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Steam in China - November 2004

by Peter Semmelroch

Laibin-Heshan, Sancha, Yemao, Jinchengjiang, Ganshui

Laibin-Heshan 31/10-4/11

Reached Heshan on Sunday afternoon 31/10 by early morning flight from Beijing to Guilin and a taxi drive from Guilin to Heshan (about 3 hours, 600 Yuan). There is an excellent motorway from Guilin airport to Nanning which we used to Laibin. Stayed in Heshan (good hotel in the city center -the high red building) until the evening of 4/11. Weather generally sunny and warm with occasional haze and clouds.

Heshan depot owns 10 locomotives (and some rail-cars)

Traffic levels

Traffic levels were very high, all scheduld freights to Laibin were running, although timekeeping was poor (see timetable on qj-country.de), trains ran from two hours ealy to three hous late.
One one occassion the train 45343 consisted of 51 loaded coal wagons hauled by a single JS from Laibin to Guwa, where a second JS (light engine from Heshan) was arriving and double-headed the train back to Heshan. A fine sight and a fantastic spectale. Generally coal is transported from Laibin to Heshan and onwards to the Heshan power station, empties in opposite direction; output of Dongkuang mine seems to be low and not sufficient.
There were frequent daily trips from Heshan to the Heshan power station, daily trips on the southern line from Heshan to an industrial complex, and also trips on the north line to Dongkuang mine (very scenic small mine) but this were not confirmed to run daily. All these duties were performed by the shunter JS 8354.

Scenery is good from Baiheai to Heshan via Heli and unintersting from Laibin to Baiheai. Line to power station and to Dongkuang also offer reasonable photo positions.

Passenger traffic: Only trains 8592/8593 are still running with one railcar plus one YZ22-coach, the second pair of trains has been cancelled.

Conclusion: The Laibin-Heshan line was the best part of our trip, also due to the sunny weather conditions, and a visit can be highly recommended as long as steam lasts...

Sancha / Yemao 5/11-6/11

Reached Yizhou from Heshan by Taxi (about 1.5 hours) and stayed there in a hotel in the city center. From here to Sancha is 1 hours drive (Taxi, first motorway direction to Liuzhou than mud road through the country) frequent minibuses also run between Yizhou and Sancha.

Only the Sancha end of the Sancha-Luocheng line was visited on the mornings of 5th and 6th of Nov. The mixed arrived on time on both days (tender first) and the picture with the big river bridge is excellent, especially on arriving trains. Loco was JS 8374 last overhaul was Liuzhou works 9/2003.
After arrival photographing in Sancha station is possible, train did not leave on time but on 12.30 only on the 5th and on 11.00 on the 6th. Reason is that the train waits in Sancha station for a main line freight which brings freight cars for Luocheng. Trains are long (20-30 freight cars) with the two ex. KCR passenger coaches at the end. We couldnīt find out whether the nightly scheduled freight trains also ran.

After the train left we changed for afternoon photography to Yemao industrial line on both days (20 min from Yizhou). Although line is short there are some excellent photo spots with karst mountains as backdrop. Working loco was SY 0917 facing towards Liuzhou. There are 3 to 4 round trips daily between the factory and Yemao CNR, one between 10.00 and 12.00 one between 15.00 and 17.00.

On the evening of the 6th we drove on to Hechi (about 1 hour from Yemao) where we stayed 7th-9th of Nov.

Hechi 7/11 - 9/11

Upon arrival at Hehi Xi Zhan on the 7th were greeted by DF4 B 7732 doing test runs light engine in the station area and worked as the Hechi-Hechi Xi-shuttle loco on that and the following day.
DF 4B 7733 was also present in the well known, now two-years old maintenenance hall as were all 9 JS class locos owned by the railway.

Loco List:

last overhaul
(JS at Liuzhou Works)
status (7-9th)
JS 82836/2002in steam on the 7th, later cold when 8287 was steamed instead
JS 82846/2004cold
JS 82858/2003in steam for line work
JS 82875/2002cold on the 7th, was steamed on the 8th and replaced DF4 7732 as Hechi-Hechi Xi shuttle in the afternoon of the 8th.
JS 828812/2003in steam for line work
JS 82907/2003cold, in the maintenenance hall, probably for smaller repairs
JS 83738/2002cold
JS 83759/2002cold
JS 83767/2004in steam for line work
DF4 7732DL 2004shuttle on 7th and 8th, started line work on 8th
DF4 7733DL 2004started as 2nd diesel line work on 9th

So there were only 3 JS steamed for line work, but this was already before the DF4 entered service as line work locos, and one JS as shuttle. The reason are the extremely low traffic levels (copmared to earlier visits).

