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Extreme Steam Team - September 2004

by Michael Rhodes

Yinghao, Yima, Xinan, Ma`anshan, Zhenjiang, Huanan, JiTong

I am reporting on behalf of the team's latest China trip - we were accompanied by Alan from Chengde (a colleague of Jun and a friend of Li Weishu). He was a fantastic guide and is definitely a foodie as thoughts of plans for supper were discussed as early as 5am!!!

10 Sept

BA039 to Beijing

11 Sept

CA1325, 1240 to Zhengzhou from where we went to photograph the Zhengzhou brickworks railway. Well after a typically Chinese wild goose chase which is too contorted and too lengthy to narrate, we found the line had been closed since the Spring festival. Several employees told us that management of the brickworks had failed to pay workers and so the railway had not run since March 2004 and inspection of the track tended to confirm this. The locomotives are said to be stored in a shed within the main brickworks.
A further two and a half hour evening drive brought us to Mianchi and the very pleasant Huimeng Hotel.

Yinghao coal railway

12 Sept - 6-30 degrees and sunny

This railway was opened in 1956 as part of the great leap forward and the whole enterprise employs 1400 people. The remaining deep mine produces 135,000 tons of coal a year. The railway has 2 working locomotives and three further engines that would be workable if repaired. There are a further 10 derelict boilers on the depot. The depot and workings are exactly as described by Rob Dickinson in his report. This is a truly charming line which is on its last legs - the locos are in terrible condition and a new development is the carriage of coal in big orange dumper trucks which alternate with the steam trips to Liangwa mine. A big new mine at Houying will be road served and there is extensive road rebuilding along the line so the days of this line must be numbered.

13 Sept - misty and poor light

0900 -drive to Shihou coal railway - north of Guanyintang - China Rail branch about 5km north of mainline and electric internal railway. Apparently there is also another longer narrow gauge electric line south of Guanyintang which was visited by Jan Schirling and his pals but we didn't have time to explore this as the weather improved and we headed back to Yinghao. Afternoon was spent on the Yinghao line. In the evening - saw and heard at least one SY shunting in the Mianchi bauxite factory.

Yima and Xinan

14 Sept - misty clearing by 10am

Exploration of Yima and Xinan in morning
The Yima North opencast mine is on its last legs - there is very little coal being produced and the output is propelled out of the pit boiler facing the wagons - about the most un-photogenic arrangement possible! We saw JS8092, 5936 and 8275 in steam. In the workshops there were JS8276, 8087, 6215 and SY1419 all under repair and then JS6061 and an unidentified SY which were derelict.

Yima south opencast pit is closed and turned into a fishing lake whilst the deep mine south of CNR Yima is served by China Rail direct with no steam. There is another big mine with CNR connections at Yuejing which we visited in error whilst trying to find the Xinan branch reported by the IRS visit last year.

Xinan colliery was eventually found, by driving to Goutou (where there is a cement factory and also the "Luoyang floating glass plant", which has a very well used narrow gauge sand railway which is said to be all diesel). The line is as reported very scenic with half a dozen good spots for photos. It stretches 18km from the Luoyang to Yima mainline to the colliery at Xinan. The problem is there can be no traffic for several days!. We found QJ Nos.7204 and 2878 in light steam at the colliery and were told there had been no traffic for 2 days. The mine itself was opened in 1989/90 and produces 1.2 million tonnes of coal a year, most of which leaves by road as we witnessed on our drive up there. Rail traffic relies on the provision of coal empties by CNR and these are announced by a phone call from Luoyang yard just 10-15 minutes before the QJs leave the mine to pick them up. There are 2 further QJs stored at the mine as spares.

In the light of this dismal exploration of places where photography was not really worth it, we returned to Yinghao for the rest of the day and the line certainly did not disappoint. The highlight of our third day there was the sight of the locomotive derailing at Liangwa colliery and then being rerailed using several large flat stones - better on video than stills, so watch out for the Telerail programme.

2157 sleeper from Luoyang to Shanghai as far as Nanjing.


15 Sept - hot and muggy in Ma anshan

As I put on the news group, this is just a big steelworks railway with branches to the Yangtze river for iron ore and connections to China Rail for both inbound and outbound traffic. The works produces 8 million tonnes of steel per annum (more than the three remaining steel works in the UK put together!).

As regards the railway - we spent over 2 hours with Mr.Pei, the manager of the railway and information is based on this. The steel works (Ma Steel) did own 40 Sys, but only 20 are now active and the railway has 35 diesels (mostly GK1 but with several DF7 for heavier trains). Steam is expected to disappear within 18 months here due to lack of spare parts.

