The International Steam Pages
Steam in China, March - April 2000
Tonghua, Da`an, Shuangyashan, Jixi, Beipiao, Tongliao, Tongchuan, Pingshi
Florian Menius reports on a 5-week-steam tour to China between March 5th and April 9th. The first three weeks, my brother Stephan accompanied me. The rest of the time I travelled on my own. During the whole trip, we had no guide. In total 139 steam locomotives were seen working or at least under steam, most of them CNR engines. Total costs for five weeks in China (including flights Berlin-Beijing/Hong Kong) were some 2200DM (flight : 1000DM, on land 1200DM) or about 1100 U$ per person. I do not want to know, what an equivalent "guided tour" would have cost ...
Question : Is it possible that there is a depot housing some 50 QJs in China in the year 2000 and this place is not Daban ? I think, 98 % would say "No ! ". But the correct answer is "Yes" ! It is Da`an Bei.
Notation / Abbreviations
Tour Details :
March 5th, Sunday
I arrived at Beijing Capital Airport on board BA 39 from
London Heathrow at 10:35 .Stephan should have arrived some one and a half before
on board KL 897 from Amsterdam. But KLM arrived some 2 hours late around 11:00
due to baggage problems in Amsterdam (seems to be KLM`s major problem nowadays :
when he flew back to Germany his baggage was forgotten at Amsterdam ...).
March 6th, Monday
After sunrise (around 7:00) - some 40 km beyond Siping : the same as before : absolutely no steam between Siping and Meihekou and on the line towards Tonghua. Sun was shining, snow covered fields and hills, but sadly no steam.
Tonghua / Hunjiang
At 11:32 we arrived at Tonghua where we were greeted by 3 JS
(8154, 8158, 8201) waiting at the depot or shunting in the station. We checked
in at the GuoMaoHotel, situated to the right opposite to the station. Double was
Tonghua-Hunjiang : Both freight and passenger trains have a
quite unpredictable mix of DF4, DF5 and JS. In general some 50 % of freights are
JS worked. In the early morning, there is a tender first working from Tonghua
(leaving between 6:00 and 9:00) towards Hunjiang serving the local factories and
mines, e.g at Daoqing and Guyuan along the line. This train arrives at Tonghua
between 12:00 and 14:00 (engine funnel first). Another quite reliable steam
hauled train is an afternoon freight from Tonghua to Hunjiang, leaving around
15:30. In the afternoon there are fewer freights than in the morning. The 15:30
freight is often the only steam hauled freight between noon and sunset.
T 665 : Shenyang Bei (appr.7:30 - 8:00) -
Tonghua (appr.17:25) - Hunjiang 18.52 - Quanyang ?
Tonghua departures :
(If nothing different indicated : diesel = DF5)
Tonghua arrivals :
Most scenic section is the area between Daoqing and Guyuan (8 km south of Daoqing). Furthermore, both river bridges some 2 km south and north of Dongtonghua are photogenic.Dongtonghua-Shuihe section is quite nice, too but not very spectacular. When going to Dongtonghua, take Bus No. 3 (leaving in front of Tonghua station). Fare is 0.6 Yuan. Bus No. 3 operates between 06:00 and 18:30. Daoqing can be reached by bus (Tonghua-Baishan(Hunjiang) ) or by passenger train.
Hunjiang-Songshuzhen-Baihe : North of Hunjiang, nearly all freights are steam hauled, some of them double headed. But every day, one DF5 was on freight duties, too. No DF4 was seen hauling a "real" freight, but hauled the mixed Songshuzhen-Hunjiang train in the morning. As reported previously, there is a very reliable freight departing from Hunjiang between 08:00 and 08:30. Freight arrivals and departures at Hunjiang are to be (+/- 30-60 min):
Departures : 08:15, 09:00-11:00 (L),
13:30, 15:00, 16:30
Trains indicated (L) are local trains to Sanchazi or Zazi and
arrive tender first at Hunjiang. Other trains go further on towards Dayangcha/
Songshuzhen, but keep in mind that at least one of these trains will be DF5
Passengers : During daytime, there are 4 passenger trains each
direction. T 955/956 Hunjiang-Songshuzhen are not published in CNR timetable
Timetable for details).
T 804 (arr. 05:58) : JS or DF5
(loco change was observed)
Apart from the "classic" Hunjiang spot at the river
bridge just north of the station good photo possibilities can be found some 6 km
north of Hunjiang and along the following 4kms to the station of Zazi. To get
there, take one of the frequent buses running over the new "highway"
and leave the bus at the tollgate near the road tunnel.
Back to the tour (March 6th) :
After a little pause, we went out to explore. At first we visited the western end of Tonghua station near to the depot and the junction of the branch line to Xintonghua. JS 8154 (nd) was shunting there. Then, we walked to the eastern end of Tonghua station and further on the 8 km to Dongtonghua.The following trains were observed :
At Dongtonghua, SY 0311 and GK1 0028 were serving the
steelworks while JS 8211 (nd) was CNR shunter. Temperature was down to some
-10°C, but a strong wind blew. By 16:30, sunlight failed. So we decided to give
up and walked back to the road to catch bus No.3 back to Tonghua. While waiting
for the bus, an unidentified JS passed through Dongtonghua station hauling a
freight towards Hunjiang.
March 7th, Tuesday
We left the hotel at 6:30 and walked to the S-bend north of Tonghua station. Again some -10° C, clear sky and sunshine in the morning.
JS 8155 (nd) was pilot at the northern end of Tonghua station. We took Bus No.3 to Dongtonghua. At the river bridge some 2 km north of Dongtonghua, we started our linesiding session. During the day, we walked to Shuihe (8kms from Dongtonghua) and return. The following trains were observed :
As said above : After 14:00 no steam except of the 15:30 departure. We arrived at Dongtonghua station at 17:45. Today, JS 5751 was Dongtonghua pilot; the steelworks had GK1 0036 and 0091 in use. Furthermore, JS 8211 was waiting in the station, heading a Dongtonghua to Tonghua local freight. Sunset around 17:45; back to Tonghua by bus No.3.
