The International Steam Pages

Steam in China, December 1999

Michael Rhodes reports on a visit to China with Steve Le Cheminant and Vernon Murphy escorted by the incomparable and ever resourceful Li Weishu.

Jingpeng - not much new to report. The QJs we saw during the five days of our visit were:

6110, 6230, 6274, 6301, 6320, 6351, 6375, 6388, 6389, 6687, 6735, 6760, 6828, 6876, 6878, 6887, 6986, 6996, 7012, 7040, 7137, 7139, 7143

Shenyang - 11th Dec

The large hump yards at Yuguo were home to one QJ in steam ? arrived from Fuxin. The small depot and workshops Huang gu tun are home to one SY (No.1637) and one JS No.8047. Both act as pilots. According to the foreman, the depot was built in 1923 by the British and taken over in 1925 by the Japanese and used as a workshop. Currently about 5 diesels per month are overhauled here. The running shed which lies along side the workshops, seems to house a large fleet of orange DF7 locomotives which work on inter yard trip freights and the local freight services to the dozens of private sidings around Shenyang - these have totally replaced the JS fleet which used to do this work.

Zhanhe 12-14 December

This is a great system. The chief of security who accompanied us on our ride up the line in the railcar was a mine of information and an excellent host. It was cold - minus 28 on 13th and minus eight inside our railcar with the heat full on! The security chief was fascinating as he recounted how he felt Zahne was the best place in the world to live - he waxed eloquent about the fishing up in the forest in June and July and boasted that their local river is the least pollued in Asia. He told of picnics in the birch forest and swimming in the crystal clear river - hard to imagine when its so cold and you've lost touch with your own feet for the third time in a day.  The rail system was built between 1958 and 1968. Today it stretches 258 kilometers into the forest (including branches). The system has 8 P45 0-8-0s. One dates from 1955 and was built in Poland but the rest of the fleet were built in Harbin. The line also has five diesels built in Mundanjiang and Chaoyang - they are 380hp and manage trains of up to 300 tonnes gross. Diesels see a fair amount of mainline work which can be frustrating.

The railmotor, which is very reminiscent of a scaled down version of the German 998 class Shienbus, was built in 1969, has a 120 h.p. engine and a top speed of 40 kph (which feels more like 100 as you hurtle along the 762mm gauge track in the pitch black of night).

Anyway, the system works from December to April with a reduced service until June. The operation is 24 hours a day and during our visit the line was working at near capacity. A ride up the line as far as the yard at Maolan (85 km along the line), resulted in us passing six trains - 3 steam and 3 diesel). There is loads of photographic potential but as every photographer has their own idea of what constitutes a good spot all I will say is there are some great pictures to be had along the

The system is definitely one to explore more in future and I would recommend anyone travelling to the far north of China to give it a visit. We had a delightful supper with the security guard and had some particularly tasty soup which turned out to be "dog and bean curd"!

We had planned to go on to the Weihe system but as a result of conversation with Derek Phillips in Jingpeng we decided to pay Tonghua a visit - Derek reported steam to be very much alive and well - which we can confirm as the result of 3 days in the area. The depot forman at Tonghua seemed fairly certain that steam would last another year so it would certainly seem worthwhile to trek out to the North Korean border, especially for those who haven't seen JS's in mainline action.

Tonghua & Hunjiang 15-17 December

The timings of freights between Tonghua and Hunjiang that were rostered for steam haulage is as follows:-

Tonghua departures 08.41, 10.30, 15.30
Hunjiang departures 08.00, 09.06, 13.29, 14.52, 15.34

It should be said however that in our experience this is a very unreliable guide!

In addition to trains between Hunjiang and Tonghua, there are several freights on the Baihe line which are JS hauled - again we found no pattern to this but they seem to be mostly coal trains loading into Hunjiang where the coal is then tripped by one of the local JS pilots along a short and very photogenic branch to the power station. There are 3 to 4 trips a day along this branch which start around 8 am and carry on until all the coal in the yard has been tripped to the power station.

Our actual observations were as follow:-

JS6271 Tonghua Dong passenger (deputising for a failure)
JS8234 Hunjiang power station pilot
JS8233 Hunjiang hump pilot
JS5485 Hunjiang arrival from Baihe (12.00)
JS5480 light at summit between Tonghua & Hunjiang
JS8231 Hunjiang yard pilot

JS5485 08.15 Hunjiang-Baihe
JS5371 11.00 arrival ex-Baihe
JS6271 light Xing south of Hunjiang
JS8231 Hunjiang south end pilot
JS6306 light at Xing south of Hunjiang
JS5655 Baihe to Hunjiang (13.00)
JS6308 Hunjiang to Baihe (13.15)
JS5480 light at Xing south of Hunjiang
JS8233 shunting local coal
JS5731 light at Xing south of Hunjiang
JS8231 yard pilot

JS5371 08.10 Hunjiang-Baihe
JS8306 freight at summit between Hunjiang & Tonghua
JS6104 freight Tonghua Dong
JS8201 freight Tonghua Dong
SY0534, SY1362 Tonghua Dong steel works
JS8155 Tonghua yard tripper
JS6271 13.30 Tonghua-Hunjiang freight

Tonghua shed

JS8158 (high deflectors), JS8232, JS5691 (derelict), JS5413 (derelict), JS5678 (derelict), JS6103 (derelict), SY0580 (under repair).
JS5751 Hunjiang-Tonghua freight (16.00)
JS8155 local trip Tonghua-Tonghua town (16.45)

Clearly steam is very much on the way out and we saw plenty of freight between Tonghua and Hunjiang hauled by DF4s, but there is still a fleet of about 20 JSs pottering around - well worth a visit - we were certainly very grateful to Derek Phillips for the tip off and we are saving Weihe for next winter.

Rob Dickinson