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Nanpiao Coal Railway, October 2003

by Heinrich Hubbert

These notes are based on Louis Cernys report from August 2003 about this coalmining area. (Check his sketch map for reference.)

I can fully agree that this area is nothing else then flat and a lot of activities are going on. People are very friendly and since one week till now, I did not face any problems with photography. Police cars passed me some times when I was linesiding. Just 3 hours ago, policemen checked my passport here in Zaojiatun but did not bother me.

Do not wait to long with a visit. 2 Diesels are already in operation! The first one I saw after my arrival in the shed. Can not identify it from here. It looks old fashioned, 4 axles, 2 cabs but is freshly painted. The plate has 3 characteres (maybe "The East is Red"?) No. is 1013 It was in shed for the first 3 days but was on the passengers and coaltrains since then.

The second one is a Beijing-class, No. 3241, looking filthy and appeared on Wednesday on the picture and is in service since then as well. Did not see it here the days before!

Steamers observed in service during this week are SY 0366, 0973, 1017, 1092, 1299, 1478 One more SY without plates is dumped in the shed-area. 1092 has some decorations on the smokebox but all engines are looking a little filthy. Have not checked the shed from inside yet. Maybe there are really not many more engines here availaible.

Only the weather could be better. As luck is with me, it was great, when I was exploring the lines but since I am an expert it became worse.

In general light is in favour - with exceptions - for the Banjita-line in the morning and the Sanjiazi-line in the afternoon, if you are looking for chimney-forwarders (i.e. empties).

Gradients are very steep and engines are trashing. Chasing should be possible on the Sanjiazi-line but most action seems to be on the Banjita-line. I witnessed some loaded trains being banked on the latter before the sumit even with six or less wagons. Trains are short here due to the gradients resulting in a lot of movements.
Trains on the branch-line beyond Zaojiatun to the north are propelled and were are movements every hour on monday. Many wagons are old style with wooden bodies.

Unfortunatly there are bundles of communication wires hanging 3 to 5 meters above the line (similar to Datong). Still there are nice places to be found.
The best shot should be the departure out of Zaojiatun leading into a steep embankment - a coal-bunker and mountains in the background - with the passenger at 7.15 am. But this could become impossible later in the year as the sun is just rising behind the mountains now.

The passengers (5 to 6 coaches) are departing around 7 am and 3 pm to each line. The other two pairs reported appear to run earlier or later when it is dark.
Did not check for simultanous departures in Xiamiaozi as the stretch between there and Nanpiao is hampered with buildings and cables and is north-south anyway. Only afternoons could deliver good light here.

There is a Hotel just beside Nanpiao-station on the western side of the tracks. It is a block with pinyin-letters on the roof. I pay 62 Yuan for a single. Rooms are somewhat rundown and after hefty protesting I was given a room with hot a shower-divice - probably the newest addition to the whole premise. There could also be a binguan on the other side of the station. Good restaurants with good food and chilled Tsingdao-beer are nearby.

Threewheelers and minibuses are plenty, so accessing the lines and changing locations is easy.

There are electric railway-systems (500 or 600 mm) in Sanjiazi, Zaojiatun and further up to Zaojiatun, one leading on an stone-arch viaduct over the street.
There are also plenty of tipper-track lines all over giving the area a truly mining-flavour. And still, I have not been to the very ends of each line. The big bridge befroe Banjita is also worth to mention.

There is a Wang Ba in Zaojiatun, the first station out of Xiamiaosi. I found this place by an english-speaking local and now I know what the chinese wangba-pricing is: A flat one Yuan per hour! The first time I came here, I was refused to pay at all.

The staff of the eastern signal cabin here in Zaojiatun called me "Marco Polo".

Have not been to Tiefa so I can not give a rating as Louis did with his comparison. However, compared with Datong, I would say the landscape is of course less spectacular but is much easier to access, offers more activity, scenical diversity and has a better chance to get sunlight.

Enjoy it, before its to late.

Thank you, Louis!

Heinrich Hubbert

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2003, Heinrich Hubbert , email: hubbertweb@web.de