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CHINA September 2003

by Peter Semmelroch

Short report on a two-week GlobeSteam trip, led by Peter Patt and ZhengBo of Mr.Zhang´s CITS Changchun office.

07.09.03 Arrival Beijing airport. Visit of Railway Museum in Beijing (as reportred before) and of the steelworks in Beijing. In the steelworks were a lot of the DDR-built V1003 and some GK1B-diesels in use. Night train to Xuzhou.

Yuzhou- Peitun Line

08.09.03 – 09.09.03 Visit to the Xuzhou-Peitun line, which correctly should be called Shatang-Peitun line, as the trains are handed over to China Rail in ShaTang, west of Xuzhou.

The raliway claims to own 11 steam locomotives and two brand-new diesel locomotives:

All QJ seem to get (or should I rather say have got) their overhauls in LaiwuDong. All QJ are high deflectored.

SY 2024 away for heavy overhaul somewhere in Anhui province, about 300 km away, but not in LaiwuDong (info from staff).

DF4 7693 and 7694, both in standard green livery, brand new, Dalian built with 2003 builder plates standing in the depot and shall be used from 1st of October.

The system: From Peitun six coalmines (or 5 coalmines and a power plant) are served by rail. The trains are rearranged in Peitun yard and the loaded trains then brought to ShaTang (about 70 km), through flat, rural countryside. Pattern of operation: The line to Shatang is worked in "blocks". In the afternoon and during the second half of the night the loaded trains are brought to Shatang while in the evening/first half of the night and very early morning the empty trains are brought back to Peitun. So after about 13.00 to 14.00 usually several loaded coal trains can be seen running from Peitun to Shatang, in one to two-hour intervals (we saw both days 3 or 4 trains before sunset). The empty trains start to return at about 17.00, sometimes locos run back light engine and tender first. Empty trains can also be seen returning to Peitun early morning until about 9.00-10.00.

There are also two pairs of passenger trains worked by an orange ChinaRail DF4 between Xuzhou and Peitun (passenger station about two kilometers south of the yard). See China Rail time table for exact timings.

Steam will certainly last some months longer (especially the shunts and the workings from Peitun to the mines), but with the two diesels entering traffic in October and probably more diesels expected, the most interesting line workings to ShaTang will cease soon...

09.09.03 night train back to Beijing

10.09.03 Beijing:

Beijing February 7th Rolling Stock Works

Visit of 7th February Rolling Stock works:

Three workable steam locomotives are available:

loco status built last overhaul

SY 0732 working 1973 6/01 Sujiatun

SY 0891 working 1974 6/02 Sujiatun

JF 2446 cold 1955 or 1956 11/02 Sujiatun

Light for photography is only good morning or afternoon. A noon break starts at 12.00. The depot where the locos are kept is not inside the main rolling stock works, but a seperate also fenced compound about one kilometer to the east from the main works.

Dahuichang Limestone Railway

as reported before, when we arrived at 13.45 traffic was already running and didn´t stop until we had to leave at about 16.30.

SY 0251 built 1970 is now dumped, a small diesel arrived instead but was locked away in the refurbished shed (where the YJ was kept in former times).

Night train to Chifeng.


11.09.03 Lindong Area / 12.09.03 Daban Area / 13.09.03 Jingpeng Pass

Some snippets:

The retimed passenger trains and the Lindong station, being rebuilt due to earthquake damage have already been reported elsewhere within the Newsgroup.

The DMU trains A263/A264 ran on a daily basis during our visit.

QJ 6825 arrived in Daban ex-works on 11.09.03 in a westbound freight (cold) and was alreday in light steam on 12.09.03 in Daban depot. Several QJs new to the JiTong line were seen, probably being either ex ShuangYaShan or ex DaAnBei, numbers not recorded.

On 12.09.03 JS 8314 (hd) was seen in a westbound freight (cold) giving a nice sight as if it were a QJ/JS doubleheader. The loco was seen again from the train on 17.09.03 in Baotou, standing alone north near the main line to Linhe about 500m west of Ajila depot (where the dumped steam loco yard can be also seen from the train) What does the loco there? Why was it hauled from at least Tongliao to Baotou (more than 1200km)? Only for scrapping? Almost unbelievable, also the loco seemed to be complete and didn´t look at all rusty or derelict, but in good external condition, maybe even workable.
Duncan Cotteril adds: "This loco was one of a batch built by Datong in early 1988 for Huhehaote Bureau and based at Huhehaote. Around 1998, several of Huhehaote's JS were transferred to Bei'an in northern Heilongjiang to work the line to Longzhen. This was dieselised by 2001 and most of the JS there have not been reported since. The main exception being JS 8246, now at Yuanbaoshan."

