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China December /January 2004/05

by Jan Schirling

Benxi, Meihekou, Qiqihar, Jalainur, Dayan, Xinlongzhen, Hegang, Huanan, Jixi

The globe steam trip "China - Steam in the north III" between December 25th and January 9th went to the cold north of China. We saw 70 engines under steam.

26.12.2004 Beijing

As the tour participants already knew the railway museum a visit of the Hutongs was arranged at short notice. Many of these traditional residential areas will surely disappear till 2008.

27.12.2004 Benxi

We visited the Benxi steelworks (Bengang) in company of the local agency leader and could move quite generously in the steam locomotive depot as well as north and south of the group of blast furnaces. It's important not to go into or under production facilities because of safety and breaking works hospitality! Bengang offers a good example of the remarkable progress in the Chinese steel industry: South of the blast furnace 5 meanwhile the new larger blast furnace 6 is erected, another one is presently under construction. Suitable to the extension of the pig iron capacity a second steel mill behind the older one was established. The sketch map below shows the central range of this extensive steel plant area.

In Benxi 16-axle torpedo ladle cars, which run between the new blast furnace and the new steel plant, are novel. The older steel mill is further served by the open ladle cars, so you can observe both types at blast furnace 6. According to our companion a further Bengang area with the no. 1 and 2 blast furnaces is outside from Benxi. It has only diesel locomotives to drive. We observed trains with flat cars between the ladle cars. Possibly these trains transport pig iron from the external works to the main works and cross the river on a bridge. Similarly to pig iron transportation in Germany the flat cars are used to spread the load on a larger train length.

At the steam locomotive depot a SY, a PL2, a XK2 and a fireless locomotive are plinthed on a separate "monument track". During our visit we saw the following locomotives:

EL11515, 1516 (electric, built in former GDR)
EL21006, 1012, 1015, 1017 (electric, built in former GDR)
bucket-EMU1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
DFH50506*, 0508, 0511*
GK1C0602, 0606, 0611*, 0612, 0613*
diesel (type?)2107
fireless steam loco5*(cold), 6**
SY (Bengang no.)702*(cold), 708**, 711(cold), 713*(cold), 715, 717, 718, 719, 720, 723(cold), 724, 730, 733, 734, 735

* steam depot, ** monument in depot, c cold

28.12.2004 Meihekou

In Meihekou we had the luck that the passenger trains, which run according to the plan with diesel engines, were hauled by steam because of a diesel locomotive failure. We could find SY 1564 on these services. Otherwise the traffic was rather low. During the day only three pairs of freight trains with empty cars or spoil tippers run along the south line (mines 2 and 3), alternatingly using SY 0791, SY 1216 and SY 1217. Erjing (mine 2) offers very pretty motives with shunting or pass-through trains. You can also watch an electrified narrow-gauge railway with several locomotives (deep mine type). South of Erjing, an upward gradient section, north of Erjing a village passage offers nice photo spots. Due to the bad roads train chasing from Yijing southwards is senseless as long as there's no shunting at Erjing.
Trains to the CNR interchange (Heishantou) are rare, because the coal cars of the different mines are first collected at Yijing. Therfore, there are frequent shunting activities at Yijing. A train to the CNR was seen around 5 PM.

29.12.2004 Meihekou

Traffic and the locomotive employment were the same as on the day before: SY 1564 on passenger duty, few freight trains to the mines and only one to the state railway in the late afternoon. Next to the work shops in Yijing, SY 1445 was stored cold.

