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Steam in China - December 2003

by Florian Menius

Meihekou, Tiefa, Huludao, Nanpiao, Fuxin, JiTong, Dengta

Report about my 10th trip to China between Dec 21st 2003 and Jan 4th 2004. The trip was undertaken together with Thorge Bockholt and Julien Blanc.

Meihekou Coal Railway (Dec 21st 2003)

Out of Louis Cerny`s May 2002 and August 2003 discoveries, Meihekou seems to be the only one, which hasn`t attracted any western gricer so far. Very surprising, as - after our visit - we considered Meihekou to be almost as good as Tiefa (though on a smaller scale), equivalent to Huludao and better than mid-winter-Nanpiao.
Local staff confirmed, that Thorge and I were the first Non-Japanese railfans visiting the system.

Meihekou Coal Railway is a 100% steam worked industrial railway operation. It serves four coal mines: "mine 1" up to "mine 4" (Yijing, Erjing, Sanjing and Sijing). Previously, another two coal mines were served: "mine 5" ("Wujing") has been closed for some time while "Liujing" (mine 6) is about to close, too. Its rail connection has already been closed. Lorries transport the little amounts of coal, Liujing still produces.

Dawn at Yijing (F.Menius, 2003)

The Line
As reported by Louis Cerny and shown on his map, too, there is basically a north-south-mainline from Sijing (mine 4) to Sanjing (mine 3) via Yijing (mine 1) and Erjing (mine 2). The branch line to Liujing (mine 6), shown on the map is no longer used. Mine 2 (Erjing) is situated directly at the mainline between Yijing and Sanjing. Total length of the line is something around 20 to 22 km (estimated distances: Sijing-(5-6km)-Yijing-(5-6km)-Erjing-(9-10km)- Sanjing).
The headquarter of the mining company, a medium sized mining town and the main freight yard are situated at Yijing. The loco shed is just north of Yijing yard. From Yijing, the connection line to Heishantou CNR starts. It is some 4 km long and crosses a river on a medium sized standard concrete bridge just east of Heishantun yard. The coal railway`s SY work the coal trains to Heishantou CNR where they are picked up by CNR-DF4Cs.
Though the countryside is generally flat, the coal railway offers grades both against loaded and empty trains - especially between Erjing and Sanjing. There is a kind of "street running" between mines 1 and 2, too. Mines 2 and 3 have electric ng systems, too (mines 1 and 4 were not checked). All four coal mines are very photogenic.

All SYs work funnel first south-westwards (=empties to Sanjing, loaded trains from Sijing to Yijing and loaded transfer trains to Heishantou). Each mine is served several times a day. Four SYs are in daily use: one hauls the passenger trains, the other three locos serve mines 2, 3 or 4. General pattern of operation seems to be, that coal trains from "Yijing" to and from the mines 2, 3 and 4 operate only a couple of minutes after the passenger train (I strongly recommand to wait some 10 or 15 minutes after a passenger trains has passed by...). This means that all 4 SYs are employed simultaneously then.
Loaded trains from the mines 2, 3 and 4 go to Yijing yard first, where they are combined to a long freight train, which is transferred to Heishantou CNR then, usually using the loco having arrived from Sijing minimizing shunting movements at Yijing.

Sanjing (F.Menius, 2003)

Sijing is only a 15-minute-car-drive away from Meihekou CNR station (maybe 15 km or so on a tar road). There is a road parallel to the railway from Sijing to Sanjing but only partly tarred. Unpaved sections of the road, which are near Sijing and between Erjing and Sanjing, are in very bad condition.

The central yard at Yijing is very close to the mining company headquarter and situated almost in the "middle of the mine". Yijing yard is surrounded by walls, topped with barbed wired on both sides. After some 15 minutes we were there, we were approached by two very friendly security officers and asked to stop taking photos inside the yard. However, there was no problem to take photos at the other mines.

