The International Steam Pages

Shibanxi Holiday 2011 - Day 14 - Sunday Sun Day

Click here for the main Shibanxi Holiday 2011 page.

More in hope than expectation, I usually lift the blind in our guest house room at first light and today there was no sign of the hills at all, so I crawled back under the duvet. Sometime later after a trip to the bathroom, I noticed that the blind was unusually bright, the sun had burned away the mist and there was no time to waste. The hike in the hills was immediately cancelled and the rest of the group alerted to the change of plan. I left Yuehong to wait for the others and shot up towards Xianrenjiao. The new road above Jiaoba is easy to find and use. After the second tunnel from Bagou take the path on the right just before the first of the lineside houses through the reforested tip. Higher up follow the road past its summit until rounding a bend you can see the Xianrenjiao mobile phone mast (I may curse the ugly creatures but they make great landmarks), at the next junction bear left along a path to the small group of houses. Go straight ahead between two of them down a path through the bamboos and cross the small arched bridge. You can either descend to the railway or follow the path till it meets a truck road where you can turn left for the railway.

Although I was a little pushed for time for the second passenger train, I had to take five minutes out along the way to capture a couple ploughing with their water buffalo. Around the corner, a peach tree was in full blossom:

Ever since I have been coming to Shibanxi, Xianrenjiao has been an unstaffed station with the loop acting only as a siding. In recent years, short tourist trains have been shunted here to pass other trains, but now it is once again a full station. A concrete platform has been built and I wanted to record the second passenger train here.

Having done the business, I was ambushed by two children who wanted to take my picture. When I reciprocated, the boy said "This is my big sister." which allowed me to say with a completely straight face "And this is your little brother...". By now, Yuehong had caught up with me and as she was smiling again after getting the passenger train in the sun, I had to snap her outside the buffalo temple we had discovered on Day 10.

We didn't realise it at the time, but we were about to begin an extraordinary sequence of trains. First the passenger train came back, seen here after leaving the tunnel nearest Xianrenjiao:

At this stage, Yuehong and I were operating independently and it's interesting to compare our shots from similar positions of the outbound passenger train and the first tourist train of the day. The wires make little impact on the video but they do mar the stills.

Yuehong was in position for the tourist train runpast, despite a quick march I was just too late for it. Having gifted her another little 'happy snapper' she is picking up train photography very quickly:

Of course, we are primarily shooting video and our still pictures are necessarily constrained by that. We expected another tourist train and got in position accordingly, but surprisingly it was a coal train. I was quite happy with my own effort (upper) until I saw Yuehong's (lower).

Next, the first tourist train came back but it added nothing special to the record. There was hardly time to draw breath before the next tourist train turned up, the shrill whistle indicating it was ex-Pengzhou #8. This time the punters were treated to two run pasts. Yuehong's picture (upper) suggests that the first attempt at a blow down was overcooked, mine (lower) shows they got it right the second time. Shame about the stickers on the coaches though...

One of the few benefits of the new road is that there is time to get in position for the departure shot while the punters dribble back to the train, I managed (lower) to get a little further than Yuehong (upper):

Yuehong's knees are maybe even more 'tired' than mine these days and she stayed in position for the returning coal train, but I went back to the curve:

The final act of the morning was the return of the second tourist train, as it was not quite what was expected, Yuehong's shot was a far better choice than mine:

It was now just 13.00 and in the last two and a half hours we had seen four trains in each direction! Clearly the railway now has at least 4 (and probably 5) large tenders for its working fleet. When we first saw the Pengzhou locomotives here, there were only two tenders with them, were the extras purchased separately or were they manufactured specially in the new Shixi workshops?

We adjourned to Xianrenjiao station for some refreshment. Momma looked up briefly from her Mahjong game, smiled when she recognised me and gave me a look which said "You know where the cold beer is." and got on with the business, not that she would have let me escape without paying later!

The third tourist train came past under a cloud and given that the light was now well 'off', we caught the third passenger train down to Bagou, we couldn't complain as we had enjoyed a cracking day. Certainly the others had cried 'enough' and declined the rather ordinary shot. I was actually quite pleased to see and record a traditional all green train on the platform line for the first time here although the video camera had long since been packed away..

There was another late afternoon tourist train which we passed on and I was pleased to see that we had missed the entertainment in the main square at Bagou which was promoted by the manufacturers of the cooking oil for which the yellow flowers (canola / oil seed rape) are grown. With no less than seven for dinner, we anticipated Pop would serve us a banquet and as always he didn't let us down. Afterwards, I left the rest of the party to gossip away in Chinese and retired to a warm bed to have the pleasure of writing up this page.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson