Steam in China - September 2004
by Derek Jenkins
Yinghao, Mianchi, Xin`an, Changzhi, Pingzhuang, Yuanbaoshan, JiTong
Yinghao Narrow Gauge
Arrived from Beijing at Luoyang Dong on Train 1389. If you have transport waiting this is probably a better option than the train to Luoyang main station as the way onto the road west from Dong is very quick with no wrestling with the Luoyang traffic. The skies were an ominous slate grey and it soon started to rain. As we drove down the side road to Xiangyang the rain stopped but for the last 200 metres to the stabling point the road did not exist and there was just a mud slope. C2 013 was being readied and soon wheezed out with steam leaks from many orifices with a loaded train for Yinghao. Trying to get into any sensible position to photograph the departure was not easy as the track was flooded and the surrounding fields ankle deep in mud. 014 then appeared and it too was readied for a further train to Yinghao but this was not expected to leave before 013 returned. By now it was raining again . Unfortunately the new road to Huangmen is not complete so the only way to reach the shed is on foot. The track to the shed was more like a river bed with the rails completely submerged and as the deluge became of biblical proportions the Huangmen drains were discharging water and much else onto the track. The shed would be delightful on a good day. There are several hulks and several runners. A completely numberless almost ex works loco was in steam here. On arrival back at Xiangyang 014 had departed so both locos were at Yinghao. Getting there , however, was a difficulty as trying to get a bus up the mud slope, which was now a quagmire, took much time and ingenuity. Yinghao town has barriers stopping access for a bus so when the unloading point was eventually reached staff said both locos had returned and operations for the day had been abandoned due to the weather.
Mianchi Coal Railway
Very few reports exist of this but it is very easy to find. From Yinghao when the road enters Mianchi it goes downhill and over a level crossing. This is the coal railway. To the right is a large white building and a track down the side of this leads to the depot. Here was dead JS 8182. Staff said that there were 4 locos in all and that the other 3 were at Mianchi CNR. 2 indeed were JS 8417 and QJ 3318 (this number is correct but see Xin'an) awaiting departure on a long rake of coal empties. It soon took off vigorously and could be heard for some minutes struggling on what seemed to be a serious slope. The Mianchi yard is wired and the QJ ran under the wires on CNR for some distance. This line could do with some more exploring. The map shows it diverging north with a junction - one line then running west and the other north to Potou.
Mianchi Aluminium Smelter
Staff at the Coal railway said that the smelter had a steam loco. The smelter is probably the large site just east of the CNR station but with the rain still tippling down exploration was not done.
After overnighting in The Yima Hotel , where we were greeted by Christmas decorations, we went to Yima Mine . This is a shadow of its former self and production is one fifth of what it was. Only 4 locos are now generally required and these were JS 5937, 8087, 8092 and 8275. All were in the shed yard and 08:00 is probably a good time to be there as once they are in the big hole it is so vast and they so far apart that seeing them is not easy. Dead here , but runners are JS 6215 and 8276 and SY 1419. Dumped are JS 6061 and SY 1435
Xin'an Coal Railway
This is a double misnomer as it is neither at Xin'an nor does it haul coal. The depot is at Shisizheng , some way north of Xin'an and the line emerges onto CNR near Matou. The original purpose of the line was to serve Shisizheng Mine. This still operates (and indeed has a 600mm OHE system) but all coal now goes out via the ubiquitous blue lorries. The only traffic is now bauxite from a quarry near Shisizheng. QJ's 2878 and 7204 were in steam and 2858 was the spare engine . QJ 3318 is dead here. This probably is the real 3318 as this number is on front and side and air reservoir. With 18 being considered a lucky number in China I guess Mianchi have done a bit of rearranging. Unfortunately there were no train orders for the day so no action. If , however, there is it is a spectacular line albeit tender first. The bauxite comes into Shisizheng yard with the QJ chimney first but this loco is then the banker. The other loco attaches to the rear and becomes the train engine. From the yard there is a bridge over part of the town then a tunnel. Immediately there is then a junction with one line to the quarry. The other is the main line which swings over another bridge then climbs into the hills on a very steep line. From a previous visit the train was down to walking pace. Hitting it when the action is on is not, however, easy here.
Luoyang Tractor Factory
There have ben recent changes here with the SY's being replaced by diesels. Only 0742 remains although the cut up remnants of another SY were present. Holding sway now are old DFH5's 1001/2 which are odd looking B-B 's probably made in the Tractor Factory.
This small steelworks on the southern edge of Luoyang has 4 SY's. 0866 and 2014 were in steam. The stabling point and much of the areas where shunting takes place are outside the works.
