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Steam in China - December 2004

by Florian Menius

Jixi, Huanan, Dayan, Jalainur

Arrived at Beijing with Lufthansa on Dec 24th in the morning and managed to get a discount ticket for the ChinaSouthern flight CZ6719 to Mudanjiang, departing 12:30 (MDG arrival 14:20) at 600Y+50Y tax. Note, that China Southern - in contrast to all other domestic airlines - uses the refurbished "old" terminal (terminal 1) at Beijing which is about 1 km north of terminal 2 where international flights are handled. The ChinaSouthern departures do NOT appear on the screens in terminal 2 - you either have to know the departure times or to walk there... CZ6719 was a MD82 plane by the way.
From Mudanjiang airport, I took a shared taxi to Jixi together with 3 Chinese (100Y per person, which is only about twice the price, a taxi-to-station plus train-to-Jixi connection would have cost) but saved me a two-hour wait at Mudanjiang station and provided a longer sleep at Christmas Eve in the LongFuBinguan at Jixi, the former TieluBinguan just in front of the CNR station (double 80Y).

Jixi (鸡西), Dec 25th-26th 2004

Chengzihe (城子河), Dec25th

Chengzihe is situated some 5 km north of Jixi - just across the river. The main road leaving Jixi CNR station in right angle directly goes to Chengzihe, numerous buses, starting just in front of the station operate there including ones which go to Zhengyang (正阳) coal mine, too. Alternatively, you may take urban bus no 1 to its northern terminus (1Y) and change to a minibus there. 1km and 1.5km north of the toll gate respectively are Nanchang (南场) junction and Beichang (北场) washery. Nanchang Mine is some 1.5 km south-west of Nanchang junction along the line to Jixi Xi CNR yard. The mine, which is called Chengzihe is that one at Dongchang (东场) station, about 1.5 km north-east of Nanchang. Zhengyang mine (正阳) is another 6 km further north-east. The fourth coal mine is at Xinghua, also north-east of Dongchang (4 km from Zhengyang).

Operation was as described previously. All locos meet up at Dongchang around 8 o`clock and start their daywork then. Seven locos are required, facing both directions. The duties are as follows:

Beichang is by far the busiest point of the system with train arrivals/departures every 10 to 15 minutes (though part of the washery shuttle trip trains are pushed and/or tender first).
At Dongchang, railway workers seem to do some extra business... I was offered accompany of a "beautiful girl" at 100Y per hour - in order to get warm and not to freeze in the cold while waiting for a train...

Hengshan (恒山), Dec 26th

Few to add to previous reports. Locos also meet at HengshanXin in the morning before going to the individual mines between 8 and 11 o`clock. Six SYs are in use, one for each coal mine (Dahengshan (大恒山)+Shannan (山安), Xiaohengshan (小恒山), Erdaohezi (二道河子), Zhangxin and Erchang (二场) ) with the sixth loco serving coal loading points around Zhongxin (中心) station, where a new coal mine is under construction but the railway connection and loading facilities not completed yet. From Xiaohengshan mine, the spoil tip Dongshantun (东山屯) is rail-served, too - it is the spoil tip just above Zhongxin station. Trains are pushed there from Xiaohengshan. In addition to the empty uphill trains between Hengshan and Zhongxin (often banked, too), the most spectacular sight are the tender first trips from Erchang to Hengshan which have to tackle a steep climb entering Hengshan yard. Trains may stall there, too, are split and brought in two parts then.

CNR Jixi
Main line work towards Linkou and Muling is DF8 (freight) and DF4, trains eastwards and to Hengshan all DF4. At Hengshan, brand-new low-nose DF5 2058 is pilot now.

ChengziheSY0590, 0733, 0863, 1018, 1058, 1344, 1544
HengshanSY0341, 0746, 0804, 0898, 1340, 1369
CNRDF4B3945, 3947

Timetable changes have turned the Jixi-to-Huanan rail connection via Linkou in a random play. According to the timetable, you have only 1 minute for changing trains at Linkou. Fortunately, the passenger train to Jiamusi waits for connecting passengers...