30.12.2004 Qiqihaer

In Qiqihaer the local steelworks were not approved so we visited a forging works in the Fulaerji district. It belongs to China First Heavy Machinery Group and has its own steel making facility in form of an electric steel mill. It could not b established whether the coking plant production next to the steel mill belongs to the forging works as well.
In addition to some self-propelled diesel cranes three SYs and one diesel locomotive were in use. Apart from the operation to the steel mill and the scrap iron stock, the locos also served different work halls, the slag tipping area and the coking plant. For transportation of heavy goods some CNR-deep flat cars were available. The exchange of wagons with CNR happened around noon (CNR DF4). Termination of steam operation is not expected at short notice. The locomotive list comprises:

DF50868, 0869(in work shop)*
SY0098(cold in work shop), 0106, 0602 (with tender of 0844), 1287

31.12.2004 Jalainur

Jalainur offered the well-known action. Coal transportation is photographically very interesting within the open cast mine to the coal transship hall (approximately half way up from the bottom of the hole). For this service about eight locomotives with six tipping cars (the first of them always being empty) were used. These trains run funnel forward or push with the tender at the cars.
Spoil transports via Nanzhan to the different tipping areas in the periphery of the open cast mine are pushed mostly with the smoke box to the car or are hauled tender first. The loading of these trains (10 tippers) took place mainly at the middle and upper east edge of the open cast mine, as it is extended in this direction.
In the morning the coal washery and the interchange yard offers nice possibilities with frequent operation and interesting industrial background. A branchline runs southward to Lingquan serving several deep mines, likewise exists a branch to two mines in the north. Florian Menius wrote a detailed report including a sketch map.

01.01.2005 Jalainur

Traffic like the day before, on both days we saw the following locomotives working:

SY0471 (t), 0682 (s), 0795 (c), 0867 (s), 0924 (d), 1041 (w), 1119 (s), 1126 (w), 1193 (c), 1240 (s), 1257 (c), 1285 (t), 1286 (t), 1303 (c), 1371 (c), 1374 (c), 1376 (s), 1416 (d), 1424 (d), 1600 (s), 1618 (d), 1663 (c), 1681 (w), 1688 (d), 3005 (c)

loco employment: c coal, t track maintenance, s spoil, w washery, d deep mines

02.01.2005 Hailaer ng railway

Some kilometers east of Hailaer towards Dayan a medium sized lime or cement plant is situated near the road. A narrow-gauge railway (762 mm) transports the raw materials from a distant quarry (not examined). The line leaves the works in eastern direction, crosses under the CNR standard gauge track and follows the road. After approximately 10 km it crosses the road and continues through the flat landscape northeastwards. We saw loco no 5 (chinese type of standard diesel for ng-railways) with empty cars and a caboose, a further train waited in the works.

02.01.2005 Dayan

Dayan coal operation was reduced by the reconstruction of mine no. 3 (Sanjing), so that only the mines no. 1 (Yijing) and 2 (Erjing) in the central station were served. Sanjing is to restart coal production in August 2005 which will result in more trains. Beyong Sanjing, the track continues to the former "old" mine 1. At the dya of our visit, a long empty train hauled by SY 1741 and banked by SY 1306 entered the central station Erjingzhan. A loaded train with SY 1741 left in the afternoon. Both SYs shunted in between.
SY 1235 was spare in the depot in the morning, reserved for the passenger trains. The power station was served in the morning with pushed loaded coal cars, the empty ones were picked up around noon.

03.01.2005 Xinlongzhen

In Xinlongzhen - north of Haerbin - one of the last active forestry railways of China has its origin. In former times, it may have been the longest narrow-gauge steam railway in 762 mm in the area. Today it's run frequently by diesel locomotives during the winter months. Additionally, there's still passenger traffic.
Our group used a railbus for the trip to the central station Dongxing, which was reached after approximately two hours. Starting from Dongxing we drove just ahead our chartered steam train, hauled by C2 189 and empty log cars with numerous photo stops en route. Occasionally we crossed some scheduled log trains at several intermediate stations. We stayed overnight in a well heated ludian in Qingfeng.

