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Qian`an, Tangshan, Pingxiang, Jalainur, Mudanjiang, Jixi, Hegang, Huludao, Nanpiao, JiTong, Yuanbaoshan, Baotou, Daba-Guyaozi, Yaojie, Liujiaxia, Sandaoling, Baiyin

by Derek Jenkins


This is a report of my 5 weeks in China. Many more highs than lows and clear blue skies almost through out. Having travelled further than ever before on a China trip I  saw over 170 locos in steam. Remarkable for the end of 2005. Fortunately I managed to retain my sanity in the crazy country that is modern China and  doubtless since my return beer sales will now have plummeted in various provinces.

My first port of call was Tangshan. I took Train 4427 from Beijing Nan where DFH 5 0368 and an unidentified BJ were carriage pilots. The line to Tianjin is being electrified and is 3 tracked all the way and signalled for reversible running. DFH5's still retain shunting and carriage pilot duties in and around Tianjin. Amongst those seen were 0070 and 2007. ND5's also still run into Tianjin on freight. Also here was a DF11G double unit. Between Tianjin and Tanggu the new rapid transit runs close to CNR. It is heavily engineered and uses EMU's on its OHE line. Arrival at Tangshan was 20 minutes late. A new feature of running on CNR that was to follow me throughout.

Qian'an Steelworks

I had arranged an official visit here. I was taken first to the blast furnace area called, I understand, Binhecun. The blast furnace was out of commission and the 4 SY's in steam here were hanging around with little to do. I then went to the central area that Bruce Evans previously described. Plinthed here are SY 0026, XK 13 113 and ZG80 electric 136. Despite reports to the contrary I also found DF4DD 0037 working in this area. Just over the tracks from the plinthed locos is the shed / works. Here was another DF4DD 0050, some electrics and 3 dead SY . I then went to Yangdianzizhen which is on the line to the iron ore deposits. In fact the line splits here one being electrified the other not. 3 SY were in use on a fairly steeply graded line against empties where there is a train every 1-2 hours.

Locos seen : SY (in steam) -0424, 0768, 0963, 986(sic), 1034, 1752, 1760. (OOU)- 0697, 0727, 0983, 1033.

Electrics - 131, 132, 135, 136, 204 (all ZG80's I think). 351/2 (ZG150's). 7215/7 - EL2's.

Kailuan Mining Administration

This was a trawl around all the parts of this railway which is more extensive than reported. Sadly dieselisation is happening quickly now.

Tangshan Colliery- As reported steam is finished here with GK1C's 0619, 0634 and GK1E 3150 in charge. SY's OOU here - 0793, 0955 (freshly painted and said to be being retained), 0964, 1679.

Linxi - Went here for the arrival of the passenger train at 09:40 but it was in the hands of GK1C 0289.

Guye Works - This is not far beyond Linxi platform down a track after the level crossing. I was told permission to visit had been refused but on arrival the gatehouse was empty and the place seemingly deserted. As it turned out this was not so as the manager immediately appeared but far from being hostile he was very welcoming. Unfortunately he could not find the key to the works door so I was unable to identify one SY inside. Others present (all OOU) were - 1068, 1171, 1502, 1538.

Fangezhuang Colliery - This is found by carrying on the same road from Guye then taking a track up the side of the wall that surrounds the mine. There was a strong police presence here. They were happy for me to photograph outside but access to the shed and yard was refused. However, I had no need to worry as the crew of the loco in the shed yard came over, got permission to bring the loco out onto the main line then drove it up and down for me to photograph then even more remarkably went back to the shed and towed out the 2 locos inside! Diesels . however, now have the main duties here. SY (in steam) - 1184, 1289, (OOU) -1366,1509. Diesels - GK1C 0288, GK1E 3206, DF12 0090.

Liujiatou- I cannot describe how we got here and after the friendliness at Fangezhuang I hit the downside with a mine manager adamant he didn't want any foreigners anywhere near. It is perfectly possible to ride the passenger train and get off here in the mine however and indeed the passenger  passed through with GK1C 0618 in charge. As a result of the problems I could identify only SY 0475 in steam although one other was working and 3 or 4 dead.