K76 Jixi 21:18 - Linkou 22:41 (-Harbin), 11Y
6413 (Mudanjiang-) Linkou 22:42 - Huanan 02:56 (-Jiamusi), 11Y+44Y YW-upgrade

Huanan (桦南), Dec 27th-29th 2004

After a short rest at a lüdian next to the railway station (10Y), I looked for a taxi to Tuoyaozi (驼腰子). But all taxi drivers I asked refused to go there - the road was said to be too bad and/or unpassable for ordinary cars. They wanted me to ride the bus instead. So, I took a taxi to the ng railway station only where I arrived just in time to find the railcar to Hongguang being prepared for its 08:00 departure (train 201). I rode the railcar as far as Tuoyaozi, where I stayed for two nights.

On the railcar, there were another two Japanes gricers who went to Lixin to camp out there for a couple of days. Almost unbelievable: they (and their guide) each paid 200Y (so 600Y altogether!) for their trip from Huanan to Lixin on a regular(!!) train (I confirmed, that the train was "no charter")! Consequently, the female conductor of the railway also wanted me to pay 200Y! ("Real" price for the 25km should be around 3-4Y). Both the Japanese guys, their guide and the conductor wanted me to pay "at least" 150Y or to de-board in the middle of the nowhere. Unfortunately, none of the local Chinese passenger helped me, e.g. by confirming the real fare of less than 10Y. I finally paid 100Y which would have been more or less the price for a taxi as well but still about 20 times too high!

Conclusion: I can only recommand NOT to use the railcar at all! Very sad to see, that unsensible "pay-the-bill-whatever-high" behaviour of visitors (both Japanese and Westerners) seems to have corrupted railway staff at Huanan.
Alternatives to the railcar are either taxis (60..100Y, depending on daytime of your travel) or buses. There are 5 daily buses between Huanan and Tuoyaozi, travel time is just over an hour (75 mins) and fare is 5Y. Buses depart at Huanan bus terminal which can be reached from the CNR station by taking one of the unumbered green minibuses south-westwards (1Y) which terminate in front of the station.
Departures ex Huanan: 09:30(first bus), 14:00 (other 3 departures unknown)
Departures ex Tuoyaozi: 07:00, 07:30, 08:00, 11:00, 13:00 (last bus of the day)

During the two days, I was at Tuoyaozi, dayligt traffic was quite low - probably partly caused by an engine breakdown on Dec 27th: 3 daylight steam trains in 2 days are not a lot. During the night, traffic was heavier. Altogether, there were some 5 return turns per 24h. 3 C2s performed line duties with a fourth one (004) being pilot at Huanan. The railcar operated on both days, too.

Nice to meet David Longman by the lineside and to spend a "manchurian winter evening" together (the Jiamusi branch of "HaPi" definitely does not brew the best beer in China...).

Huanan is high on my list for a revisit - but in summer when days are longer (and maybe the railcar does not operate...)

C2004(Huanan pilot), 041, 044, 168

Chinese vs. Japanese

I got the impression, that there seems to be a kind of dislike between machchurian Chinese and Japanese people. Examples:
  1. Riding the railcar to Tuoyaozi, we had a 2-hour-wait at Xiahua (下桦) as the line to Lixin had not been cleared by a freight train yet. As usual, I went inside the signal box and was invited in the usual friendly manner to sit down and relax in the warm. When one of the Japanese gricers entered the signal box a few minutes later, he was neither invited to sit down nor even greeted by the Chinese... (he left shortly after that again).
  2. In the evening of Dec 27th, David Longman and I spoke with an English teacher from Tuoyaozi. He (as a well-educated man) stated, that he "hates" Japanese. Upon reinquiry, he insisted to have used the right word for his feelings towards Japanese!
  3. The mentioned english teacher also stated, that the 200-Y-railcar-fare is much too high. But he would also have charged the Japanese this fare - in contrast to westerners as he said...

However, I cannot comment how common such behaviour is. Surely, a lot of Chinese do have no objections against Japanese as well.

I left Tuoyaozi on Dec 29 th in the morning with the 07:00 bus to Huanan and continued the long way to Dayan by train:

6451 (Qitaihe-) Huanan 08:56 - Jiamusi 11:03 (-Hegang), 4.5Y, DF4 1929
N6 Jiamusi 13:00 - Harbin 17:58, 67Y, DF4DK 3164
N91 Harbin 19:57 - Dayan 05:28, 164Y(YW)

