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In late June, Dandan and I made a visit of a few days with two American friends who wanted to see a sample of the remaining steam in China.
We had previously asked Mr.Li, the Chifeng based bus driver, to speak with the "management" at Yuanbaoshan to maximise steam useage during our visit. This worked well and cost us a 500RMB fee for a slap up dinner.
We had two days at Yuanbaoshan and, on both days, there were two JS in constant use. On each day, the morning mixed train was JS hauled, as was the 2pm train. In addition, we saw steam freight working to/from the opencast mine (via Majiawan) and to/from Fengshuigou.
We saw JS 8249 and 8418 in use and JS 6245 and 8250 in the shed. Of these, the former was under repair and the latter was being cannibalised for spares. The fifth JS was apparently stored in a shed at the opencast mine.
JS 8418 at the opencast mine
JS 6245 and 8250 in the shed
During our brief visit, JS 8249 was involved in a collision with a lorry at a road crossing just south of Fengshuigou. The lorry was very badly damaged and the loco tender was also quite dented. I started to video the recovery operation but was forcefully asked to stop! After removal of the lorry and tender from the scene, JS 8249 made its way back to the shed at Xizhan under its own power but without any tender! I have this on video. We were assured the loco was to be repaired. We assume it was to gain the tender from JS 8250.
JS 8249 running without tender
The general opinion amongst all the loco crews was that all steam was to finish at the end of June. The foreman of the shed said he hadn't been told this, and we tended to believe him. We suspect the loco crew were trying to increase pressure on us to buy souvenirs and enjoy cab rides. Since our return to the UK, we've made telephone enquiries and the situation appears to be unaltered as of mid-July.
After Yuanbaoshan, we also visited Pingzhuang where at least three SY were in use. I believe a fourth was in steam on maintenance work but I cannot verify this. The three we saw alternated between duties, which consisted of trips to the deep mines, the CNR exchange sidings and the spoil tips. We attempted a visit to the loco workshop, which entails crossing land operated by a "private" company, but permission was refused. I have done this successfully before so assume it depends merely on who is manning the security gate at the time.
My American colleagues enjoyed a fair amount of cab riding here but, by the end of our visit, they were coming under excessive pressure from the over exuberant crew and we were forced into a hasty retreat. It was vaguely reminiscent of the latter days in Cuba.
The locos observed in service were SY 0400, 1079 and 1441. JS 1001 was in store in the small yard between the two crossings.
Before we left the area, we made an investigative visit to the coal mine at Hongmiao, which is close by Yuanbaoshan. We found SY 1418 there which was being used for shunting around the yard, although no action took place while we were there as it was the crew's lunch break.
SY 1418 in steam at Hongmiao coal mine
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© 2011 Andy Fisher