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Steam in China October & November 2005

Zhenjiang, Nanjing, Yinghao, Yima, Xingyang, Pindingshan, Baiyin, Liujiaxia, Haishiwan, Ganshui

by David Thomas


This was a solo holiday combining railway and general sightseeing.

Zhenjiang limestone railway. Sat. 22 October 2005.

At Zhenjiang station I asked how to get to Shima (showing the two Chinese characters) and was advised to catch a 23 bus across the road from the station, heading west. In fact I needed a 22 and after about 20 minutes was transferred where the two routes overlap, continuing for about 15 minutes. Suddenly I spotting two JS locos across a field to my right, shortly before the road crossed the railway on a level crossing. I had unwittingly arrived at the 'servicing area' for the line. Time was 12.30.
The two JS turned out to be 8119 (out of use) and 6064 (dumped). Nearby, 6536 was in steam and propelled 26 hopper wagons into the limestone quarry loading area. After loading about half of them, it drew the train forward to the level crossing them propelled it back and uphill for at least a kilometre to a second loading point. The fully loaded train re-appeared at 13.15 and ran non-stop northwards. There were no other locos to be seen. The 'repair shop' held one 4 wheel railcar.
I decided to walk the line to the north. At 13.45 6210 came past tender first from the north with 55 'normal' open trucks (not hoppers).
After about 3 - 4 kilometres I reached 6536 with its train in a new - looking loop next to a cement works, in the process of bottom-discharging the hopper wagons. A further cement works was a kilometre beyond and after that the line divided. One track, which I assumed was the original line, went straight ahead in a north-easterly direction. The second curved sharply to the north and then north-west. Both looked equally used. The lineside droppings of limestone particles followed the curved line. Both go through bridges under a main road (fast, but not a toll road). I chose to take the line straight ahead. This continued with no photographic potential for about 6 km to join the CNR in a simple loop on the south side of Liu Bai Dj (non passenger) station. There was definitely no conveyor or discharge facility for river traffic at this location. There was no access to the station from the path/dirt track on the south side of the lines. I continued to a foot underpass and then through a village to a main road and a bus stop whence a No. 17 returned me to the front of Zhenjiang station. So I had seen only two active locos. I presume the line I had not followed takes limestone for transfer to Yangtze river barges at Gaozhi.

Nanjing. Mon. 24 October 2005.

I thought I would check out the disused station across the Yangtze at Pukou, catching a ferry (every 15 minutes) from the landing stage at the west end of Zhongshan Bei Lu (terminus for buses 10, 34, 54, 81). Passing through a pedestrian gate set within a larger gate to the south of the substantial station buildings, I walked along one of the disused 6 platforms and beyond the station neck to sidings in use. And alongside those was a shed with 13 disused JS locos - all out of use for at least 6 months, a couple of diesels and a steam crane 'in steam' next to some coal. So is there still a loco kept here to work private sidings in the area? The disused locos were 6283, 6284, 6290, 6291, 6349, 6387 (locked in a workshop), 6410, 6444, 6531, 6534, 6537, 6x56 and one other. Several had small tablet exchangers for single line working.

Ma'anshan. Mon. 24 October 2005.

Passing by train from Nanjing at 12.05, SY 1281 was seen with a torpedo wagon in some loop sidings about 1 km to the north-west of the main station yard. A single south curved south-west from these sidings and presumably this is where the SY came from. It would not have been visible from the bridge across Ma'anshan station and yard.

Yinghao. Weds. 26 October 2005.

