The International Steam Pages

Steam in China, November 1998

Brief Report of a trip to China 10 Nov 1998 - 2 Dec 1998

This 3 week trip was with Bruce Evans and was organised by him via Mrs Sun Xiaolan of the CLSLPA.

This report gives a brief resume of what we saw. a more detailed report with all sightings etc will be forthcoming later.

Pinggu Local Railway

Bruce Evans discovered the existence of this steam operated local railway earlier this year. His enquiries at the junction station with the CNR (at Sanping) yielded a little misleading information. Roland Evans and I drove out the line on 11 Nov and found the following. The line runs from Sanping (first station to the west of Sanhe on the line to Qinhuangdao via Fengrun) to Mafang, about 10km to the north. It is indeed called the Pinggu Local Railway (presumably because Mafang is in the local government area of Pinggu, even Pinggu township is some 10km or so the NE). Mafang is a km or two to the south of the export coal line to Qinghuangdao (Daqin line) so there is no crossing of the two lines as Bruce had surmised. When we finally found Mafang at about 13.30, the loco in steam (JS 5508) was shunting wagons (tender towards Sanping) and it departed with a long train of empties bound for Sanping at about 14.30. We can presume that Bruce’s intelligence that a train (funnel first) leaves Sanping at about 11.00 or sometime later may be correct. 5508 is clean. There are one or two pleasant standard 3/4 type photos possible when the local roads cross the line at two level crossings between Sanping and Mafang.

As one drives toward Sanhe on a main road, the local railway is crossed just before Sanping. To get to Sanping station turn right down a narrow road just past the cement works. To follow the local railway, continue a few hundred metres to the east until you see a very narrow street to the left just opposite a small cigarette booth (about the size of a telephone box). Turn down this street and use your common sense to follow the line to Mafang.

A second JS (5067) was out of steam at Mafang. Both these locos were not those whose numbers were told to Bruce when he was at Sanping in March this year!!??

Local Railway at Qinghuangdao

Bruce was keen to investigate a short local railway heading inland from Qinhuangdao which seemed to terminate in the mountains. We found it easily. It runs from a terminus in the southern suburbs of Qinghuangdao and is steam. The railway has 4 SY (232,0927,1290,1291). On the 13th Nov. 1291 was seen at Shimenzhai which seems to be the usual end of the line for most trains which seem to service the cement works on the line and the factories at Shimenzhai. The most scenic part of the line is from Shimenzhai to the terminus at Shanshenmiao. However we were told at the terminus that only 6 or 7 trains a month came as far as the end of the line. Here they loaded a black (iron?) ore. It is possible to get photos with the Great Wall included at the end of the line. There are also two tunnels and a very pleasant river bridge in this area. SY 1291 was funnel toward the mountains when we saw her shunting at Shimenzhai. The road inland follows the railway for most of its journey.


Still some QJ in the depot here. Seen QJ 6462 (Zhangwu depot), 1941,6883 and JS 6020.

At the back of the depot was a line of derelict locos JS 6309(DT, 1984), 5922 (DL, 7/1960), 6047 (DL, 1/1960) and QJ 3365, 2783.

On the drive to Fuxin, we saw DF4 0666 on an up goods to Dahushan. This indicates that some of the traffic between Dahushan and Zhangwu via Xinlitun is now diesel.


The CNR depot here now has 16 DF4. The beginning of the end. Our observations over three days showed that few diesels were used on freights to the south (to Yixian, ie ti Jinzhou and Yebaishou) but the line to the north (to Shenyang) appeared mainly diesel. Some passengers are still QJ eg 866 Fuxin-Jinzhou and 587 Tianjin-Shenyang.

On the parallel municipal railway, the passenger trains are SY hauled. And some SY hauled coal trains also run from the mines. However there does not seem to be a fixed timetable for these full and empty coal trains. SY locos seem to point funnel first to the south.

We were aware of the possibility of nearly simultaneous departures of SY hauled passenger trains from Minzu station (just south of Fuxin township). This had been reported and photographed by Rod Clark. However we found that the trains had been retimed with a 10 minute time difference between the two trains. One train travels up a short branch to Wanying (really a mine site) whereas the other travels down the municipal railway main line to the end at Dongliang (also at a mine site). Nowadays the Wanying train arrives first and disgorges some passengers, then heads up its branch. A few minutes later, the Donliang train arrives and picks up the waiting passengers. The operation happens twice a day - around 7am (too early for photography at this time of the year) and around 3pm. Of course there are corresponding tender-first workings of returning trains some time leter in the morning and the evening (eg the returning Dongliang train leaves Minzu just after 9 am). Minzu has an amazing cathedral size church. There are possible shots of these trains with the church in the background.