Process of the line:
The narrow-gauge station XinLongZhen of the 1953 opened line is about 0,5 km east, but parallel to the CNR railway station. Its extension goes to a large wood transshipment yard which reaches the CNR at its southeast edge. From the narrow-gauge yard several tracks go to the large work shops: two 6-track workshops, each one for locomotives and wagons. A reversing triangle exists, too. A further track runs through the residential area to the CNR freight station and serves for the exchange of general freight.
The line leaves Xinlongzhen in northern direction and continues with a constant downward gradient turning first south with a 180-curve and then to the east. At ZhangLuChua (km 8) begins a sequence of stations which mostly consist of three tracks. Beyond DaLing (km 21) the line declines to km 23 with two horseshoe curves. The line contiues through flat countryside to GeJia (km 32), WaXing (km 40, wood loading and wye), ZhouXiang (km 47) and two further station at km 56 and km 66.
The major station Dongxing in at km 72 and equipped with a track and wood loading place, a turning wye and a locomotive shed. Beyond Dongxing the line climbs considerably for the first time. At the end of the gradient a partly demolished triangle is located. The next stations are XinMin (km 82, with loading track), LiuHe (km 87, with wood loading) and ErHeYing (km 96, with wood loading), where a a step gradient begins. The line crosses a mountain range, the summit is just west of QingLing (km 102). At QingFeng (km 109) and TaiPing (km 120) tracks for wood loading and triangles exist. Since 2001 HePingZhen (km 146) is the terminus of the line as there are no more wood loading points beyond it and using the further line just for passenger trains would be uneconomic. Before 2001, the line contiued via Chuankou and Mayihe to the terminus Wuyazhuozhen at km 188, close to Wuyapao at the Songhua river.

Rail operation
Most intensive traffic can be seen during the winter months (as typically for forestry railways) when the frozen soils permit the evacuation of the wood. The period from November to the end of March is usual, although logging strongly depends on weather conditions. Every day, about 10 empty trains leave Xinlongzhen, with the same number of log trains returnig.
There are two pairs of passenger trains over the entire line. Departure at both terminal stations should be in each case at 6.30 AM and at 12.30 AM.
Though the main freight are wood trunks, at some stations wood remainders and small wood are crushed in mobile devices and shipped in bags. The destination of latter load is a modern works beside the wood transshipment yard at Xinlongzhen (maybe a cellulose works or a biomass power plant). Apart from wood traffic the general freight traffic conyeyed is not very important.
In the summer months the management would like to run special trains with the steam engine and passenger cars, but unfortunately the infrastructure for tourists is still missing. But the locomotive can also be rented for groups.
At all stations, staff regulated the entry and the departure of trains with flags (in the darkness with lamps). "Interlocking" between stations is made by tokens, which are fastened on rings and can be grabbed by the engine driver without stopping.

Rolling stock
In former times the "common" C2 steam engines were used. Since 1993, trains are exclusively hauled by 4-axle diesel locomotives, type NY 380, built both in Mudanjiang and Changsha. About 15 units are available, locos have either one or two cabs. As they were partly built as early as in 1977, their use on another line is possible before coming to Xinlongzhen. The freight car stock consists of a large number of flat cars and pairs of log bogies/trucks. In addition both open and covered box cars are available.

Large 4-axle DMU's operate the passenger traffic. In the workshop area, there are 11 partly scrapped passenger cars (762 mm standard type) remain. So some years ago loco-hauled passenger services may have existed. Today six renovated and orange-and-white painted coaches are available for special trains.

04.01.2005 Xinlongzhen

The same as on the day before but in opposite direction: we rode the railcar just ahaed the steam locomotive and its loaded log train. We reached km 55 in the late afternoon. From there, we directly went to Xinlongzhen by railcar.

Overall, both photo trains ran very well, the management of the railway was very cooperative. Perhaps similar actions in the future can contribute to the preservation of the steam locomotive and the line.