I was unaware of the report of closure of the line and reached it by train to Mianchi, then taxi to the bus station (to the west of town) where I was directed across the road to the local bus to Yinghao. Looking at the line, it appeared that a light loco had passed over it within the past 24 hours. But the sidings for discharging coal wagons were clearly disused and starting to rust. I walked the track throughout. En route there were signs of very recent minor repair works and some trucks at the junction at Xiangyang had been moved within the past few days. However, two locals at Liangwa (coal still being mined) indicated the line was disused. I continued to the shed at Huangmen - and found loco 6 in steam, looking quite smart with new paint! Perhaps there was a photo charter working due? Even more intriguing, a group of men were re-tubing a boiler on a makeshift jig in the yard. I had only time for a quick glance around, noticing that 15 had recently received running repairs, 13 was on jacks without wheels and 03 and 04 had been used within the past 2 months. 17 was intact but possibly OOU. There was no obvious 'host' loco for the boiler being repaired. At times like this I wish I had a Chinese-speaking guide instead of travelling solo!

Mianchi. Weds. 26 October 2005.

The bus returning to Mianchi stopped at a railway crossing on the western outskirts of the town whilst diesel 10D 0049 with a non-CNR 'badge' passed on a freight heading north. A line here has been reported JS operated - is it now diesel?

Yima. Weds. 26 October 2005.

Rather than wait some hours for a train from Mianchi, I continued by bus to Yima town and then by taxi the several kilometres towards the station, being dropped off near the coal mine loco servicing point. JS 5937 was out of use, and JS 6061 and SY 1435 derelict. An exceptionally scruffy 8275 arrived with a steam crane. By now it was too dark to see if there were any other locos in or around the open cast mine.

Xingyang brickworks railway. Thurs. 27 October.

A bus from Zhengzhou west bus station got me to Xingyang and I found the railway was clearly in use with the rails shiny. But, alas, from traffic the previous day! Loco 207 (I assume - no obvious way of getting near to it) was dead on shed and nothing was happening. A good sign was that a gang was rebuilding a slip of the retaining wall in the cutting. Back at Zhengzhou, I walked a short distance from the bus station to catch a 101 trolleybus from its terminus back to the railway station.

Pindingshan. Fri. 28 - Sun. 30 October 2005.

I spent two days on the western end of the system, beyond Baofeng, travelling out on the 07.40 ex Zhongxin and returning on the 15.49 from Hanzhuangzhan. SYs 1209 and 1687 were the locos on both days. There is a reasonable amount of interest with lineside mines but freight traffic is patchy and diesels can appear.

28/10. We passed 8031 standing at Baofeng (08.40). Walking back from the branch terminus, the first steam I saw was at 12.25 when JS 8068 worked 10 trucks up a steep branch to the west from near km post 54 to a loading platform (mine buildings demolished), returning LE. It later reappearing at 14.45 on empties.
Whilst I was waiting for my train at the fourth station after Baofeng (?Guo zhen) at 16.10, 8068 returned on a loaded train and 8031 arrived on a long train of empties from Baofeng.

29/10. I alighted from the passenger at ?Guo zhen at 09.24. At 09.38 JS 8031 ran through from Baofeng with 8 high sided hoppers.
At 11.05 DL GKD 3B 003 came up the line with 69 empties (returning at 12.20). Then at 11.50 JS 6429 arrived with 8 empties from Baofeng.
At 14.15 8031 returned LE to the second station after Baofeng (with sidings; the first station is merely a field-side halt). Meanwhile, DF7G 5121 had arrived here on a train of empties. 8031 hooked up to them and returned up the line at 14.30. The diesel returned LE to Baofeng.
At 16.30 JS 6429 returned to Baofeng on a freight.

30/10. I spent the day in and around Pindingshan itself. Out of use on shed were QJs 2035, 6786 and 6818 (? or 6813?), SYs 0758, 1002, and JS 6539. I did not look inside the workshops.
Over the three days, locos seen in steam were: JS 6253, 6429, 8030, 8031, 8054, 8062, 8065, 8068, 8120, 8338 (these include three JS that merely sat on shed); QJ 6450, 7186; SY 1209, 1687.