Fuxin has an extensive railway system into the open cut coal mine which is electrified. There are lots of the usual industrial electric locos seen in China. Skoda Bo-Bo-Bo’s and East German and Chinese Bo-Bo-Bo locos were seen, as well as East German Bo-Bo’s. SY 0002 is now used to provide the steam heating previously provided by the KD6.

The mine at Donliang is served by a busy electrified 762mm system with green steeple cab electrics pulling skips of coal from the various loading points to the interchange with the standard gauge system.

On one day the afternoon SY pass to Dongliang was followed (about half an hour later) by an empty coal train hauled by an SY.


The line from Suihua to Bei’an still has QJ on freight, however the stopping passengers from Suihua now have Suihua DF4. All the other passengers are DFH3. There seems to have been some cascading of younger QJ from Suihua replacing the older high-deflectored QJ. Most of the freights into Bei’an are double QJ. Expect train 3703 to arrive at Bei’an about 8 am, 3705 to arrive at 11am and 3707 to arrive at around 15.30. Between 3705 and 3707, a slower 4xxx train with a single QJ is expected.

The line from Bei’an to Qiqi har still seems to be QJ although one QQH DF4 was noted in loco.

The line from Bei’an to Longzhen is perhaps most interesting as the freight trains and the CNR passengers are JS hauled. The JS have high deflectors and are clean - quite handsome machines. The other passengers are through trains to the Heihe local railway and pick up local railway DF’s at Bei’an.

The present running during the day goes something like: s =steam, d=diesel



Train dep Bei’an arr Longzhen Train dep LZ arr BA
4185 (s) 8.40 12 4186 (s) 9.00 13.20
Y233 (d) ~10.45 11.45 Y234 (d) 10.20 11.50
605 (d) 13.25 14.45 606 (d) 12.35 14.17
543/4 (s) 14.35 16.05 4188 (s) 13.15 16.35
4187 (s) 14.55        

Snow had arrived , the countryside was blanketed in it and it was cold (-30oC in the mornings to -20 oC to -15 oC at noon). The lines around Bei’an at plagued by poles and there are no deep cuttings or tunnels. It is hard work getting good photos but with patience it is possible.

Narrow gauge

The line from Zhanhe east into the forest was visited (21 Nov). No log trains were running, the season was to start in about 10 days time. All the steam locos (10) had been overhauled and were lined up in fresh paint ready to go. We saw SZ- 31174,31195,31198,31175,31010,31036,31179,31037 with shunter 203. All have bogie tenders. Maybe they weigh 31t and this is why they are all numbered 31xxx? The system also has 6 diesels. Three seem to have been built at Mudanjiang, they have MDJ characters on the nose and are box single cab units. Two are standard JMY380 cab units built at Changzhou and the last is a small 0-6-0 unit. We were told the system was very busy in the season. We understand that the forests are a long way from Zhanhe and road access is impossible. However very pleasant shots in the snow covered fields are certainly possible.

Tongbei is closed - we visited and were told it had closed some 2 years ago and the locos were sold.

Suileng is still working and we were told it is smaller system than the Zhanhe system.

Shulan - Jiaohe

The cut-off line from Shulan (on the Harbin-Jilin line) to Jiaohe (on the Jilin-Tumen line) was thought to be still steam with perhaps JS operation. At on stage Jiaohe had quite a few JS allocated. This turned out to be not true. Green DF4B now operate the freights on this line. The line was dieselised about a month before we were there.


Still predominantly steam to the west with heavy trains banked up to just before Taipingling. All the banked trains have a guards van attached to the banker and this allows uncoupling in the section before reaching Taiping ling. The banker is usually QJ 3487 but may be one of the JS shunters 5593, 5425. All three of these locos are Tumen engines and all the QJ’s coming into Dunhua are Jiaohe locos - so there are none allocated to Dunhua. However there seemed to be three DF4C (4080, 4077, 4098) also operating between Jiaohe and Dunhua so thet trains were a mix of steam and diesel. Uphill trains from Dunhua left at 7.10, 8.30, 11.56, 14.40, 15,25.

Chaoyangchuan branches

Sadly when we arrived we saw only one JS (5548) working the pick-up to Helong on 30 Nov. All the other trains were run by newly arrived DFH3. Even the shunt at Chaoyangchuan was a newly arrived DFH5 (0109).

Rob Dickinson