Jiamusi (佳木斯) Area CNR, Dec 29th 2004

DFH3s, once quite common on passenger turns around Jiamusi are history now - about 10 of them are dumped in long row at Jiamusi depot all looking unused. The lines to Boli, Shuangyashan and Hegang now have orange re-liveried DF4s on passenger duties, freight trains are green DF4s. On the line to Nancha and further on to Harbin, virtually all express trains are hauled by Sankeshu based DF4DKs with passenger trains being (orange) DF4 (Nancha-Jiamusi section) or Harbin/Sankeshu based DFH3 (Harbin-Nancha). Freight trains along the busy double-track trunk line are 100% Jiamusi-DF4Cs between Jiamusi and Nancha, but newly built lines of poles on both sides of the railway spoil photography a lot. West of Nancha, there is an equal split between green DF4/DF4B and blue DF4C (not sure which depot: Nancha? Suihua?), train being partly double-headed .
Standard blue DF5s of Nancha depot shunt at Nancha and at various stations near Nancha, whereas pilot duties at Jiamusi yard are done by one blue DF5 (1802) and at least 4 silver-livieried, low-nose DF5s of the latest DF5 batch.

Of special interest are the recently introduced "high speed trains" N5-N8 between Harbin and Jiamusi. They are booked for 6-car-sets of NYJ1 railcars, operating the 507-km-distance nonstop in 4:58h, thus an average speed of 102km/h! If the NYJ1 fails, the railcars trailers are hauled by an DF4DK loco (this was the case with N6 which I rode. Train formation was DF4DK 3164 + 1XL + 4xYZ25DT + 1RZ25DT + KD). As the fare is quite high on these trains (67Y for hard seat), they are not overcrowded and provide a very comfortable journey.

DFH30191(San or Harbin)
DF41160(N), 1386(N), 1708(J), 1732(J), 1746(J,orange), 1819(J), 1821(J,orange), 1824(J), 1854(N), 1929(J,orange), 1970(N), 7131(J), 7132(J), 7377(N), 7378(N), 7379(J), 7416(J), 7417(J), 7494(N), 9416(J)
DF4C0035(N), 2006(J), 4409(J), 4410(N), 4411(N), 4417(J), 4431(J), 5071(N), 5087(N), 5089(N), 5092(J), 5093(N), 5135(J), 5142(J), 5167(J)
DF4DK3030, 3159, 3164, 3198, 3202, 3249, 3314, 3317 (all Sankeshu)
DF51143(N), 1354(N), 1527(N), 1556(Harbin), 1802(J), 2008(J), 2009(J), 2010(J), 2012(J)
N=seen between Nancha and Suihua, J=seen at/around Jiamusi or Jiamusi-Nancha, underlined=depot code confirmed

Dayan (大雁), Dec 30th 2004

The Dayan Coal Railway was found very much as reported previously. 3 SYs are in daily use but there seem to be no fixed duties for them. Locos are dispatched on an "as required" basis, including the loco for the passenger train, too. So, each individual passenger train may have a different loco, not even necessarily the same within one return-trip. Passenger trains tended to operate 20-30 minutes later than reported by Bernd Seiler, but a change of passenger timetable could not be confirmed. Trains consist of 3 YZ coaches. Engines are well-cared, partly with brass boiler rings, slight decorations and brass number plates.

SY1235, 1306, 1741

All locos faced east, just as reported during all previous visits. I have some doubts whether the information is correct that they are turned regularly. This means that empties are uphill and tender first, loaded trains funnel first. Uphill trains of empty have to work very hard approaching Erjing yard and may stall there, too - even with "only" 20 empties! If a second engine is at Erjing, it will assist the train then. Otherwise, the SY has to succeed - without any mercy... Between Erjing and Jipei, a train can be expected every two hours or so, fewer trains go to mine 3 (Sanjing). Mines 1 and 2 are situated immediately next to Erjing yard and served frequently. Trains to the power plant north of Erjing are pushed, so no funnel first working, too. At Jipei yard, the coal is handed over to CNR DF4s. Note that Jipei is not really "close to Haiman" as suggested previously - distance is some 5 km.

A very nice system although the "real action" is tender first. If the locos would face the other way round, Dayan should be a high-priority-location on anyone`s destination list!

According to a taxi driver, Dayan has got two binguans (plus numerous lüdians e.g. two just in front of Dayan CNR station). The most suitable binguan probably is the WuQuanShanBinguan (五泉山宾馆), some 3 km east of the CNR railway station but only 500m south of Erjing yard (you may hear the SYs whistle from your room). Prices are 20Y and 40Y per person for 4-or 3-bed rooms (facilities on the floor) or 138Y for a very comfortable double (more exactly, that room turned out to be a well-heated "3-room-suite" with 24-hour-hot-water-supply, which represent good value). In the lobby of the hotel, a very good city map can be found which shows the layout of railway lines very accurately. Unfortunately it was not available for sale...