Here's the complete roster: (working units are bold):

NY 38041, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49 (Mudanjiang built)
51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56 (Changsha built)
railbus001, 2(oou), 3(oou)
DMU71, 72, 73, 74 (alleged also 75 - 79, but none seen)

05.01.2005 Hegang

The passenger trains in Hegang were hauled by SY 3013 and SY 0555. The published timetable is still valid. The majority of the coal line service is operated with electric locomotives from former GDR production. In particular on the southern section from Jipei via Nanshan, Dagu, Fuli and Xing'an to Junde, there's a lot of traffic with these locomotives. SYs are also used.
Rail operation at both open cast mines close to the city Hegang has terminated. The EL2 with the numbers 14xx, observed there two years ago, are now dumped at the depot. In contrast to published sketch maps the main route behind Xing'an divides into a line to Junde mine and a line, that maybe goes to a further interchange station with the CNR (Junde CNR?) at the line to Jiamusi. From the distance we could see a blue DF5-loco shunting. In addition there is a connection starting from this station which directly goes to Junde mine, so that hereby a reversing triangle is given. In accordance with the published information, the main line beyond Junde continues to a power plant.

Sketch map of the southern part of Hegang

Near the branch line from Xing'an to Qingshishan (behind Xingantai village) a small blast furnace is run. It is served mainly by lorries. Access is difficult because of a newly built gate, but on request, we could enter the area.
Xing'an mine is being extended, also the present narrow-gauge railway is partly being rebuilt.

EL11503*, 1505
EL21410+, 1419+, 1421+, 1422+, 1427+, 1429+, 1430+, 1431+, 1433+, 2302, 2304, 2306*, 2307, 2308, 2311
SY0354+ (tender of 3023), 0472+, 0498*, 0555, 0561+, 0683, 0799, 0905*, 1030+, 3013, 3014, 3024+

* at depot, + oou at depot

06.01.2005 Huanan

A special train with locomotive 004 was available for us. We rode the the small rail-bus just ahead of it. At Huanan`s depot, loco 168 was under steam as spare. At Xiahua, locomotive 041 with a loaded coal was crossed. Later, at summit, loco 044 with its train banked by 004. At Xiahua in the late afternoon, loco 041 met us again with empty freight cars. So, freight traffic was not particularly heavy during the day.
One note: It's possible to order a special train. But you must acertain that it will be available also on the way back, otherwise the railway will turn your charter into a scheduled train for the return trip.

07.01.2005 Jixi

In the morning we first visited the branch lines around Hengshan. Two empty trains followed each other over the step gradient to Zhongxin. The first train was hauled by SY 0804 and went to Xiaohengshan. The second train was hauled by SY 0341 and banked by SY 1340. They went on to Zhangxin and Erdaohezi. Most mines around Jixi don't use cables to move the freight cars under the loading. So, the locomotives must do this work. Therefore, it takes some hours until a train returns. In Xiaohengshan SY 0804 shunted, later SY 1095 was added with further empty cars. Here one locomotive is busy with the transport of spoil materials to the closeby tipping areas. In Hengshan we saw later SY 0746, in the mine next to the road to Jixi (Erchang) SY 0898.
On the way to Chengzihe the road went through a small business quarter, where equipment for the mining industry could be bought. A small and modern looking narrow-gauge diesel locomotive was available, too (stood beside the road).

Subsequently we went to Chengzihe-Beichang. A banked train with SY 0590 and eleven loaded cars coming from Nanchang stalled in the curve before Beichang, and even with another locomotive (SY 0237) they hardly succeeded. The wheels of both locomotives continuously slipped - they arrived with less then walking velocity in the station.
With coal in tipping cars for the close stabling point nearby Nanchang SY 1544 was active.
Unloading the cars a very beautiful motive with the church as background was offered at the railroad crossing. Later another train to Beichang was pushed by SY 1058. SY 0733 was also active.

08.01.2005 Jixi

On the departure day we visited Beichang again. Today, SY 0590, 0733, 0863, 1344 and 1544 were seen. Florian Menius also wrote a detailed report about Jixi.

Jan Schirling

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© 2005, Jan Schirling 101.99991@germanynet.de