13.09.03 Night train (DMU) from Galadesitai to Hohhot – a nice and quite fast way to travel from JiTong to Hohhot or back in the best hard sleeper I´ve ever had.

Zhungeer- Xiyingzi

14.09.03-17.09.03 ZhunGeEr

We saw 14 QJs on this line, 12 were in service at any time with one standing in the depot as substitute in light steam and one in the shed probably for boiler washout and minor repairs. During our 4 days visit all 14 QJ saw line work.

Following QJs were recorded:

6555, 6563, 6565, 6573, 6613, 6759, 6827, 6907, 6944, 6946, 6995, 7054, 7058, 7067

All QJs were in quite filthy external condition and traffic was so heavy that the line seemed to be short of motive power at times.

Staff indicated that electrification of the line will start already mid September (Sept 18th 2003) with an official ceremony and is to be completed on May 1st using SS3 electrics. Electrification shall only take place to Hushi, from there to the Xiyingzi steam will be kept (for how long?). However, we couldn't see any piece of equipment along the entire line, though - and we travelled along most of the sections.

The line is difficult to reach by bus or taxi and 4wd cars are recommended.

The pattern of operation has changed: locomotives do not wait at Zhoujiawan for empty SS3 hauled trains anymore. Traffic is now being driven by loaded trains: as soon as a loaded train is ready at Hushi, a pair of QJ will haul it to Zhoujiawan. If there are empties to take back, the engines will return after 2 hours with a set of empties. If not, they will return light engine. This results in more traffic on the line during daytime, but you can never tell, whether trains to Hushi are light engines or real trains.
Traffic changes every day: one day we saw 10 trains on the line, out of which only 1 was a light engine movement. Next day we had 9 trains but 4 light engine movements...

17.09.03 Train from Hohot to Qingtongxia

Hohhot / Baotou Dong: Visit of the Hohhot depot with surprising results. We took 2 taxis to the Hohhot CNR shed, mainly to find out, whether the former Wuhai Xi based QJs have been moved to Hohhot already. Of course we had no permit to enter the depot and asked at the main gate. To our great surprise we were allowed in and guided through the halls - we didn't believe that we were on the right track when we entered the vaste repairshop: all halls fully equipped with the best steam loco repair equipment- but no steam locomotive to see. Next hall: SY 1315 + SY 1314: in various states of repair. Unfortunately I could't find out, where they came from...
Next hall: QJ 7064 in full brass and supersupershine condition!!

The solution: Hohhot plans its own steam locomotive museum and will use QJ7064 plus the 2 SYs as the base for it.

Next surprise: while waiting with our trains at Baotou-Dong station, QJ7056 rolled through the station with a rail construction train in full steam in the direction of Hohhot: dirty, filthy but steaming nicely. Is this ex. WuhaiXi loco now allocated to a CR rail construction group in Hohhot bureau?

Daba- Guyaozi

18.09.03 – 20.09.03 Daba-Guyaozi

Only 8 locomotives were present on the line during our visit:

So during our visit 4 locos saw line work, but honestly for the low traffic levels encountered, 2 locos would have been enough. There were not more than 3 pairs of trains in 24 hours during the 3 days we were there, if you are very lucky you can have two pairs of trains during daylight, but only 1 pair is also possible. The scenery is o.K. between Lingwu and Guyaozi but far from spectacular. Only the super-shiny QJs 7194, 7195 and 7205 justify a visit. I never saw such beautiful QJs before in China. But you need a lot of patience to get them in front of your lenses.

The line, although far in China´s west can be easily reached from Yinchuan airport, only about 45 minutes drive to Lingwu via a new expressway. Yinchuan can be rached daily from Beijing airport, so even short visits are possible without losing time to get there.

A word of warning: a single picture of an SS3 hauled passenger train at Daba CNR station let us spend 2 hours at the station's police office...

20.09.03 evening flight back from Yinchuan to Beijing, overnight Beijing and back to Germany on the 21st.


A visit in September has the advantage that daytime for photography is longer, but around noon the sun is up too high, so in fact you win nothing (only time for lunch). The disadvantages are that it is too warm for steam (and for walking along the line) even in the morning, and much more humid and cloudy than in winter time. I personally prefer winter, but nevertheless it was an intersting experience to see China´s north/west in late summer, and especially the Jingpeng area proved charming. (See also Duncan Cotterill´s report which I can fully confirm).

It was my 11th trip to China and only my second with an organized group, and it went extremely well with excellent photographic options for all participants. Therfore I can really recommend GlobeSteam Tours not only for the China beginner, but also for the experienced traveller. Thanks to Peter Patt for excellent organization and group leading.

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© 2003, Peter Semmelroch