Steam in China - Jan 17 to Feb 16 2004
by Bruce Evans
JiTong Railway - 9 days over Chinese Spring Festival
Rail traffic at Reshui took a dip only on Chinese New Year's Eve and New Year's Day with levels at around 50% of what is generally experienced nowadays. This however meant that on these days many more locos than usual were present at Daban depot.
In the days immediately after New Year there were very heavy eastbound traffic flows with up to 8 double-headers during daylight. After this the situation appeared to return essentially to normal.
A feature of this year's workings was seeing large numbers of ballast wagons being used to move coal eastbound. On one day a complete block load of coal in ballast wagons was seen and photographed. (Where is this coal coming from? Are the mines along the line becoming more active or have new ones opened?)
The intensive sales activity by JiTong railway staff continues. A sad observation at Jingpeng station one day was noting the selling by railway staff to a western visitor of a cast cab-side number plate from a QJ removed by crowbar while the loco was being watered.
Tiefa - 2 days
On this visit it seemed apparent that the western line of the coalmine system has become significantly busier and it is understood that this is due to a new mine (Daping) having opened. Five SY double-headers, 4 back-to-back, were seen on the two days.
A single DFH3 diesel-hydraulic was present in the workshop. This has a 1985 builders plate but has been renumbered (2609). Is this loco going to be used for passenger services releasing SYs for coal traffic duties or the JS for scrapping? Given the traffic increase it is not unlikely that additional power is required. (Why has Tiefa kept JS 5029 going? To please enthusiast visitors or because they could see increased traffic coming?).
Meihekou - 1 day
The first train seen on the coalmine system was an empty train of gondolas from the CNR exchange yard at about 9am. Soon after this and before the mid-morning westbound passenger train a long train of empty gondolas was hauled and banked from Yijing to the first mine west of Yijing. There is a steep grade on the "street running" section. Unfortunately there are no great phot spots on this section and the length of the train was such that it was impossible in any case to get both front and back locos in the photograph.
The Meihekou system is very different to that at Tiefa. It is a much poorer area and the railway system is of a much lower standard. The track in most places consists of short 10m panels and gravel ballast is used. In many places timber sleepers support the rails.
SY 1445 carries Tangshan 74/10 plates on both sides of the smokebox. The build date and loco number do not match with the usual SY series.
Fushun - 2 days
A previously unreported industrial railway was found at Cangshizhan station on the Fushun - Meihekou CNR line. It runs northwards up a valley for around 6km to the Hongtoushan copper smelter. SYs 1227 and 1262 together with DFH5 0342 (which seems to be ex-CNR, Shenyang Bureau) were found at the depot at the end of the line. Staff indicated that there was a third SY, 1243, as well as a second diesel but these were not seen.
The SYs seen point chimney-first downhill so good photo opportunities may be limited. It did not appear to be a very busy system.
At Fushun itself several SYs were seen in the big opencast mine on works duties. SY 0629 was seen on a two coach (boxcar) miners pass on the surface near the open mine.
There are a number of SY operations in western Fushun that do not appear to have been reported previously in western enthusiast forums. To the south of the Fushun - Sujiatun CNR line there is a string of major industries including petrochemical and steel plants that extends for about 8km. These industries are rail-served from the electrified Fushun industrial / mining railway a branch of which passes to the south of the industries and is hidden from view from public roads. Fushun EMUs use this line however and the various shunt locos can be seen when traveling on an EMU on this line. The easternmost plant is a petrochemical plant and V100 and GK diesel-hydraulics were seen inside this facility. Further west SYs 0949 and 1633 have been seen and it is understood that there are several more.
On the Fushun electrified railway the old timber bodied EMUs appear to have been taken out of service. Only three-car ribbed-sided steel-bodied EMUs were seen several of them with streamlined cabs.
Xuzhou area - 6 days
My guide during much of the time in the Xuzhou was Miss Yuan Yuan of CITS Xuzhou. She is very helpful and pleasant and is familiar with all these locations. Her email address is email@example.com and her work phone and fax number is 0516-3829083. Her English name is Cassie but she is not known by this name in the office.