Qinyang - No access problems here but nothing in steam either. SY (OOU) - 0031, 0132, 1069. Diesels - GK1C 0633, DF7C 5706.

Tangshan Steelworks

Visits here are no longer allowed but I was able to identify the following from a public path - SY (in steam ) -0981, 1439, 1516, 1695. Diesels - GK1C 0151. GK1E 3197.

Tangshan University

An SY is plinthed in the grounds here. It purports to be 0001 and has a fake 60/8 worksplate of the wrong sort. The loco is not one of the prototype series. Trying to examine the radius arm in the gloom with the light from my mobile phone ( a new level of insanity)  was not easy. I think it is 0962.


From Tangshan I headed South on train T253 from Tianjin with a DF4D in charge. This was delayed by pw work before Dezhou where a very tatty orange DF4 came on which lost more time as it ambled to Shijiazhuang.

After that I lost interest until I woke up to find we were now 80 minutes late.I was more than surprised to see an ND 2  shuffling with some wagons just south of Yuejiang. Shunters and carriage pilots seen from here and  in Changsha and at Zhuzhou were all ND 3 .


Liling & Pingxiang

My intention was to look at the NG line at Liling last reported some time ago as dieselised but busy. Sadly I found it closed and lifted with only the engine shed remaining. This railway also had a standard gauge section which is extant but also closed. Here I found SY 1275 lurking amongst the foliage. I decided to go on to Pingxiang to see what was operating in the steelworks. Unfortunately my taxi driver, despite my protestations, took me to the main gate much to the surprise of the security staff. How I got from there to Pingxiang CNR Shed is too long a story but nevertheless there I found JS 8139, 8254, 8337, 8397 all OOU. There was also an OOU steam crane and a large coal pile as if they were awaiting the word to restart steam. I eventually abandoned any further attempts at the Steelworks with the rain pissing down and the streets turning into quagmires. The only bad weather of the trip.

The CNR line from Zhuzhou Eastwards is being completely reconstructed on a new alignment and being electrified. There are numerous tunnels and viaducts being built. Timekeeping of the passenger trains on this line is worse than woeful ,because of the work,  with single line running in operation. All freight was DF4 and all passenger DF4D.


I headed back North on Z18 from Changsha a train which sports televisions and headphones for every bunk with 6 film channels. This train rode excellently well and  , not surprisingly, was into Beijing Xi before  time. From here I met the Steam & Safaris group. We took a flight to Harbin then N91 to Jalainuur.



Back to its full on best. 2 days of constant action.

SY (in steam) :- 0471, 0682, 0867, 0924, 0958/9, 1192/3, 1240, 1256/7/8, 1284/5, 1303, 1371, 1374/5/6, 1401, 1416, 1424, 1448/9/50, 1496, 1587, 1600, 1618, 1654, 1663, 1678, 1688, 1690, 3005.

(OOU) :-0056, 0613/4, 1041, 1126, 1234,1586, 1601, 1617,  1619, 1650, 1681. Some of these are in ex works condition.

From here we headed back to Harbin on N92 before taking N1 to Mudanjiang. This looked to be a DMU replacement with a DF4D on 5 coaches.



Bits and pieces of steam persist around Mudanjiang :-

Mudanjiang CNR Station

SY 0452 and a C2 said to have come from Hailin Forestry Railway are plinthed here.

CNR Apartments

In the yard of these flats close to the CNR station is another plinthed C2  numbered 01

Mudanjiang Cement Works

This is at Wenchun about 20 Kms South on the Tumen line. Here QJ's 1576 and 6980 were in steam but with nothing to do as the works was not in production due to the over production of cement in China at present.

Mudanjiang Works

SY 1530 is still in steam here. SY 0118 is OOU.

Mudanjiang Power Station

High deflectored QJ 1675 and 1830 were in steam. JS 6242 was OOU in the shed.