March 8th, Wednesday
Dull light all the day. Heavy wind in the afternoon, combined with some snowfall and rain. Another morning at Tonghua northern end :
JS 8155 was shunting again. JS 6271 was waiting at the
platform for its wagons. It hauled Fast 645 to Baihe (dep. 08:41). We bought
tickets to Hunjiang. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, we got tickets
for T 651 (Tonghua-Dalizi, dep. 08:13) instead of those ones for T 645. The lady
at the counter did not understand, why we wanted to get tickets for the later
train ... Ten minutes late, at 08:23, T 651 left Tonghua, hauled by DF5 1193,
while JS 6271 was waiting next to us ...
The departure of JS 6271 (obviously, it had left T 645 at
Hunjiang) was the only photo of the day with sunshine ... After this, we walked
back to the yard, where the three pilots (JS 8231, 8233, 8234) plus JS 8158 (hd)
were present. The crew of JS 8234 invited us to the cab. At first we pushed back
some 12 wagons to the very northern end of Hunjiang yard. The coal wagons were
dedicated for the power plant. Then, Stephan was invited to go to the regulator
... The first time driving a JS on his own, he had to climb up the grade to the
power plant hauling a maximum-weight-train of some 1000 t ... Quite impressive !
I should have been outside and taken a video of the scene ... The following two
hours, we spent on board of JS 8234 shunting at the power plant`s yard,
collecting some empty wagons at the power plant, returning to Hunjiang, serving
a factory at the northern end of the station and then a second time tripping 12
coal wagons to the power plant. In the end, JS 8234`s crew was quite impressed,
how soft Stephan coupled the engine to some wagons ... Normally, Chinese crews
drive until hearing the "ruuummms".
March 9th, Thursday
In the morning, we took a taxi to the river bridge (10 Yuan) where we arrived just at the moment when the 8:15 freight left the Hunjiang yard. Running up the hill, we just got the train.
After that, we started walking along the track towards Zazi. Sadly, the T 956 mixed was DF4 hauled :
Some 2.5 km north of the river bridge, the track joins the "highway", where we picked up a taxi to Dayangcha (50 Yuan). Journey time was about 45 min. We arrived at Dayangcha at 10:10. The day was spent walking down the 9 km to Sanchazi :
At Sanchazi, JS 5855 was shunting and served two branch lines to coal mines. Both lines leave Sanchazi station to the north. Each of them is some 2 km long. Then :
At 17:00, sun disappeared behind the mountains. So we went back to the "highway" and caught a taxi back to the hotel (20 Yuan). From the taxi, we saw a freight heading for Dayangcha arriving at Sanchazi (17:10) and JS hauled T 803 (Tonghua-Songshuzhen) near Hunjiang.
March 10th, Friday
Got up early at 05:15. Local bus No. 1 starts not before 06:00. So we had to take a taxi to the station (5Y). We took T 804, departure 06:05 and went to Daoqing (2 Yuan). T 804 arrived JS hauled (tender first !) at Hunjiang, but motive power was changed to DF 5 5010. Arrival at Daoqing at 06:42.
JS 6306 was shunting some 30 min at Daoqing and collected some wagons. It served the 500m long branch line to the coal mine south of the station, too. After its departure in the direction to Hunjiang (around 08:10), we left Daoqing. The rest of the day was spent on the 8 km - long section Daoqing - Guyuan. The summit is situated about 3 km south of Daoqing, but the steepest section just south of the summit - featuring a grade of 1.9 % - is treated by poles and nearly not useable if you want to take photos. 2 km south of the summit, there is a river bridge, whereas the following 3 km to Guyuan are unattractive.
Again : No steam train between 12:20 and the 15:30 freight ex Tonghua.We took T 803, departure 16:28 back to Hunjiang. To our surprise, it was steam hauled (JS 5485). At Hunjiang the JS was not replaced. So, JS 5485 must have hauled T 803 all the way from Tonghua to Songshuzhen.
March 11th, Saturday
We took the bus to Hunjiang station and bought hard sleeper tickets for T 220 (Hunjiang 20:13-Changchun 05:03) for the evening (79 Yuan). Today, all passenger trains were 20 to 30 minutes delayed. Again, a morning session at the river bridge :
We walked along the track to the scenic section near the road tunnel. Some 3 km north of river bridge, where the road and the railway are parallel to each other, you can see the (electrified) Hunjiang narrow gauge railway winding around the hill to the west of this place. Sightings :
After T 955, we started walking back to Hunjiang. T 653 arrived behind DF5 (19:40). It went round and headed T 220 back to Tonghua, dep. 20:13.
Engines seen at Tonghua :
March 12th, Sunday
Arrival at Changchun at 05:03. Bought hard seat tickets for T 825, departure 06:30, arrival at Da`an at 11:24. T 825 got fuller and fuller and arrived overcrowded at Da`an.
On the way from Changchun to Da`an, a DF4 hauled freight was crossed at Kai`an (07:15), T Y272 at Nong`an (DFH3 0446, 08:00), two further freights at Wangfu 09:11 (DF4 1503, QJ 3179) and T 212 (DFH3 0184, 10:02) at Qianguo. At Qianguo, two high deflectored steam locomotives were shunting. One of them was QJ 3226. Qianguo has a small depot west of the station, where a third QJ (standard deflectors) was waiting. Some 4 km west of Qianguo a branch line extends south to refinery. At the junction to this branch line, there is a large yard, too. At Tongtu (10:20), a QJ+QJ double headed tanker train was crossed. East of Changshantun station, a branch line extends to a large factory. Changshantun station has got a yard, too and is destination for some freights, too. At the western end of Changshantun station, there is a servicing area (water cranes, coal supply). There is even a turntable there ! About 1.5 km to the east, a nice river bridge can be used as photo spot. Next to the bridge, there is a derelict building. Climbing onto the ruins, you have nearly the best linside spot of the whole area ...
