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Steam in China - December 2004

by Russ Barber

Zhenjiang, Ma'anshan, Pingdingshan, JiTong, Dahuichang, February 7th Loco works

Nov 29-Dec10, 2004

This report will be building on previous reports of others and will concentrate on additional information and observations we found. Our group in the non JiTong areas consisted of Robert Bayliss, Graham Isherwood, (all Brits) and I. Another veteran of our trips Utrick joined us for just the JiTong portion. We got a good plane price going with Virgin Atlantic to Shanghai, as we were interested in going to the Ma'anshan area and wanted to ride the maglev train. An added benefit to doing this (besides new railway mileage) was on our return trip from Beijing to Shanghai: we rode on train Z1 which is China's premier overnight train. It leaves Beijing at 19:20 with all soft class sleepers and is non-stop for its 1200km+/- trip. It arrives at Shanghai at about 07:20. This train is a class act and it has to be one of the world’s best rail values. It costs 490yuan (about$60). Our coach was two months old and whisper quiet and wider than standard soft class beds. The dinning car served good food from a clean stainless steel kitchen with six cooks all in white.

Also on our trip we used Wangjie (in the non-JiTong areas) as a guide who was recommended here on this site. She is very good with E-mails and pre-trip planning. She is reasonable and takes a fee per day and negotiates prices for you as you go along. You can reach her at Jessiewong_bj@hotmail.com.

Zhenjiang Limestone Rwy, Zhenjiang Coke Plant, November 29

We spent only part of a day here and the maps for this area are good. We launched our trip by tacking a complete run with JS 6286. The crew was friendly and was happy with just cigarettes. We missed visiting the engine servicing area (due to time) but understood they had another engine on the ground that we wanted to see but missed. JS 8119 and 6064 were dumped.

At the coke plant, we saw SY1638 in steam but idle and almost got arrested getting a picture of it.

Ma'anshan Area, Nov30-Dec1

Despite mixed reports on this line we wanted to see it for ourselves. At first we had no problems on company property by letting the guard posts know what we were doing, but if you stay in one place too long you risk getting unwanted attention. We almost got arrested near the slag tip even though we had a guard walk us up there! We then did much better by driving around the city within the plant area by staying in the car till just before the train came and jumping out just for the shot. Even if you stay out of the company areas, there is still a lot to see here by staying near the rail yards and next to public crossings.

You will see detailed in Ron Olson’s map three rail yards. Two are shown side by side and the third yard is parallel to China Rail. The rail yard to the southwest next to the repair shed was all steam and there was almost nonstop action there at the crossing. The yard parallel to the north seemed mostly diesel. We should have visited the third yard along China rail as so much steam goes back and forth to it from the south yard.

We managed even to make a quick tour of the workshop with cameras out and were met by friendly or indifferent workers at first. The workshop was quite busy and in it had SY 1336 fresh out of the shop without even its numbers repainted in yet. There were six engines on the scrap line out back of the workshop but we didn’t get to go into it. Numbers observed on this line 0231, 0732, 0734.
In all we saw 13 engines in steam, all SY: 0053, 0054, 0729, 0784, 1336, 1481, 1499, 1551, 1670, 1680, 1715(?), 1732, 1733.

Pingdingshan December 2nd, 2004

This was our second trip to Pingdingshan and we love this place. The light seems always to be bad, and the photography is difficult, but the people are friendly and the action around the main rail yard is fantastic. There are trains barreling by, heading out and returning from the branch lines. There are engines switching long lines of cars and engines shooting into side tracks to drop fires, water up, get coal, and wash down in the Repair area. Often this is all happening at once. The Main shop was at least twice as busy as last year. In it were two engines in steam and in light repair. Also there had to be four engines getting complete overhauls scattered about the main repair hall. The entire facility was in the most wonderful clamor of activity. How they manage to get so much done without hardly any light mystifies me.

JS5644, 6063, 6225, 6229, 6253, 6429, 6539, 8030, 8040, 8057, 8068, 8338 (all in steam)
QJ2035, 6450, 6786, 6813(oou in repair yard), 7132, 7186(in light repair in shed)

Deflector less QJ7186 gets some attention by welder light

Pingdingshan Area

Within our limited time we did investigate a spur line just off China Rail and found SY 1231 (reported as being in Jixi-Hengshan Dec 98) at the far end of the line at a small coal loading area. Also on the city map for Pingdingshan and just off the CNR line there is an industrial complex and/or power station showing at least three tracks this should also be investigated.

JiTong December 4-9

Not much to add here as Duncen Cotteril was here at the same time and his Farwell to Mainline Steam report sums it up very well. We spent 4 bittersweet days at the pass with just enough steam to make it worth while.

Galedesitai Classics

We then spent two days (Dec 8-9) in the Daban-Lindong area and wish we had spent more time here. But even here there is bad news as Hans Schaefer was with us for a day between firing his engines on his holiday, and told us that the first official diesel hauled train (one each day per way) had just started on the line from Daban eastwards!

Daban on the day we were there was quite nice. Despite significantly lower traffic at least the main engine fueling area was diesel free and no one tried selling us any railway property as the managers cracked down and someone lost their job. Also the shop had several engines getting light work done so it felt busy.

Dahuichang Limestone Railway

Despite reports of the limestone railway only running in the afternoon we arrived at 8:30 AM and found that they are very busy making 40 round trips a day starting at 09:00 AM. We got into the engine shed and saw the other two engines which were complete but looking quite warn. Also of note down in the Rail yard where old SY 0251 used to live was a brand new quite small diesel. So business must be good for this line.

February 7th Loco Works

Ah, a little icing on the cake, we thought that we had seen our last steam for this trip at the limestone railway. Then we decided to try to find the long rumored Beijing JF. Well it turned out to be quite easy to find. When you are going to Dahuichang line from Beijing you drop down under two China Rail bridges. The second and narrower bridge heads into the Works. Just take a right at the intersection immediately after the bridges and then follow this road and take the first right that does not have a guard gate at it and follow it right back to the rail line. Look to the right of the crossing and the engines may sit there when they are not in the yard. We saw SY0891 and JF2446 both in steam and busy on the line. You must stay on the public street and stay near the crossing as there is a gate to the works there. If you try to walk down to the engines you will be ushered out. But if you are lucky they will come out and dash back and forth with new cars, cars to be scrapped, and cars loaded with scrap. A very nice way to way to wait for your flight, or for a night train and round out your trip with a 5th class of Chinese steam!

Conclusions & Comment

As sad as the end of the JiTong miracle is, I left China with more optimism for the remaining steam than I have felt for awhile. There is still more steam to be found and I feel many of us will spend all of our vacations looking for it not just half, as we used to spend the other half at ‘The Pass’. I think the next few years will again belong to the small groups as it did in the beginning. I always thought that once the JiTong ended steam that would be it for me. But I have become quite attached to China and know that steam still works in many places with China’s economy. There is so much more I haven’t seen. I can not wait to get back.

My last day on the pass

If you can not get to China but you can get to Maine, Owls Head Transportation Museum (www.ohtm.Org) near Rockland Maine will be featuring approximately 24 of my China Steam photos next summer (May-August 2005) in their main auditorium. Owls Head featured photos by O. Winston Links there a couple years ago and they were quite interested to tell the story of modern day world Steam to a new audience, who will never know how fantastic these engines can be. Until I can get a website set up I also post some of my China (and US) photos on http://railpictures.net. Use "Russ Barber" or "China" for keywords.

Norwich, Vermont, 22 December 2004
Russ Barber

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© 2004, Russ Barber Mary.Bigelow@valley.net