China Coal & Coke Mudanjiang Limited.

They have premises close to The Power Station but on the other side of the line. Found the place by accident. The Police there are extraordinarily fierce. They have SY 0967 OOU with the work being done by DFH3 0269.



We then headed for Jixi



The various parts of the Jixi system were much as previously reported although all seemed to be suffering from late arrival of empty wagons from CNR


As is almost always the case when I visit nothing was happening and no work planned for that day. SY (in steam) :-0477, 0951


A brief visit on the way up from Lishu and then a longer visit later. On the first visit only Erchang Mine produced any action. On the second once the empties pitched up from CNR we had 2 storming trains up the hill to Zhongxin, the second banked.

SY (in steam) :-0341, 746(sic), 0804, 0898, 1340,1369.


The early morning line up at Dongchang was excellent with all the servicing being done in the centre roads thus making photography much easier. The usual action at the washery with donkey carts to-ing and fro-ing as much as the SY's.

SY (in steam) :-237(sic), 0590, 0733, 1018, 1437, 1544.


A brief visit here. We did see a loaded train on the line but it was a downhill drift. An uphill train would require some effort but would be tender first.

SY (in steam) :- 1344, 1545.


Less action here than normal

SY (in steam) :- 0950, 1214, 1446.

Loco Works

The staff here were pleased to show off their new equipment obtained from Mudanjiang Works. This, at least , gives some hope for retention of steam on this system.

SY (in works) :- 0639, 0804, 1058, 1095, 1118, 1351.



The visit here was soured by the railway doubling the price to hire a railbus only when we arrived. An unpleasant little trick. Otherwise nothing new to report.

C2 (in steam) - 041, 043, 168. (OOU) :- 04, 011 and (as ever) 044.



Again little new to report. Waste is now being tipped into the otherwise defunct big hole on the town side of the hole. This is a steam operation.The line to the Power station , recently mentioned in CRJ, is not electrified but trains are as much as 4 hours apart and nearly always tender first. The line to the coking plant near the power station sees a train less than once a day but it is a chimney first climb after reversing in the yard near the power station. The passenger train timetable has some small detail alterations but generally is as seen a year ago. Timekeeping on the Xing'an line was inconsistent Reports that it does not run on one line are incorrect.

SY (in steam) :- 0635, 0905, 1030, 1370, 1498, 1685, 3013/4. (OOU) :- 0354, 0472, 0498, 0555, 0561, 0683, 0799, 1464, 3023/4.


From here we took train K340 South to Jinzhou Nan a large glass edifice in the middle of nowhere. Incidentally the line crosses a NG line about 20Kms before this station.



My second visit and the second time the line was not running. This looked quite serious. The Cement Works was not operating and there appears to be some take over imminent. The boiler being drained on the shunting SY was ominous.

Only a shabby JS 8207 was in steam. Also here - JS 6307, SY 0513, 1415



Having failed at Huludao we moved on quickly to Nanpiao but action here was well down on my previous visit. The line to the tip from the washery did not look like it had been used for a while. Ominously just arrived in the yard were DFH5 0503 and somewhat ludicrously NY1003 15416. The afternoon passenger on the Sanjiazi line was BJ hauled. It crawled past us not a little late leaving behind the distinct smell of burning rubber

SY (In steam ) :- 0754, 0973, 1092, 1478. Diesels BJ 3132, 3241/8. DFH5 0503, NY1003 15416.



Work on the long abandoned conveyor from pit to power station has recommenced and indeed is almost finished. Equally worryingly an area of land between the shed and the offices is being levelled. Far be it for me to suggest this is for the new diesel servicing point.  Otherwise nothing new save the afternoon passenger ran at 14:10 .

The Power Station's GK1D 4008 was also seen.

JS (in steam): -6250, 6544, 8218, 8250, 8418.