At 18.50 on the evening of 30/10 whilst at PDS main station, I could hear steam shunting the adjacent yard. Caught train K238/9 with an intended 36 minutes connection at Baofeng for Luoyang. We arrived an hour late, by which time the connection had long gone. From outside the station 3-wheeler taxi rattled and bounced into town to the Baofeng Hotel, where a very respectable room was 100 yn. I continued to Luoyang at 06.40 the following morning.

Baiyin. Tues. 1 and Weds. 2 November 2005.

1/11. On the morning of 1 November both the bus stations close to Lanzhou railway station on Ping Liang Lu were unable to sell me a ticket to Baiyin and directed me to the East bus station about a km further down the road. At Baiyin we passed round the central square (and thus the Telecom Hotel) en route to the bus station about 700m away. Walking back, I noticed a hotel on my left just before reaching the main square and booked in for 100 yn - the Zhuanyong, though there is no sign. Just outside the Telecom hotel a pavement kiosk sold a street map with bus routes. I went on Route 5 that terminated in front of the block of flats with the SY-served Baiyin Shi passenger platform on the other side. Access is via a lattice gate opened when trains are due. I walked round the end of the flats, and then on to the CNR station to confirm that there is still a daily stopping train to/from Lanzhou. It takes for ever, including waiting at Baiyin Xi for 20 - 30 minutes when changing locos. Whilst I was doing that I got a glimpse of a SY and single coach arrive, run round and depart again at the steam line platform at 12.30.

Having seen maps showing the Baiyin 'security area' I decided to aim for open country, walking alongside the CNR line for about 5 km (good path all the way) to where the steam line to ShenBuTong passes underneath (arriving here at 13.25), then followed that uphill to the north.
At 14.05 chimney first SY 1581 passed on a freight heading north, returning at 15.30. Loco 0965 was on the 15.15 passenger ex Shi (chimney first) and 1047 (tender first) on the ECS that arrived at Sanyelian lower terminus at 16.10, returning at 16.55. It was followed by 0965 returning. Just as I got back to the CNR line bridge, 1047 returned up the line tender first LE.

2/11. I went early to Baiyin bus station to book a late afternoon bus to Lanzhou, only to be told the last one was 15.00. So instead I took my luggage by taxi to the station and persuaded staff to hold it until I returned to catch the Lanzhou train at 16.40. I then caught to 07.50 (loco SY 0965) through to ShenBuTong so I could walk back along the line. No-one questioned me on the train or at the terminus. On the journey we passed SY 1581 heading to Baiyin on freight. I found a good photo spot and waited, and waited for a train. After the passenger had returned at 08.55 there was no movement at all until SY 1581 came up the line with empties at 13.30. It was closely followed by 2008 tender first on just one truck, heading for the siding on the 'low level' line to the north of Sanyelian lower (terminus). Adjacent to that terminus was a siding with three yellow tank wagons.
As I headed back towards the CNR line, 2008 returned with the tank wagons at 14.55 and 1581 came back with loaded trucks at 15.10. Finally, 0965 was on the 15.15 passenger from Baiyin Shi. Back at the CNR station, a CNR diesel was tripping freight over the connection to the steam railway. The 16.40 to Lanzhou had only 2 ordinary passenger coaches, a hard sleeper and a van.
Incidentally, there appear to be no villages or shops along the ShenBuTong line; take supplies!

Liujiaxia. Thurs. 3 - Sat. 5 November 2005.