From Luoyang we took a spectacular ride through the Taihang Mountain Gorge (40 Kms of twisting road through astonishing scenery) and on to Changzhi
Qinxian Local Railway
Several reports suggest numerous mines with possibilities of steam in the Changzhi area. Almost certainly this is not so. This local railway certainly has steam and was opened by the local county in 2000 to haul coal. The mines were, however, small and often illegal operations many of which were threatened by central governments crack down on such setups in 2002. It seems that since then the raison d'etre for this line has disappeared. Judging by the track traffic is spasmodic. This, of course, does not prevent an enormous staff being employed and even more bizzarely the purchase of a DF4. The depot is at Liangjawan, which can be found down an unlikely track off Qinxian main street. Here were QJ 2849 in steam 6088 dead and DF4 0648 as well as a number of cows grazing the tracks.
Wuxiang Local Railway
We were seduced to visit by the line's officials promise that it was spectacular. This it probably is but with, generally, only one train a day and that in the late afternoon outbound from Wuxiang, tender first (thus back probably after dark) not high on a revisit list. The depot is at Wuxiang CNR. In steam QJ 1725. Dead JS 8215. These are the only locos. Judging by the wagons in the yard traffic is of a general nature.
This is the one large mines in the Changzhi area and is adjacent to the Changzhi - Taiyuan main road. We had an official visit here. The mine has an extensive and well maintained 900mm battery electric system. The standard gauge power is QJ with 2227 and 2265 in steam and 2098, 2229 dead but in good condition. The line runs from the mine to exchange sidings with CNR North of the Steelworks and from here CNR DF7's trip the coal to Changzhibei. Trains over 50 wagons are banked and we saw 2265 take out a long train with 2227 banking. Trains are said to run every 3 hours or so but from observations it could be rather longer than this.
The loco depot, as previously reported, is in the east of Changzhi City many miles from the Steelworks. It seems to largely cater for the JS which do the line work. JS 8121 and 8356 were in steam with JS 8416 in light steam in the works. 6102 was dead in the works and JF 116 dumped outside. In a separate yard a short distance away were dead JS 5570 and an unnumbered loco which is probably 6219. We intended to photograph 8121 departing with a train for Xincheng but in the consist was a large military object under wraps guarded by soldiers. Nevertheless it was detached from the train and a false departure arranged with the surprising cooperation of railway officials, police and military.
The steelworks itself is much further north and has its own town . This is accesible but the works, in the centre, has the usual guarded entrances. We found the mini exchange yard (called Xiwang ), (which Bruce Evans had reported ) and saw some lines outside the central complex. SY work all of this and in steam were 0324, 0536, 0583, 0886 and 1051. Dead was 0464. Not all these locos face east as suggested previously so a chimney first train from the mini exchange yard to the works is possible but there was no action at all during our visit with no wagons to move. Officials said there were 14 locos in all JS and SY.
February 7th Wagon Works
From Changzhi we took Train 2164/5 back to Beijing. To fill in some time a visit was made to the crossing near this works. SY 0891 and 0732 were both in steam. The JF reported as here recently was not seen but staff said it was present and had been in steam recently and was simply undergoing some attention.
A brief visit was also made to the exit from Feb 7th loco works onto the main line. The most interesting thing here was a pair of single ended DF7D's found only north of Hechi. It seems surprising they come such a long way to their birthplace for maintenance when Liuzhou Works has extensive diesel overhaul facilities.
Nothing new here save operations in full swing well before 14:00. 1 & 4 in steam.
Pingzhuang Mine Railway
Took train 2559 to Chifeng. This now departs from the less than sumptuous surroundings of Beijing Bei. On the road from Chifeng to Pingzhuang there was a cordoned off area surrounded by Police. Police were swarming the road into Pingzhuang. In the town crowds were out and it soon became clear why. There was a public execution. We encountered the execution convoy with 3 heavily guarded convicts with notices around their necks and a lorry containing the firing squad. A gruesome start to the day. As to the railway things were much as before and whilst not full on it was busy. 12 SY and one JS in steam and 13 electrics noted but more about.
Yuanbaoshan Mine Railway
Visited here on a Saturday which may explain why we were not hassled as others have reported. JS 6544 was on the 07:00 passenger train but the 15:00 passenger did not run. Staff said it no longer does. Whether this is just a weekend thing is not clear .Access was also obtained to the shed with no difficulty. The line was busy and the best action when 6544 stalled on the steep bank to Jipei and had to be rescued by 6245 making a spectacular restart.
The rest of the trip was on various parts of the Ji Tong line. Much will now be written about the influx of diesels and sadly we were at Reshui when they started to run over The Pass. Even so QJ's 6778 6878, 6900 were all ex works at Daban and later seen on the line.
Derek Jenkins, email: firstname.lastname@example.org