Ji Tong

From Yuanbaoshan it was the well trodden route to Daban. The visit coincided with the 17/11 charter. I had decided to forego this and concentrate on Daban - Lindong but the blockade of Daban yard meant no steam was running at all. I was therefore forced to endure the charter. For someone who first visited The Pass in 1997 and saw the passenger train run there in daylight this charter took unreality to new levels but I suppose some people liked it. A sad way to end my last visit and an early departure for the west wrestling with the arcane issuing of sleepers on the DMU.


Baotou Steelworks

A year ago I found a brand new DF7 by the shed and the SY's down at heel but this time no sign of this diesel and the SY's were much better cared for again. The new blast furnace is now in operation and the plant is very busy. Slag tipping produced a train every 40 minutes or so with 2 on adjacent tips at the same time.

SY (in steam) :- 0502, 1431, 1517/8, 1521, 1631,1676/7,1696/7, 1719, 1723/7, 1731,1743/8,  2015. (OOU) :-264(sic), 0392, 0422, 0501, 0710, 0823/4.

YJ (OOU) :- 115, 232. JS (OOU) :) 58001/2.

Diesels :- GK0 1002/17/8, GK1 0055/64/70/7/8, 0106/7, GK3B 0002/3 , GK1F 1009. Dumped :- GK1G 6015/6, TH4 087.


From here we took train 1717 to Yinchuan. This train was incredibly crowded to such an extent that 3 people were sitting in a sink at the end of one coach.



A curtailed visit in view of the appearance of diesels which are ugly orange DF4DD's 0052/3. With only 2 trains each way in daylight and these 2 both on the line this is now hardly worth a visit. All traffic to the mines seems still to be steam and there seems to be a regular 16:30 working to the new mine chimney first.

QJ (in steam) :-7061, 7195, 7200.


From Yinchuan took Train N901 direct to Haishiwan



It was snowing as we arrived at Haishiwan. The road to Yaojie was lethal but this had not stopped some Japanese gricers from balancing themselves on the edge of a long drop into the gorge ,only yards from a minibus that had overturned on the ice, in the hope of a photo of the return train in the gorge. Fortunately the weather soon improved.

As previously reported this line operates in 2 parts Haishiwan - Yaojie (for which the loco shed is at Yaojie) and Yaojie - Liancheng. The latter line (although it serves the power station and Smelter at Heqiaoyi) is in fact owned by a large alloy works at Liancheng. The loco shed for this section is near Liancheng which is a good distance beyond Heqiaoyi. The village is called Fengle but the station in the nearby yard is called Yonghong. Both sheds were visited without problems but the security staff at Yaojie stattion do not like photographers in the station yard. This seems to be more to do with unfamiliarity than hostility.

On the Haishiwan section the morning train can leave Yaojie as early as 07:30 and be on its way back by 09:00. The large bridge on the outskirts of Haishiwan is a good photo position as is the gorge but at this time of the year the light is not on a lot of it this early. On one day this train either ran very early or not at all (probably the latter). The afternoon train can leave Yaojie any time after 13:30 and can only be a light engine or engines if the return load is heavy.

The Section North of Yaojie is perhaps more interesting because it sees more traffic. There is a steep climb out of Yaojie yard through a mass of hutongs and the train continues to climb over a river bridge by the non rail served power station on the outskirts of Yaojie and onwards. 2 uphill trains ran on this section in the morning and 2 or 3 in the afternoon, although times vary.

In all this was a very well worthwhile visit and one worth repeating

Yaojie SY (in steam) :-0362, 0681  (OOU) :-0527, 0990, 1103,1713. This latter has a Tongling 1988 worksplate. All these locos have been overhauled recently at Baiyin indeed 1103 was in the works when I was there a year ago.

Liancheng SY (in steam ):-0150, 1097, 1321, (OOU):- 0633, 0737, 1402, 3020. Again all but 0737 have been recently been overhauled at Baiyin. 

Also there is a cement works in Haishiwan. A steep line drops to the works from near the CNR station . SY here :-0644, 1130.



