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Steam in China, November 2002 : Tangshan, Pingdingshan, Hechi

Simon Colbeck

The following report is on a private trip to China in November this year. All land arrangements were made through Changchun CITS. The service provided was impeccable and can be recommended.

Email. louyongmei@hotmail.com


Arrive on BA Flight Heathrow to Beijing. Met by mei yong from Changchun

Four-hour train journey Beijing Tangshan

Weather for both days clear and bright –10 to 0 each day

18/11/02 Tangshan Steel works.

Met by local CITS guide Mrs Lhi. She has been doing steam tours here for over twenty years. The steel works here seems quite under explored. It covers a vast area which includes at least two distinct sites. We were taken to the following areas;

Loco servicing area./ billet store yard.

Fair bit of SY action with Loco’s being serviced and trains of hot billets passing regularly.

Wagon /Loco repair shop

Small repair shop, which looks to be primarily for wagons. We found only one loco inside. JS8414. The manger claimed they have 10 JS of which 6 are currently stored. We asked where they worked (see below)

Steel works area.

Here SY’s are used to bring the molten Iron in torpedo wagons for conversion to steel. Again quite busy.

Slag tip.

The slag trains are hauled chimney first up a serious gradient to the slag tips. Unfortunately the loco is removed at the top of the banks and the final push to the cranes which tip the hoppers is undertaken by a JCB !!

2nd Steel works reception yard.

The second steel works is approximately 4miles away from the first. We were told that grisers were not allowed on this site. By the look of the plant it appeared to be a much more modern facility. The reception yard is accessible and was well worth a look. JS5992 is the star of the yard a high deflectored JS with no chimney cowl. In addition there were 2 Sy’s and a stored JS number not seen. Loco movements were continuous during the hour we were there.

Loco’s seen,

SY. 1138,1695,1070,1516,1127,0777,0982,1439,1090,0981,3006,0586,1311,1020,0518

JS 5992, JS8414 plus one stored number not seen,

Tangshan steel works conclusions.

There is a lot to explore he. If we had had the time it would have been interesting to try and map this system. We did not go to any of the blast furnace areas. There are some questions, which need answering here these being;

What loco’s work the second site?

Where are the unaccounted JS locos they claim to have?

How many SY are there?

JS 5992 Tangshan Steelworks reception yard 18/11/02

19/11/02 Tangshan coal mine

As previously reported. Photographically quite limiting as the trains from the main pitheads travel less than a mile to the CNR exchange yard. However all loco’s are in excellent external condition. Passenger service for the miners to the second pit head operated 4 times in the afternoon, but again not many phot spots as it only goes a couple of miles.

Loco’s seen.

SY 0964, 0355, 0031Pass engine, 1679 spare on shed.

Overnight train to Zhengzhou and then bus to Pingdingshan.

SY 0964, 0355, 0031 Tangshan coal mine 19/11/02



20-23/11/02 Pingdingshan

Again as reported previously. The level of activity here is quite staggering. The loco crew shift change at 0800 at Pingdingshan has to be one of the best steam sights still on offer. Between 0800 and 0900 all working loco’s work onto the shed and are serviced. We watched this on 3 days and saw approximately 20 locos of classes QJ, JS and SY work on and off shed each day. Then the loco’s work onto the adjacent yard and work their first trains of the shift.

Zhongku yard is a great place to watch trains. The crossing keeper informed us that there are over 100 train movements through the yard a day. Again all three classes can be seen here. Highlight for me was a departure of a double headed train of empties with a deflectorless JS piloting a deflectorless QJ.

The problem here is the weather, we spent three days here and had only 14 minutes of anything like sun.

The best photo location we found was the area around mine 7. This is situated on the main Zhongxin Baofeng line. The mine provides a good backdrop to photograph the passenger in as the line goes strait through the mine buildings. The line from Zhongxin climbs up a curving embankment to reach the mine and again has potential, if you get the weather.

We did very little exploring, as the weather was so bad, a trip to Baofeng found there to be little activity there, with no loco’s on the servicing depot and no steam pilot.

Loco’s seen

QJ 2035, 6813, 6690, 7186, 6450

JS 6252, 8122, 5644, 8031, 8068, 6429, 8062, 8030, 6253, 6225, 8338, 8054, 8065, 6292(in pieces by depot)

SY 1010, 1002, 1687, 0758, 1209 under overhaul.

23-24/11/02 train Xuchang – Liuzhou.

On route SY 1768 seen ex works in a consist at Guilin.

JS 5454 Liuzhou loco works 24/11/02

24/11/02 Liuzhou Loco Works.

The works here is still quite busy with steam overhauls. Management claimed to have 80 loco’s scheduled for repair next year. The works does rolling stock, diesel and steam repairs and is a modern well-maintained place.

SY 0852, JS 5454, JS5455 are the resident pilot loco’s.

In works were the following,

SY 1492,SY 0316,SY 1026,SY3003, SY 0529, SY1729, SY0734.

The works claims to be doing repairs for loco’s as far away as Shanghai and Pingdingshan.



24/11/02 Liuzhou Cement works

Two clean SY’s are employed here and on the afternoon of our visit both were employed around the factory.

SY 1623, SY1573.

25 – 30/11/02 Hechi

As had been said before this is a very photogenic line, but lack of trains and poor weather make it a hard line to photograph. In the 6 days we were there we had only 2hours of sunlight. Apparently groups who went in early November faired much better.

Train times here are a major difficulty. A rough idea of whats going to happen each day can be obtained from the loco roster board at Hechi shed. We found timings to be very approximate. Even the mixed ran +-half an hour and freights +- 2hours !!

The Pway here is being upgraded and there are piles of ballast everywhere along the line.

In addition to the passenger trains we had between 3 and 5 freights each day in daylight.

The new shed at Hechi is nearly complete but the depot staff seem unsure as to when diesels will arrive, we were told the following for what its worth.

"A DF4 has been successfully trailed on the line, they are expecting 2 next year, but don’t expect to finish totally with steam for another 3 years."It appears to all be down to money. When it’s available the steam will finish.

Loco’s seen

JS 8283, 8375, 8373, 8376, 8285, 8287, 8284, 8290, 8288,

JS5706 dumped on shed

JS 8284 Wenping 25/11/02

JS 8373 and JS8376 at Wenping 25/11/02

30/11/02 Yemao Nylon Factory.

SY 1702 was seen at the CNR station collecting some wagons for the factory. Second loco is claimed to be SY 0917

30/11/02 Luzhai Fertilizer Factory

This location is about 45k’s North of Liuzhou and has a station on the Liuzhou Guilin line.

SY0919, SY1296 are the working loco’s here with JS8053, 8055 stored.

All arrangements for Hechi and Liuzhou were made though Liuzhou CITS. The local contact here Anna Chen has an excellent knowledge of the area and worked tirelessly on our behalf.

She comes highly recommended and is contactable on email below



A trip for master shots this was not. The weather was the appalling for 90% of the trip.

However it was great to witness steam in 3 very different locations.

Tangshan needs further investigation as there must be some good shots to be had there.

Pingdingshan has plenty to see with the deflectorless QJ’s on line work a highlight, but how many cold sunny days they get here is the big question.

Hechi was also frustrating due to the weather and lack of trains . Would a go again ..you bet there are so many locations on this line which I would love to have a crack at.

Simon Colbeck

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© 2002, S.Colbeck , email: simoncolbeck@aol.com