vigorously as they rush the final bank into Dongsheng. By mid afternoon the sun disappeared behind high cloud and no more trains were due so we made a brief visit to the depot at Dongsheng. In steam were 6452, 3068, 6247, 1611, 1891, 2938, 7044, 6017, 2670.
In works were 6193, 2389 plus four others.
Waiting works 1892
Dumped 6040
Plus two being cut up, probably 6248 & 6014. Recoverable components such as superheater elements were being retained for further use. Later in the evening we phoned Aobagou station to ascertain the following days workings and loads were promised for 0700, 1200 & 1400. By 10-00pm it was snowing.

We awoke on 3/12/99 to a covering of snow and little prospect of a clearance. After seeing 6018 & 6348 banked by 6249 on the first arrival we crawled down the coal road on sheet ice passing more that the usual complement of broken and damaged blue lorries. We arrived at Singing Sands and watched T851 cross the viaduct in a snowstorm. As the day wore on the snow showed no sign of abating so after seeing both passengers, a southbound goods at 1420 and northbound light engines at 0930 & 1230 we decided to head for Baotou. The snow was by now pretty deep and our minibus was unable to climb the hill back to the main road. Attempts at pushing seemed pretty futile so we were reduced clearing the track until the bus could gain enough grip to establish the momentum to scale the summit. Once again progress on the ice was painfully slow and we reached Baotou Dong at 1645. During our 3 days on the line it became apparent that the locos blow down very frequently often on and in the vicinity of the bridges. It became something of a frustration spoiling some photos and coming close on others. A further frustration is finding locations, apart from the longest bridges, where the whole train length and banker can be photographed. Our final gricing day was 4/12/99 and for once the trip ended with a bang rather than a whimper. We awoke to a good covering of snow and a clear sky so headed out to the Shiguai road. This was, in fact, closed to most traffic because of the icy conditions but luckily we were too early for police intervention. We saw 8005 approaching Shiguai on T803 just before dawn before heading to Houba to enquire about freights. Over the previous couple of days there had only been a single freight day and night and the same pattern was scheduled for this day. The staff expected the empties at 12-00 with the loads returning at 1430.

We settled down in bright sunshine to wait for T804 (JS8005) which duly arrived in Xmas card conditions before 2 of the group headed back to Baotou to catch the afternoon train to Beijing - a good way to finish their trip! We were by now on foot but had time to set up in a fine panoramic position above Houba village for JS8320 when it passed, as predicted, at 1200. The return working was once again in perfect conditions as 8320 banked by 8325 reached the summit at 1415 and our long journey back to the UK began. At Baotou Dong we saw a JS pass through on a long trip freight from the east before boarding T358 to Beijing at 1751. We saw no steam en route (it was dark most of the way) and saw no sign of any as we passed Capital Iron and Steel on the approach to Beijing.

Conclusions

After the frustrations of our week at Jingpeng the time around Baotou was rather more successful. We certainly secured some fine shots on the Shiguai line (at my fourth attempt). With its steep grades, sharp curves and traditional villages it has become something of a personal favourite. Hopefully there will be no immediate moves to upgrade the track in preparation for diesels.
As expected there was no sign of steam on the Baotou suburbans, a sad loss, but there remains some steam on trips and shunts, however we didn't take the time to find out exactly how much. (but see Florian Menius's account of a visit at the end of December!)
The Bao-Shen line is impressive on account of its long trains with 3 locos, but remains a personal frustration and I have still to secure some of the classic photographs. The line looks pretty secure and seems to have acquired some 'new' locomotives. It has certainly scrapped several of its original stock. For number snatchers at least two 1969 built QJ's (6017 & 6018) remain active on line work. Traffic levels seemed fairly predictable with a loaded train approximately every 4 hours through the day. However, it takes a little perseverance to secure photos which do not feature one of the ugly viaducts.

Barry Burns reports on his pre-tour visit to Chengde and Fuxin:

CHENGDE , FUXIN AND ON TO RESHUI …..

