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Steam in China - February 2004

by J.D.Hansen

Beijing (February 2)

The railway museum is closed to public on Mondays. Dahuichang was busy as usual with both loco 2 and 3 in use.

Shanghai (February 4)

The Transrapid maglev line linking Long Yang Road station with Pudong International Airport is open to public. So far only service in the morning up to noon as tests still take place in the afternoon. With ticket fare at a hefty 80 Yuan compared to 90 Yuan for a taxi as well as the distance from Long Yang Road to the city centre this super fast line may not appeal to a wider public.

Although out of topic it is worth mention that Scandinavian (SAS) starts flying Copenhagen - Shanghai from March 28. With promotion fares from Copenhagen as low as 3.200 DKK (430 Euro) until mid June this may be one of the cheapest airfares to China at the moment.

Tiefa (February 5)

Business as usual. SY 360, 0393, 1412, 1749, 1767, 1770 and JS 5029 seen in steam. The newly arrived DFH 3 was in use as shunter at the Eastern part of Daqing station (next to the workshop). It is worth noticing that the coal and water facilities are located in the western end of Daqing station and here it seems possible to walk around taking pictures without been charged for the infamous photo ticket.

Changchun (February 6)

The once large tram network is now reduced to only one line (line 54) running in the outer area of Changchun. A few original Japanese trams dating back from the 1930'ties are still in use. Line 54 can be reached by using the recently opened light rail line which terminates in front of Changchun railway station. Accommodation is recommended at the newly build Post Hotel just left from the station. 240 Yuan get you a double including Chinese breakfast buffet.

Meihekou (February 7)

Thanks to Florians excellent report we gave this "new" destination a try and had an enjoyable day. Starting out from Meihekou station at 5.50 AM by taxi (rate was a flat 30 Yuan) we reached Sijing just in time to catch the morning passenger train leaving at 6.15.

Regarding the photo problems at mine 2/Yijing yard, nobody took any notice of us or asked us to leave. Only at the electric railway NG line - which by the way crosses the Yijing yard at an impressive wooden bridge - some security official (?) coursed a few problems, so we just left the electric line.

Locomotives in use were SY 0791, 1216, 1217 and 1445.

Nanpiao (February 8 and 9)

For two days we traced this system which already has been covered intense over the latest months. Five SY's noticed in steam; beside the scrubby 0366, 0638, 1299 and 1478 did the newcomer 1092 look much cleaner. The diesel (BJ 3241) is in use only on the Linghe branch with freights, particular with trains going all the way through to Linghe. Guess it is because of the heavy gradient out from Zaojiatun. One afternoon SY 0638 failed to do the climb with its train to the east out of Zaojiatun even in two attempts. Shortly afterwards the BJ appeared, probably called in from Xiamiaozi.

The pattern of the freight workings has so far been described as changing from day to day and we can not add any further to this description…However, every morning the three locomotives not used for the passengers were to be found at Xiamiaozi depot, not leaving before 8.30 AM. Not reported so far are the many short workings to and from Zaojiatun. At more times two or even three SY's were spotted at the mine/station of Zaojiatun. Chasing trains in the area is rather easy due to the many minibuses running on the road next to the lines. Several times we just waited for the departure from Xiamiaozi and then followed the train by minibus.

If one has the time and is interested in the many NG lines (600 mm or less) in the area then the double tracked electric line leaving the Zaojiatun mine to the north is the place to go. Wonderful small locos and intensive traffic are to be found here.

What really appealed to us was the friendly atmosphere from both the locals and the railway staff. No hassle at all when walking around next to the mines or at the loco depot in Xiamiaozi. And even better: Loco staff did invite us for foot plate rides for free at two occasions! Yes this area has so far not been infected by the money virus so common many places within the last areas of Chinese steam.

Additions (by Arne Pietsch), Feb 19th/20th 2004:

Ji-Tong line (February 10 to 15)

We had the pleasure to join the FarRail winter spectacle tour during their visit. Nice to meet both old and new friends beside a tremendous lot of action at the Jingpeng pass. On February 12 no less then 10 eastbound trains within 12 hours! So intense was the traffic that at more times our minibus did not even have the time to drive the full way to Jingpeng station before a new uphill train could be spotted.

East of Chabuga the diesels have taken over most freight. Nevertheless we saw one steam hauled freight train on this section. Both passengers on this section are still in the hands of steam.

Yuanbaoshan/Pingzhuang (February 16)

With base at the Yuanbaoshan Power Plant Hotel (good value at 156 Yuan for a double room) we had a brief visit to these two coal mine systems. At Yuanbaoshan the passenger did run both morning and afternoon. Otherwise not so much action with normally two to three locomotives doing nothing just waiting at the stable point or at the shunting yard. JS 6246, 6544, 8218, 8246 and 8249 seen in steam. Again, no problems with the authorities taking pictures or walking around at the yard.

Pingzhuang we reached by minibus (5,50 Yuan a ticket) from Yuanbaoshan. A two hour visit over noon showed quite a lot of action with several trains to and from the coal washery. SY 0271, 1052, 1085, JS 1002 and JS 5758 was in steam. Beside we spotted an unknown SY in the bottom of the open deep mine. Surprisingly, nobody took any notice of us walking around. By following the open roads/paths one may even be able to reach the bottom of the open mine! Very intense was the traffic at the electric part of the railway system. A pity we did not have more time to explore this mine which by far was better than expected.

Back in Yuanbaoshan our hotel organised a limousine taxi to Chifeng at the price of 60 Yuan. A great way to end another steam bash in China.

Johs. Damsgaard Hansen

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© 2004, J.D.Hansen