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China March 2005

by John Middleton

Report part based on business visits to Chengdu, Xian and Fuzhou but also joining Steam & Safaris visit to Pingdingshan

Penzhou Narrow Gauge (Sichuan Province - Quail 27G Peng-Bai Line)) 1 March 2005

The 762 mm gauge line is intact but appears to be disused and local business contacts also thought this to be the case. However, I didn't manage to visit the station/shed area. I asked about any steam locomotives and was taken to a local park where a ZM16-4 is plinthed.

Pulei Yuan Park, Fanjiang Road, Penzhou
Gauge : 762 mm
ZM16-4 No. 62-70, 0-8-0 Shijiazhuang, 69-27, 1969 Plinthed

Lue Yang Steel Works (Shaanxi Province - Quail 27 Bao-Cheng Line) 4 March 2005

At Lue Yang (215 km south of Baoji) there is a small steel plant served by a 2 km branch running east from the south end of the station. The line crosses the river then goes through two tunnels and the steel works is not visible from the main line. The works opened in 1961 and shed staff said it had two GJ class 0-6-0T and two SY, the last SY was sold about 2003. An non-enthusiast Australian colleague working at a gold mine project near here saw a loco in steam at Lue Yang station but can't remember exactly when. There are now 4 diesels. Access was freely granted through a contact of the gold mine project.

- B-BDH Changzhou JMY380F 8401 3.1984 Shed
- B-BDH Changzhou JMY380F 8606 5.1986 Working
TH1-025 B-BDH Shijiazhuang 025 1.1989 Shed
TH1-033 B-BDH Shijiazhuang 033 1992 Working

There is also an electrified narrow gauge line running from the steel works about 8 km up a spectacular gorge to ironstone mines, a train was seen with what appeared to be a Changzhou type ZL14-7 4wWE although closer inspection was not possible. The mines themselves also have mining type 4wWE running from an adit to loading bins above the line down to the steelworks.

Tongchuan Area (Shaanxi Province) 5 March 2005

A one day visit (effectively filling in a wait between trains) from Xian by hired car leaving at 06.30 and returning at 16.00 proved quite productive and found two previously unreported steam sites, one with a QJ working over CNR metals. SY 0363 has also not been reported before.

Meijiaping Workshops (Quail 24C Xian-Tong Line)

We started here but access was denied and staff said there were no steam, none were visible through the gate, only BJ 3267 ticking over in the yard. Another Group whom I met later stated that a JF was still stored here.

Meijiaping Coke Plant (Quail 24C Xian-Tong Line)

Just north of Meijiaping CNR yard, on the east side of the line is a coking plant, there is one grubby SY (0363) which was simmering in the yard with little to do. Also two 4-wheel coke cars. Access was freely granted, and to get to the SY involved skirting the quenching tower of the coke car which was an interesting experience.

SY 0363 2-8-2 Tangshan 5.1971 In Steam

Meijiaping Cement Works (Quail 24C Xian-Tong Line)

About another 2 km north of the coke plant (after the junction with line 24D) is a large cement works (clearly visible from the Xian Expressway), it has a single very dirty QJ caked in cement dust. We found the QJ by accident at Meijiaping CNR Yard at 07:55 just as it departed (chimney first) in perfect glint lighting (although there isn't much of the loco which is capable of glinting !) with a train of cement tankers for the works, its about a 2-3 km run and the driver indicated it trips as required, the next trip was supposed to be about 11:00 but we didn't wait. It runs on the CNR line which has a couple of vantage points alongside the river. Access to the loco stabling point inside the cement works was freely granted and we spent about 30 minutes on the footplate while they shunted.

QJ 2479 2-10-2 Datong 1980* Working
* Both Plates 1980 but loco should be about 1977, may be re-boilered.

We then drove on north up the expressway taking the Jinsuoguan turn off (33 km), after leaving the expressway, the road is OK until the turn off for Jiaoping after which it is very bad in places where it has been broken up by the coal lorries. The last stretch into Jiaoping town is really dreadful and is a huge black dust bowl when its dry (which it was as we went through).

Jiaoping Colliery, Quianhezhen (Quail 24D Mei-Qi Line)

Some recent internet reports suggest that the CNR line continues on from Jiaoping to Qianhezhen. They are in fact one and the same. Qianhezhen (the end of the CNR line) is the name of the station in Jiaoping town. The 71 km board is opposite the station building (71 km from Meijiaping). Just as we arrived clean SY 0369 (the only loco) pulled a long rake of loads out of the mine and into the CNR yard where DF4-6299 was waiting to take them on. Everyone friendly.

SY 0369 2-8-2 Tangshan (no plates) Working

Xiashijie Colliery (staff referred to it as Xiashijie).(Quail 24D Mei-Qi Line)

Served by a 2 km branch running NW from CNR Yaoqu which is 49 km by rail from Meijiaping. Only loco here was clean JS 6025 which took loads down to CNR (tender first) just as we arrived at 12.30, it returned light engine to the mine but the driver said he was going to do another trip about 13.30 but we had to head back to Xian. Everyone friendly and no problem walking up to the loco watering point at the mine bins which are dated 1972.

