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China in Late Spring, 7 May - 4 June 2005

Xingyang, Yinghao, Pingdingshan, Shiyan, Shibanxi, Haishiwan, Liujiaxia, Baiyin, DaGu

by Wilson Lythgoe

On my two previous trips to China half my time had been spent on the Jitong Railway so I was interested to see if I could find sufficient to interest me elsewhere in the country. The answer was most definitely yes plus the added bonus of some lengthy journeys on China Rail, which I always enjoy. For any journey over about 6 hours I like to travel soft class and I experienced no difficulties in getting these tickets at any stage. Even in the 2 instances they were not available at the station (Pingdingshan to Chengdu and Baiyin to Yinchuan) there was no trouble upgrading once on the train. Of the 5 journeys done in soft class only once was the car actually full and that was on the Yinchuan to Beijing sector.
Overall the weather was good with only 3 half days being lost to rain and on another day when it rained all day I was travelling. Most mornings a jumper was needed up until about 10am but after that it was pleasant shirtsleeve weather. Yinchuan and Lingwu were another matter though: a dry heat all day with temperatures reaching the 30's: far too hot to be enjoyable.


Arrived in Beijing late afternoon on the 7 May and travelled south to Zhengzhou the next day to visit Xingyang. Day tripped out from Zhengzhou by taxi, bus and taxi, which cost 32y and returned using 3 buses for a total of 6y. 207 was in charge of the train and a most interesting operation.


On the 10th travelled hard class to Mianchi on 1432 and spent two nights at Mianchi Hotel, 2 star, 100Y inc breakfast and a good in-house restaurant. I found it easy to bus to Yinghao and then continue on up the line using buses and minibuses. Spent one afternoon, a full day and the next morning on the line and enjoyed it immensely. No 4 was the branch engine with 17 handling the main line each day. Not much seemed to happen in the mornings with shift change occurring between 0930 and 1100 on both days so a good time to visit the shed. The branch then started first at 1100 with the first train being ready to run down to Yinghao just after midday. Once underway operations were brisk with almost continual branch trains and a train to Yinghao every 3 hours. One of the best sights available would have to be standing at the top of the branch and watching a train coming up from a head on position...the "dance/wriggle" the loco is doing from side to side is worth putting the camera aside to watch.


Returned to Zhengzhou by train and carried on to Pingdingshan by bus. The passenger service was in the hands of SY 1209 and 1687. Was not overly impressed by PDS last year and after a day and half of murky weather was quite happy to leave the following day when I awoke to rain. I carried on to Chengdu on Train K205.


15 minutes before reaching Shiyan I saw SY 1592 in steam shunting in what appeared to be the CNR yard of a large town I was unable to catch the name of. Two other dead SY were also seen in a staging area along with CNR engines. Louis Cerny has since advised "This does appear to be a new discovery. The town would appear to be Liuliping, 20 km east of Shiyan. At Shiyan SY activity has been reported at the Shiyan Dongfeng Automobile works." Something for someone to investigate further?


Four nights were spent at Qianwei with three days on the Shibanxi Railway. Passenger timings were at 7.00, 10.30, 14.00 and 17.30 with a return journey for both passenger and freight taking two and half hours. Passenger loading was heavy on all trains. Freights seemed to be on variable timings with one freight on the first day which would have left Shixi at 8, two on the second day leaving Shixi at 8 and again at noon and on the third day back to only one at 11…. Obviously a case of expect the unexpected. 10 plus tender from 13 ran the passenger with 14 on the freight.
The first morning there I took the train all the way up to get the lie of the land and hopped off at Huangcunjing to get a couple of pics before heading back elsewhere. BE WARNED though...the engine runs round its train immediately and the moment the coupling pin is dropped, the whistle sounds and it's away again. I wasn't left behind but it was close.
The best photo positions I found were Bagou station, from Caiziba horseshoe to Mifengyan and in the vicinity of Yueyin station. Yueyin was particularly good from the road above the station when a passenger and freight cross.

Anyone using local transport may find following useful:
The first bus of the day from the Qianwei local bus station (which is 3 buildings south of the Tian Bo hotel) is scheduled to leave at 6.20am and takes 20 minutes to the railway. Make sure they understand where you want to go, as sign is hard to see at Shixi. This allows time for an easy connection and a platform breakfast before the first train. Foreigner fare to end of line was 15Y one-way with appropriate reductions if only going part way.... great value! More than what the locals pay but it did ensure a seat every time whereas sometimes they were standing.
I saw a publicity poster at Yueyin showing a bunch of foreigners alighting from the train at a wayside halt. A couple of guys in suits with briefcases, some glamorously dressed women and tourists suitably attired ….how different the reality! What a fabulous line though!!

Back to Chengdu on 20 May to catch 1048/49 for Haishiwan. Chengdu ticket office has a window dedicated to foreigners and I had no difficulties getting a ticket when passing through earlier on my way to Qianwei.


