The International Steam Pages

Steam in Southern China, December 1998

Leslie McAllister continues his wanderings with a report from the San Mao railway.

First the News

The daily local train (Train 761) which ran from one end of the San Mao Railway to the other each day was retimed on 1.10.98 to start from SanShui at about 07.30, arriving at ZhaoQing at 09.11. A separate train (Train 763), then departed ZhaoQing at 09.43 for MaoMing Dong arriving after 16.00. The Eastbound train was unchanged from MaoMing Dong, but now arrived at SanShui later, at 1705hrs.

Quite why they retimed the Westbound local is unclear, especially as it appears that it might mean that it now required there to be more engines in the passenger link than before - probably two more engines to work it than the previous arrangement, which only needed three locomotives. I even understand that a separate set of coaches and engine was used to ZhaoQing, where a new train awaited!

Now the Bad News

When I visited the San Mao on 19-21 December, I found that the local trains had all been cancelled and although they are still shown in some versions of the timetable, they have been removed from the ZhaoQing departure board. The result, of course, is that it appears that there are now no steam hauled passenger trains on the San Mao! Now, I only watched movements in the ZhaoQing area and it is possible that there might be substituting trains at the Western end. I will try and find out through official sources and report. There is a new train mid afternoon, running before the 12.35 (Train xxx) from GuangZhou to MMD, I could not work out its destination and it is possible that it might stop at some of the stations now left without any passenger service at all. This train is diesel-hauled by one of the DF1s, which must stretch the six locomotive diesel fleet to the limit. I did have hopes that it might have resulted in the Nanning train going back to steam traction, but it was diesel as usual but now the sleeper portion is all air-conditioned stock and a generator car is included. The seating coaches remain older YW22s.

And the really bad news

Traffic seemed to be well down. On the first day, I photographed 5 Eastbound freight trains, including one double header, but loads were much lighter than earlier this year. Westbound, the traffic was lighter still, with just two trains, although one was 40 and the other 60 wagons (both single QJs). I was taking lineside photographs from 09.30 to 17.30. The following day, I was on the lineside all morning and saw only one train - a double-header heading East with just a few hoppers! Let's hope that this was a temporary blip!

Full report follows, when I have had a chance to talk to someone in the SanMao's management. I cannot believe that they have effectively closed more than 10 stations to passenger traffic! If they have not replaced the locals with additional stops by other trains, then that is exactly what they have done! Worse, for those of us who like this line and have been photographing the freights, there is now no way to get to the best positions except by road!!

A pretty lousy Christmas present, I'm sure you'll agree. Well, I'm off to Central China over the Festive Season, as that is probably the closest standard gauge passenger steam now. By the way, one plus is that it was very warm yesterday in Guangdong and I got sunburnt! Let's hope it's warmed up a little further North too!

Rob Dickinson