The city of Da`an is situated next to the station of Da`an
whereas Da`an Bei station (Da`an North station) is situated some 3 km south-west
( ! ) of Da`an. We checked in at the Da`an Shi Binguan (double 200Y for the
first two nights, the third night was 100 Yuan ). Just around the corner, there
is a second hotel but it was not checked.
Da`an Bei shed is situated north of the station. Between the shed and the station, there is a crossing : a perfect place for watching trains and steam movements.
Da`an Bei has got a fleet of some 50 QJs and some 5 JS .
Predominantly, they haul freights between Ranghulu, Da`an Bei and Taipingchuan.
On both lines, you can expect about 15-20 QJ hauled freights during daylight
hours. But expect up to 4 goods trains DF4 hauled. Hardly any freight has less
than 40 wagons with 42 to 45 wagons being "standard". If loaded, that
means trains of more 3000t ! Nearly all trains are single headed. During 6 days
of observation, only 3 double headed trains could be noted.
Occasionally, there seems to be a lack of QJs. As of this
reason Da`an Bei`s "monster trains" sometimes have to be hauled by JS,
single JS, of course !! Have you ever seen a JS trying to accelerate a
3000t tanker train ? Wow !
In addition to the freights, there is also a number of
passengers (QJ, sometimes JS, too) :
The line towards Ranghulu has 2 pairs of passengers, both
quite likely to be steam hauled (but can be DF4, too). Timings for Da`an Bei are
Most steam passengers can be found on the line to Baicheng.
Steam departures observed :
The line to Taipingchuan has only three passengers at all : Out of them, both the nb and sb express trains Hangzhou-Qiqihar run during the night, whereas T 703/704 Qiqihar-Tongliao are DF4 hauled south of Da`an Bei (orange Tongliao based DF4). The only steam hauled passengers are T 951/ 952 Da`an Bei-Taipingchuan. They operate as mixed trains (3 YZ at the end of the train) with longer stops at some intermediate stations (Qian`an for example). T 951 leaves Da`an Bei early in the morning at 06:05. The same engine arrives back at Da`an Bei at 20:19, hauling T 952.
Major problem around Da`an is the lack of photo possibilities
combined with unfavourable weather conditions : All four lines radiating from
Da`an Bei have poles on both sides. There is a (fine) old style telegraph pole
normally in a distance of some 30 metres to the track. But the telegraph poles
are not the problem. It is the 3-wire-telephone pole. The telephone poles are
nearly everywhere immediately next to the track and normally on the other side
of the track than the telegraph poles. On the line Ranghulu to Taipingchuan
line, the telegraph poles are normally on the eastern side of the line, the
telephone poles to the west. So, the morning would be the best time for
photography, when you can use the 30 metres spare place between track and the
Furthermore, the landscape is absolutely uninspiring. There
are hardly any bends. Straight line for up to 20 km is not unusual. Maximum
grade, I noted, was 0.4%. This "climb" can be found some 5 km south of
Da`an Bei and is against northbound (empty) trains.In general, you can find not
more than 4 different motifs :
The big river bridge some 5 km north of Da`an Bei is hardly not photographable, too. It is a positive (iron made) bridge and heavily guarded. Probably the best photo spot in the area is the bridge west of Changshantun, where you can find two bends plus some rows of birches one kilometre further west ...
Back to the tour (March 12th) :
After having refreshed at the hotel, we left the city to the northwest as we thought Da`an Bei station would be somewhat north of the city. Soon, we had to realise that it is southwest of Da`an city ... In the end, we arrived at "the Da`an Bei" crossing not before 15:00. This crossing is situated exactly between the station and the depot north of the station`s yard. JS 6237(hd, 1982 built), QJ 6367 and QJ 6882 were waiting next to the shed`s entrance. Decorated, deflectorless JS 6239 shunted at the northern end of Da`an Bei (southern pilot was high deflectored JS 6096). QJ hauled freights every 30mins ! Where else in China can you see such an spectacle !
The departure of JS 6237, accelerating 44 loaded tank wagons
was the most spectacular sight, I have ever seen !
We went back to the hotel using a three-wheeler (5Y).
March 13th, Monday
Having seen the amount of trains on the line to Ranghulu, we
decided to visit this line. So we took T705 Da`an Bei-Ranghulu, dep. 06:20 ( DF4
hauled ). At Tashihai and Xinzhan, QJ hauled freights were crossed, another one
overtaken at Xinzhan. We went to Taiyangshen, 56 km north of Da`an Bei. The
whole day was spent between Taiyangshen and Lizhi, the next station to the
north. Measured by Da`an`s standards, the line is "highly spectacular"
here. There is a big salt lake just west of Taipingshen. Furthermore, there is a
wide bend 1 km north of Taipingshen, followed by a cutting, then rows of
birches, Grades of up to 0.3% and 2 level crossings. After 3 km straight line, a
second bend is reached.
At 15:50, we took Fast train 548 back to Da`an Bei. QJ 6809 was overtaken at Taipingshen (waited there), QJ hauled trains were crossed at Taipingshen (unidentified, rolled in behind QJ 6809`s train), Xinzhan (QJ 6847), Jianmen, Tashihai and Da`an Bei. After arriving, we went to the crossing to the north again. We hoped for QJ 6809, hauling a complete train loaded with wood (must have been a whole forest ! 46 wood-loaded wagons !). But sadly, it did not appear before sunset (17:45). Instead of, JS 6096, 6239, QJ 6379, 6368 and 6571 were noted. T 211 Changchun-Baicheng arrived behind DFH3 0184 (17:20).