Passenger service
The mining company operates a passenger service between Sijing and Sanjing. Trains consist of 6 well-cared and clean YZ22-coaches. Two funnel first passenger trains are guaranteed during daylight - even in winter. Another two pairs of trains operate around sunrise and sunset.

Approximate timings of daylight trains are (southbound = Sijing to Sanjing = funnel first):


The mining company owns 6 SYs. 4 out of them are in daily use. At the time of our visit, loco utilisation was 100% as two SYs were said to be under repair/overhaul with the remaining four all working busily. The locos are very smart, clean and well cared - nicer than Tiefa`s loco and uncomparable to Huludao and Nanpiao`s "scrapyard-mutant-locos". Decorated locos are on the roster, too. All locos have boards and/or slogans on their smokebox.
Locos in bold letters were actually seen working on Dec 21st.

SY0791, 1216(decorated), 1217(decorated), 1445, 1564, 1662

Transfer to Tieling on train 2538 (Meihekou 19:02-Tieling 23:41)

Tiefa Coal Railway (Dec 22nd 2003)

My third try of a Tiefa visit was the first successful one.
Inside Daqing workshop, a DFH3 diesel-hyraulic was noted by Bernd Seiler one day later (the first diesel for the coal railway was expected in December...FM). Of special interest was 1956-built JS 5029 being busily employed hauling the typical, extra-heavy Tiefa coal trains. The complete passenger timetable is (almost no retimings since last year):


101 103 105 107   102 104 106 108
06:40 09:52 14:39 18:20 Diaobingshan 06:32 08:34 13:44 18:03
06:50/02 10:02/03 14:49/51 18:30/32 Sanjiazi 06:20/22 08:23/24 13:33/34 17:34/53
07:14/16 10:15/16 15:03/05 18:44/46 Xiaoming 06:07/08 08:10/11 13:19/21 17:20/22
07:31/33 10:31/33 15:20/21 19:01/02 Sanjing 05:51/52 07:54/55 13:02/04 17:04/05
07:37 10:37 15:25 19:06 Daming 05:47 07:50 12:58 17:00


H211 201 203 205 207   202 204 206 208 H210
05:12 06:28 09:40 14:51 18:32 Diaobingshan 07:08 08:45 13:56 18:14 20:25
| 06:38/00 09:50/51 15:01/03 18:42/43 Sanjiazi 06:49/58 08:34/35 13:44/46 17:36/04 |
| 07:04/06 09:55/56 15:07/08 18:47/48 Dalong 06:43/45 08:28/30 13:39/40 17:30/32 |
| 07:11/13 10:01/02 15:13/15 18:53/54 Gu__shu 06:36/38 08:21/23 13:33/34 17:23/25 |
| 07:16/17 10:05/06 15:17/18 18:57/58 Qiaonan 06:32/33 08:17/18 13:29/30 17:19/20 |
| 07:24/32 | 15:25/33 19:05/13 Xiaonan | | 13:14/22 17:04/12 |
05:44 07:52 10:21 15:53 19:33 Wangqian 06:16 08:02 12:54 16:44 19:53


301 307 309 303 305   302 308 310 304 306
07:16 09:14 14:26 17:31 18:43 Diaobingshan 06:21 09:31 13:32 17:22 19:06
07:26/28 09:24/25 14:36/37 17:41/51 18:53/57 Sanjiazi 06:11/13 09:19/21 13:20/22 17:10/12 18:55/56
07:32/33 09:29/30 14:41/42 17:55/56 19:01/02 Huirang 06:05/07 09:13/15 13:14/16 17:04/06 18:50/51
07:39/41 09:36/37 14:48/49 18:02/03 19:08/12 Xiaoqing 05:57/59 09:05/07 13:06/08 16:56/58 18:43/44
07:44 09:40 14:52 18:06 19:15 Daqing 05:54 09:02 13:03 16:53 18:40


