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Steam in China, June 2000

Hans Schaefer presents some observations from his journey between June 9th and 22nd 2000 and some tips on firing a QJ.:

"I am sorry I was not able to visit Aerxan line or anything more. The trouble is that when I first arrive in Daban I get just too many invitations to be with locomotives and fire them or drive myself, so all the time went into that.

1.) New timetable: The new timetable from April 2000 seems not to change much from October 99, at least in the visited areas in Northern China. Only the table of contents is rearranged, so the Northern area is not where it was in the old timetable. Jitong line you find on pager 250. Now there is also a timetable for the line from Ulanhaote to Aerxan with one pair of passenger trains.

2.) Jinzhou-Fuxin-Yebaishou - Chifeng.
Visited on June 10. Still a lot of steam. 80% of the freights seen there as well as the Beipiao - Chaoyang passenger train (3 cars) were QJ.

Actual sightings:

June 10th

Shanhaiguan: QJ 7061 ex works shunting there.
Jinzhou: QJ 6770 + QJ 6764 (or 54?) with permanent way work train
Hotel in Jinzhou: Jinzhou Da Shan Bin Guan. Out of station right over the place a little bit right, 100 meters, high riser. Very good comfort, swimming pool, 214 Yuan.

June 11th

Train 853 to Beipiao Nan. DF4 7454, in lousy condition, from Yebaishou.
By the way some DF11 are also not looking good! DF4D and DF11 seen on local trains around here.
Bajiaotai: QJ6489 Fuxin met tender first with freight.
Yixian QJ 6753 Fuxin met with freight, shunting here
Beipiao Nan met QJ 6172 Fuxin, waiting here until 11.20 Heavy drag eastbound out of the station.
QJ 6753 arriving westbound 11.20 with freight. As I was invited to join them on the footplate, I had to leave and followed them to Chaoyang. Some very heavy work on this line. They had a stoker, so work for the fireman was easy. Train needed from 11.30 to 13.30 to Chaoyang. Personell then retired and other people took over locomotive to Yebaishou. Freight was 1800 tons.
Chaoyand to Beipiao passenger was three cars (orange) and QJ 6412
Yebaishou.
At Chaoynang seen QJ 6415 Yebaishou station pilot, QJ 6707 Fuxin with eastbound freight, 7116 Fuxin with eastbound freight, QJ 6753 departure westbound 14.40, QJ 3185 Yebaishou arriving with westbound freight 15.00, 15.36 arrival of eastbound freight with Yebaishou based DF4 1618 + 2117 (orange), I took train 608 to Chifeng then. Orange DF4 to Yebaishou, then green DF4.
First station after Chaoyang we met QJ 6752 ex works +QJ 6416 tender first with eastbound freight. Two stations later one QJ with eastbound freight. Yebaishou still has pilots JS 8237 and 8238, both newly painted. At Yebaishou, 18.00, DF4 6511 and QJ 6411 arrived tender first from north. QJ 6086 under steam in depot.
At Pingzhuang nan, QJ 6728 southbound with freight, JS station shunter, another QJ waiting with northbound freight.
Chifeng: User Tielu Ludian. Follow main road out of station, about 100 meters. Left hand side you see the railway symbol. Hotel looks awful from outside, reception also, no English language knowledge. Best rooms 60 Yuan. Newly repaired inside, and everything worked. Warm water, shower, toilet, TV

Summary: This line has still a lot of steam (or did they run all steam they have just today as I was there?)

June 12th onwards

Bus to Daban. 5 hours ride. Very rough. Full bus, very bad road in parts. Next time I rather take the bus to Linxi and hitchhike with a freight.

Daban status: Locomotive assignment as before. Traffic heavy, some engines having exactly one turn between Daban and Haoluku every 24 hours. There seems to be a tendency that Daban and Haoluku do not send trains from about 10 to 15h. On the other hand, very heavy traffic during night hours from both ends of this line. But this may vary. I was there until June 20.

Baiqi engines seen in Haoluku: 2624, 6564, 6636, 6854 ex works Sujiatun 1/00, 6912, 7088. 7114, 7136, 7138, 7139, according to staff, 6563 is in Baiqi.