I think it would not be unfair to say not a lot happens here. The chimney first Gucheng school trains only work for a few yards to get  out of the station at Gucheng then drift downhill all the way to Lujiaxia. It follows that the return is uphill but tender first. In addition to these runs previously mentioned there is also a train from Gucheng at 17:30 with an immediate return.

The mixed train is the real point of interest. Wagons are collected for it from fertiliser plants at the far end of Gucheng yard and these do provide a chimney first return run. After going to Lujiaxia the mixed is supposed to leave Gucheng at 14:30 but can run rather later. This train can be banked depending on the load although it is difficult to see why this is necessary. A good place to photograph it is after Dachuan by taking the ferry across the Yellow River  although it has to be borne in mind that the train dfifts down from Dachuan and only opens up after the tunnel on the Yellow River bank. Steam now only operates to Shangxuan due to a CNR ban beyond there.

Clearly the locos here have an identity crisis. Indeed whatever locos are actually on the line they can only be 8223 or 8227 . If they are not they are disguised as such by number plates slotted over the real numbers.

JS here (in steam ) :- 8223, 8352, (OOU) :- 8226/7.



Took Train T285 from Lanzhou, headed by an SS7C for the first part which was painfully slow due to PW work.

Our visit here was blessed by deep snow (said to be the first snow of any consequence here for 50 years) and clear blue skies. Perhaps this has influenced my views but I have to say this was an exceptionally good visit with photography from the red ball at sunrise to the red ball at sunset. Xibolizhan merited a whole day with very high levels of traffic from the hole to the tips. 2 trains storming out side by side was not unusual and on one occasion 3. Dongbolizhan was not so busy (probably because the hole had met its coal target for the year) but again worthwhile. The run from the exchange sidings at Liushuquan happened every day between 12:00 and 13:30 with JS front and rear. This train moves slowly enough to chase it on the adjacent road. There is at least one daily chimney first run from the Beiquan deep mines, with a fine mountain backdrop, but the trains only work for a few hundred yards after leaving the 2nd mine.

JS (in steam) :-  6203/6/8/9/10, 6223/4, 6436, 8027/53/5/76/8/81/89, 8190/4/7, 8314/58/66/8/84. SY (in steam) :- 1593,1718. JS (OOU) :- 5455/73, 6204/5/8/13/ 59, 8040/80, 8167/73/88/93. SY (OOU) :-0092, 1304, 1720.


From Hami we took train T194 toLlanzhou (another late arrival) before a bus onwards to Baiyin.



The deep Copper Mine at Shenbutong is now back in action and this now results in an uphill train of tipplers which  leave Baiyin either immediately the morning Shenbutong passenger has returned or it crosses it at 6Km platform. The passenger times are nominally as before but the afternoon uphill Sanyelian train inexplicably ran half an hour early on one day. Also the morning Shenbutong train passes Sanyelian almost as the earlier train to there arrives despite leaving 15 minutes later making photography of both, other than on the lower section, difficult. On Saturdays only the Shenbutong passenger runs (the tipplers ran too) and stops additionally at Sanyelian Upper platform. On the Saturday we were there this train stalled on the icy rail just short of Shenbutong and only restarted with much effort after the track was sanded in front of the train.

There are several runs into the off limits military area and one of these is to take a ladle train to a tip. The military plant also has at least one loco of its own as DFH5 0117 appeared from there .

SY (in steam) :-0206, 0965, 1047, 1470, 1581/3, 2008 (this engine is in fact 0701 it having been renumbered following an accident with a lucky (Olympic Games) number!). SY (OOU) :- 0134/5/90819, 1013 (inworks). JS (OOU) :-8021/82, 8224, 8350.


From here it was back to Lanzhou for train T76 back to Beijing. Another considerably late arrival. The only steam seen en route were several very tatty JS fiddling about at Yima.


This was the last Steam & Safaris trip with Derek Phillips now retiring and a very succesful one on which to end. Thanks also to the ever inscrutable Lu Yong for all the arrangements.