Operation during daylight hours was (approx. times for Hechi Xi):
7/11 JS to Pingzhai 13.30 train 45307 or 45311
7/11 JS to Pingzhai 15.00 train 45309
8/11 JS from Pingzhai 10.30
8/11 JS from Shangchao 15.30
8/11 DF4 7732 to Pingzhai 17.00 (first regular Diesel working on a Pingzhai freight) train 45309
9/11 DF4 7733 to Pingzhai 17.00 train 45309
And that was all.

Conclusion: With traffic levels so low two diesels are enough to handle all line work traffic, all steam locos are still workable but sit only around in Hechi Xi or work as shuttle between HechiXi and Hechi. Additionally the diesels seemed to haul considerably heavier trains up the Pingzhai line (over 35 wagons seen compared to about 20 behind a JS). No further diesels seem to be on order so steam might still have a (short?) future but getting pictures of steam-hauled freights gets increasingly difficult. Train 45309 to Pingzhai is the only booked daily working but was diesel on 8th and 9th already.
Shangchao seems to see a freight only every two days now (info from station logs), Pingzhai one or two daily freights with steam but maybe only one in the future with diesel. Liuzhou works seems to still overhaul steam locos, at least two of Hechiīs JS have been overhauled there recently (6-7/2004).

Passenger service: Railcar+YZ 22 coach from Pingzhai still running in the known schedule, no more passenger service to Shangchao.

10.11. train K140/142/143 Hechi-Qijiang

Left Hechi for Ganshui with Train K142/143 to Qijiang (the train does not stop at Ganshui). Hechi station refused to sell sleeper tickets for this train, but it was no problem to obtain soft sleepers when boarding the train. The train left Hechi at 00.24 behind a pair of green DF7D. Loco change is in Mawei to a pair of orange-coloured DF7D after crossing the provincial border from GuangXi to GuiZhou.

Qijiang was reached 30 minutes late at 19.15. There is an excellent hotel in Qijiang (Chongqing brightway grand hotel).

11.-13.11. Datong Coal Railway, Ganshui

Morning drive from Qijiang to Ganshui (60 km, little more than 1 hour, taxi). Stayed then for 1 night in the hotel near the famous river bridge in Ganshui, but this cannot even be considered as basic so returned for the next night to Qijiang again. Despite the 1 hour drive to Ganshui this is an option for visiting Ganshui.

The line was only visited on the Ganshui end, and can only be considered as very scenic, despite three days of dark-grey weather. It is definitely worth a longer visit.

Traffic pattern is a little bit difficult as there seem to be two (independent?) operations:

  1. The XiaoYuTuo operation serves a coal mine at the end of a branch from Maliutan to Xiayutuo. There are three SY locos on this line, but only one is in use at any time. Contrary to previous reports the working loco not only serves the Maliutan-Xiayutuo-line, but runs through to Ganshui freight yard passing Ganshui pssenger yard. At least it did so during all three days of our visit. The loco hauls loaded coal trains from Xiayutuo to Ganshui and empty trains back, but it also seems to haul loaded coal wagons from Maliutan to Ganshui. On two occassions the loco ran light engine to Ganshui to return with empties to Xiayutuo.
    The following SY were seen at Xiayutuo:
    SY ???? cold, locked in shed in Xiayutuo, not sure if still workable (must be either 0344 or 0037)
    SY 0514 working between Xiayutuo and Ganshui freight yard
    SY 1271 cold in second shed in Xiayutuo, but in excellent external condition and certinly the spare loco for this line.
    There were usually three return workings in daytime performed by SY 0514 but one very early (between 6.30 and 7.30) and one very late (around 17.00 to Ganshui). For photography only the noon turn proved successful (between 11.00 and 13.00). The loco usually returns after one or two hours from Ganshui only on one occassion it stayed for about 5 hours in ganshui freight yard.
  2. The main line operation serves the line from Ganshui (freight yard) to Qingqihai and Baiyan, but was only visited between Maliutan and Ganshui. Here also 2 to 3 return workings occured daily (one in the early morning, one around noon and one in the evening)and the following locos were recorded working :
    SY 1148, SY 1198 and SY 1199.
  3. It was interesting that SY 1199 had been overhauled at Liuzhou works in 11/2003, while the other locos couldnīt be checked. The locos at Xiayutuo didnīt carry the Liuzhou overhaul dates, and have been reported before to belong to Chongqing steelworks, and being overhauled there. This seems to indicate that there are in fact two independent operations which seem both to use the Maliutan-Ganshui-section of the line.

    Conclusion: A scenic line on the visited section which is definitely worth a visit. Due to the limited traffic, the short days in November and the weather conditions, I donīt know which is the best time to return.

    The main line between Ganshui and Qijiang is also very scenic and still sees regular SS1 traffic on local passengers and freights, while all through traffic is SS3/SS3B.

    In the evening of the 13th I had a 3-hour-drive from Ganshui to Chongqing airport (about 170 km) and overnight at Chongqing airport hotel. Next morning flight to shanghai and back to Frankfurt.

    Peter Semmelroch

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    © 2004, Peter Semmelroch