We saw the following:-
Active - SY 0054, 0784, 1281, 1286, 1552, 1670, 1716, 1723, 1733 - note steam is confined to the steelworks now and is not seen further afield. This was confirmed by a visit to the Yangtze quay where they said there had been no steam down there for the best part of a year.
Under light or heavy maintenance but steamable: SY 0053, 0729, 0789, 0790, 0971, 1337.
Scrap condition:- SY 0047, 0049, 0129 (stationary boiler for the shower block!), 0138, 0254, 0503, 0789, 1214.

Zhenjiang limestone railway

16 Sept - 20-38 degreees and mist clearing to searing sunshine

Drive to Zhenjiang took 2.5 hours.
This is an 8km long line from the limestone crushing plant at Weigang to the Yangtze at Gaozhi. It lies 16 km east of Zhenjiang. The line opened in 1972 and has 3 working JS locomotives, two in use and one at Nanjing depot for repairs when we visited. In use were 6286 and 6536. Also dumped at Weigang were JS 6210, 8119 and 6064.

Inspection of the crossing log, 2 km from Weigang revealed 2-7 return trips each day between 0800 and 1800. As luck would have it we saw 7 return trips between 1100 and 1800 during our day here. Trains are big - 26 x 60 tonne limestone hoppers, but the line is flat and locos don't work hard. There are few good pictures to be had but it is hard work to get them as the landscape is flat. The main depot on the line is at Weigang and must be the smallest in the world as it is made up of a spur with room for a single JS which is guarded overnight by a retired driver from the line who has developed his house into a restaurant.

17 Sept - hot and misty again

A few shots at Zhenjiang before driving to Nanjing airport for MF 8615 1340 to Harbin. Then Mike Ma met us and was his usual benevolent yet ineffectual self. His opening offering was to hire an IVECO bus from a "friend". The bus had a faulty choke and an accelerator cable which stuck and was provided with three mafia drivers, one of whom had night blindness! This wonderful combination led to the drive from hell to Jiamusi which took 8.5 hours - we were so tired we crashed in Jiamusi at 00.30 and took a couple of taxis to Huanan the next morning.

Huanan narrow gauge railway

18-21 Sept, fine weather, 2-22 degrees

This was our second visit here, having done snow in Feb 2004, we wanted autumn colours. Operation has been very clearly described by Duncan Cotterill in his Tractive Efforts report. All I would say is what a fantastic line.

Access to the mine (74 km by rail from Huanan) is possible by road and is a 90 minute drive from Huanan Hotel. The mine is called Honggang and was opened by the Japanese in the 1940s. It produces 120,000 tonnes of coal each year and most of this leaves by rail for the local distribution depot which is on the site of the old log yard at Huanan. Road access is also possible to Tuyaozi (70 minutes from the Huanan Hotel), but the section between here and the mine is motorbikes only. We hired bikes each day for our visit to maximise photography as there are not many trains with a four hour gap between services from the mine.

There are good places for photos at the following spots:- Huanan depot, Huanan log yard, street running east of Huanan, Xiahua station, Tuyaozi station, anywhere along the climb and descent between Tuyaozi and Lixin, Several spots between Lixin and Honggang mine. The line should be a must for any visit to China.


22 Sept - fine day

We think we have cracked the quickest route from Huanan to Jinpeng! Try HU7502, 0800 Jiamusi-Beijing, then CA1109, 1240 Beijing to Xilinhot and then 2.5 hour drive to Jinpeng - first photo of QJ7164 (ex-works and also seen by me in August on its way to works leaving Daban) and QJ7112 at 1720. Exactly 11 hours 20 minutes after leaving Jiamusi!

23-24 Sept - fine sunny weather 6-23 degrees

Wonderful time on Jingpeng, including a climb up Handashan which took me and Steve 19 minutes and Vernon just 26 (even though he is retired and has bad arthritis!) QJs Nos 6630, 6631, 6750 (Daban pilot), 6751, 6773, 6808, 6851, 6876, 6882, 6891, 6911, 6925, 6981, 6984, 6991, 6992, 6998, 7002, 7009, 7012, 7038, 7041, 7048, 7049, 7063, 7112, 7137, 7164 all seen and photted.

24 Sept

Drive from Reshui to Chengde which with new roads took just 6hours. Overnight in excellent hotel with good dinner with Jun and Alan, then on 25th drive to Beijing airport (3.25 hours) and BA038 home.

Photographically a very good trip with lots of harvest shots and autumn colours. I would very strongly recommend Yinghao and Huanan, but care is needed with many industrial locations as dieselisation is taking place ever more rapidly and even those with moderate amounts of steam are often not very photogenic. Chance for maybe one or two more trips before it all dies!

Michael Rhodes

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