JS 6025 2-8-2 Dalian 1.1961 Working

Chenjiashan Colliery (Quail 24D Mei-Qi Line)

Chenjiashan Colliery is at end of about an 8 km branch from CNR Tianjiazui, itself 35 km by rail from Meijiaping. Big surprise here was JF 2368, cold but had clearly seen recent use. Also two JS in steam but yard was very quiet with hardly any wagons. There had been one trip to CNR in the morning and staff said there would be another about 17:00. Everyone friendly, no access problems to loco stabling point. No problems with police in town (although we didn't see them). Hopefully the town is recovering from the dreadful mine explosion last year.

JF 2368 2-8-2 Spare
JS 5184 2-8-2 In Steam
JS 5094 2-8-2 Datong 1987 In Steam (Actually JS 8094)

We returned to Xian via the direct route from Chenjiashan to Yao Xian (which is a good road, if somewhat windy) then on the expressway.

Caught 2204 (16.40 Xian - Pingdingshan) headed by SS7D-0631 (out of sequence number ??).

Pingdingshan (Henan Province) 6-10 March 2005

Had sunny weather for all 5 days with the "Pingdingshan smog factor" varying quite significantly. The first day was very clear indeed whilst the on the last visibility was only about half a kilometer with much variability in-between. The system is very frustrating with trains often managing to avoid the place one has chosen to stand, the diesels don't help but apart from clearing an awful lot of traffic, didn't really get in the way. The new DF10D in particular appears highly effective at clearing huge trains and on one morning cleared two successive trains of empties from Shenxi yard up the branches to the 4th and 6th mines (probably at least 4 JS loads) then by mid afternoon was doing the same on the eastern side of the system out to 13th mine.
Locos are still being overhauled with JS 8122 recently ex-works and SY 1687 in traffic for the first time ex-works on 9 March. Under overhaul was QJ 6690 stripped down into 1000 pieces.

Locos seen were as follows, all working unless noted;
SY 0758 (dumped), 1002, 1209, 1687
JS 5644, 6225/53 (washout), 6429, 6539 (stored), 8031/54/57/62/65/68 (repairs), 8120/22, 8338, 8421
QJ 2035nd, 6450, 6690 (overhaul), 6786, 6813 (stored), 7186nd
nd = no deflectors
DF10D 0060 (Dalian 2005)
GKD3B 0003 (Ziyang 2003)

Although QJ 6450 and 6786 were both in steam, neither ventured off shed during our 5 days in PDS

JS 8030 was not seen (may be at Baofeng ?)

As expected the busiest places for photography were Tianshuang Yard (excellent around sunrise, before the locos go on shed for the shift change - worth missing breakfast for), Shenxi Yard and around Zhongxin Station. However, other locations we visited which can be recommended are;

Mine 1 Branch: Steeply graded, excellent for an early train before about 09:00 as the train leaves the S curve. The best trains are the oil tankers to the depot here which can be double headed and banked but run infrequently (we didn't see one during our stay). Afternoons are difficult here due to poles and clutter on the sunny side of the line.

Mine 4 Branch: Close to the junction with Mine 6 Branch is a mine dump with a Pagoda on top which makes a rather unusual backdrop, the long straight after this is good for an early train up until about 09:30 (or in the afternoon from the other side of the line), after this, about another 2 km up the line, the curve into the mine yard is good from mid-morning onwards as it has the hills behind PDS as a backdrop plus some of the small mine headgears which dot the landscape.

Main Line at Mine 7 (West of PDS): Excellent curve into the mine, completely clear of poles and clutter, perfect glint lighting for the 0740 westbound passenger departure. The passengers stop at an unmarked halt about 1 km east of Mine 7 and therefore are working reasonably hard around this curve into the mine. The main line runs through the middle of the colliery complex. The west end of the mine yard is also very nice in the afternoons with no clutter and excellent mine backdrop of headgears etc. We noted an interesting operation here, coal is tripped in from mines further out to the west to an offloading hopper at the washery here and then empties returned. SY 1002 and QJ 2035 were both seen on this duty which appeared to operate on a round-trip cycle of about 2-3 hours. There is also a rickety 900 mm gauge surface electric system with two 4wWE locos (Nos 1 and 2) which was quite entertaining when nothing was happening on the main line.

Main Line between Mines 8 and 13. This eastern end of the system is pleasantly rural although a large new coking plant at Qilidian will no doubt produce more smog to blanket the area. We photographed both the inbound morning passenger here (leaving Qilidian is nice) and the afternoon inbound passenger, both at the Shisankuang river bridge and leaving Qilidian. Closer in to PDS, there is a lake on the south side of the line, just to the west of Bakuang (Mine 8) although this is downhill for the loaded chimney first trains. Bakuang Yard is quite open and free of clutter. We noted a heavy loaded 42 wagon train out of 13th mine hauled by QJ 7186.

John Middleton
Washington DC

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© 2005, John Middleton jmiddleton1@ifc.org