eThe International Steam Pages

Steam in China, New Year 1999

Leslie McAllister reports (24th February 1999):

Fuxin News:

"There have been many reports of FuXin lately, but none that I've studied quite prepared me for just how good it would be! The report which most provoked me to go and see was the December report where it was claimed that the afternoon express from JinZhou hammered past at 60mph. Sorry, but QJ's do not normally manage the 85kph they are restricted to, never mind nearly a hundred. Also the train seen was in fact Train 857, a 15 coach all stations local! However, it is easy to assume that such a heavy train, with restaurant car and sleepers is, in fact, an express! Nonetheless, it did provoke me to take my stopwatches and go and discover that FuXin engines probably offer the best steam locomotive performance on regular passenger trains anywhere on the Globe, although not always!

There appear to be six steam passenger trains each day between JinZhou and FuXin (three each way), expresses 587 and 588 in the morning, both of which load to 15 coaches (600 plus Tonnes) and local trains 857/858 and 865/866. The only one I didn't travel on was 865, but it is reasonable to assume that it has to be steam to balance the workings. Just three QJs are required to cover these trains, although over four days, I did in fact get a fourth engine. The performance was very variable, ranging from the atrocious to the very good, although it was a very erratic driver who did give me not just my highest speed with a QJ, but also the fastest I have heard of for this class - 56 mph, (90kph). That story will be in the full report.

Freight traffic seems very light between FuXin and JinZhou, but seems to be largely in the hands of steam. On the YeBaiShou line, it appears mixed steam and diesel from my limited view of it (at YiXian, the junction between the lines).

Reports also do not quite prepare you for a double track industrial line, with, at times, five tracks or more across; plus the fact that the line runs through the "HuTongs" (traditional design of Chinese dwelling). With SYs scuttling about constantly with rakes of hoppers and the morning, midday and evening local services also SY hauled, each loco adding it's white plume of exhaust to the already high level of pollution and it is a remarkable thing to see. If you like raw steam, it's unmissable! It's all visible from the public road, just follow round to the right from the level crossing at the North end of FuXin station, across another and a hundred yards on you're at Ping An station (with full passenger timetable inside the station building!).

Very cold (to a Hong Konger like me), probably minus five degrees or so, with added wind chill. On the last day I was there, we had a dusting of snow. Oh, and I nearly forgot, the fare for a 16 km ride on the locals is just Y1.40 (11pence sterling!). More when I get back from Vietnam in ten days, but thanks to those of you whose reports made be go and enjoy a splendidly steamy start to my 1999 steam travels!"

San Mao Railway News:

"I have to share this little delight with you, especially those of you who are still asleep, as I write.
We have had a dearth of steam passenger on the San Mao line in GaungDong, but at 14.00hrs local time, Rick Wong rang me up at my home in Hong Kong. He said "Hi Leslie, can you hear the sound?!" Clear as a bell over his mobile came the steam sounds of 3543 and 3575, the first at the head of a 15 coach extra, about to depart San Shui. 3575 was awaiting her train to arrive from GuangZhou!

There are four extra trains in each direction over the Lunar New Year period and this confirms that two at least are steam, presumably in each direction, and with a change of engine at ChunWan. The timings of the trains should dictate the use of at least eight locomotives. Is this the Last Stand of San Mao Passenger Steam?

Stay tuned for further on the spot reports!

Rob Dickinson