? 401 403 405   402 404 406
  06:40 14:06 21:20 Diaobingshan 02:18 10:03 17:56
  07:18/19 14:41/42 21:52/53 Faku 01:45/46 09:23/25 17:15/18
00:30 07:53/58 15:13/15 22:21/22 Xiaokang 01:15/17 08:50/52 16:38/41
00:43 08:19 15:36 22:37 Dongguantun 01:00 08:29 16:17

Locmotives seen (all under steam and working):

SY0435, 0665, 1183, 1255, 1749, 1751, 1764, 1767, 1770

Transfer to Jinzhou on overcrowded train 1348 (Tieling 19:17-Jinzhou 22:54)

Huludao-Yangjiazhangzi (Dec 23rd 2003)

As reported by Louis Cerny and others, most freight on this local line is limestone which is carried from the quarry at Yangjiazhangzi to the Bohai cement factory in Huludao. General freight, which continues from Huludao onwards to CNR seems to be sparse. At Huludao, close to the Bohai cement factory, the railway shed is located.
Usually, 2 (out of 4) JS are under steam for line workings whereas one of the two SYs shunts at Bohai cement factory and the adjacent yard next to the shed. Especially the (deflectorless) JS are in very bad condition - they look just as if they would directly come from the scrapyard... (really shocking when you just come from Tiefa and Meihekou!)
According to local staff, there are two pairs of trains to Yangjiazhangzi within 24 hours only. Trains are worked funnel first in both directions. Unfortunately, on the day of our visit, the turntable at Yangjiazhangzi was unuseable due to a technical problem. So, the 11:00 train to Huludao was tender first. Two days later, when Bernd Seiler visited the line, the turntable was ok again.

A fixed timetable for the freight trains exists. Departure times are very, very reliable. Trains usually leave "on the minute"!

Huludao05:30 - Yangjiazhangziappr. 06:30-07:00
Yangjiazhangzi11:00 - Huludaoappr. 12:00
Huludao13:30 - Yangjiazhangziappr. 14:30-15:00
Yangjiazhangzi? - Huludao?

The evening departure from Yangjiazhangzi is somewhen after darkness (maybe 19:00 if the railway works on a "every 8-hours-a-train" pattern of operation ???).

Locmotives seen:

JS6243(steam), 6305(steam), 8207(cold)
SY0513(steam), 1415(cold)

We visited Huludao as a one-day-trip from Jinzhou. Chasing the train by taxi is possible. A taxi for one day (twice Huludao-YJZZ and back) was 200Y. Additionally, we strongly recommand to visit the "friendship store" just next to Huludao CNR station if you are looking for Chinese and Non-Chinese food and sweets.
A nice accomodation at Jinzhou is the "CheZhanBinGuan", situated on the 4th floor of the station building with direct access to/from the platforms.

Nanpiao (Dec 24th 2003)

Nothing to add to previous reports. A quite nice system, but mid-winter is definitely the worst time for a visit here! The SYs are in slightly better condition than Huludao`s JS - but slightly only! BJ 3241 diesel still has wears its former Chengde depot code by the way.

Map by Duncan Cotterill

The complete passenger timetable as noted in Xiaomiaozi signalling box is shown below:


101 103 105 107 109   110 102 104 106 108
19:33 06:22 09:45 17:33 22:11 Huangjia 01:52 06:37 09:41 17:50 19:28
Xiamiaozi 01:46
| 07:05 15:21 18:09 22:56 Fulongshan 01:24 06:00 09:08 17:20 18:51
05:17 07:31 15:41 18:27 23:18 Sanjiazi 01:00 05:35 08:45 17:00 18:31


201 203 205 207 209   210 202 204 206 208
01:57 06:42 14:46 17:55   Huangjia   06:17 14:41 17:28 22:06

04:48 07:09 15:06 18:16 22:45 Zaojiatun 01:29 06:02 09:20 17:13 19:14
05:01 07:22 15:19 18:28 22:57 Choupigou 01:16 05:41 09:02 16:57 19:02
05:14 07:37 15:34 18:42 23:12 Linghe 01:00 05:21 08:49 16:40 18:43

Locmotives seen (all working):

SY0366, 0638, 1017, 1299, 1478

Transfer from Jinzhou to Fuxin on empty but extremely slow train 1229 (Jinzhou 05:01-Fuxin 07:53). The coalmine at Aiyouying still uses SY. Two were seen under steam, including SY 0850.

