The International Steam Pages

Steam in China: August - October 2000 Part I

This report is part I of a series of 4:

August 8th - October 10th

This report was provided by Thorge Bockholt, Oederaner Str. 19, D-01159 Dresden.

Another Trip to China. I did it 2 ½ weeks alone and 5 weeks with Florian Menius (Dresden) Here now my observations of the first two weeks, followed than by Florians report for our 5 weeks joined up-trip.

China in general:

You would not believe, but there is a difference in traffic between weekdays and weekends. More and more factories do not work at the weekends and so there is less freight to transport. We have never recognised this fact before, but you should know that a Saturday or Sunday can be very disappointing on the line. More about will be reported at the right place in our report.

Climate: In the end of August Inner Mongolia saw always sunny days with temperatures up to 35 degrees centigrade; mid September in Manchuria between 10 degrees in the morning and 25 degrees at noon. The weather in the Tonghua-area differs from other Manchurian areas, as this is influenced by the sea (and by a lot of tropical typhoons which approaches from the south in summer.) In October in Guangxi- and Guangdong- provinces it was predominantly very hot and humid with thunderstorms and a lot of rain, but saw also two wonderful sunny clear days, hot but with only 10% clouds in the sky.

No guide is necessary for this country if you speak some chinese. And, without a guide you will not have any trouble! You can go everywhere and do what you want, at any time and anywhere. No closed areas, where the guide will stop you from going to. So, throw them away and go on your own. This was now my sixth trip in China. I never had a guide and after this 34 weeks in total I am still alive.

In most areas no taxi is necessary. You can save the money and the trouble. There is nearly always a minibus-Service or in some cases you can hitch-hike. We took taxis very seldom, more about this in our report.

Trains in Southern China on Jing-Guang-Line were very crowded, whilst other lines were not with the exception of some selected trains.

My feeling is that China is not so safe anymore. It is still one of the most safe countries, but in some areas we had some bad observations (brawls) and a few bad contacts with stupid and/ or drunken Chinese people. It seems, that dissatisfaction of the people rises and the scruple towards foreigners is declining, too. Be a bit more careful, but do not fear about that. Some very strange areas were Shanxi province and Liaoning province (places like Liaoyuan or Songshuzhen). Guangdong is still well known for corruption and "slaughtering foreigners" (i.e. paying more than Chinese).

Currency: Deutschmarks exchange rates became worse and worse from day to day (thanks to the strong US-Dollar). At the beginning 100 DM were 374 Y, at the end 358 Y.

August 22nd, Beijing

I took the direct airport bus from Beijing Capital Airport to Beijing Xizhan. Unfortunately, no tickets, not even hard-seat-tickets were available on this day to Baotou. I got one for the next day for Exp. 43, but lost one day in Beijing.
Direct bus from Xizhan to my well recommended cheap Hotel "Jinghua Fandian", Nansanhuan Xilu. The bus has no number but is going to Fangzhuang from Xizhan bus station. Jinghua Fandain has 4-bed-dorms for 35 Y, doubles for 140 Y. There is direct busline 957 from Beijingzhan and line 66 from Tiananmen, too.
Internet-Access is easy in the main postoffice near Beijingzhan. One hour is 8 Y.

All buses in Beijing are at least 1 Y, metro 3 Y (Half more than 1.5 years ago, so the metro is less frequented now than before.)

August 23rd, Exp. 43 Beijingxi - Baotoudong

Air-con train 43, between Datong and Jiningnan very crowded.
I stayed in Xin Yu-Hotel in Baotoudong, near the station, about 800m straight , on the left hand side the first modern big building. Very clean and friendly. Double is 70 Y!

