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Steam in China

Xingyang, Daban to Chabuga

by Steve le Cheminant/ Michael Rhodes

Xingyang Report - by Steve le Cheminant

As a prelude to the main Ji Tong tour I decided that I would make another effort to secure some footage of the Xingyang brickworks railway in action.
I flew out on July 17th then meet up with our usual guide Alan before catching a one hour China Air flight to Zhengzhou followed by a one hour taxi drive to the line.

After the disappointments of previous visits it was a relief to see this highly atmospheric line at work. Sadly the weather was very hot and humid and obviously building up for a storm. However, I did manage a few shots around shift change.

At present the line is working two shifts from 07.00 to around 17.00 followed by an evening shift that finishes around midnight. Each round trip takes about 40 minutes with two sets of wagons in use but only one loco in steam.

Unfortunately the storm on the evening of the 17th July was very severe and washed away part of the track. As it was clear that it was going to take at least the rest of the week to rebuild and clear, I opted to fly back at once to Beijing and drive to Chabuga in one day with the option of returning to the brickworks later in the tour with Michael Rhodes. Sadly this was not to be as a second storm resulted in even more widespread flooding !

In conclusion this is a splendid short narrow gauge line that once again has managed to elude us - but we will be back!

Daban-Chabuga Report - by Michael Rhodes

This trip was a fairly impulsive one arranged at relatively short notice to photograph the last steam mainline on the planet before steam finally ends in Oct 2005. The participants were Steve le Cheminant (who also visited the Zhenzhou brickworks before the rest of us arrived - details appended below). Then four honorary members of the "Extreme Steam Team" joined from Australia in the form of Tim Arnott, Adrian Roberts, Paul Hogan and Alan Richardson. I can't remember whether Steve and I were honorary Aussies for the trip, or the others were honorary poms! Maybe that's because beer consumption started as early as 6.30am.

From a photographic perspective the trip was excellent and anybody who hasn't been to this last steam operated section really should go before things finish forever in October. Our guides were Alan and Jun from Chengde with two drivers Mr.Wu and Mr.Li. Mr.Li deserves special mention as he has an astonishing local knowledge and has taken the pursuit of Chinese steam to the ultimate with a van decorated with railway stickers, equipped with a DVD player to watch railway videos and finally excellent contact with control which avoids missing any trains. This final addition made sure we never missed a single photographable train. How ironic that as steam ends on Jitong, the ultimate gricing bus is introduced!


KLM fro Norwich to Amsterdam and then Beijing


Bus to Chengde and break here - this was not only a good trip but also very leisurely by our previous standards - this was due in part to the moderating influence of Tim Arnott who kindly planned the itinerary.


Bus to Daban
Timetable for this day (provided by Steve le Cheminant who was already in Chabuga). Trains from Chabuga to Daban are basically uphill to some extent from Chabuga as far as the summit to the west of Changanhada -(see excellent map by Bernd Seiler on the Farrail homepage). There is a less steep climb most of the way from Daban to this summit but the best over view of the line is the Bernd Seiler map. One feature of the operation is the large number of light engine movements as can be seen from the various timetables.

Departures from Chabuga
Train number Time (NB 51 are light engine movements)
33510 0800
51066 0900
51068 1000
44162 1140
51070 1255
51072 1600
33516 1755

Departures from Daban
Passenger 0434
33519 0530
33521 0705
83401 0815
33523 0940
33525 1230
33527 1430
33509 1535
33529 1630
33531 1750

For us it was a dull afternoon weather wise with the temperature hovering between 20 and 22 degrees. We photographed at Daban, Baomutu and Gulumanhan.


Sunrise is at 0430, so an early start is essential if one is to capture the best of the steam action during the summer months. It also seemed that 80% of the trains ran in the morning during our visit with frequent "dry periods from 12 noon all the way through to 1900. Today was misty at dawn, temperature 20 degrees. The morning was spent visiting Chabuga depot and then catching the two passengers leaving Chabuga. The afternoon was quiet but the rain stopped in time for a couple of pictures to the west of Lindong.

Departures from Chabuga
0810 freight
0910 L114 - special passenger Dalian to Baotou (holiday extra)
0959 Y142 - summer extra passenger, Tongliao to Hohot
1100 light engine
1305 freight
1500 freight
1755 light engine

Departures from Daban
Freights left at - 0845, 0950, 1130, 1240, 1340, 1640.


