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Steam in China

Tongchuan, Diantou, Pucheng, JiTong, Yuanbaoshan, Jixi

by Erik Rydström


We spent three weeks with Mike Ma ( mike68ma@yahoo.com ), and we had a very good time. Mike is an excellent guide, he comes out highly recomended! He sorted all the hazles of chinese traveling, like finding the right bus, or getting rail tickets on short notice, sleeper compartments even if there are'nt any, and hotel rooms with working facilities. He knows where to go and where the good photo positions are at what time of the day.

11: Excursion to the Terracotta Army S Xian.

12: Bus Xian-Tongshuan 100km N Xian, checked in to "The red rose hotel". No more steam in Tongshuan. Taxi to the coalmine in Yaoqu up N. Overcast. Only one SY, but most of the little coal coming to surface was loaded in trucks, so the engine was mostly sitting simmering. Friendly staff, though. There might be a loaded downhill train tomorrow morning. Continued to the nearby coillery Chenjiashan. One SY but no action, ongoing preparations for diesels. The taxidriver suggested a chemical plant in Meijiaping, some distance away. When we got there, we saw an SY doing it's last movement for the day. The adjacent depot was closed. Returned to Tongshuan.

13: Cold, windy, overcast. Taxi to Yaoqu. We met the loaded train on it's way down. Continued to the mine to wait for the return train, but were met by hostile security staff. No photographing. They said coppers would come in half an hour. We left and waited a few km away along the line. The engine returned light shortly. We left quickly for the Diantou line, another coal line, a few hours driving N. Mike asked the staff at the Huangling Station. No action. We waited in a field along the line and saw an light QJ coming down. After lunch, we struggled to another station in Huangling. Some traffic was expected during the afternoon. We got to another field and saw an empty train coming up the line with a QJ chimney first. Sunshine, very nice. Moved to a large cutting futher up the line. A loaded down train (QJ) arrived shortly, very nice. Continued up the line to a S facing tunnel where we waited for 1 hr, untill the sun disappeared behind the hills. Saw small teams of farmers harvesting corn. Walked back to the car where the line crosses a little river. Waited for a while Just before it got dark, another loaded train came rolling down with an effortless QJ tender first. Visited the depot S Diantou, no action, apperently extra low coal production due to maintenance. 2 new diesels. Drove to the mining town of Diantou, where we stayed overnight.

14: Cold and clear. Returned to the depot. 4 QJ's were just sitting there, simmering, but a diesel was going to pull the loaded morning train. No more action expected today. We gave up and continued to Hanjing, via Tongshuan, where we had "local fastfood" for lunch. We got eventually down to the Hanjing station, where Mike spoke to the staff. They were a bit suspicious. Everybody got out to take a look at the strangers. One QJ simmering, one disappeared N light. A loaded up train was expected shortly. We left to meet it at a very high bridge crossing a ravine som 10km away. Some 1,5hrs later we saw a QJ tender first pulling a rather short train effortlessly up the line. Very nice. Long after the train had passed, we could hear the engine struggling up some steep gradients. We went to the mine and Mike asked at a station. Another loaded up tran was expected shortly. We returned to the bridge and saw the train coming just in time before sunset. Very nice. We returned to the Hanjing Station. Very friendly staff. We were invited in the cab and joined the engine to the depot. Stayed there until it got dark. 3 more engines simmering. Stayed overnight at Hotel Pobay in Hanjing. I woke up during the night and heared the wistles at the station. Very nice.

15: Woke up early, walked down to the station. Observed the low depot activity. An engine left eventually light for the powerplant. Staff told there would not be any trains to the mine today. We returned to Xian. Todays train to Beijing was full. Caught a flight instead, bus to downtown Beijing. Mike managed eventually to get black market hard sleeper tickets to Chifeng.

16: Clear blue skye, sunshine. We got off in Chifeng, the train's destination. Caught a bus to Lindong. Checked in at "The Gricers hotel". A large group was expected the next day. We caught the hotel car for some afternoon grising. Got to Linding station, an W bound (up) train was expected shortly. We went to a nearby levelcrossing, but missed it. Waited, saw a down train, waited until the sun got down. We left for the levelcrossing W Yamenmiao, saw another down train. Returned to Lindong.

