The International Steam Pages

Steam in China, March 2000

Richard Elmer whose page on  Double-Headed Coal trains in China between Shuozhou and Shenchi excited some interest to put it mildly.

"A few snippets that may help you, based on my observations and a quick chat with the station staff before going on our jolly:

The line was opened in 1995

It is single track with passing places

On our run, we passed a fully laden coal train running from Shenchi to Shouzhuo. This was diesel hauled.

The operation has two sets of diesels (three units in each set) in addition to 5 pairs of QJs we saw.

There are usually about three or four return trips per day, but they are not scheduled and depend upon demand.

I'm not sure if steam operations continue beyond Shenchi, but this would seem likely.

Full coal trains leave from Shenchi, heading northeast to Shouzhou. On reaching Shuozhou West Station (1 hrs), the locos uncouple from the train, reverse back along an adjacent line, cross over and pick up a set of empty waiting trucks to return to Shenchi. The full trucks are picked up by a single diesel to continue their journey to Shouzhou main station. What happens to them then I don't know!

The line is currently being electrified (as you can see from the photos).

No one knows whether this will mean the end of steam, but it is obviously a possibility. The rail staff said that steam was far more economical (there is much coal in this part of China!) than diesel but didn't mention electric. They had not been told whether steam would be discontinued but seemed to want it to carry on.

The sheds, coaling facilities etc are all at the Shenchi end.

There is a huge amount of railway construction in this area. Some QJs are used to haul works units, cranes etc. (there is a photo of this on the web site as well).

If anyone wants to visit the steam operations, they would need to travel from Beijing to Datong (5 hrs on the express train) and then head south to Shuozhou (about 2 hrs). From there, I'm not sure whether there are passenger trains to Shenchi, but there may be. Otherwise it would be a bumpy taxi ride (about 1 hour and probably about RMB200 for the day). Overnight accommodation would have to be in Shouzhou or nearby Pingshuo.

All the rail staff were very welcoming, but an interpreter would help. They probably wouldn't be too thrilled to be overrun with people, but I shouldn't think that they would mind a few casual visits.

Hope this is of some help!

All the best,

Richard Elmer"

P.S. - Some number:

"Definite: 7160, 6542, 6698

Possible: 2?5? (2850?), 6663 (6883?)

These were taken from photos by my boss who accompanied me on our trip. Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish 8’s and 6’s on the photos so some may be wrong."

Regular steam tour guide Zhang Xin Sheng cast some doubt on all this (8th June 2000) but I think it is now accepted he was misguided...:

Rob Dickinson