August 24th, Singing Sands/ Guannianfang

I took a minibus to Guannianfang (buses go further to Dongsheng, very frequent service) leaving 6.30 at the main-busstation in Dong. Fare was 8 Y. I got off at the following point:

  1. You will drive trough a city (Dalachiqi) with a big power station.
  2. The road becomes worse and goes trough dunes and hills.
  3. After about ten minutes there is a blue-coloured traffic sign with an arrow to the right. Some meters to the right you see a gate like an triumphal arch with flags and the words Singing Sands.
  4. Get of here and walk about 2 to 3 km and you are just standing above the tunnel.

I was early enough for the Pas 851/4 and had 2 southbound freights and train 205 Huhehaote - Dongsheng with 14 a/c-coaches at this day. Northbound : 2 freights plus Pas and Fast.

I left this area on (not in) a lorry (before loaded with coal, of course) to Dalachiqi and got a minibus to Baotoudong. Sunset at 19.15

August 25th, Baotou - Shiguai

I took Pas 803 to Houba, JS worked
I had Pas 804 Shiguai-Baotoudong,
at 12.10 a freight to Shiguai,
at 13.45 freight to Baotou, JS-banked

After 15.00 there were thunderstorms and I decided to leave by bus, stopped at the nearby road, 3,8 Y to Baotoudong

August 26th, Baotouzhan

I did some photographs near Baotouzhan (Mainstation). There are 3 steam trains in the morning:

Pas 851/4 with QJ to Shenmubei
Ringline Pas 941 to Baotoudong
Fast 204 to Dongsheng

The line to Dongsheng branches off to the south some 500m east of Baotou zhan (Caution: Quailmap is wrong!). Just after the junction at the line to Dongsheng, there is a bridge crossing a lake.

The ringlinetrain can be done on the northern track in rural area 1 km east of the mainstation, where the mainline-tracks are running separate.
Baotouzhan is being totally rebuilt in the typical chinese style with white glazed bricks and blue windows. (I am sure I have seen such a building anywhere before, but I do not know where?)

After the three trains I went back to Baotoudong by bus number 2, changing in the citycenter to bus-line 1. Total fare was 2,5 Y, it took 1 hour. From there I took a minibus to Dongsheng. For 12 Y you can have one of the worst minibus-journeys in the world. Check it out!

The evening saw very nice photo-potential in the depot: evening-light and thunderstorm-clouds in the backround.

Hotel was Meng-Jia-Binguan, double 78 Y, very clean and with special-service... Direct bus to the station (line 1)

Summary : August 24th - 26th, Token-worked line Baotoudong - Baotoudong

Trains on this line seen during my stay in Baotou-area every day:

6.30 Pas 941 JS
6.53 Pas 931 JS
7.14 Pas 921 DF4
18.34 Pas 943 JS
19.15 Pas 933 JS

August 27th, Aobaogou

By Pas 855 to Aobaogou,
Northbound 3 trains during daylight, southbound 3 trains plus Passengers

Timings for the next day are available on the day before after 18:00 in the evening from the stationmaster in every station.

The east-west-viaduct is at km 107, Dongshengzhan at km 100, so I walked home with the help of a strong sandstorm.

Train Pas 856 Daliutabei - Dongsheng has been retimed:

17.47 Daliuta Bei
17.55 Heitangou
18.04 Hao __ wan
18.15 Shigetai
18.26 Batuta
18.37 Zhuanlongwan
18.52 Shashagetai
19.06 Aobougou
19.16 Dongsheng

August 28th, Singing Sands

Minibus to the above mentioned place : 3 northbound trains, 2 southbound plus one special train with YW-coach and GW-coach (?)plus Fast and Passengers

Locos noted:

Depot Baotou (CNR):

QJ 6831(nd)
JS 8004, 8005, 8008, 8009, 8279, 8280, 8325

Depot Dongsheng:

QJ 1611, 1969, 2670, 2836 (?), 2938, 2966 (?), 2977, 6146, 6194, 6247, 6249, 6284, 6287, 6346, 6348, 6394, 6452, 6711, 6784, 6785, 6789, 6863

Quite remarkable is the big number of previously unrecorded QJs at Dongsheng (underlined engines).