As a prelude to joining Duncan Cotterill's group at Reshui on 22nd November, 3 of us flew out to Beijing the previous week to visit the old favourite of Chengde, followed by 3 days at the new location(for us) of Fuxin. Ground arrangements were organised by Mrs Sun of China Liaoning Steam Locomotive Photography Association (CLSLPA). For our stay at Chengde, our thanks go to Robin Gibbons for the useful notes and maps he posted on this site in January 1999. The railway system in the Fuxin area has been described in detail by Johs. Damsgaard Hansen and Bo Lindhardtsen following their visit in April 1999, a summary of which was published in World Steam WS99 Issue 5. Thanks are due to them for much useful information.

Saturday 13th November 1999

Dave Whitfield and I left Teesside Airport on a fully loaded KL 2148 at 1030 to Amsterdam Schipol, meeting up with Mike Grainger who had travelled from Leeds/Bradford. KL 897 was ca. 90% full leaving at 1640 for Beijing. A comfortable flight was spoiled only by the rather basic dinner of "fish" or "pasta" – is this typical of KLM? However, the price was reasonable at 384 including the UK connections.

Sunday 14th November 1999

Arrival at Beijing Capital Airport was on time at 0850 into the impressive new terminal. We were met by Guo from CLSLPA, who was to be our very good guide for the first week. The weather was sunny, clear and very warm, probably about 14 C. After a lengthy lunch opposite the main Beijing station, we settled down in our hard seats on T 591/593 departing at 1323 for Dandong. The train was typically overflowing with humanity and their belongings, but we managed to concentrate on the important happenings outside. At Miyun, a dead steam locomotive (SY?) was observed behind goods vehicles to the north of the station, and for the next 60 kilometres or so we tried to identify the various locations where we had photographed the infrequent QJ hauled goods trains until five years ago. Unfortunately it was
dark before we arrived at Dongmiaohe so were unable to see any remaining signs of the engine shed once located here. Interesting sights were happening in the coach, however, as a young mother proceeded to breast feed her baby in the seat opposite me – not a frequent sight on GNER or even Northern Spirit! Arriving at a snow covered Chengde on time at 1830, we were relieved to extract ourselves from the cramped seating and enjoy the comforts of the Huilong Hotel close to the station. An indifferent meal at a local restaurant opposite the hotel was made up for by the sound of steam locomotives working up the steelworks branch during the night.

Monday 15th November 1999

Arriving at the banking station (ChengdeXi) at 0715, we were just too late to photograph double-headed SY's 1522 and 1422 leaving, banked by a JS+SY. This was unfortunate as the sun had just risen and formed a bright red ball behind the train. Our minibus gave chase, but as the sun had not yet penetrated the valley leading to the summit, we continued through the road tunnel to Sanchakou. Here a grab shot turned out quite successful, as much to our surprise the leading locomotive was still working despite the down gradient. Not having been this side of the hill in our previous four visits, we continued to Shuangtashan to photograph the three SY's and JS being serviced at 0745 – very atmospheric. SY 1726 departed with a long train for the steelworks at 0755 before we were politely but firmly told to keep clear of the railway lines in the depot area by an official, supposedly for our safety. As the day was now promising to be sunny with fair/good visibility, we returned to the summit area until mid afternoon. Guo had ascertained that a train would be leaving the steelworks for Shuangtashan around 1600 so we returned to the river bridge, but unfortunately in the wrong position to photograph SY 1638 heading towards the works at 1638 with another long train, followed by JS 5634 leaving light engine a few minutes later. Including the 0715 departure, a total of 8 trains uphill from Chengde were observed, estimated times at the summit being as follows:-

0735, 0945, 1050, 1130, 1250, 1400, 1515, 1550

Dinner was taken at the same restaurant, but this was a big improvement on last night.

Tuesday 16th November 1999

No train at the banking station, so we continued to Shuangtashan arriving at 0740 to a similar atmospheric view. Determined to get a photograph of the long viaduct, we took up position on the southern riverbank hoping for a train to the steelworks as on Monday. Unfortunately at this time of day the sun plays tricks by dodging behind the gaseous effluent from the nearby power station, but at 0815 JS 5634 crossed the viaduct light engine for the works during a bright moment. Eventually at 0935 we were rewarded by SY 1726 crossing, in clear sunshine, with a long train for the steelworks. A brief period near the summit tunnels saw trains from Chengde at 1120 and 1200 before we returned to Shuangtashan to observe JS 5634 push wagons along the short spur to the mine at 1340. SY 1726 arrived at 1400 with a train from the steelworks, before SY 1422 took a train to the steelworks at 1415 which we photographed passing a chimney and some cottages, with interesting rock formations as a backdrop. Unfortunately the SY was not under power. As we were to leave Chengde in the early evening, this was our last observation.

