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Steam in China - August 2005

Meihekou, Fushun, Benxi, Fuxin, Tiefa, JiTong, Yuanbaoshan

by Sandro Vigato


When steam on Jing Peng was near the end, I decided to go there to see the last free show of QJ and like many others I did'nt wanted to miss the last real steam between Daban and Chabuga. News on internet were not nice and I was afraid to find the ugly couple of diesel and steam, so I opted for the surer period for steam and also for terrible weather: first half of August. With me (Sandro) came for the first time two other steam entusiast (Paolo and Arnaldo) and an other man (Nunzio, poor him) who wanted to try the experience. With such people I decided to visit more than only Ji-Tong, so was necessary to use a guide: mr. Lu Yong made the necessary arrangements and all was perfect. N.B. In this report there are no timetable, loco numbers and so on, but only a short report of what we saw and what happened, sorry.

The travel

On 29 July From Venice to Budapest and from there to Beijing with Malev Flight at 750 €. Arrived Beijing at 6.00, Breakfast at Sino Swiss Hotel then the impact with Tian'anmen square were was so warm and wet that we italians used to sun and warm decided to have a small tour with our conditioned minibus and than to restaurant. In the first afternoon train K 215 to Meihekou were we sleep soon and well.

31/07 Meihekou

Lu Yong meet us in the late night (04.00) outside station, than after leaving luggage in hotel our first steam train was at 06.20 the passenger from Sijing with SY 1216 that made go out of head: I forgot to push REC and the first video was missed in this way. Thank God I'm one of those who want (but not always able) to do everything, so here are some shot with my new EOS 350D.

Here all is like all reports have already written, the passenger train was steam because diesel needed some small repair, every mine has his electrified 600mm narrow gauge systems that is so interesting, funny and dangerous to deserve a visit while a SY is shunting up and down in the near station.

The good new is only I have to say that Bernd Seiler was wrong (thank God) when last september wrote "The whole mine system will be dieselised by June 2005." because in shed I saw SY 1564 freshly repaired and in very good conditions that will return in service in late autumn and an other SY will be repared.

02/08 Fushun

Here we spent all the morning at the level crossing near the new steelworks delighted (!) by the continuous recorded sound and voice that alert people when a train is coming. Here 3 or 4 different SY were shunting together with a green diesel that did'nt disturbed too much. In the afternoon we was left at the beginning of a narrow road :" Here the mini bus can't go , we leave you here, go ahead and you'll find the big pit, bring water and some fruit with you and remember that you must come back. We will be here again at 18". It was just after 12 and this talk let all of us a little worried. I have no words to explain the feeling I proved to see this big pit but at 18 when I was back without any breath really I was no more able to say one word. The open-sky mine was surely more than 20 levels deep, where reversible electric trains were continuously going up and down, warm, humidity, strange gas emission from ground and a couple of SY in track maintenance service, made very hard for my eyes to see at the opposite side and even from the place were we decided to stop to made possible the climb back, its was also difficult to see what was happening in the bottom and in any case to the right and to the left was even impossible to imagine if some steam loco was in service how was told us. The next morning we came back to the much more comfortable level crossing were we saw one more SY. In the afternoon we took the electric railcar N° 102 for half an hour trip from the new steelwork to a station near our hotel. This EMU is well known and surely also the electric crocodiles that I found so interesting to take some shot.

04/08 Benxi

Known as probably the most polluted town in China but from the window of my Hotel I've been able to make a shot clear enough to see the row of preserved steam locos. The visit has been possible because our guide booked the tourist agency minibus of steel works company. There we spent some hours watching 5 or 6 SY shunting in the factory plus the orange modern diesel that soon will take all the steam service. Probably not very soon because of 9 locos still in service 6 will remain until 2006 as minimum.

In the afternoon at 16.10 train 2255 to Fuxin.

05/08 Fuxin

Early wake up to catch the first train from Minzu, than to well busy level crossing near Wulong station and than again to Minzu..

The visit to open cast coal mine was in the afternoon, very short probably because fresh hard memories, or because smog that made impossible to make same good shot, but digital camera and computer made a miracle…

Next morning was raining and we used as shelter the small building of level crossing guard while 5 or 6 SY worked in the yard with no disturb of diesel or electric. In the first afternoon bus transfer to Tiefa.

07/08 Tiefa

Tiefa is a great place, first because at Diaobingshan station you can see 4 steam train at the same moment that one after the other leave the station and this happen 4 times every day! Than there is an idyllic place with a lake in the background, still a railroad "Diamond" where trains can arrive from four directions good also to take sun waiting useless steam trains. There we have been seen by a woman going to buy some food for her family. One hour later she was coming back and offered at each of us an ice cream! Surely in China there's something else than steam to deserve a visit.

After this good experience we had an 500 km tranfer by minibus to Lindong. In the way to Tongliao we saw four or five CNR stations each of them served by a narrow gauge railway to transport (I suppose) sand. We arrived at Chabuga at 18.30 and it was still possible to enjoy a sunset with a QJ against a red sky.

We left after 20.00 and soon was dark, by motorway we arrived to Lindong in one and half hour: Avoid to travel in darkness in China!!!

09/08 Lindong

" No news, good news" it's our way to say and only these days we spent there deserved the trip in China.

In practice we saw only one train with a diesel, all the other was mostly with 2 QJ with more than 5-6 trains in each way from 9.00 to sunset. The mission was to see the last steam service in Jitong, so no problem by gray sky and often disturbing rains, if some good shot came it was not requested but only because of lucky. The sadness came after visiting Daban shed where we saw big works to transform from steam to diesel and October really seems the right time to finish them: there I realised that the end is near. Now I can say that this was surely the worst period to visit China but it was the only possible for me and now I can say I'm happy to have gone. If only you can, do not hesitate : go, go, go!

13/08 Yuanbaoshan

After Paradise everything else seems hell but not in this case first because of JS that we saw in working order for the first time and than because there are nice places to take some photo. But we had not much time and the train did'nt arrive so why not to take a different shot?

The problem this time was Nunzio (that one not found of trains) that was really tired of steam locos and wanted to become a normal tourist for the last two days. So no nice photo this time but a lot of presents for friends and family. Last dinner in Chifeng : Excellent sea food never eaten before.

15/8 Beijing

Arrived from Chifeng at 6.15, Great Wall visit, Ming tombs, Jade and Silk factory, free afternoon to look for trains models. Found last 6 vagons at Lufthansa Center, the last Qj was still at 1600 iuan: it seems trains model market is going down. Rest and shower in Sino Swiss hotel, transfer to airport at 22.00 and back in Venice the day after at 9.30.

By by China, let me thank you for all beautiful moments I've been able to live there (same very hard in winter time at Jingpeng pass), moments that only 8 years ago I could never believe possible anymore. I believe that I could'nt ask more to this my life.

Sandro Vigato

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© 2005, Roger Blundell sandrovgt@yahoo.it