The International Steam Pages

Steam in China February/March 1999

Here is a brief report of Ameling Algra's visit to China from Feb 19 till March 5

The places visited are Chengde, Reshui and Fuxin.

Summary: in the period between Spring Festival and Lantern Festival there was somewhat less freight activity in both Reshui and Chifeng. I went to Fuxin for the first time, and I can only say it is wonderful! China these days is definitely an easy country for independent travelers

Friday February 19
With Lufthansa Amsterdam-Frankfurt-Beijing.

Saturday February 20
Arrival Beijing Capital Airport; by airport bus to Beijing main station, and then on to Chengde on the Dandong Expres (train 591, dep 13.23). To Chengde Da Sha, Y160 per night, for two nights.

Sunday February 21
Linesiding in Chengde. Three trains in the morning, three in the afternoon. Five trains had one loco up front and one banker, the last train in the afternoon had both locos up front.

Monday February 22
With train 519 to Yebaishou, and then on to Chifeng. One night Chifeng Hotel, Y154.

Tuesday February 23
By bus to Reshui, arr 13.30. Went to the last hotel on the river side (electric power supply hotel?), Y100 per night. Hotel was officially not open. Like last time, I did not bother about the police and they did not seem to bother about me. On to the level crossing near the railway station. No trains at all from 14.00 till about 17.00! But then a freight came in beautiful light.

Wednesday Feb 24 till Saturday Feb 27
Linesiding around Reshui, with the van of mr. Ji Wen Feng Linxi 0476 532 1362. Excellent driver, comfortable minibus. He also supplied food and hot water for coffee. Nice weather on the first two days, clear but much wind on the last two days. Impossible to keep the movie camera still, with or without tripod. The trafic seemed lighter than in December. But reconsidering, I think the ballast trains were the only trains missing. Quite a few light engines though.

Sunday Feb 28
Mr Ji had to collect a group of three Englishmen in Chifeng so he offered me a free ride to Chifeng. Again Chifeng Hotel for the night.

Monday March 1
To Yebaishou and then on to Fuxin by train. I decided to go there after reading mr. McAllister's report on the internet the day before I went to Beijing! We crossed one steam and one diesel freight between Chifeng and Yebaishou; Yebaishou shunt was QJ & JS, the Beipiao passenger shuttle was QJ on three coaches. I tried to find a hotel the usual way, by asking a taxi driver to bring me to a 'binguan'. That proved quite unsuccessfull at first, but after a lot of driving around he brought me to the College Guest House where they found student Helen to translate. She speeks excellent English with a strong American accent, helped me to a big room for Y85, and then I spent a nice evening talking about the current situation in China and the rest of the world (by which I mean Holland of course). She also told me how to find the church in Minzu: just point to the Chinese characters for church as it is the only one in Fuxin and everyone knows where it is.

It turned out Helen was a Christian. But she never went to the church in Minzu, the church was only for older women. Instead, they used to hold meetings at her place with groups of youngsters, eating together and discussing parts of the bible. Does not sound unfamiliar!

Tuesday March 2
Went to Fuxin railway station and from there to the local railway. Just go to the level crossing on your right side when leaving the railway station, go over it, keep going a bit to the right, cross another level crossing and then at the third level crossing there is the railway station of Ping An. Lots of activity with SY shunting, SY on freight, a Skoda electric loco and three passengers between 8.45 and 9.30!! The length of the passengers varies from three to nine coaches.
At about twelve o'clock I decided to take a taxi to the church. Pointing to the chines characters was not enough, but making a cross sign did the trick. On arrival I found photography on the main line difficult. There were two very short freights from Fuxin to Jinzhou, and the passenger in the opposite direction. The local railway was better. Around three o'clock there were the two passenger departures (no parallel departure), and then soon afterwards a freight goiong to the mine near Minzu. Back to Fuxin I watched the evening passengers in the city centre, along with (again) lots of freight.

Wednesday March 3
Morning on the local railway again, repeating the Tuesday session. Then on train 524 (dep 11.04) to Chengde. A long train juorney!! Very few freights were seen en route.

Thursday March 4
Chengde again. Poor weather. Standing near the tunnel on the steelworks branch I was wondering what I was doing there for the tenth time in four years. But then the first train came, went into the tunnel but for the banker, and stalled. Went back, checked all the brakes, and started on the incline. Marvelous on film!

Friday March 5
The tourist train was sold out so I went to Beijing by shared taxi. Quite comfortable for Y 100,--

Saturday March 6
An uneventful flight Beijing - Frankfurt - Amsterdam. Beijing airport may be chaotic but that is nothing compared to Frankfurt where signs 'umleitung' make you wander around in circles and where I got off the plane without any passport control.

Rob Dickinson