At Haishiwan I concentrated on the gorge between Haishiwan and Yaojie.... great scenery but a definite lack of trains. On the first day 2 engines coupled together would have left Yaojie about 9.30am and ran light through the gorge bringing back a substantial train. Next day one engine and 3 wagons went down at around the same time and again a good size freight was brought back. On the third morning one engine went down at 8.30 followed by another at 9.30; both light, and then topped and tailed a long freight back.
Both afternoons I was there there were no afternoon trains through the gorge with both SY's sitting idle in Yaojie yard. The 3rd engine ventured out to one of the mines once but that was all. I did not travel north of Yaojie but during the afternoons 2 trains came and went from there. SY's seen in action were 0362, 0527, 1103, 1321 & 3020.


Then onto Lanzhou on the N train leaving Haishiwan at 11.50 and after getting some money and having a feed reached the West Bus station for Liujiaxia at 4 only to be told (in good English) the last bus had run for the day and nothing until 7.30 tomorrow. This turned out to be a big porky, buses were still leaving but I had to buy the Gansu Travel Insurance and the lass that sold that had already left for the day! The next day the bus fare cost 11y and insurance 40Y for that trip only: but there was no way they were going to let me travel without it. It could have been avoided if I had known how to catch the bus once it had left the station but at that time wasn't sure. My other bus journeys in Gansu back to Lanzhou and then on to Baiyin were "insurance free."

Liujiaxia to Hekou Nan was a pleasure to visit and ride! Over the 3 days 8223 ran the school trains and 8352 the mixed. Each day the mixed was top and tailed out of Gucheng with between 15 and 26 loads. The tail only ran a short distance into the gorge though before returning. The day I travelled the tail returned from probably Bayiba using the Florian Menius map as a reference. On the return trip a lengthy shunt occurred at Shangpo. The train was split in 2 with 5 loaded coal wagon being cut out and propelled thru to Yanguoxia. The engine then returned, remade the train and continued onto Liujiaxia... final delay was 45 minutes. On my last morning there (a Saturday) the school train was a small railcar.

I stayed at the HuaYuan Hotel. No English sign but opposite the bus station and slightly to the left. Would have to be one of the best hotels I have been in China, clean, fresh and a bathroom with good lighting and fault free plumbing with no leaks. 138y included breakfast with a good cheap restaurant for other meals. The bus for Gucheng (no 6 and marked as going to Dachuan) stops outside and the railway station is only a few minutes walk away (turn left outside the hotel and walk to market arcade. Left into the market and station is about 50m away).

To get to the gorge section I hired a taxi for 3 hours each afternoon that cost 50y. This took me to the entrance via the sealed road alongside the river. The taxi waited until the mixed went through and then back into town we went. Some nice photos of the river can be had from this road and I also noticed a public bus service about every hour. This bus was also marked Dachuan but I didn't catch the number.


Next stop Baiyin. First impressions were not good...dirty, polluted with dust and plastic blowing everywhere. With rain overnight the following day was blue skies and Baiyin became a much more pleasant place.
A good thrash up into the hills with the SY's hauling 8 total passengers to Shenbutong and 7 to Sanyelian. I travelled on two of the services and there seems to be no ticket selling/collection on them...is this normal or was I just been lucky? Actually 'on train' crew was the smallest I have ever seen in China, only one lass in a uniform who sat in the middle carriage for the entire train and a guy who I still haven't worked out what he was supposed to do. No problems with security on either trains or on the no3 bus.
Passenger service seemed to be as previously reported outbound apart from the 16.10 from Baiyin City to Sanyelian which was empty coaching stock departing Gongsi any time after 3. Shenbutong trains waited an hour at the terminus before returning; the morning train to Sanyelian returned immediately while the afternoon service would have left Sanyelian at 17.00.
SY's seen working over the 2 days were 0819, 1470 & 2008. I spent my time in the vicinity of Baiyin Shi, Shenbutong, between Luigongli and the start of the security area. Didn't see or experience any trouble with security.


Based myself at Lingwu for 3 days 31 May to 2 June. This would have been the most disappointing railway of the trip…some great photo spots between Lingwu and Guyaozi but no trains. One downhill train the first day for 6 hours trackside, a repeat performance on day 2, and on day 3 got another downhiller within an hour of arriving trackside so the headed off for Yinchuan and onto Beijing.

Overall a great trip and most certainly only possible due to the wealth information found on this website and other similar ones. My thanks to the webmasters concerned and their contributors.
My other essential aid would have to be Duncan Peatties timetable…. I did my first trip without it and never again! Plus when things are quiet it makes for a good read, I can always find something new in it.

Wilson Lythgoe

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© 2005, Wilson Lythgoe lythgoew@dbl.newsltd.com.au