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Steam in China - Hegang, Huanan, Tiefa, JiTong

by David Kitching

My latest trip included Hegang on 11-12 April where I found the photographic opportunities much greater than expected.

The maps of the Hegang system available on the web are inaccurate when considering the southern end of the system which is actually much more extensive and interesting.

There are direct links from both Xingan and Fuli mines to the China Rail exchange sidings at Junde. These are electrified and see both steam and electric haulage. As these links leave the colliery main line in different directions it is possible for locomotives to be turned by entering via one and leaving via the other. Whilst most locomotives at Hegang face north, we did see SY 0635 facing north one day and south the next, and it was seen in the exchange sidings in between.

The line to the power station leaves Xingan and eventually climbs on a high embankment to cross China Rail and reach a summit and loop. At this point there is a new branch line heading back north for about 3km which serves a new coke works. I suspect that the loop is also new as the cabins are certainly very recently constructed and the trackworks looked new too. The cokeworks line gives the opportunity to photograph chimney first steam on loaded coal trains running in from the junction.

Beyond the loop the line descends a long straight section before crossing a river and slowly curving round to the power station and another connection with China Rail. Trains pass the power station and then the train loco shunts back into the unloading building.

I have placed a few photographs taken at Hegang on my website at: http://www.brocross.com/china/april2005/hegang/index.htm

Locos seen (all SY) were:
In steam: 0498, 0635, 0683, 0799, 1030, 1370, 1464, 1498, 1685, 3013, 3014
Washout: 0555
Workshops under repair: 0905, 3023
Stored/dumped: 0354, 0472, 0561, 3024


After Hegang we travelled to Huanan for a couple of days on the Huanan Coal Railway. 13th April early morning saw C2 011 in steam at the servicing point outside the workshops/shed area. By afternoon it was back in the the shed with the fire drawn. Also in the shed were Nos 44 and 004 small railcar was apparently broken down whilst the larger one set off well filled. Working locomotives on both days were 41, 43 and 168. We followed a number of trains to and from Xiahua in bright sunshine and were able to take some good photos, although the smoke effects seemed to stop every time the train came into view. The street running section close to the Huanan terminus has lots of potential for photography.

Thursday 14th April we had hired the smaller railcar for the day to run ahead of the early morning empties so that we could take photographs on the hilly sections. We awoke to heavy falling snow and a biting wind. In spite of the difficult conditions we were able to photograph the empties at a number of spots on the bank to the summit and the snowy conditions made for some spectacular shots when the falling snow wasn't obscuring everything. The railway staff were very co-operative and the uphill train made seven runpasts for us. We were then left at the summit whilst the railcar went down to Lixin. Sadly the two banked loaded trains both arrived in heavy falling snow which made photography difficult. They sounded good though, as did the next train of empties coming up from Tuoyaozi which could be heard hammering up the bank for about 25 minutes. Those small locos make a lot of noise when working hard.

Late afternoon the railcar collected our increasingly frozen group and we returned to Tuoyaozi shortly after the second loaded train. The summit section is very picturesque and there are certainly many different photographic possibilities.

Photos at: http://www.brocross.com/china/april2005/huanan


An overnight train from Jiamusi took us to Tieling and a short transfer to Tiefa (Friday 15th April). Here a visit to the workshops revealed SY 1255 undergoing light repairs and 1772 a major overhaul. The line of stored/dumped locos here appears to be growing with 1412 having been added a couple of weeks earlier. KD6 487 was in steam at the servicing point at Daqing having hauled a special train earlier in the week. Apparently it was just going to sit here in steam for several days. The crew would not move it a few yards to be clear of the water column.

We were advised that no steam was likely to be in use on coal traffic today but this proved to be incorrect as we later saw a loco hauling empties in the distance at Qiaonan Mine. In the evening rush at Sanjiazi the passenger traffic was interrupted by a double-headed tender first arrival of 1683 and 1769 with a long and heavy loaded coal train from Faku. Presumably this was due to a diesel failure. 1683 came off at Sanjiazi, leaving 1769 to proceed alone.

Passenger traffic was handled by 1770 (Wangqian), 1749 (Daming), 1767 (Daqing) and 1751 (Faku).

Whilst much of the Tiefa system is fairly flat there are still plenty of opportunities for interesting photography around the collieries although steam haulage is now mainly confined to passenger trains.

Photos at: http://www.brocross.com/china/april2005/tiefa


On Saturday 16th after observing the morning departures from Diaobingshan we drove to the Jitong line arriving at 20.30 in Lindong having called at Chabuga and chased the 1800 departure from there.

The passenger service has been retimed and runs in the evening after dark from Chabuga to Daban. The return service leaves Daban around 0445 and is due at Chaganhada around 0600.

The next seven days were spent in a rather frustrating attempt to photograph trains in difficult weather conditions. Whilst it was cold enough for reasonable steam effects much of the time, it was also mainly dull and hazy with strong winds and some days bad dust storms. When the sun did shine it seemed to disappear just as the train came.

The whole time was spent between Chabuga and Daban and we say 21 locomotives in steam. Three locomotives were seen returning ex works of which one (7037) was seen shortly afterwards being given a good thrash by its crew on its first outing after reassembly of the rods. Traffic was not heavy and some days there were no trains at all in daylight during the afternoon. Most days saw six or seven steam trains in daylight and most were doubleheaded steam. Each day saw one or two single diesel hauled trains and one day we say a steam/diesel combination. We also noted that the system of stars on smoke deflectors, to indicate boiler condition, has been abandoned.

Steam locos seen in traffic were:
QJ 6878, 6911(passenger loco), 6977, 6984, 6988, 6991, 6998, 7007, 7010, 7012, 7037(ex works and in service), 7038, 7040, 7043, 7048, 7049 (ex works in train), 7063, 7081, 7105, 7119, 7143, 7163, 7164 (ex works in train)

Photos at: http://www.brocross.com/china/april2005/jitong


Our final call was at Yuanbaoshan on Saturday 23rd April.

Four locomotives were seen in steam on a day of duststorms and rain. JS 6246 and 8246 topped and tailed a train of empties up the bank to mine 3 and the opencast loading point. An unidentified JS was at the vement works. 8246 returned with a loaded train in early afternoon and a very clean and well painted 8418 hauled the afternoon mixed train to Fengshuigou before shunting the mine and departing for the exchange sidings at Anqinggou. The day was rounded off by a trip to the pencast loading point where 6246 departed with scarcely a slip on a very heavy loaded train. When the conveyor system to the power station is completed much of the traffic on this line will be lost. It does, however, look as if completion may be some time ahead.

Photos at: http://www.brocross.com/china/april2005/yuanbaoshan


All in all a good trip with some disappointment at the difficult weather conditions. Still plenty of interesting steam to be seen and the Huanan Coal Railway is a gem.

David Kitching

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© 2005, David Kitching davidk@brocross.co.uk