Train T591/593 departed Chengde on time at 1847, and we settled into the soft sleeper for a comfortable night.

The following locomotives were seen on the steelworks branch during the 2 days :-
JS 5634, 6216*, 6217, 6218, 6227 (* = Not in steam)
SY 0872, 1029, 1422, 1522, 1638, 1639, 1726, 1753

Wednesday 17th November 1999

Arrival at Fuxin was on time at 0358, and we alighted to a fresh fall of snow covering the streets and countryside to a depth of several inches. The very basic Hai Zhou hotel provided us with a short rest before departing for the 25 minute drive to Minzu some 10 km south of Fuxin. A quick breakfast at the roadside was interrupted for SY 0076 heading south with 5 coaches forming T108 to Dongliang at 0700, followed at 0725 by SY 0391 with 9 coaches forming T110 which we photographed leaving the station as it took the short branch line to Wangying. We were accompanied here by two other small groups, including one led by Nils Huxtable who we were to meet later at Reshui and Dongsheng. On our way back to Fuxin a brief visit was made to the CNR shed south of the station where initial permission to visit was eventually overruled although we did observe a long line of withdrawn QJ's and QJ 6708 moving off shed.

Moving on to Wulong, the centre of operations for the industrial railway, we were surprised by the amount of activity. All traffic from the main industrial line or the yard to the north has to cross over a busy road crossing twice in order to gain access to the shed area or to the branch leading north-east. There is consequently an almost continuous movement of locomotives or trains, all of which were in the hands of SY 2-8-2's. Contrary to previous reports, we observed four facing north (see summary later) although the majority, including all those used on passenger trains, faced south. No QJ's were seen on the industrial system, although we did not venture inside the shed or works. No problems were encountered with access or photography; indeed our presence seemed to be of great interest to everybody including locomotive crews. Good locations for photography were :- at the yard approx 1 km. north of the level crossing where a large power station formed an interesting backdrop; at the mine to the east of the main running lines opposite the yard, and on the electrified line running north-eastwards from the main road crossing, which crossed a minor road before passing through a huddle of hutongs towards another mining area. A brief visit was made to Taipeng where the coaling and watering facilities are situated. Dumped here were SY 0541 and JF(?) 403.

We returned to Minzu for the afternoon passenger workings. At 1415 QJ6655 headed south on the CNR line with a goods, followed at 1434 with another unidentified QJ on a similar northbound working. It appears that the CNR passenger workings are now all dieselised. We photograhed SY 0391 at 1500 working T114 (9 coaches) on the branch to Wangying passing the impressive church, before running (!) back to the minibus and just managing to photograph SY 0076 on T116 (5 coaches) as it headed south on the embankment towards Dongliang. The road back to Wulong was a mini version of the Baotou – Dongsheng road with a constant stream of blue lorries, but the final half hour there before sunset is recommended as locomotives pass over the crossing towards the setting sun. On the way
back to the hotel JS 6479 headed south with a trip goods on the CNR line at 1640. The 3 star Guo Tai hotel provided the usual western style facilities including the inevitable telephone calls from young ladies!

Thursday 18th November 1999

SY 0076 was again in charge of T108 as we photographed it in silhouette on the embankment heading towards Dongliang at 0708 with the sun just above the horizon. A very quick dash was again necessary in order to be ahead of T110 as it approached Wangying at 0730 behind SY 0391. During our 3 days at Fuxin, all the passenger workings observed were in the hands of the same locomotives each day. Returning to Wulong for 0815, the early morning murk of the city still hung over the shed area as a number of SY's were being serviced. The presence of several women collecting coal from the tracks made for some interesting shots and memories of India, except that here their pickings were not from the hot locomotive ash but from overfilled tenders/wagons. We spent a few hours in this area photographing the numerous shunting movements and trip workings, noting SY 0126 arriving with 3 coaches at 0957 with T112. As the sun rose higher in the sky the visibility improved and by 1100 the power station, which had earlier been lost in the haze, stood out clearly against a blue sky. We left Wulong just after midday for Minzu to plan the afternoon workings. We were not in position to photograph QJ 6655 at 1418 with a southbound goods on the CNR line, but did not miss QJ 6752 with the northbound goods at 1437, taken approaching the second road crossing north of Minzu station. SY 0391 with T114 was taken here at 1448 before
chasing in the minibus to get another shot as it left Minzu station at 1455. Another quick dash to photograph SY 0076 with T116 at 1506 as it crossed the embankment after the level crossing about 2km south of the station. Care is needed with this train, as the locomotive usually coasts from Minzu until over the road crossing, and does not always open up at the same location! The final half hour was again spent at Wulong.