Fuxin Coal Railway (Dec 25th 2003)

Few to add. It seems to be common now to exchange loaded coal wagons with CNR at Xinqu rather than at Fuxin itself. Empties are still exchanged at Fuxin. This produces plenty of northbound, tender first loaded trains between Fuxin and Xinqu and tender first workings on empties between Fuxin CNR and Wulong/Taiping, too. On the other hand, most funnel first workings were light engine workings - only the passenger trains were guaranteed (I consider a light engine working to be equivalent to "no working").
Most pleasant occupation in Fuxin was a visit to the ZhouLai Opencast Mine (simply ask for "lu tian mei kuang" = open cast mine)with its steep, multi-zig-zag climb down into the hole. Really great to watch up to 10 different 50-year-old LEW- electrics moving simultaneously there!

Locmotives seen:

SY0076, 0126, 0391, 0770, 0785, 0849, 0939, 0940, 0941, 0988, 0989, 1378, 1395, 1397
IV KP1 (LEW)6597, 6611
EL1 (LEW)9228, 9229 (9229/50), 9232, 9234 (9234/50), 9235 (9248/63), 9238, 9245(16587/80)
Skoda (Bo`Bo`Bo`)384, 398

Note that the bathhouse 200m west of Fuxin CNR station is rather a "redlight etablissement" than a proper bathhouse. You are offered a "massage" at 28Y or "extended service" on the upper floor at 100-120Y...

Transfer to Chifeng on train K648 (Fuxin 22:02-Chifeng 06:11). Fuxin has got an sleeper allocation of 6 YW berths for this train - only four of them were sold...

JiTong Railway (Dec 26th 2003 to Jan 2nd 2004)

Lindong Area (Dec 26th - 27th 2003)
Daban Area (Dec 28th - 29th 2003, Jan 1st 2004)
JingPeng Area (Jan 2nd 2004)

Nothing to add to recent reports. JingPeng was - though I stayed there only a half day - surpringlingly not as crowded with railfans as I had feared. But, of course is nothing to be excited about when the tour bus of a group stops and unloads its passengers in the middle of your pic two minutes before the train passes...

Chabuga Area (Dec 30th - 31st 2003)

According to Chabuga`s log book, 4 different DF4s were in use during the last days of December (including DF4 0444, 0549, 0658). Fortunately, they predominately worked nocturnaly. Only 1 or 2 non-QJ trains during daylight hours had to be observed. And, even better: all uphill daylight trains were steam hauled.

But railway staff at Chabuga indicated, that Chabuga-Zhelimu section will be completely diesel worked with effect from January 20th 2004 - including the passenger trains, too!

Diesel Railcar Timetable

As reported previously, the JiTong NYJ1-diesel railcars now operate a daily service between Tongliao and Huhehaote. Additionally, there is a express train service between Huhehaote and Xilinhaote. Neither information about rolling stock nor frequency (dauily or every other day) is at hand for this train. All stops are shown in the table.

A262/3K736/7 K738/5A261/4
13:11/2322:03/23Jining Nan05:25/3706:48/00
20:40/53 Haoluku 23:45/06
21:55/05 Jingpeng 22:33/45
23:21/26 Galadesitai 21:26/31
? Linxi ?
00:50/02 Daban 19:52/04
02:19/27 Lindong 18:22/35
03:20/29 Chabuga 17:14/29
05:01/07 Kailu 15:31/42
06:11/20 Zhelimu 14:10/27
06:35 Tongliao 13:55

Of special notice are the quite long stops of the train on its stations. Why does A264 have to wait 17 minutes at Zhelimu?