March 14th, Tuesday
A second day was spent on the Ranghulu line. We went to
Xinzhan, where a flat bridge can be found some 2.5 km north of the station. It
crosses a salt lake. A bridge is the only photospot, which cannot be found at
Taiyangshen. But the telephone poles (to the west side) are very, very close to
the track here. Combined with the wind, morning photography is ruined, too.
Again, we returned to Da`an Bei on board Fast T 548 Harbin-Ulanhot, dep. 16:39 (half an hour late). A short visit to Da`an Bei`s "Northern Crossing" showed : JS 6096, 6239, QJ 6086, 6143, 6280
March 15th, Wednesday
Originally, we had planned to visit the Baicheng line. We had
wanted to ride the Y267 tourist train, dep. 07:38 to Guang`an. Arriving at the
station, we realised, that the Y267 train was neither listed on the board nor
the ticket counter sold tickets. But : on time - at 07:33 - Y 267 arrived and it
was hauled by deflectorless JS 8045. But we were not allowed to enter the train
It was obvious, that the line towards Taipingchuan would offer more trains. So we walked down some further 3 km towards Jianshe. Here - in direction to Jianshe - a 0.4% grade against northbound trains begins, whereas southbound trains leaving Da`an Bei station are worked hard to accelerate the trains until this point. So to say, this is a kind of "summit" here. Furthermore, the telephone poles are installed some 15 metres away from the track here, sometimes hidden behind the birch rows and - although only for a few hundred metres - to the east side of the line together with the telegraph poles.
In the meantime, we saw the exhaust of a steam engine leaving Da`an Bei towards Baicheng at 11:45. This must have been T 825 Changchun-Baicheng. So, we decided to watch the return working T 826 and walked back to the Baicheng line.
Rest of the day was spent at the Taipingchuan line again :
Now, we had arrived back at Da`an Bei station :
JS 6096 was the southern end pilot. The crew invited us to the
cab and we spent the next hour hump shunting at Da`an Bei. After telling the
crew, that Stephan had driven a JS before, he was allowed to drive JS 6096. This
time, he had to accelerate one of those 45 wagon-freights (I do not know whether
loaded or not, but according to the maximum speed of some 2 km/h and permanent
wheelspin, it must have been a loaded one ...) But even JS 6096`s crew did not
reached a higher speed with this train. Compared with JS 8234(Hunjiang) JS 6096
was in worse condition : the regulator did not work well. You could open it half
way, but nothing happened. Instead of, the engine had to be driven using a
maximum regulator`s amplitude of some 2 centimetres somewhere around the middle
position of the regulator. At 18:30, we left JS 6096. While walking back to the
station, JS 8045 arrived, hauling tourist train Y268 to Qianguo.
Engines seen at Da`an :
* QJ 6891 has got two square shaped headlights instead of round ones
March 16th, Thursday
Arrival at Harbin at 04:31. Bought hard seat tickets for T 439
Beijing-Jiamusi, departure 05:54. This is an air-conditioned train and because
of this reason, it is nearly double-priced : 64 Yuan one person!
At Jiamusi, we bought tickets for DFH3 hauled T 241 (Jiamusi 17:06 - Shuangyashan 18:50) to Shuangyashan (7 Yuan). At Shuangyashan outside the station, there is a good hotel but we went to a lüdian to the left side of the station. Double was 50Y.
March 17th, Friday
This industrial system has been described by Ted Talbot. As
Ted Talbot described, the Shuangyashan coal railway has both QJs and SYs in use.
In general, there is a mainline towards the southwest of SYS and a long branch
line to the north. The mainline goes to Shuangxing, the branch line terminates
at Fushan. The branch line leaves the mainline some 5.5 km away from SYS CNR
station. The junction is called Changan. Both lines are steeply graded (up to
2.1%), have a summit only a few kilometres away from SYS and offer both coal
freights and QJ hauled passenger trains. Passenger trains consist either of 9 or
11 coaches. All engines leave SYS funnel first. So, all loaded coal trains and
passengers returning to SYS are tender first.
Back to the tour (March 17th) :
We did not get up before 08:30. The hard seat journey from Harbin to SYS had knocked out us. At 09:15, we arrived at the CNR service point south of CNR station. QJ 3593 was shunting there and serving the power plant`s branch line. At 09:30, QJ 3459(tf)+QJ3598(tf) arrived from Zhongxin station - the latter one being out of steam. Now we started to walk down the "mainline". At Zhongxin station, SY 0632 was shunting. We walked along the mainline to km8 near the summit. We observed :
At 14:00, we could see the passenger on the northern branch line (hauled by QJ 6808). The "mainline" offered the first (and only) freight of the day at 14:10 :
Now we walked back to Zhongxin station, where QJ 3135 was preparing T 51 .
Although the passengers themselves are worth the journey to Shuangyashan, we very disappointed about freight levels.
March 18th, Saturday
We had planned to watch the 06:57 passenger departure to
Fushan (T 71). But when we stood up, we realised, that there was heavy snowfall
outside. Some 15cm snow had fallen during the night. Snowfall did not stop
Afterwards, we changed to the line to Fushan :
At 14:05, a QJ (light engine, probably QJ 3593) was seen on the mainline, heading towards Shuangxing. Back at the mainline, we had to watch a QJ hauled freight (14:30), going towards Fushan over the northern branch line. The mainline saw :
We walked down to the road bridge. QJ 3459 was waiting inside
the factory just west of the northern line's junction. From the road bridge, we
took Bus No.1 back to SYS. A second visit to the "depot area" saw SY
0632 and SY 1045 waiting there in the last sun of the day (around 17:00).