August 29th, Journey Baotoudong - Jiningnan Fast 204

Still steam in Huhehaote! I saw JS 8328 under steam plus another engine under steam in the switchyard, also a not-identified QJ in very bad condition with a mechanical train.

Journey on Pas 711 to Lindong

Getting a sleeper ticket was possible, train not crowded.

Locos noted on the journey around Benhong: QJ: 6689, 7118, 7162

August 30th, Lindong

Lindong is not often visited by foreigners, as you will soon notice in the streets when everybody is gape at you. But as you are in Inner Mongolia and the people are more friendly than in other parts of China and so you will stand it. Station is 5 km away from the city, there is a public bus connecting to every train, at other times you can take a Moto-Che (Three-wheel Motorbike) for 6 Y.
I stood in a cheap Lüdian double for 30 Y. But staying there is not officially allowed for foreigners (like in every Lüdian). There is an official Binguan, too.

The area around Lindong station is not bad. To the east there is a section with some cuttings, where you can do some photographs from the hills. The line climbs to the west and trains are fast in the curves. Good place for 3 or 4 trains in afternoon.

Best spot is just west of the station, where you can have a train with an ancient (I guess, it is about 20 to 30 years old, quite old for China) pagoda in the foreground. Unfortunately when I decided to do this motif there was no train for 8 hours!

August 31st, Lindong, Chabuga/Tianshan

This day should allow me taking the long planned photograph of the big viaduct east of Tianshan. I decided to go to Tianshan by passenger train and then, because I heard, Tianshan is a closed city, I quickly walked along the line towards the viaduct. At Tianshan station a lot of railway-policemen are running around (there is a railwaypolice-school just next to the station), but they did not want anything from me.

Another thing prevented me doing my job: It was very hot (33 degrees) and the way too long. After 7 km of walking, a train came without any photopossiblity. As I expected no further within the next two hours, I decided to go back. Furthermore I could see that there was no viaduct within the next 3 km. I hadn`t knew before that the way would be so long!

September 1st - 3rd, Reshui

A last day on Ji-Tong was spent in Reshui-area. Some brief info :

Accomodation: I stood in the grotty Hotel with the green bricks and the restaurant styled as a mongolian tent in the backyard. I know this hotel is quite bad, but is the only place where you have to pay only for one bed, not for one room, if you are travelling on your own. Price was 50 Y. Both nights, I was on my own and hot water was also available.

Linesiding : In the morning there are now some Tianjin-Minibus-taxis looking for passengers to Jingpeng. Price will be about 10 or 20 Y to Jingpeng. This is a very easy way to go to some places on the Jingpeng-side, if you want to avoid paying a taxi for a whole day, which would have been 200 Y (Never pay more, do not accept too high prices in China! Do not destroy prices for other visitors!)

Reshui in summer is very nice! The wind no problem, because there is no steam, only some clag. Landscape is beautiful, lightly green and days in summer very sunny.

Bus to Chifeng is 30 Y and fast. My one was modern and not crowded.

All loco-numbers are well known, so there will be no list of noted locos.

September 3rd, Chifeng

I stood in the Tielu-Lüdian, just next to the ticket-office, Single with hot shower in the evening was 32 Y, staff very friendly

September 4th, Yebaishou

Meeting in Chifeng with Florian had failed, so I went to Yebaishou on Fast 607/610. The first rainy day after more than 2 weeks.

Now it is possible again to stay in low-price good-value accomodation!! We stood in the Tielu-Lüdian next to the station, We had a room with a view on the line/ station. Double was 30 Y. The rooms were refurbished and so very clean. Unfortunately there were no showers. But there are also rooms for 140 Y with showers. Check it out and avoid the bad and too expensive Binguan, which is said to be the only official Hotel in town. Beat the system!

Yebaishou is still a very steamy place!

For further information on Yebaishou see  Part II of this report  

Rob Dickinson