Travel from Lanzhou west bus station was slow, with passengers transferred to the bus that was nominally an hour behind, so the journey took 3 hours. Unsure of how many nights I would stay, I booked only one night at the HuaYuan hotel opposite the bus station before going up to the dam to check whether boats were available to get to Bingling Si grottoes. They were and I resolved to do the trip the next day, returning to Liujiaxia station in time to see JS '8227' plus one coach arrive at 11.54 and depart at 12.00.
Walked the line to Gucheng, photographing 8223 passing me on the 13.30 to Liujiaxia. Gucheng shed had 8352 in the main 2-road shed and the 'real' 8227 in the small one-loco shed. '8227' arrived with some trucks and 8223 arrived back with the passenger (2 coaches + van), attaching the trucks in front of the coaches. I boarded it intending to do the round trip to Hekou Nan. We set off at 14.45 with '8227' providing initial banking. At Shangpo (arrive 15.40) the JS came off and a CNR diesel was attached to the front of the train. And then the coaches, now empty of passengers, were unhooked. They no longer go to Hekou. The attendants advised the return train now started back from here at 18.30. Meanwhile, 8223 had disappeared across the river to Yanguoxia to pick up a couple of trucks and have a fire cleaning. The return train actually left at 18.26 and was back at Liujiaxia at 19.42.
Back at the hotel, the restaurant was closed, and it still was the following morning, even though I had been told the 120 yn price included breakfast. The night had been a most disturbed one with sounds like moving furniture, banging and loud voices. Maybe it's more than just a hotel! Booking out, I asked if I could leave my main luggage for the day, to pick it up after I had been to Bingling Si, and was told 'no' - for the first time in 40 years of travelling a hotel has refused to keep baggage. Luckily there was another hotel open in the lower town (JianYin) and things turned out OK.

On 5/11 walked the line from Gucheng to the start of the gorge, visiting a couple of small temples on the way. I took the car ferry across the river. After getting a so-so photo of the afternoon train, returned to the hotel and thence by bus to Lanzhou, this time doing the journey in 1.5 hours.

Haishiwan - Yaojie Sat. 5 November 2005.

Caught the 06.31 from Lanzhou, and by 09.00 was at Haishiwan looking down on the viaduct. After an hour SY headed a freight down from Yaojie for a good photo. It returned at 11.10. I hitched a lift to Yaojie town. In steam at the yard were 0990 and 1103. Inside the locked shed, dead, were 0362, 1713 and one other SY. A dumped JS was in a compound. All locos faced towards Haishiwan.
I decided to walk the line on to the north east. At 14.00 SY 1097 (from TieHeJinChang) came down the line, tender first, (i.e., facing he opposite way to the other locos) on a freight, returning uphill with 10 empties at 14.50. Continuing, I got to a station yard next to the aluminium works into which 1097 was doing trip working. On one of the through lines was a bogie brake van. At 16.00 SY 1321 ran through LE towards the west.

With darkness approaching and nothing happening, at 16.30 I started to make my return journey. A local bus to the main road, then with 9 others in a 7 seater van to Haishiwan and a bus back to Lanzhou west bus station.

Ganshui Fri. 11 and Sat. 12 November 2005.

11/11. Travelled on 12.39 from Chongqing, arriving Ganshui at 15.35. Passed a SY in the cement works on the east side of the line south of Xiaba. Booked into the hotel on the far side of the river. A SY arrived LE at 17.15. Diesel 5713 arrived on freight at 17.40 and almost immediately 5714 left LE for Datong. The SY returned uphill on freight at 18.40, well after dark.

12/11. At Ganshui a long wait in a good photo spot produced only the same two diesels and a railcar. Eventually headed by bus to Xiaoyutuo where 0514 was in steam but doing nothing and 1501 dead on shed. Climbed steps up to the middle level of the massive hoppers. The iron ore mine (60 cm track) was still in use. A grubby battery loco and 8 side-tip trucks arrived at about 13.00. Since I was here 2 years ago there has been investment in a conveyor that replaces muscle power to shift the ore and in four new trucks, not yet used.
At 15.00 SY 0514 ran light engine to Ganshui and returned two hours later with empties. As far as I could tell, it was the only steam movement all day. I suspect it was 0514 that I'd seen the previous day. Returning next morning to Chongqing, the SY was in steam in exactly the same place in the cement works at Xiaba.

David Thomas

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2005, David Thomas: e-mail: davidthomas36@talk21.com