Locos seen at Shuangyashan (all under steam) :
March 19th, Sunday
T 850 arrived at Linkou at 02:50 where we were welcomed by the station`s policemen who insisted on checking our luggage before we were allowed to buy tickets for T 603 (Harbin-Hulin) to Jixi. T 603 left Linkou at 04:01. Happily, the CNR station chief of Linkou organised, that we could sit in the restaurant car : the train was overcrowded. At Didao, a SY was seen shunting. Arrival at Jixi : 06.30.
CNR steam at Jixi ended last year (in October 1999, if I
understood right). So, with Jixi retiring its last QJs in October, Bei`an and
Suihua in November and Jiamusi in December 1999, the whole Harbin bureau
district was free of CNR steam by the end of 1999 ! Only local, industrial and
forestry railways are left in the far north.
With the exception of the system at Hengshan, it is quite senseless to go to Jixi without guide and official permit to enter the coal mines as the steam engines are normally inside the coal mine's area. Exception is Hengshan, where the engines are stabled at the mine railway`s stabling point situated to the west of the CNR yard. It is freely accessible, staff very friendly.
Accommodation : There is a very good hotel near the station. When leaving the station, turn left. The third building on the left side (wearing the CNR symbol) is the Long Fu Binguan. Prices are between 100-260 Yuan, suites up to 588Y.
Back to the tour (March 19th) :
After arriving, we checked in at the LongFu Hotel (200Y until the following evening). We had to relax, enjoyed a bath and the fine beds, before we left the hotel around 10:00. We walked to the Jixi-Hengshan line in hope for QJs. But when we reached the line, we were disappointed : the trackbed had a clear message : apparently no recent use of steam, but many diesels. A typical sign for usage of diesels are fresh oil leaks between the rails whereas steam locos predominantly produce oil leaks outside the rails. 2.5 km south of Jixi, the line passes a coal mine where SY 0408 could be seen under steam but did not move. Then, it proved that the trackbed was right :
Now, we decided not to walk to Hengshan all the 12kms but to
take a bus. The Jixi-Hengshan line itself is quite spectacular. It offers a
summit, steep grades in both directions including a horseshoe bend on the Jixi
side. It must have been great to watch QJs here, hauling the freights.
March 20th, Monday
We intended to investigate the branch line north of Qinglong
(situated half way between Jixi and Linkou). So we took a (shared) taxi for 50Y
to Qinglong station. Qinglong is situated in the middle of the nowhere, a little
Chinese station with two sidings. A talk to local staff brought out, that there
has never been a branch line at Qinglong ! The branch line to the north actually
extends between the stations of Lanling and Wulong (half way between Langling
and Qinglong) but is no longer used.
When we arrived at the station Wulong (6km east of Qinglong), weather got worse and worse, light got duller and duller and wind heavier and heavier. So we decided not to walk to the branch line's junction. We took a minibus back to Jixi (5Y). Near Didao, we passed the two collieries detailed above. The rest of the day was spent shopping and waiting for our train, T Y202, leaving Jixi at 20:39. Hard sleeper was 102Y.
March 21st, Tuesday
Arrival at Harbin at 06:07 but we decided to go on to Harbin
Dong (printed destination on our tickets). Nearly everyone left the train at
Harbin. At Harbin Dong (06:34), a total of 4 persons left the train ! With the
help of some very friendly railway employees, we were allowed to buy hard
sleeper tickets for T 418 (Harbin 08:04 - Tianjin - Jinan) for the
"short" distance to Jinzhou only. So, we could avoid 11 hours hard
March 22nd, Wednesday
After breakfast, we took T853 (Jinzhou-Chifeng), departure 07:51 to Beipiao Nan (arr. 10:18). T 853 has got a soft seat wagon. It costs 5Y extra, but you can avoid hard seat. At Bajiaotai, a JS was sitting next to the power plant. All trains which were crossed this morning were DF4 hauled : T866 at Nihezi (DF4 7457), a freight a Yi Xian (DF4 7427) and T607 at Beipiao Nan (DF4 2117).
At Beipiao Nan, we took bus No.5 to Beipiao. Fare is 2Y. Beipiao has only one hotel : the grotty Beipiao Shi Nanshan Binguan. Bus No.5 from Beipiao Nan runs along Beipiao's main street. Leave the bus after it turns left. The white and yellow, flat building on the left side of the street is the hotel. Prices are 40 - 60Y per person. Some metres further on, you will find a railway crossing. Beipiao station is half an kilometre to the east whereas the left track to the right is the line towards Beipiao Nan. The right track leads to a huge factory / power plant which employs some SY (including SY 0387 and SY 1451).
The Beipiao-Beipiao Nan line is 100% QJ worked, although freight levels can be very low during daytime. The Beipiao-Beipiao Nan passenger service - published in the CNR timetable - had been cancelled by March 17th undo reverted to run from Beipiao to Chaoyang now. There is no possibility to turn the engines at Beipiao. So, half of the trains are tender first. There is no general rule, which direction will be tender first. Nevertheless, uphill workings towards Beipiao are more likely to be tender first than downhill towards Beipiao Nan (valid for freight trains, too). The current passenger timetable - valid since March 18th 2000 - is :
Beipiao Passenger Timetable :
The Beipiao to Beipiao Nan line is quite scenic. It offers
three big and photogenic river bridges. Immediately east of Beipiao Nan, the
well known large iron-made river bridge can be found. But a new bridge (made of
concrete, of course) is currently being built parallel to the old one. At the
other side of the bridge is the junction for the branch line to Beipiao. A
triangle provides a connection from Beipiao to both Beipiao Nan and Chaoyang.