Friday 19th November 1999

More or less a repetition of the previous day, except that the snow was thawing quite rapidly because of the strong sunshine the previous two days. Following the morning Minzu workings and another spell at Wulong, we visited the Haizhou open cast site at 1230. Although small compared with Jalainur, this is still impressive with numerous electric locomotives working the various levels of track. At least 2 SY's were seen at the lower levels, but as the angle of the sun was unfavourable we did not venture any closer.

The afternoon was again spent at Minzu, where QJ 6655 headed south but on this occasion light engine at 1402. We photographed QJ 6753 with a northbound goods at 1425 before walking along the Wangying branch to photograph T114 passing the church (the wind had been unfavourable the previous time) at 1448. As we were waiting there, another northbound QJ hauled goods passed at 1440. Despite running, we were still too late to get in position for T116 which passed at 1500 behind SY 0076. Back to Wulong until sunset before our final night at the Guo Tai hotel, to be met by Derek Phillips with his advanced party.

The following locomotives were seen in steam during the 3 days at Fuxin :-

CNR JS 6479

CNR QJ 6655, 6708, 6752, 6753

Local SY 0036*, 0076, 0126, 0384, 0391, 0540, 0770, 0771, 0785, 0912, 0940*, 0941, 0988*, 1089*, 1319, 1320, 1378, 1396, 1397, 1460 (* = Facing North)

Saturday 20th November 1999

Before setting off for Reshui, we had time to see T108 leaving Minzu at 0705 behind the usual SY, but on this occasion we were joined by another dozen photographers from Derek's group in the field south of the road crossing. Today was the start of the "Fuxin Steam Festival", which of course we missed, although it is understood a series of special workings including double heading with SY/SY and JF/SY combinations was organised. We had enjoyed Fuxin, and would recommend two or three days there if visiting this part of China.

Our journey was to be by minibus at the recommendation of Mrs Sun, as our initial choice T-608/609 to Chifeng be "very crowd and dirty with a lot of smokeman", in addition to being slow and often delayed. We set off from Minzu at 0715, travelling via Chaoyang where a stop was made for breakfast. Chifeng was reached at 1445 after a somewhat uncomfortable journey because of the extensive road works. After a change of drivers, we left Chifeng at 1525 and a relatively easy run ensued to Reshui where arrival at 1905 enabled a bath/shower to be taken at the Post Hotel before a good meal at the local restaurant.

Sunday 21st November 1999

We awoke to a light covering of snow – the remnants of a previous fall, and a temperature below zero, but clear and bright. The following workings were observed :-

QJ 6878+QJ 4139 EB Goods leaving Jingpeng 0758
QJ 6878+QJ 4139 EB Goods Tunnel 4 0830
QJ 6389+QJ 6230 ???? WB Light Tunnel 1 0919
QJ 6351+QJ 4147 EB Goods Tunnel 1 0954
QJ 6876+QJ 6925 4149 EB Goods Tunnel 1 1046
QJ 7137+QJ 6388 4145 EB Goods Bridge 1 1212
QJ 7137+QJ 6388 4145 EB Goods Tunnel 3 1242
QJ +QJ 4110 WB Goods Tunnel 3 1305
QJ +QJ 5702 WB Goods Tunnel 3 1330
QJ 6110+QJ 7041 2817 EB Goods Tunnel 3 1413
QJ 6517+QJ 6375 2818 WB Goods arriving Galadesitai 1512
QJ 6110+QJ 7041 2817 EB Goods leaving Galadesitai 1520

Thin cloud had started to build from the north-west before lunchtime, which by now was quite thick so we retired to the hotel for a decent rest.

Monday 22nd November 1999

Following breakfast at the same restaurant we set off for Jingpeng, eventually meeting up on the hillside with Duncan Cotterill ………….


Rob Dickinson

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