Dec 31st: N57 (Qiqihar-) Dayan 04:06-ZhalainuerXi 07:26 (-Manzhouli)

Hailar (海拉尔) Area CNR, Dec 30th 2004 - Jan 1st 2005

Freight duties along the Yakeshi-Hailar-Manzhouli mainline are exclusively green DF4/DF4B of Hailar depot - both single and double-headed. Passenger trains are hauled by 145km/h-DF4Ds of both Qiqihar and Sankeshu depot. Nowadays, the 952km run between Harbin Dong and Manzhouli for Sankeshu based DF4D must be amongst the longest diesel hauls in China without loco change - probably only topped by the DF11G hauls Beijing-Shanghai (1463km) and Beijing-Hangzhou (1664km) with the recently introduced Z-Trains. Trains from Hailar towards Yitulihe had orange DF4Bs. The two Manzhouli based DF7 were seen shunting at Jalainur yard.

DF41171, 1855, 1919, 2639(orange), 7103, 7137, 7334 (all Hailar)
DF4D0104(San), 0107(San), 0365(Qi), 0366(Qi), 0367(Qi), 0482(San)
DF75331(orange,Manzhouli, built 2000), 5444("DF7C",blue,Manzhouli)

Jalainur/Zhalainuer (扎赉诺尔), Dec 31st 2004 - Jan 1st 2005

The coal railway at Jalainur can be divided in two seperate operations:

1) Open Cast Mine (露天煤矿) Operation

The Open Cast Operation seems to based at Nanzhan (南站) depot and includes the following duties: As a general rule, all locos within the open cast - regardless of occupation - face south.

2) Deep Mine System

The deep mine system`s "hub" and depot is at Daqiao (大桥), its main yard is the CNR transfer yard Dongfanghong (东方红), which is just next to the washery. A small compound at Daqiao comprises three dumped SYs (including 1234 and 1448).
Altogether, at least four deep coal mines are served. Two are situated north of the CNR line to Manzhouli (TiebeiKuang / 铁北矿 and another one). The other two mines are south of Jalainur in the district of Lingquan (灵泉): Mine 11 ( ShiYiJing / 十一井) and Mine 12 (ShiErJing / 十二井).

The locos of the Deep Mine system have the following duties:

At mine 12 (ShiErJing), a very interessting cable hauled narrow gauge mining railway is in use.

Loaded and empty wagons are exchanged with CNR at Dongfanghong yard which is served by CNR DF7s. Part of the arriving empties continues to the deep mines, the rest is loaded at the washery with coal supplied from the open cast pit via the conveyor belt. I did not find a second connection to the CNR other than that one east of Dongfanghong.

Between the open cast and deep mine rail systems, a connection exists, leaving Dongfanghong yard eastwards. It goes to Nanzhan via the former Dongzhan station (东站) along the eastern rim of the open cast. The line to Lingquan has got no connection to Nanzhan.

Open Cast PitSY0471, 0682, 0795, 0867, 1119, 1193, 1240, 1257, 1285, 1286, 1303, 1371, 1374, 1376, 1600, 1663, 3005
Deep MinesSY0924, 1041, 1234(oou), 1416(ld), 1424, 1448(oou), 1618, 1681, 1688

Walking into the open cast pit is no problem at all. Nobody bothers you, everybody is friendly, no special permit is neccessary.

Jan 1st: N92 Manzhouli 17:38-Harbin 06:58, then by taxi to Taiping Airport (160Y, 1h, almost 50km)
CA 1604 Harbin 10:35-Beijing 12:20 (B737), connecting to SK996 at Beijing (dep.15:35 +90) for the flight to Berlin via Copenhagen.


Though my shortest China trip ever, it was nice to see steam locos at work in the far north again, with its incredible smoke piles. Manchurian winter is - unlike that at JiTong - very pleasant with low temperatures (-30 in the sun - on Dec 30th at noon!), but blue and clear sky, contiuous sunshine and, in contrast to JingPeng, almost no wind. Huanan is definitely a place to revisit, the forecasts for Jixi, Dayan and Jalainur are not bad, too, as at neither location anybody spoke about dieselisation. Domestic flights have proofed to be acceptable and not too expensive options, if your time budget is limited.

Dresden, January 2005
Florian Menius

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© 2005, Florian Menius, email: webmaster@qj-country.de