Sunny dawn with swirling mist which cleared by 0700. Wonderful day with still calm sunshine and great visibility. The afternoon was spent at the curve to the west of Lindong and although the weather was beautiful with glorious sun there were no uphill trains between 1430 and sunset at 1930 - the only cloud of the afternoon crossed the sun for 60 seconds just as the diesel multiple unit passed us around 1820! Top temperatures were 30 degrees

Departures from Chabuga
44164 0400
44108 0608 (diesel hauled)
51062 0740
33508 1000
51064 1125
44126 1335
33510 1440
33516 1755

Departures from Daban
83413 0715
33519 0820
33521 0935
83401 1100
33507 1220
83403 1325
33509 1705


Again a sunny start to the day with excellent visibility (as the attached pictures hopefully show). Top temperature today was 34 degrees. One comment - our first picture of the day on the big viaduct between Dariqiga and Chaganhada was at 0530 BUT this was not the 0235 departure from Chabuga as might have been expected, rather the 0000, running a couple of hours late having dropped ballast near Yameniao for track maintenance. This was picked up because of having contact with control and was invaluable as we were able not to miss the extra freight which was "in the system", following what we had wrongly thought was the 0235 off Chabuga.

From Chabuga
44162 0235
44120 0450
18010 0635
51062 0740
33510 1020
57002 1125
33512 1320
51064 1600
33518 1755

From Daban
83411 0505
83413 0610
33519 0720 (diesel)
83417 0820
33505 1205
33507 1410
33509 1510
33523 1625
87201 1735


There was a massive thunder storm between 0400 and 0600, so we stayed in the hotel. Steve and I left the Aussies for a visit to Daban shed and then a leisurely drive back to Chengde. Frome there we pottered back to Beijing on 26th and flew home on 27th after a bit of retail therapy in the market round the corner from the Holiday Inn Lido. With good shirts for work coming in at $4-5 it was too good to miss.

Daban shed - 25/7/05
In steam: 6984, 7030, 7104 and 7119 (arrived 24 hours earlier from full overhaul in Sujiatun workshops and looked superb).
In depot under repair: 7012, 7063
Cold but steamable: 6639, 6751, 6853, 6926, 6996, 7009
Scrap line: 6763, 6795, 6825, 6828, 6840, 6844, 6849, 6850, 6851, 6876, 6882, 6884, 6900, 6905, 6925, 6978, 6986, 7041, 7112, 7137

There were also 6 DF4Ds idling on shed and Nos 4240, 4241 and 4242 were all noted with Dalian March 2005 builders plates. There was a great deal of building work underway to transform the depot into a diesel maintenance facility. The whole steam preparation area was being resurfaced and ash pits filled in. The most distant of the three track sheds has had the floor dug up to convert it for diesels and everywhere new accommodation blocks and offices are being built - by the end of the year I suspect the old steam shed will be unrecognisable.

The QJs we saw running during our visit are as follows:

6838, 6878, 6891, 6911, 6981, 6984, 6988, 6991, 6998, 7002, 7007, 7010, 7012, 7030, 7037, 7048, 7049, 7063, 7104, 7105, 7143, 7163, 7164.

In summary - thanks to the Aussies for great company, to Alan and Jun for their guiding and the drivers who got to some very inaccessible spots for us. There are dozens of excellent locations along the 154kms between Daban and Chabuga and where else can you have a haircut for 35 English pence (and a good one at that) and dine on excellent Chinese cuisine every night.

Michael Rhodes

Busy yard scene at Daban as freight for Chabuga leaves, steam and diersel in the yard in the background (MR)

The usual passenger loco QJ6911 seen leaving Chaganhada with the early morning Daban to Chabuga steam passenger.(MR)

3km from Dariqiga a large horseshoe curve makes a great location for this Chabuga to Daban freight.(MR)

Sunrise on the large viaduct between Dariqiga and Chaganhada - the new Inner Mongolian highway from Hohot to Hailar has made this location very easy to reach.(MR)

The last steam shed on the planet - note through the left hand door the floor of the second shed has been torn up already for conversion to a diesel depot.(MR)

This must be almost unique - a holiday extra from Dalian to Baotou, run by China Rail, climbs up the bank from Chabuga for steam haulage to Daban - July 2005 and China Rail express passenger traffic behind steam!(MR)

A Chabuga to Daban freight leaves Dariqiga -the station can bee seen 1.5 km in the distance.(MR)

The summit of the line is approached by a Chabuga to Daban freight just after dawn - Chaganhada station is just 2 km behind the train.(MR)

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© 2005, Michael Rhodes mr@lapsurgeon.co.uk