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Steam in China - August 2004

by Michael Rhodes


A week in the summer on the Jitong line

21st August

Flew with KLM from Norwich to Schipol and on to Beijing (good food and good flight)

22nd August

Connection to Beijing-Xilinhot flight at 1250 -it was 30 minutes late, but even so we landed in Xilinhot at 1420 - making it Norwich to Xilinhot in 19 hours!

Xilinhot station and depot contained DF4D 4055 on a rake of green coaches and 3 derelict QJs - 6414, 6623, 6409. All were very rusty and had wire wrapped around their connecting rods - ?to stop them rolling away?

We then drove to Baiqi - 6 hours bar the shouting, passed QJ7138 on an eastbound freight at Donghu
Baiqi depot at dusk - saw DF4 0582 and QJ 7114.

Stayed at the Baiqi Hotel and a very satisfactory supper with egg plant, Chinese broccoli and pork with ginger.

23rd August

0520-0630 at Baiqi station
QJ7043 yard pilot, QJ7136 arrived freight, QJ7114 arrived ex-Haloukou (and was replaced by DF4B9517) with passenger. DF4 6007 and QJ7052 paired a freight to Haloukou.

Baiqi depot
DF4 - 0537, 4069, 6011, 0660
QJ - working order - 6982, 7136, 7114, 7162 (ex-works), 6912.
QJ - Derelict - 6997, 6846, 6642, 6838, 6302 (also with plates of 6642 on cab!), 6764, 6855, 6790.

There was a fairly large work camp set up for the workmen employed cutting up QJs, one of the scrap piles even had a 1986 smoke box plate cut in half - its not like the Chinese to miss such a good commercial opportunity!

Baiqi Depot

Conversation with staff suggested that 7 DF4B were working alongside the DF4D and that ten would be in place by the end of October 2004. This would bring the end of steam on the section to Haloukou and certainly based on this visit these predictions seem entirely reasonable.

Then we were to drive to Haloukou BUT there is no road (the Hohot-Hailar highway opens on 1st October) and this meant the only route for our bus was back to Xilinhot, on to Jinpeng and then back along sand roads to Haloukou - aargh about 9 hours drive. So Alan, my guide was dispatched to explore the feasibility of a brake van ride - in the end it cost 24 pence (UK) in coins and the bottle of bols which KLM give you on leaving the airplane! Rob Dickinson please mark and read - no western inflation here! The brake van ride was brilliant - QJ6982 on the front of the 0815 Baiqi to Haloukou.

We passed the following on freights - DF4 0582, QJ7138, 7118, 7139 and another unidentified QJ (I fell asleep). I was amazed by the hard climb to Yalagaitu, where we stopped to clean out the fire and take water at 1021-1125. Not only that, but we had a breakfast of pickled garlic, peanuts and beer here and the station manager and the elderly restaurant owner told me repeatedly that I was the first ever foreigner to alight here - the Jitong line has been visited by so many but there still seem to be odd corners nobody has got to. Anyway the ride to Haloukou (with convenient breakfast stop) was 5 and a half hours.

DF4 4070, DF4 6031, two freights to Baiqi at 1400 and 1500
QJ 7052 yard pilot, then freight to Baiqi at 1635
QJ 7140 freight from Baiqi arrive 1615
DF4 0582 freight from Baiqi 1800
QJ 6982 freight to Baiqi 1805

Haoluku Departure

The depot contained:-
QJ 7052, 6925, 6991, 6982, 6905, 7143, 7038, 6751, 6808 (ex-SYS), 7007, 6982

To be honest with the introduction of diesels, I cannot see any reason for Haloukou to exist! The diesels could easily work from Baiqi to Daban and as there is no covered accommodation at Haloukou it seems its days must be numbered.

Anyway, we caught the 1943, K train to Jinpeng and then spent a few days on the pass.

24-28 August

Varied sun and showers, lowest temp 6 degrees, hottest 30 (in Daban), 24 dgrees on the pass. Got into a pattern of photograsphy from 0500 to 1000, then brunch with the Ozzies, a snooze and then photography again from 1400 to 1900.

Erdi Brickworks

Keqi Brickworks

Simingyi Viaduct

26th August

Had an afternoon visit to Daban. Eighty minutes drive from Reshui

Depot contained:-
Working: QJ 6905, 7002, 6978, 6849, 7143, 6778, 7164, 6630, 6882, 6729, 6751
Not in working order but intact: QJ 6580, 6385, 6633, 6577, 6576 In scrap line in various degrees of dismantling: QJ 6636, 6517, 6389, 6844, 6795, 6478, 6926, 6638, plus five further boilers

Three DF4Bs were seen, I only got the numbers of two - 0636 and 0548 (both on freights to Chabuga. As I mentioned on a message before 0636 was refuelled from a road tanker in 30 minutes and turned around for its next duty in just under 60 minutes.

The schizoid nature of the Jitong line is however illustrated by the 1515 departure from Daban to Chabuga on 26th August - diesels everywhere but this freight was hauled by QJ6978, with QJ7164 running behind with connecting rods off and the whole crew in the cab with bedding and clothes for the requisite 2 month stay in works at Sujiatun! Yes they are still sending QJs to works for major overhaul!

Anyway on 28th a 2.5 hour drive to Xilinhot, before the evening flight back to Beijing which took just 50 minutes. Home with KLM on 29th and all in all a very good trip. I attach a couple of pics which sum up the summer on Jitong for me. I saw 72 different QJs and just a dozen diesels. Maybe another 12months, but then it will all be over.

Michael Rhodes

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© 2004, Michael Rhodes, email: mr@lapsurgeon.co.uk