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Steam at Chabuga - February 15th-29th 2004

Mark Lanham and David Needham

This trip was planned a year ago to focus on the sections arriving and departing Chabuga, Chabuga - Lindong and departing Lindong. During a visit in January 2004 all daylight freights into Chabuga from Tongliao had been steam so we were expecting a similar situation for this trip a month later.

Arrived on 15/02 09:30 at Beijing on the KLM flight from Amsterdam. Overnight train to Chifeng and then drove to Reshui arriving 12:00 where I met up with Dave Needham who had come out a week earlier to spend a week at Reshui. Overcast weather, snow and gale force winds blowing sand made it an easy decision to leave Reshui immediately for Chabuga. Arrived Chabuga at 15:40 and observed the passenger train at Sanjia (first village to the east of Chabuga).

We discovered that the eastbound passenger 6057 departed Fujinde at sunrise at 0705 and hence our daily routine was to arrive at Chabuga at 06:10 to get the timings and then head off to Fujinde as the passenger arrived in Chabuga at 06:15 to change engines. In the second week it was possible to silhouette the passenger on the bridge at Sanjia. During the second week we were barred from getting the train times immediately prior to the passenger arriving so we changed our routine so that we arrived at Chabuga for 06:00. This was also necessary since the snow and subsequent ice on the roads severely limited speed on the roads, hence more time was required to get to Fujinde.

During the first week all the freights we observed coming into Chabuga were diesel. Since there were very few freights towards Daban in daylight we photographed the morning freight departing Chabuga and then chased it to Lindong lining up a shot in the section running into Lindong. To do this successfully required hard driving since the condition of the road is poor around Yamenmio and on the subsequent section to Lindong. We experienced warm weather with very changeable cloud conditions. Also exceedingly strong winds which in the morning tended to blow smoke into the sun in most locations - if the morning started clear by the afternoon there were often bands of cloud or overcast hazy sun. One afternoon spent in Lindong the temperature was above zero. Friday was overcast, after observing diesel freights arriving in Chabuga we spent the afternoon walking between Darichenga (first station out of Lindong) and the curved bridge 18km from Lindong. The new road although not yet open can be used to access the section Lindong to the curved bridge approx 18km from Lindong.

Saturday 21/02 we woke to snow and the snow continued until early afternoon.

Sunday morning 6057 was looped at Fujinde and crossed the first steam freight we observed working into Chabuga in daylight. We photographed this departing Chabuga and chased it to Lindong. The 1140 light engine departure from Chabuga was observed at Lindong as QJ 7081 + 6825 on 8 wagons at 13:20. The 17:50 departure from Chabuga was observed arriving Chabuga behind steam at 16:35.

We observed regularly over the next week that if there was a 17:40 departure booked from Chabuga to Daban this would often arrive 30 minutes after the passenger. There was then a hard decision to photograph the passenger leaving Chabuga or take a chance on the imbound freight running in the slot between the passenger and the Hanlou plus it being steam. Fortunately each time during the second week that we took this gamble we got steam.

During the week 22/02 - 27/02 we observed that most daylight freights into Chabuga from Tongliao were steam. We found that freights could arrive up to 2 hours before their booked departure time - on several occasions we returned after photographing a departure from Chabuga to Daban to find the next train leaving Chabuga already in the station.

The attached excel file gives the booked departures as obtained from Chabuga station each day and the motive power and timings for trains we observed arriving into Chabuga from Tongliao and departing from Chabuga towards Tongliao. This information should give a good idea as to how loadings can vary from day to day, the sort of times trains working up into Chabuga arrived before their booked departure time and also how the pattern of diesel/steam haulage can change.

Our thanks to our excellent driver Xin Tian You, we particularly appreciated his skills on the icy roads where we observed several cars in ditches and numereous people fall off their bicycles. Many thanks also to our guide Alan (Wang Feng) - the trip was organized through Liu Xue Jun who can be contacted at friendctsjun@sohu.com

Mark Lanham

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© 2004, Mark Lanham