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Steam in China

DaGu, Baiyin, Yaojie, Liujiaxia, Sandaoling

by Roger Johnson


These notes are intended to supplement, and occasionally conradict Duncan Cotterill's recent excellent in depth report. The tour covered the same sites with the exception of Yamasu, but with the addition of Da-Gu. Where appropiate therefore the report will be much shorter, only commenting where we found things different. The tour was also organised by Sun Xiaolan, and accompanied by her 'boy' Zhuang, whose efficiency in dealing with any problems was excellent.

Da -Gu 24-25/11

Despite recent reports of the arrival of 2 new diesels, we still found 75% of line work in the hands of the QJ's. A word of warning, though, the management at Guyaozi do not like rail enthusiasts, who are regarded as spies for their governments. It is therefore inadvisable to wander around at Guyaozi itself, where traffic movements can easily be ascertained by just passing by. Elsewhere staff were friendly, and we had no problems at the loco servicing point at Daba. As previously reported the pilot loco at Guyaozi propels empties to both the old deepmine and the huge new mine at Yangchangwan, returning tender first shortly afterwards with loaded wagons. It also trips to the oil refinery, though this appeared to offer little traffic, with only some trains with a few tanks at the rear. Within a fairly short period, the loads head off down the main line to Daba with another QJ, or if you are unlucky one of the new diesels num. 0052 & 0053.The frequency of trains does vary, though 2 days is hardly enough to make too many jugdements. The new mine appears very productive, and we found gaps of between 3 and 5 hours between loaded trains, and the same with the corresponding uphill empties.Fortuneately, the management have yet to realize the full potential of the diesels, and like the early arrivals at Daban they are still employed on steam diagrams, with many hours laying over at either end. There is little doubt that if fully utilised a further diesel could kill off all QJ line work.
There is good access to both sides of the Yellow River bridge , and both loads and empties have steam on for the climb to the centre of the bridge. We were fortunate to have a loaded train 5 mins. after sun up.The scenic section of the line is from Lingwu to Guyaozi, although only the uphill empties are worth photting. The line passes under the road 2 kms. out of town and for the next 15 kms. is some distance from the road; we found ,however, that most left turn dirt roads would access the line. The final 15 kms.to Guyaozi are quite close to the line.QJ noted on line work were 7195/6 & 7200 and 7061 Guyaozi pilot. There were 2 locos stored outside the depot, but as we did not gain access, no further locos including the recently overhauled 7205, were seen.

BAIYIN 26-27-28-& part 29/11

Although both Duncan's group and ours were here together on the first day, we were more fortunate on subsequent days with weather, workings and security. On the 27th the wind direction changed from N. to S., and we had 2 days clear of much of the pollution. The ore train ran on 3 of the 4 days, though it caught us out on the last day by running directly behiind the second passenger at 8.30. Having paid our money we seemed free to roam at will around the yard, loco depot, and maze of lines to the west, and unlike Duncan's group there was much to photograph in this area on the various trip workings. Becuase of the frequency of these workings we did not go further afield to the slag tip, but saw from a distance 2 trains of 3 hoppers with in a 6 hour period. The morning trip working to Sanyelian conveying coal and the yellow sulphuric acid tanks, (very much a feature of the whole system), also shunts the coal yard adjacent to Liugonli, where convicts unload the wagons. Again there was no objection to photography of this operation. Our Lanzhou driver, Mr. Lee (who has 'cousins' everywhere!!), said that the smelter at Sanyelian was a copper smelter, supplied by a deep mine in the valley at the back. Altogether avery successful visit, but luck with the weather played a major part.

YAOJIE SYSTEMS 29- 30/11 &1/12

Originally planned for 3 & a half days but curtailed to 2 & a half. Mainly because the Liahai Hotel apart from having only cold water, (which we could reluctantly accept), had no water at all on the final day. We saw no light engine movements on the gorge section, and there were 3 and 2 return trains on each full day, 2 of which were long enough to be banked. Light was obvious better than Duncan's experience, and could be described as hazy. The newly ex. works loco 0527 was in use, with 4 always in steam on the section.No diesels yet. The section to Liancheng was worked by a single SY 1321, which made 3 return trips to Yaojie in daylight. We saw no other loco on the section, although we did not visit the loco depot at Fengluo. We did visit the foundry, and although there were wagons in the factory confines, there was no loco there. The rails around, whilst not looking totally disused, obviously did not receive frequent use.

LIUJIAXIA 2-3 & part 4/12

Our enforced extra day here was not particularly fruitful, although everyone was very friendly and the weather again was kind. The main traffic is from the fertiliser factory, approached by a short steeply graded branch to the west of the loco depot at Gucheng. Our driver (who had another cousin here), arranged for the shunt to exit the factory steeply downhill with the brakes on and steaming hard!! On the 2nd. the mixed was single headed, but on the 3rd. was longer and banked as far as the first Yellow River bridge. The banker cut off at the bridge and returned to GUcheng immediately.

SANDAOLING 5-6-7-8/12

We were again favoured by good fortune here with 75cm. of snow. The local guide told us that this was the first snow in the area for 50 years! Unlike the other group, though, we found that traffic levels in the opencast were not particularly high, and the maximum number of locos at Xibolizhan at any one time was 6. The 2 Sy were used on PW trains and on 2 days the passenger. The 3rd. day saw this JS worked. On 2 occasions the departure of the passenger from Xibolizhan was smokebox first the other tender first. We were accompanied throughout by the Opencast manager, who was most helpful, and we were allowed full access into both sides of the opencast, the only restraints being obvious safety ones, particularly when a blast was a bout to take place! We visited both deep mines, athough loading and weighing takes a long time. Trains out of both mines, (when they finally do leave), work quite hard to get away for 400metres or so before rolling. The loaded trains are smokebox first. The highlight was undoubtedly the day we chose to phot a returning train from the exchange sidings, which was unusually single headed. It had just as many wagons as previouly observed banked trains, and had some difficulty. A 10 minute blow up was necessary just before the midway road crossing. Weather again was excellent for the first 2 days, but we lost the sun mid morning in high cloud on the 3rd. The 4th. day was again sunny, but high cloud again obscured the sun mid afternoon, before we left. We stayed in Hami each day, commuting the 1 and a half hours at each end of the day. Sunrise was at 9.15 and sunset 18.05.
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