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The original plan had been to fly to Jiamusi and go on by road to Huanan for two days at lineside. However, the railway was not expected to re-open to normal traffic until 18 or 19 March because the mine had been closed for a safety inspection. Consequently, my plans were changed to join a Globe Steam charter at Huanan on the 17th. The weather then intervened - heavy snow in Heilongjiang Province on 15 and 16 March combined with the absence of traffic on the railway at Huanan meant that the line was impassable and unlikely to be cleared in time. Hence, the Globe Steam party spent three days on a charter with C2 021 on the Suileng Forestry Railway - I joined them for two of those days after an Air China flight and a road journey of eight hours from Harbin. Plenty of runpasts in reasonable light en route from Yuejin to Suileng. Between runpasts 021 and its train of logs was piloted by diesel SN99807.
Sunday 19th was a long day - an early flight from Harbin to Beijing, a day in Beijing and an evening flight on to Zhengzhou.
Monday 20th was a day of mixed success. The day started sunny but soon deteriorated into the hazy conditions often encountered in the area. The morning was spent on the XingYang Brickwork Railway where 207 was working - unlike my first visit in September last year when torrential rain precluded operations.
After a successful morning at Xingyang, I made my way to Mianchi via XinMi and Yima. At Lijiazi I found QJ 3494 (with tender from 2440), 3495 and the steam crane dumped beside the depot. DF4 7707 was on the depot and another diesel could be heard shunting somewhere to the east.
At Yima my visit co-incided with a mine holiday. The workshop was locked and all engines were inside except for dumped JS5937. Looking through cracks in the doors, it appeared that the usual complement of locomotives was present. No sign of the expected diesel.
The next day was less successful. I found two engines in steam at Yinghao, but no traffic. Coal was being sent to a power station by truck for about two weeks until the end of March. 015 ran light engine to Yinghao where it spent the morning standing between the main road level crossing and the unloading point while the crew cleared a drain! 013 was in steam outside the depot gate - no-one was willing to do more than shuttle to and fro light engine at Huangmen. The rest of the railway staff were engaged in producing pit props from lengths of steel "I" section. This resulted in an earlier than expected departure for Changzhe.
On the morning of 22 March, I found the yard at Changqu East after a struggle including a tour of the perimeter of the Chanqu Power Station. The three SY remain out of use at the stabling point - 0464, 0583 and 1051. Two locomotives were seen working. SY0886 propelled wagons up the steep grade at the west of the yard at about 10:45 and returned at about midday. SY0289 was working to the slag tip in the steelworks to the west of the yard - and came on to the servicing point at about 11:30. No evidence of any other engine in the steelworks. GK10D 0014 was inactive - receiving maintenance or minor repairs. All locomotives were facing Changzhi Bei.
There was no activity when I passed Weicun yard. Given recent reports of the end of QJ activity I did not stop to explore but saw a "dead" QJ from the road.
The yard and workshop at Guancun was easier to find but there was not much activity. JS8121 arrived light engine from the east at 16:00, paused for some shunting and departed with two wagons towards Changzhe Bei 15 minutes later. JS6102 and SY0536 were in steam at the depot, JS2017 was not in steam and JS8416 and its tender were both lifted off their wheels. JF116 was part buried by coal at the coaling point and JS5570 and 6119 (or 6219?) were in a yard beside the level crossing. All three active locomotives and SY2017 were facing east. A load of empties was expected to go to the mines after 18:00.
It seems that my strategy was wrong. I should have started at Guancun in the morning. It seems that locomotives congregate at Guancun at 08:00-09:00 and again at 18:00-19:00. This implies several smokebox first departures towards the mines around 08:00/09:00.
The next stop was Bangkok where the objective was the 26 March working from Hualumphong to Ayutthaya hauled by pacifics 824 and 850 coupled tender-to-tender. An attempt to visit the Railway Hall of Fame later the same day was unsuccessful - the museum was closed and surrounding park was occupied by a political demonstation.
Mar 28th 2006
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© 2006 Chris Yapp