Some two kilometres south of Luotuoying, next to a railway crossing, the second
bridge is situated. It is a curved irony bridge, offering good photospots for
southbound trains all the day. About 10kms distance from the triangle, the
station Luotuoying is situated. North of the station there is a large coal mine
and a branch line further north. The "mainline" to Beipiao swings to
the east and crosses the valley on the third large viaduct. Luotuoying has got a
own pilot. During the 3 days, we spent at Beipiao, it was QJ 6476. It serves the
branch line, too.
Back to the tour (March 22th) :
Riding bus No.5 from Beipiao Nan to Beipiao, we could see 3 QJs in the station of Luotuoying. After checking in at the hotel, we first went to Beipiao station, where QJ 6226 was shunting. Then we decided to walk down the track to Luotuoying. At the viaduct north of Luotuoying, we waited for T898 which should leave Beipiao at 13:15 and go to Beipiao Nan according to CNR timetable. But suddenly, QJ 3185 arrived tender first from the other direction : we did not yet know about the timetable change 4 days before at this time.
South of Luotuoying next to the curved river bridge, the following trains were observed :
We took Bus No.5 back to Beipiao and visited Beipiao station again. This time, we found the place, where the new timetable was published. QJ 6226, SY 0387 and SY 1491 all went to the coal mine and stabled there.
March 23rd, Thursday
In the morning, we took T01, dep 06:30 from Beipiao to Nengjia (between Beipiao Nan and Chaoyang). At Beipiao, QJ 6226 was shunting, QJ 6476 at Luotuoying. T01 was hauled by QJ 3185 funnel first. The whole day was spent between Nengjia and Beipiao Nan. Quite interesting was the use of the Chaoyang pilot JS 8236 on T04 and T05.
By now sun had disappeared and we took bus No.5 from Beipiao Nan back to the hotel. A quite frustrating day as we had only tender first trains in sunlight and funnel first trains, coming out of the sun or in unexpected direction (e.g. the 15:00 freight : we awaited T 05 at that moment). In the evening, we went to the crossing at the hotel to watch T 06 arriving from Chaoyang. But it was more than 5 min too early, so that we did not see it. Instead of :
March 24th, Friday
The day started as the day before : we took T01 to Chaoyang. This time, we entered the train at the crossing. QJ 3185 was on the passenger duty again, but - sadly - tender first today ! This time, we went as far as Chaoyang, where we went to the crossing east of the station :
JS 8236 was pilot at Chaoyang. At 10:00, QJ 6679 (Yebaishou
based) arrived from the Yebaishou direction and began shunting at Chaoyang, too.
Except for the two shunters (JS 8236, QJ 6679), there were no more steam
movements at Chaoyang until we left the place at 12:18 (T 04 to Beipiao, QJ 3185
funnel first). QJ 6679` s crew invited me to the cab where I spent nearly an
We took bus No.5 back to the hotel, where we collected our luggage and went to Beipiao Nan station by three-wheel-motortaxi (15Y). We took T 621, dep. 17:21 to Yi Xian (18:01). QJ 6672 waited at Beipiao Nan (funnel towards Chaoyang), a DF4 hauled freight was crossed at Zhoujiatun, a QJ hauled at Yi Xian. At Yi Xian, there were two further QJ hauled trains ready for departure :
We took T880, Yi Xian 19:51 to Jinzhou 20:41 where we checked in at the Tianyide Hotel again.
March 25th, Saturday
We took T853, dep. 07:51 again and went to Zhoujiatun (en route no steam again except for the JS at Bajiaotai), where we spent some 5.5 hours :
We took T 854, dep. 15:23 back to Jinzhou (arr. 17.11). A
freight was crossed at Yi Xian (QJ hauled), another one at Xihoutai (DF4 7427),
T 865 at Qilihe (DF4 7457), a freight at Bajiaotai(QJ 7117) and another one at
Xuejia (DF4 4398). A QJ was sitting a Jinzhou shed.
Steam locomotives seen around Yi Xian/ Beipiao (Fuxin based, if not indicated) :
March 26th, Sunday
Arrival at Da`an Bei at 05:12.
Da`an Bei (2)
I took mixed T952, dep. 06:05. It was hauled by QJ 6891. QJ
hauled freights were crossed at Jianshe, Shuzijing and Qing`an, where I left the
train (arr. 08:08). I had not yet left the station when the local police officer
appeared and made me follow him to his office. I told him, that I only wanted to
see some steam trains here, but he seemed not to believe in that. I was not
allowed to leave the station`s building and had to take T703, dep. 12:00 back to
Da`an (QJ hauled freights were crossed at Shuzijiang and Haituozi). The whole
morning was lost ! At least 5 QJs and one DF4 were heard passing the station
between 08:00 and 12:00 (but there may have been more trains, too). As I did not
want to go back to Da`an at noon, I left T 703 at Haituozi situated half way
between Qing`an and Da`an.
By 16:00, light failed. In the afternoon the station chief of
Haituozi invited me to his office, where I waited. He told me, when the next
train would arrive, I went out, took a photo and returned. A quite comfortable
way of "linesiding".
March 27th, Monday
Originally, I had planned to take an early bus to Changshantun (30 km towards Changchun). I had hoped, there would be a connecting bus service from Da`an Bei to Qianguo for the Hangzhou-Qiqihar express train (T 343, arrival 05:12). But the day before, there had been no bus waiting for this train. So, I decided to take T212, dep. 08:38 to Changshantun. The morning was spent at Da`an Bei`s "northern crossing" :
QJ 6281, 6586, 6484, 6773 and JS 6096, 6239 were seen leaving
and entering the depot. QJ 2749 is dumped inside the depot area but visible from
outside. Now, I was happy not to have taken a taxi to Changshantun as there had
been no steam train on the Qianguo line except for T Y267 before 09:00.
