The International Steam Pages
Steam in China March 2000
John Agnew has finally put his report together (barely edited by me to break it into sections) - the China experts will want to read especially what he has to say about Zhanhe.
Well Rob et al, here's that report on our China trip. We flew into Beijing via Singapore at 0700 on 11 March and after a quick look at the "Wall" at Ju Yong Pass (just before you get to Badaling - which is better) we retraced our steps and after several false alarms our driver eventually found the Limestone/Cement works at Dahuichang in the SE of the City. Here we videod 2 of the C class 0-8-0's # 2 & 3 hard at work running a shuttle service to and from the Quarry a few kms up the hill.
Then back to Beijing North to catch T559 at 2040, soft sleepers to Chifeng arr 0745 and car courtesy of my very good friend Wang Guogiang (George fax 0476 8333058) back to Reshui's PO Hotel again for another Jingpeng bash. This hotel just gets better. Great train views from the 4th floor. This time we concentrated our efforts on the east side of the pass and spent 2 days on top of "HA TA SHAN" ("huge rock mountain") directly opposite the Brickworks valley and above the hamlets of Er Di (# 2) and Ton Di (# 1). This has got to be the greatest train "Grandstand" spot on the planet. Ton di is shown on Julian Blancs Jingpeng map as Haodashan, but its Ton Di (# 1 village) to the locals.
Trains come into view at about Km 472, midway between Keqi (Jingpeng) and Xiakengzhi and disappear 45 minutes later at about Km 491 around 2 km east of the summit at Shangdian, just above the village of Da Ying Ji. You can climb up Ha ta Shan from either side. If you are fit take the shorter eastern side, If not then the longer but easier western route.
We were interviewed by Inner Mongolian TV from Hohot on top of Ha Ta Shan! Don't know how they found out about us but they did. And they lugged all of their TV gear up that mountain. Nearly as crazy as us. Biggest problem was keeping them quiet while we videod the trains below us, particularly as the sequences were so long. I am now planning a 3rd trip to Jingpeng next March. This is the ideal month for video in China, not too cold but still with great steam effects. You can keep Jan/Feb thanks!
On 16th March George took us on T711 to Daban Loco depot where we met the management and had a great morning videotaping everything in sight including the repairs going on inside the repair shops. Noted at Daban in "Rotten row" were QJ 1760/1979 and 2388/1976. Then travelled by a direct road to Chifeng, not via the Linxi road. Much better road! That night T207/210 soft sleeper to Shenyang and car to Kaiyauan branch on 17th. Terrible roads until 2/3rds of the way out to Xifeng. JS hauled daily passenger and goods train.
18th to Tiefa Coal Rly. Not great for video, drab flat landscape and almost all trains SY hauled (frequently!)
Took 1800 train to Mudanjiang and car back to Weihe (Way huh). We should have got off at Weihe in the early hours of the morning and saved half a day - will do this next time! Weihe hotel very comfortable and great food at Yuntong restaurant 100 metres away. We met the new Director of the railway. But trying to see a map, or records of the line or get any relevant information from him was fruitless. He is just there to get the line closed in the next year or so. So go now!
Tried chasing trains in car but roads not up to it. After badgering our guide Mah Jun Ming (Mike) from CITS Mundanjiang, we managed to hire the best of their 2 railcars for the whole day 22nd March. We ran the entire line 74 km, and even got our driver to take us up some of the loading point short branches. At Yulin we spotted a black 0-6-0 diesel which works the 5 branches in this area. The longest of these is 12 km and heads south from Yulin, while another goes out 7 km northeast of Liushan. We also went up the 2 Km branch west of Conghe to a loading point inside a walled compound.
We went to the loading point southwest of Dongfeng and witnessed the bullocks and horses hauling logs to the flatcars which were loaded by both overhead cables operated by a crawler tractor, and teams of 4 workers struggling up a ramp and dropping each log onto the wagon, a very dangerous practice, as the load got higher with each log. And they were only wearing sand shoes on their feet. Another 20 Km branch heads south just before Qingshan but we did not investigate it. Back at Zhenzhu the branch line which forked off immediately behind the railway station is now a road, having closed in 1998. On 23rd we visited the deserted yards at Yabuli and noted 7 derelict Locos on site; 01, 02, 04, 05, 06, 07 and another hulk which was Z6-1014. On 25th we drove west to Harbin in a snow storm and overnighted at the Longmens hotel (rather classy!)
By train to Zhanhe (Jan-huh) on 25th. The train DOES stop here but the station is incorrectly shown as Wudalianchi on Quail map page 2. When returning from Zhanhe reserved seat ticketing is done from Longzhen a few Kms north as we found out the hard way! Also steam is still running north from Longzhen. We found out too late.