Several days were spent researching other industrial and mining railways in the Xuzhou, Zaozhuang, Huaibei and Luling areas. Five 'new' operations with steam were found, although none appeared to offer great photo potential.
Three days were spent at Peitun to photograph the high-deflectored QJs. A visit to the depot was not permitted despite the efforts of the guide and her office in Xuzhou.
This system essentially has two main operations. There is an internal operation between the coalmines and the Datun power station and possibly other processing plants west of Peitun yard. For these operations there is a fleet of non-CNR wagons consisting of standard and non-standard C62 and C64 gondolas as well as a few older timber-sided C50s. The second main operation involves coal being transported in CNR gondolas and trains of these are hauled to the Xuzhou-Zhengzhou CNR line for onward haulage by CNR.
There are 6 mines in total and three branches from the north end of Peitun yard serving these. There are also other secondary industries and part of the way along the line at Zhangji station there is a fuel depot - a block QJ-hauled tanker train was seen one day.
On the three days the system was visited the working pattern was fairly consistent. In the morning most trains to or from the mines were for the internal coal movement. SY 2024 featured prominently but the QJs were also used. The diesels did not work through to the power station. SY 2024 would generally make two round trips as well as carry out any local shunt work required but by around 12:30 always returned to the depot.
From around midday something of a parade of long "external" coal trains would begin with the two DF4Bs and the QJs hauling these southwards from Peitun. Up to 4 of these coal trains were seen each afternoon. It generally appeared that the loaded trains were hauled from the mines to Peitun yard and then to the CNR interchange by the same locos, ie, no loco exchange occurred at Peitun yard. The trains would stop in Peitun yard for brake checks etc to be undertaken but once this was done they would start the journey south. (For the incoming empty trains it seemed to be normal practice for the "main line" loco to be detached at Peitun).
Although it is a Local Railway the Peitun line is of relatively high standard. It was interesting to note that the signal and turnout interlockings at the stations appear to be controlled using PCs rather than the more usual big board with a track diagram. This is useful as the adjoining stations can also be brought up on the PC screen and a fairly clear idea can be obtained of where trains are at any time.
Trains on the main line were always chimney-first. There is no stunning scenery unfortunately and the area is flat but there are canals and the local village architecture is quite interesting. The locos on the loaded trains generally work but not full-out.
There are two DF4Bs at present on the system and staff indicated steam would be completely replaced by 2006 with several more DF4Bs due by the middle of this year.
Report by Colin Huessey:
Visit on Feb 20th 2004:
Pei-Tun line is still a busy line however things are not helped by
the late running of trains, this I beleive is mainly caused by the
loss of a further QJ from the active roster.
Iwas allowed into the depot & freely to photograph, maybe being
Sunday ad something to do with as other have bee refused.
It was in a way depressing to see the co;d dumped line up there. Last
November I reported 5 active QJ now only 4, of these are 2 new ones
7031 & 7032 in ex workshop conditions. 7032 has a blue headboard
with red trimmings.
The Sy was non stop working the various lines, & has a very bad
big end knock. I think its being worked to death, when watching what
it was doing in the yard & then straight out the mines.
It is unsure if there is any plans for additional engines ateam or
diesel, although it seems that they need more. The 2 QJ's waiting
for wokshops that I posted last November still sit there along with 2
others with loaded tenders waiting to go.
THey are not allowed to operate without boiler attention each 2 years
thus as the 2 year life span after workshops, unless they are
serviced they're gone.
Tienchu Coal Mine
The most interesting operation found is a basically east-west coalmine line around 15km south of Tengzhou serving Tienchun coalmine as well as several others and extending west from the Jinan-Xuzhou mainline. At the depot near the mine QJs 7068, 7069 (both ex-Linyi depot), 7198 and 7199 (both from the last 'industrial' batch) were found in steam while QJ 6276 appeared recently staged. DF4B 7686 is a recent arrival on this system. QJs 7068 and 7069 are high-deflectored. The QJs face east and would be chimney-first on loaded trains. The system appeared to be of quite high standard and probably sees several trains per day. From maps and our observations it looks as if the overall length of the line is around 15km. The terrain is generally flat but the full system was not explored.