JiTong Diesel Observations

Locmotives seen:

DabanQJ6351(C), 6576(C), 6577(H), 6631(C), 6632(Z), 6729(Z), 6735(H), 6751(H), 6773(H), 6808(C), 6825(C), 6828(C), 6840(H), 6851(H), 6878(H), 6884(C), 6911(C), 6925(H), 6988(Z), 6992(H), 6996(nd,Daban pilot), 7002(H), 7007(H), 7009(H), 7010(C), 7037(Z), 7040(H), 7041(H), 7048(Z), 7049(Z), 7063(C), 7081(C), 7105(C,Z), 7112(H), 7119(C), 7143(H), 7163(C,Z), 7164(H)
Tongliao CNRDF4B0444(Dalian/1981), 0549, 0658

H=Haoluku-Daban, C=Daban-Chabuga, Z=Chabuga-Zhelimu

Of note: some locos (e.g. QJ 6751 and 7164), which always were used on the Zhelimu-Chabuga section, appeared between Daban and Haoluku now (probably released by the DF4Bs at Chabuga-Zhelimu).

Transfer to Shenyang/Dengta on K650 (Chifeng 19:41-Shenyang 06:20).

Dengta-Huazi (Jan 3rd 2004)

Transfer to Dengta on DF4DK hauled, 18-coach all-stop-passenger train 6686 (Shenyang 08:22-Dengta 09:18).

Map by Louis Cerny, redrawn by Rob Dickinson

It can be confirmed that there are two different companies operating trains between Huazi and Dengta.

Huazi NorthSY0209(under steam, overhaul Sujiatun 4/2003), 0822(oou)
Huazi SouthSY3 locos (unidentified)

Given the current amount of traffic, I can only recommand not to visit the system! It is wasted time if you are looking for working steam! But: Huazi offers some architerctural delights:

Looking for a shower? Bathhouse for men at Huazi (F.Menius, 2003)

China National Railways CNR

Shenyang Area (Dec 21st, 22nd, Jan 3rd)

With the introduction of numerous SS4 and SS9 electrics at Sujiatun and Shenyang depot respectively, more and more DF4Cs and even DF4Ds are becoming surplus around Shenyang. DF4Ds already have completely replaced the once common DFH3 diesels. The suburban passenger trains e.g. to Daqing, Dengta, Anshan are haulded by 145km/h-DF4D or even 170km/h-DF4DK (3xxx series) now.
The electrified Shenyang-Anshan-Dalian line is still not entirely worked by electric locos. About 50% of the freight trains between Shenyang and Anshan were observed to be diesel hauled (either DF4Cs from Sujiatun or ND5 from Dalian depot). Single-ended SS9G and "normal" SS9 operate most of the T and K-trains from Shenyang towards Shanhaiguan/Beijing (along the new high-speed-line), Dalian and Harbin but both DF4B(orange) and DF4D/DK still appear, too.
Between Shenyang and Dandong, all express trains were DF4D hauled, remaining trains (passenger and freight) orange or green DF4Bs. 2003-built DF5 2040 in a new blue-and-white livery was recorded shunting at Dandong, sister locos 1967 and 1978 at Shenyang and Sujiatun respectively.

Locmotives seen around Shenyang (Su=Sujiatun, Sh=Shenyang, Xi=ShenyangXi, Da=Dalian):

DF4B1037(Benxi), 2184(Su), 6197(Xi), 6493(Su)
DF4C4121(Meihekou), 5039(Su), 5196(Su), 5334(Su)
DF4D0249, 0251, 0257, 0259, 0303, 0305, 0307, 0435, 0437, 0439 (all Sh)
DF51110(Su), 1197(Su), 1259(Meihekou), 1967(Su), 1978(Su), 2040(Su)
ND50337(Da), 0376(Da), 0381, 0406(Da)
SS40546(Su), 6087(Su), 7023(Su), 7028(Su), 7038(Su)
SS90002(Harbin), 0016, 0116