We spent the first few days chasing by car while we tried to arrange for a railcar hire. Amending previous reports the road actually follows the railway all the way to Xing Fu at Km 67, and then diverges away beyond distant hills until it reaches the branch terminus of Wu Sineng at KM 154. rains can be chased as far as Xing Fu and their are good high vantage points at "Pauls Knob" and "Johns Knob" two hills on either side of the road about 2 kms east Xi Xe. On these forays we ate at a great little restaurant in the main street of Xing Fu on the right side entering town from Zhanhe. It is run by 2 very attractive Chinese ladies, who can cook as well! (as what? RD)
On 28th March we finally got our railcar "Charter" arranged Mr Guo Zhi Jun, the lines policeman / security officer who also doubles as some sort of administrative officer. He escorted us into the board room and we saw the large system map on the wall. While forbidden to photograph it we were allowed 5 minutes to sketch it. (A copy of this map has been faxed to me - I am working on it. RD). Mr Guo wanted 600 Yuan for the railcar and 50 Yuan per person per day for photographic permits. I advised him that our trip had been fully prepaid including a railcar, with Zhang Xin Sheng (Our brilliant tour organiser from Changchun, highly recommended) and that we would not be paying any more.
Finally Mr Guo accepted 200 Yuan from us, although I believe he hit Zhang up for more later on. Upon reaching the very small 4 wheeled railcar we found that our "charter" was actually towing a trailer loaded with provisions and beer for Beiying at the end of the line, and that 11 other Chinese passengers were already huddled up inside. So much for the "charter". It appears this is a weekly stores run to Beiying and probably a similar run goes out to Wu Sineng the other terminus?
We departed Zhanhe at 9 am and eventually reached Xing Fu around Midday. From here we ran due east to Maolan Km 85 and the former junction of the 2 northern branches closed in 1998. Maolan has coaling facilities and water, and a 5 track yard. The next section of line is spectacular. We ran down along twisting river gorges and acrosss 5 high viaducts and numerous other crossings en route to the junction at Lingding Km 117. One twin viaduct near Zhanbei was bisected by a tall precipitous ridge dividing the river gorge in two. Regretfully we were unable to stop the railcar at any of these places, other than a single steam crossing at a station deep in a horseshoe gorge, (wow!) and had to be content with video taken from our bucking mobile platform.
Next time (March 2001) we visit we intend to seek a permit to allow us to travel in the guards vans (cabooses) on the log trains so that we can alight one train and re-board a following one at will in this gorge section. We finally reached Beiying at 2.30 pm where we turned on a TINY railcar only triangle, and reversed up a 2 km spur to the township where the trailer was emptied of its spoils. The steam locos obviously turn on the larger triangle one station back at Jia Jihe which appears to be the last log loading yard on this easternmost section.
The return trip, again with another batch of passengers, was a long drawn out affair as we were delayed by loaded log trains heading for Zhanhe, ahead of us, having to clear each section. We eventually arrived back at 10.30 pm frozen to the bone in an unheated railcar with the outside temperature being about -15 degrees. Too cold for us Kiwi's! The next day we departed for Shenyang again.
Here we were met by our CITS guide and headed off to our pre-arranged visit to Sujiatun Repair shops and the Shenyang Loco Museum. Our task was to "Find" SL 751 the world's first(?) fully streamlined Loco, built by the Japanese in 1934 complete with a train of stainless steel streamlined coaches, for the South Manchurian Railway. We were allowed in and found about 5 derelict Loco's. After some fierce arguing with the Museums manager who insisted the loco was NOT here, we were given the freedom to wander around the extensive yards and after about an hour found another batch of recently restored Locos. Then finally we found not one but 2 SL's at the far end of the yards looking very decrepit but intact. Our quest SL 751 was in faded blue and fully streamlined, while SL 815 was in black and was semi streamlined. We are told these 2 will shortly be moved into the "restoration shed" where retired China Rail workshops employees are going to restore them. at present they are "restoring" SY 0994 in this rather Spartan shed.
The complete list of 18 steam locos (all out in the open) at Sujiatun is:
30 March Overnight train to Chengde via Fuxin where we passed several locos in steam on trains or in the yards. 31 March two more days on the "hill". Easiest way to get to the optimum positions on the hill, just below the lower railway tunnel mouth is to go up the main highway to the steel mills to KM post 223. This is on the LEFT side 150 metres before the road tunnel. Cross the road here and proceed up the RIGHT hand side of the small gully for 100 metres. Cross over to the left side of this gully on the track, and proceed up the hill past the small brick hut to the summit of the centre of the 3 hills. (They are all joined together).
This is the best vantage point for video and stills, and you can wander back and forth along the path to each hill top to vary your shots, or go right down to track level for dramatic shots. From here you can go down between the 2 tunnels for awesome video sound effects and then climb the hill over the second tunnel mouth to view the steel works and the uncoupling of the bankers at the summit. We had another of Zhangs brilliant guides here, Zhang Chun Lin (Lin) from Chengde Comfort travel Service situated right in the Hui Long hotel, where we again stayed on the 10th floor overlooking the rail yards with steam charging the hill all night. Great stuff. then back to BJ and home.