17: A clear, cold, crisp morning. We got up early, hotel car to Yamenmiao. Waited for the delayed E bound passenger train. The sun was well up when it eventually arrived. Good light, good smoke, great noise, a fantastic sight! We spent the rest of the day waiting for, watching and chasing trains along the line. Almost all freight trains are DH. It's a fantastic experience to see these huge beasts working their way through the gorgeous, Mongolian landscape. We saw a total of 6 trains and 1 DMU. No other diesels. Returned to Lindong after dark. Moved to another, nearby hotel.

18: Another cold, clear, crisp Mongolian morning.Watched the E bound passenger depart Yamenmiao on time, just after sunrise. Fantastic. We chased it by car to the next station, where a W bound freighter was waiting. It's an unforgetable sight, this train speeding away against the rising sun, leaving it's white steamtrail on the clear sky. Saw the passenger train cross the road, and chased the freighter W. Spent the rest of the day as yesterday. Fantastic. . Visited the pagoga at sunset. Very nice. Saw an E bound train entering Lindong station. We saw a total of 8 trains and 2 diesels today.

19: Cold morning, as usual. We waited for the morning passengertrain in Y, as usual, chased the train to Chabuga. The engine we had followed was on it's way to the depot, the morning freighter was waiting for departure. It left, we followed all the way to Lindong, and further W ward.Spottet trains at various locations, as yesterday. Saw 6 trains + 1 diesel. Finnished off early.

20: Slightly overcast. The usual car to Lindong station. Caught the morning passenger train to Chabuga. Caught a bus back to Lindong. Caught a bus to Chifeng. Stayed overnight in Chifeng.

21: A cold, clear morning. Caught a taxi to Yuanboashan, chased / spotted SY's all day. Quite a lot of activity, but there are allways a few engines doing nothing.Very nice day. Both coal trains and passengers. Very nice day. Returned to Chifeng, caught an overnight train to Shenyang.

22: Left the Shenyang railwaystation before sunrise, took a taxi to another railwaystation. Caught a train to Tieling. Caught a bus to Tiefa. Got a taxi to the RW station, saw a pasenger steamer departing, chased it to Damian. No coal steamers, just lazy SY hauled passengers to Faku, Damian and possibly other mines. NIce gricing, but lower activity than expected. Caught the afternoon steamer to Faku, taxi back to Tiefa, buss to Shenyang. Caught the overnight train to Mudaniang. We had only got hard sleepers, but Mike got us an soft compartment of our own.

23: Clear, bright morning, sunshine. Woke up on the way in to Mudaniang, brand new, very nice station. Caught a train to Jixi. Checked in to the "International Trade Hotel" in Jixi. Not on of the hotel staff spoke any english. Caught a taxi to the very run down mining town of Chengzhihe, som 15km to the North. Observed a few SY's doing their sporadic business until it got dark, and we returned to the hotel. The taxi driver we happened to hire on the return leg, knew the hotel under some other, chinese name. The hotel has an impressing spa and massage department, and yes, there is an inhouse brothel, as well.

24: Visited Hengshan, where we waited for a train of empties by the steep grading. Cold, but clear. It came eventually, a really nice sight. We tried to chase it, but it disappeared. Continued to Didao, quite a bit of movements to see. (SY) Returned to Chengzhihe, for afternoon gricing. Quite nice.

25: Taxi to Hengshan, only just missed the steep morning climber (DH today). Left for Lishu. Waited all day for a train of empties to be distributed to three mines by the two SY's. They came eventually before sunset. Very nice.

26: Slightly overcast. We took a taxi to Hengshan, earlier today. Waited for 2 hrs, nothing. Gave up, returned to Jixi, caught train to Beijing via Mudanjiang.

27-30: Visitied some Beijing tourist traps.

31: Caught our LH flight Frankfurt

Erik Rydström, Norway

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© 2005, Erik Rydström: e-mail: alfaerik@yahoo.se