I took T 825, dep. 10:50 back to Da`an Bei (DFH3 0098). T825
waited some 20mins for JS 6237 with its 46 tank wagons ( loaded ! ). Probably,
they did not want to stop the JS with its heavy train a Tahucheng and preferred
to make T825 wait.
March 28th, Tuesday
Between 40 and 50 % of freights along this line are still QJ
hauled. Other freights are hauled by quite old Tongliao based green DF4s (built
between 1980-1984). QJs had either Zhangwu or Dahushan depot characters. Some
goods trains are doubleheaded, too. But all diesel-steam combinations observed
had the DF4 as first engine in front of the QJ.
Back to the tour (March 28th) :
I took the above mentioned 07:00 bus to Bahuta. At Yamenying, a northbound QJ hauled freight was seen. There was a very heavy wind blowing from north to south all the day. The wind was similar to a JingPeng storm, but being in the dessert, you have no chance to hide behind hills here ... Sometimes, you could even not hold your camera against the wind. Nevertheless, I started to walk the 14 km back to Yamenying, permanently facing the wind. The day began quite frustrating with DF4s hauling nearly every train in the morning :
By 13:00, I arrived at Yamenying station. To my surprise, QJ 6771 was still present there. It should have arrived there as early as around 11:40. It did not leave Yamenying before 13:45. The rest of the day was spent around Yamenying station :
I caught a minibus back to Tongliao. I arrived there at 17:15
: a few minutes too late to watch the 17:18 departure of T722 Tongliao-Daban.
March 28th, Wednesday
Took the 07:00 bus to Yamenying again. Bright sunshine today with absolutely no wind. The morning was spent around Yamenying station. Between 09:00 and 10:30, the sand railway was busily operating (read above).
I boarded T883 (DF4 2488, the worst DF4, I have ever seen in China : Even one of its headlights was missing ...), dep.11:49 at Yamenying and got off at Mulitu (arr.12:05). I went to a nice cutting some 2.5 km south of Mulitu :
Back to Tongliao by minibus. This time, I arrived some minutes
earlier and could watch QJ3073 heading T722 to Daban. Taking a photo from the
footbridge is nearly impossible. You will need a lens with less than 30 mm in
diameter to be able to take photos there.
Steam locomotives seen around Tongliao (QJ from Zhangwu, DF4 Tongliao, DFH3 Shenyang if not indicated different) :
March 30th, Thursday
Arrival Beijing Bei at 09:01. I took the underground to Beijing main station (3Y). Tickets for T K41 to Xi`an (dep.17:10) were not available. So I had to take K55, departure 15:20 at Beijing Xi. With this earlier train I had no chance to visit Dahuichang. K55 consisted of 16 double-deck wagons and was hauled by Shijiazhuang based SS8 0044 when leaving Beijing Xi.
March 31st, Friday
Arrival at Xi`an at 06:38. The next bus to Tongchuan left at 07:20. It was a sleeper bus to Yan`an. Fare was 18Y. At 09:35, I arrived at Tongchuan bus station.
In March 2000, the Tongchuan Coal Railway got two further
diesels : DF7C 5217 and 5218, both having 1999 builder plates. So, 4
diesels are available now. As there are normally only 3 locomotives in use
during daylight, a JF working to the line will be very seldom. Fortunately, both
DF7Bs (3134 and 3135) were not in use during my visit. On the other hand, the
two DF7Cs were used daily. But at least one JF was on the line. The diesels now
work nearly all trains to Dongpo and Hongtou (only 3 JF worked trains towards
Dongpo were seen during 5 days) whereas all trains to Wangshiwa were JF hauled.
Normally, there are two workings to Wangshiwa during daylight : the first one
leaves Tongchuan between 10:00 and 11:00, the second one between 15:00 and
17:00. The locomotive is funnel first towards Wangshiwa. At Wangshiwa it
normally stays for about one hour before returning to Tongchuan tender first.
According to local staff, a JF`s maximum load in the 3.0% grade out of Tongchuan
is 12 empty coal wagons whereas a DF7 can haul up to 25. Usual pattern of
working is : in the early morning (between 06:00 and 08:00), some 3-5 loaded
trains will arrive at Tongchuan. Now, all engines will be at Tongchuan Nan. The
first trains of empties will have the diesels. They normally go to Dongpo or
Hongtou. If all diesels have left Tongchuan Nan, the following trains will be JF
hauled. This means for example : If there are two diesels in use, the first two
uphill trains will be diesel. If there is a third train towards Dongpo, it will
have JF tender first. The last uphill train of the morning will be the Wangshiwa
train. Around noon, the same will happen as in the morning : all locos return to
Tongchuan. Then, they leave Tongchuan again, the first trains will be diesel
again with the Wangshiwa one being the last one ... But : the Wangshiwa train
was JF hauled even when a diesel was available at Tongchuan Nan.
The Tongchuan Coal Railway has often been described recently.
For orientation, see Tongchuan Maps . Some
additional notes of interest :
Back to the tour (March 31st) :
I left the bus from Xi`an at the circle traffic. I took a taxi
and checked in at the To Tongchuan Binguan (150Y per night). I stood there for
two nights before changing to the "Tongchuan Shi Qichezhan Binguan".
I walked through the tunnel and further on along the Dongpo
line to the crossing some 2 km north of Qiaoziliang junction. As mentioned
previously, there are two stations at Qioaziliang : one situated at the junction
of the Wangshiwa branch line and a second about one kilometre further north
along the line towards Dongpo. Staff at Qiaoziliang (northern station) told me,
that 2 new diesels had arrived some weeks before. Furthermore, they claimed that
only two JFs still would be in working order. A diesel hauled freight towards
Dongpo was to arrive around 17:00 at Qiaoziliang, but I decided to go back to
Tongchuan at 16:30 and to have a look at Tongchuan Nan station. One of those
incredibly weak lorries offered me a free ride back to Tongchuan.