News about Daban engines:

According to a poster, QJ 3105 and 7142 front collided on 16 June 1996 somewhere on Jitong railway.
2645 is still Daban station pilot.
6135 ex works Jujiatun 6/2000
6230 is in use after rapair.
6301 has had a facelift and looks tremendous now.
6375 has cabside badges (red flags). This engine was about to leave to Changchun for repair,according to staff info.
6385 from Chabuga seen in Daban
6631 and 6911, and sometimes 6301 are passenger locos between Daban and Chabuga.
I followed 6639 much of the time. This locomotive doesn't look very well, but has a good boiler
6572 from Chabuga seen in Daban
6576 and 6577 are running Daban-Chabuga section.
6630 ex works Sujiatun 5/2000. It had its foirst runs while I was in Daban.
A lot of small extra repairs and fitting had to be done. But the locomotive is looking very well from the outside. In the cab, all handles for the former stoker have been removed.
6638 ex works Sujiatun 3/2000
6687, 6760 and 7040 all have bad boilers, i.e. you shovel coal, but to no effect.
6853 from Chabuga seen in Daban
6876 ex works Sujiatun 2/2000
6992 good looking, well running and a very good boiler.
7007 is passenger loco between Daban and Haoluku, ex works Sujiatun 12/99
7010 still looking very good after 9/99 repair.
7112 is in Chnagchun for repair.
7137 ex works Sujiatun 3/2000
7164 from Chabuga is a new supershine engine.
6884 has Giesl ejector
6996 was sometimes used for passenger train Daban-Haoluku.
6687 was seen on June 18 being towed in a freight eastwards through Xiakengzi. Loco looked quite run down. Maybe for scrapping.
Some locomotives are extremely slippery. I found this to be the case when I was allowed to drive 6760 up from Galadesitai. The actual cause is deep furrows in the wheels. Newly repaired engiones have flat wheels, without wear and tear, and they run nicely up grades. However, if there has gone some time, the area where the wheels touch the rail are more and more run down, making the locomotives more and more slippery. I found furrows up to 3mm deep. Then even more or less continuous sanding doesn't help.

Drivers driving style: Many drivers run constantly at 40 percent cut-off and with half open regulator. Upgrade sometimes with 50%. If you don't open the regulator more than half, the locomotives will not be that slippery. On the other hand there are a few drivers who drive with very open regulator, sometimes full, and 30 to 40%. According to one of the locomotive driver controllers (or how you might translate it, teacher, or superviser) at Daban, the optimum tought is to drive with more steam and less cut-off. The problem, however, is more maintenance. The most extreme situation I found with locmotive 6992 from Chabuga to Daban. There are long stretches of continuous 6 promille grades. The boiler held a constant 15 Bar pressure, and the driver drove at full steam and 45 percent. Thus I have to conclude that a well maintained QJ actually can be run at full power, being hand fired. (I did the firing on part of this stretch, but my trouble was I got the safety valves to blow, with my experience from worse engines, not knowing how LITTLE coal was needed). Again I found myself in the tender sometimes before Haoluku, showelling coal to the front, as the tender was more or less empty on some runs. From Jingpeng to Matiazi and one more station it is a heavy drag with grades of 11 promille. Even if people shovel coal to the front of the tender at Jingpeng, this is not enough. I found that locomotive drivers drink the water which is given to their locomotives at Lindong, Linxi and Jingpeng. Finally, I did the same (with temperatures about 35 degrees C you need a lot of water. At least until now, several days later, this has not hurt. At the depot of Daban they were repairing the warm water piping through the depot. Otherwise they had a lot of new trees planted, and flowers, and were painting some of the buildings. Along the line, there are also lots of tree plantations, and at some of them it could be seen they are effective at stopping sand blown with the wind. And they are planting more trees. Else, the whole area was extremely dry, only a few thundershowers during my last day gave relief."


Some obserservation sabout how to fire a QJ.

When the locomotive is standing still and you need more fire, you distribute coal over the whole grate area. This means you have to throw some of it quite far into the firebox, into the front ends. Firemen throw something into the back corners, but not more than anywhere else. When the locomotive is moving more than maybe 10 km/h, the story is different. Most firemen fire only the back half of the firebox, and much of it to the right and left, both the back corners and in general the back sides. Somehow it seems like the coal is moving forward by itself and the grate incline. The difficult thing is to fire into the back corners and distribute the coal there evenly. The firemen have a nice technique to make the shovel rotate. If you don't rotate the shovel, you end up having a heap of coal on both back sides.

How to fire when you have a mechanical stoker: I saw this only once on a Fuxin based engine. The stoker seems to do all the work, only in the back corners some hand firing seemed to be needed.

The coal pusher seems to work only after they have used some coal in the front of the tender. It is a 50 to 60 cm diameter steel cylinder going back and forth in the foremost 1.5 meters of the coal tank. It works fine as far as long as there is coal to fall down into the hollow from the sides and behind. Things normally turn worse some place after Galadesitai or Xiakengzi on the Jingpeng pass. Then one man must go back into the tender and get some of the coal from further back, or from far on the sides, to fall into the reach of the coal pusher.


Rob Dickinson

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