Jinzhou/Fuxin Area (Dec 23rd- 25th)

Between Jinzhou, Shanhaiguan and Shenyang, new DF8B diesels have started to replace 5-to-8-year-old-DF4Cs on freight duties. All kinds of passenger trains along the "old" line still are a stronghold of the powerful DF11 diesels from Shanhaiguan depot whereas the express trains along the recently opened high-speed line Shanhaiguan-JinzhouNan-Shenyang have SS9 or SS9G as motive power (T11/12 Shenyang-Beijing is an impressive sight: a SS9G plus 18 double-deck coaches...). Jinzhou-Nanpiao line is 100% DF4C worked as is the line towards YiXian (exceptions may be fast train, which can have an orange DF4B as well).
Changes are to be reported from Fuxin, too: the once common green DF4B have completely disappeared. Only a couple of orange 100km/h-DF4Bs survive here. Replacement of the DF4Bs are DF4Cs, probably surplus ones from Jinzhou and Sujiatun depot.

Locmotives seen around Jinzhou/Fuxin (Jin=Jinzhou, Fu=Fuxin):

DF4B2129(Fu), 2185(Fu)
DF4C4174(Jin), 4367(Fu), 4401(Jin), 4420(Jin), 4422(Jin), 4441(Fu), 5045(Jin), 5076(Jin), 5099(Fu), 5170(Jin)
DF51048(Fu), 1072(Fu), 1080(Chifeng), 1710(Jin), 1850(Fu)
DF110030, 0094, 0100, 0138 (all Shanhaiguan)

Chengde Area (Jan 4rd)

Locmotives seen around Chengde (all Chengde depot): The once common BJ diesel-hydraulics are very much on their way out. Compared with last year, when I visited Chengde-Beijing line, too, the 2004-repetition of my visit produced a 85%-DF4B-day instead of the expected 50:50 split between BJ and DF4B. The 20-year-old BJs only haul a small portion (less than 30%) of freight trains between Chengde and Miyun now. The Chengde to Xinglongzhen and Yuanping passenger trains are still BJ hauled (probably the local Chengde-Longhua trains, too, but this was not checked).
All other passenger trains towards Beijing were hauled by DF4Bs. Chengde got some "new", elderly examples of this class as BJ-replacement, including 1975-built DF4 0041 for example. The locos came from other Beijing bureau depots, for example from Tianjin, Zhangjiakou and at least one from Shijiazhuang depot which is reported to have received some 25 new freight DF4D recently. Generally, the average age of Chengde`s DF4Bs must be well over 15 years...

BJ3068, 3087, 3129, 3174
DF4B0041(Dalian/1975), 0606, 0623, 1253, 1589, 1657, 1658, 1756, 1937(Dalian/1991), 9008(Guiyang/1995), 9221(Guiyang/1996)

International Traffic NorthKorea-China

Both freight trains and the international Beijing-Dandong-Pyöngyang express K27/28 are hauled by North Korean diesels (M 62 type) between Dandong and the Korean border station Sinuju.

A sensational information received by reliable, NorthKorean sources is, that the freight-only, international line between Ji`an (near Tonghua) and Man`po (DPR Korea) is still worked by Korean Steam Locos!

For further details about North Korea, please read Bernd Seiler`s North Korea Report.


Especially after the impressions from NorthKorea, this China visit was one of my most pleasant ever. It was very happy to see, that there are still "new" steam location to be visited which are worth a visit (Meihekou, Huludao, Nanpiao). Special thanks go to Louis Cerny for his discovery efforts and his maps, which proofed to be perfect base for getting started without any delay (we usually were "on the spot" before sunrise - mostly because the great maps made any search for locations unneccessary!).
Thanks to Bernd Seiler, too for all his efforts in NorthKorea and the warm welcome at Nanpiao on Dec 24th.

Dresden, Jan 13th 2004
Florian Menius

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