April 1st, Saturday
When waking up, it was raining heavily. To go linesiding would have been senseless. So, I decided to stay at the hotel until the rain would stop. That happened at 12:00 and I walked to Tongchuan Nan station. JF 2113 was shunting there, JF 2365 spare and JF 4025 waited in the station. So, JF 2368, 2369 and 2182 had to be out on the line. QJ 6652 was on standby duty, QJ 6550 served the branch line to the west. At 13:00, it started to rain again. QJ 6652`s driver invited me to his engine. While talking about Tongchuan's "anti-steam-campaign" and the unexpected return of overhauled QJs at Tongchuan (see above), JF 2369 rolled in, hauling some 10 loaded coal wagons. Only 20 minutes later (13:40), JF 2368 arrived, too :
At 14:00, I took bus No.2 and went out to the line. Now, rain had stopped :
It was too dark now to wait for further trains. So I went back to Tongchuan Nan and visited the servicing area south of the stabling point, where JF 2182, JF 2368 and QJ 6532 could be found.
April 2nd, Sunday
WS recently reported on the Diantou Local Rlwy. between Diantou and Qinjiachuan situated some 80 kilometres north of Tongchuan. In the evening of April 1st, I had asked when a bus to Huangling would leave. I was told, it would leave at 07:00. So, I arrived at the bus station at 06:30 in the morning, checked in at the "Qichezhan Binguan" and waited for the bus. Now, the bus was said to leave at 07:30. But in fact, it did not arrive before 08:20. Then, the bus went the 300 metres to the circle traffic, where it stopped again and waited there until the last seat was full. Some two hours after scheduled departure, the bus left Tongchuan at 9 o'clock. Very annoying to lose two hours waiting for the departure of the bus.
Diantou Local Railway
I went as far as Huangling (fare 9Y, journey time 2 hours).
The Diantou - Qinjiachuan line is highly spectacular. It passes the city of
Huangling about one kilometre to the north. But it is not visible next to
Huangling : there are two very long tunnels (tunnels No.3 and No.4). From
Huangling bus station, walk down the road to Yan`an. About 500m after you left
the city, the road swings to the right. After this bend, there is a white
building on the northern side and a valley starts there. Walk into this valley
and you will reach the line between tunnel No.3 and 4. I walked the 8 km to
Qinjiachuan along the line. The line's description :
April 3rd, Monday
As usual, a morning visit to Tongchuan Nan : only JF 2113 and
2182 were present. I took bus No.2 to the railway bridge and walked to the curve
some 500m east of Shijiahe. In the early morning, there was some fog and it got
more and more foggy. Around 09:00, you could see some 50 metres ...
I took a minibus and went to Qiaoziliang village (fare 1Y). There I walked down the valley to Qiaoziliang station. I was still walking when I heard a steam engine at 11:45. Probably, JF 4025 returned from Wangshiwa. Now, even the sun was shining. At Qiaoziliang, I waited for JF 2368 :
I walked along the branch line to Wangshiwa and waited for the afternoon train to Wangshiwa. Sadly, light was dull again, when JF 4025 arrived :
At Wangshiwa village, I took a taxi back to Tongchuan (20Y).
April 4th, Tuesday
The first day, starting with sunshine ! This day, 3 JFs were at Tongchuan Nan (2113, 2182, 2368). So, JF 2369 and 4025 could be expected to arrive :
Only one train to Dongpo this day (DF7 hauled, of course). And DF7 5217 was still at Tongchuan ! So, I took a minibus to Wangshiwa again and waited for the afternoon train. It arrived "on time" when light was dull again :
Took a taxi to Tongchuan (15Y) and got JF 2182 again at the river bridge north of Tongchuan Nan station :
April 5th, Wednesday
The last, sixth day at Tongchuan was first with sunshine all the day. Only 2 JFs were at Tongchuan Nan (2113, 2368). I walked up the line again :
Again, no steam train to Dongpo. Because I wanted to catch the
17:49 train to Zhengzhou (T682), I stood at Shijiahe and did not go to Wangshiwa
for the afternoon train. But unfortunately, it did not leave Tongchuan Nan
before 17:15 (JF 2182). It would have been the first afternoon train in sunlight
during the 6 days at Tongchuan!
Locomotives seen at Tongchuan :
April 6th, Thursday
Arrival at Zhengzhou at 07:47. I wanted to catch T543 (Zhengzhou
10:55 -Guangzhou) to Chenzhou, but there were no sleepers available for the next
four days. So, I had to buy a hardseat ticket (136Y). Fortunately, I got a
reserved seat as the train became very crowded ...
April 7th, Friday
Arrived at Chenzhou at 04:44. It was raining heavily. I took T 341 from Chenzhou (05:48) to Pingshi (06:45) and checked in at the hotel just left of the station. It was still raining, when I went back to the station. JS 6377 were waiting there light engine at 07:30.
The Pingshi-Muchong coal railway is still 100% JS worked.
Traffic is light. In addition to the daily mixed train T 951 / 952 (see Pingshi Timetable),
there will not be more than one or two freights in each direction during
daylight hours. April 7th for example saw only one pair of goods trains. It left
PingNan at 08:45 short time after the mixed had left at 08:00 went to Jiangshui
coal mine. It arrived at PingNan at 15:49 just before the mixed worked in
April 8th, Saturday
I left Pingshi at 05:36 (T597) and went to Shaoguan (arr.
07:02). Lechang pilot was a JS (unidentified). At Huanggang, three JS were
present (including JS 6505, 6508).
Locomotives seen (all JS Shaoguan based, built 1985/86; DF4 Guangzhou based, built 1975/76 ) :
After crossing the border at Lo Wu, I spent the evening at Hong Kong before
using the airport express to get to Chek Lap Kok Airport. The luggage check-in
in the city is a great and comfortable idea !