All maps seen indicate that there is a direct road connection between Peitun and this area and the depots of the two systems are probably only around 15km apart. The two systems could possibly be visited on the same day. The connection of the Tienchun line is roughly at km 589 on the CNR mainline. I did not note the station name but it may be Guanqiao shown on Quail.
While at a crossing we could see a working steam loco close to the CNR connection. The crossing staff indicated that this loco was not from the coalmine system. It thus seems that there may be another industry or mine with steam served from the same connection.
Suixi Coal Mine
Perhaps the next most interesting operation found was a JS-worked coalmine system at Suixi just south of Huaibei. This line can be seen on both Quail and Nelles maps and generally runs north-south. The depot was located near the northern end of the line. The line has 6 JSs, 6254, 6539, 6540, 8094, 8294 and 8421, the last one being the second last JS constructed. Derelict Shijiazhuang-built TH4 diesel-hydraulic 032 was also present. The operation seemed to require 3 locos working at any one time. The terrain is a little bit more interesting than at Tienchun but again there did not appear to be great prospects for very good photo locations. The northern-most part of the line does however skirt a large lake and this may offer opportunities to the very patient. The JSs are not in particularly good external condition. The depot manager indicated that 3 Dalian DF4B diesels are expected within the next few months.
A second JS-worked coalmine line was found at Qingshanquan on the CNR Jiawang branch just north of Xuzhou. This line can also be picked up on both Quail and Nelles maps and runs for about 15km in a wide arc to the south and then east serving mines and at least one power station. JS 8142 was found working and the crew told us that there was a second working JS as well as several dumped locos at the depot.
Nearby, at Jiawang, there is a large power station (indeed the whole area around Xuzhou is littered with power stations, many in the process of being expanded) and this has a rail connection to the south to a coalmine. JS 8131 was found in steam at the power station and SY 1388 was spare.
Xuzhou itself has a small steelworks with at least one working steam loco. A JS was seen shunting within the works from the train when arriving in Xuzhou. The works is around 6km north-north-east of Xuzhou station immediately east of the large CNR yards.
Xuzhou Power Plant
Around 12km north of Xuzhou and just north of Maocun station is another large power station (appears to be called Xuzhou Power Plant) at which we found QJs 3596 and 3597 dumped and QJ 7193 cold but in what looked to be in running order. New blue Dalian-built DF5D shunter 0028, also carrying local number 02, was also seen within the plant. It has probably recently taken over from the QJ.
Modern traction around Xuzhou
For those interested in the modern traction situation around Xuzhou here are some brief notes:
- The line north from Xuzhou towards Yanzhou has Jinanxi based ND5s, Yanzhou-based DF4Cs and DF4Bs as well as Xuzhoubei-based DF4Bs on freights and DF11s, DF4Ds and some ND5s on passengers.
The line south from Xuzhou towards Bengbu is very much Nanjing-based ND5 territory with all freights and around 40% of passengers hauled by this type. DF11s, DF4Ds and a few orange DF4Bs share the other passenger workings. ND5s were also seen on the lines around Huaibei and Suixi.
- The line west from Xuzhou towards Zhengzhou (which is being electrified) has DF8Bs and DF4Bs on freight as well as DF8Bs, DF4Ds and DF11s on passenger trains. The Peitun branch passenger was being worked by an orange DF4B.
- The line east from Xuzhou towards the coast has Xuzhoubei-based DF4Bs on freights. No passenger workings were seen - these are probably orange DF4B and DF4D.
Beijing area - one day
A short visit to the Beijing 7 Feb loco works showed that production continues to be concentrated on the DF7C type. A new version has now entered production and it appeared that roughly equal numbers of this new version and the earlier blue low front hood DF7C3 version were coming off the line. The new version several of which were marked for Beijing and Zhengzhou depots has a shorter low front hood as well as chamfered body corners. It looks very similar to the current 'new' DF5. The new version locos are emerging in a very attractive maroon and bronze paint scheme.
Among the other locos emerging from the works were several DF7Bs and DF7Ds that had come in for overhaul as well as two GK1E B-B diesel-hydraulic shunting locos. The most complete of the shunters carried the number 3148 indicating that this works is producing between 15 and 20 of this type per year now. This is another indicator of the increased rate of dieselisation now occurring on industrial and mine rail systems.