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Chinese Steam April 2006


by Bruce Evans


1. Hangzhou Area (14, 24 and 25 April)

Some time was spent observing National Railways activity. Within the Hangzhou area the wiring for electrification on the line south towards Jinhua appears largely complete. The line towards Shanghai was not checked. Mainline freight traffic is solidly DF4B radiating from Hangzhou apart from the occasional DF4D coming in off the Changting / Wuhu line. The DF4Bs used on freights include converted 21xx ex-passenger locos and converted 77xx ex-DF4Es. Shunting and local workings are likewise solidly DF7C apart from a few duties with DF5s.
Passenger haulage is more varied with 3xxx 170km/hr DF4Ds predominant but with many duties 21xx DF4B, 0xxx 145km/hr DF4D and DF11. DF11Gs also appear, possibly only on a few "Z" workings to and from Shanghai and Beijing. One local / workers passenger was noted hauled by a DF7C. The only steam seen were the 8 or 9 long-dumped JSs at Genshanmen loco stabling point.

2. Shaoxing (26 April to 1 May)

The ore line to the north of Shaoxing remains SY-worked but staff at the yard and shed at the northern end of the line were giving a pretty certain message that steam would finish in 2007. Four SYs were present with only one, 1570, in steam. One of the others was receiving attention in the shed and the remaining two were staged outside.
During the period of the visit there was a regular working departing from the loading areas at around 6.30am as well as a less regular later working departing at around 12.30pm (midday). There was no traffic during the day on the Sunday. The ore line passes through what is almost a continuous construction site for the first 5km or so from the CNR Shaoxing Station where the depot is. At around Km 9 the line passes through a pleasant village with a canal closely paralleling the line on the southern side. This is the most attractive section for photography. At this time of the year the sun was well up by 6.30am. For the second train the sun is generally directly above the line! There are a number of spurs along the line but these generally appeared to be out of use. The traffic from the loading areas is carried in either type K14 low-sided bottom-discharge hoppers, special purpose containers on flatcars or in standard C62 / C64 gondolas.
Access to the line is easy either by taxi or by catching a number 9 bus from Shaoxing - the bus is no good for the 6.30am working though! The bus route passes by around 1km away from the Km 9 area. Beyond the loading area and the end of the standard-gauge line is a 762mm gauge trolley-wire system. Side-tip wagons similar to those on the Xingyang brickworks line were seen. The line is well kept and appears to be double-tracked for quite some length. During a brief visit no locomotives were seen though. In addition to the line work the SY also moves trains between the ore line yard and staging loops on the north side of Shaoxing Station. On one afternoon the SY assembled both the early morning and midday loads and propelled the combined 47-wagon train across the CNR mainline to the staging tracks returning an hour later with a shorter string of empties. On the CNR line DF4Bs, DF4Ds and DF11s worked the long-distance trains while two DF7Cs and a DF5 were seen on shunt duties in the area.
Shaoxing city is one of the more attractive cities in China. The canals, very attractively done restoration in the central city and the older architecture combine to make it rather different to places better known to steam enthusiasts in the north. The Shaoxing Hotel (Fandian) is the most attractive hotel I've stayed at in China.

Locos seen:
SY: 1447(86/4), 1536(87/4), 1570(87/8), 1642(89/3).

3. Nanjing-Xuzhou (15 and 21 April)

Wiring for CNR electrification on this section also appears to be largely complete. All workings observed remained diesel though. DF7Cs 5161 and 5461 were noted on shunts at Bengbu. Many ND5s were seen on freights.

4. Xuzhou-Zhengzhou (15 April)

Again the wiring on this section is almost complete. (With all the major electrification projects soon to be completed a major shuffling of locomotives seems to be on the cards. The DF4s and older DF4Bs as well as the ND5s are going to be at the bottom of the pile.).

5. Zhengzhou Area and Xingyang (16-20 April)

After several disappointments in the past during the colder month and to allow for several days of cloud and Zhengzhou gloom an extended spell was arranged for photographing this line. Dead time was filled in with some exploration and CNR observations in Zhengzhou.

The Xingyang line was operating normally on each of the days spent on the line. While the warmer weather reduced steam effects the greenery and spring crops added some colour to what is generally a drab area.
The Xingyang line is now very easy to access from Zhengzhou. Catch trolleybus 101 or 104 to the western terminus, transfer here to bus 11 and take it to its western terminus which is at the toll-gate on what must be the Zhengzhou - Xingyang boundary, walk about 400m west passing through the toll-gate, where you can catch Xingyang bus 7 (a small bus) to its western terminus at a traffic circle. From here walk about 300m north and you will reach the point where the Xingyang line passes under the road - there is a building with Muslim architectural features on your left. From this point the well-known arch bridge is about 300m to the east and from here the brickworks and shed are about another 15 minutes walk east. From the bridge the loading point is around 5km southwest.
The bus trip to Xingyang takes 1.5 to 2 hours but this time can easily be reduced if you take a taxi part of the way. The soil being transported for brickmaking is now being gained from west of the railway so the loading loop is now the western one. On one gloomy day a trip was made to Dengfeng to investigate a new standard-gauge railway that had been previously noted in the area. This line crosses the Dengfeng-Ruzhou road about 15km south of Dengfeng. Just east of the crossing is a station and loading area with loops as well as what appear to be offices for the line. From discussion with a pair of railway technical workers working on a maintenance railcar at the station it seems this is a new provincial Local railway which extends from the CNR branch at Xinmi to a point on the CNR Luoyang-Baofeng line north of Ruzhou, possibly at Yichuan. The railway workers indicated that there was no steam and that present motive power on the line were 4 DF4 / 4Bs with at least one being a new loco. Brief CNR observations in Zhengzhou indicated that there has been little change in the motive power situation on the west, south and east lines. On the line south more of the SS4(G)s are now in the new dark blue / cream livery which seems to be a Zhengzhou Bureau special. Freights on the line east are mostly DF8B-hauled but many workings remain DF4 and DF4B. A DF11G pair was noted at one of the Zhengzhou passenger loco stabling yards.

6. Wuhu-Tongling (21 and 24 April)

The CNR motive power situation remains unchanged since a visit last year. Passenger trains are hauled by 0xxx DF4Ds, freight trains by Wuhu-based DF4B and local shunt duties are DF7C. Construction of earthworks and bridges for the new Tongling-Jiujiang JV line is now well underway. The junction with the CNR at Tongling is about 10km east of Tongling and it is thus likely that Tongling will soon have two stations, the existing CNR terminal and a new JV line station to the south of the city.
Blue and cream DF4B 9491 has arrived on site as a construction loco - it was previously recorded on the Huaihua-Chongqing new line work. Between Wuhu and Fanchang DF4 2019 and a very smart looking ND2 were noted in a large construction yard - this may be associated as well with the Jiujiang line.

7. Tongling (21 to 24 April)

The sad news from Tongling is that the Tongling Rolling Stock Works operations have now been dieselised with DFH5s 0079 and 0268 replacing the SYs. The last Tongling-built SY, 1714, remains staged on a spur at the small depot near the works. All workings on the industrial network at Tongling serving the steelworks, copper mines, power station, etc, also now appear to be all diesel with GKD1s 0024 and 0025 and an ex-CNR BJ noted. A third GKD1 4011 was also noted at the railway's workshops where 5 SYs are now staged in the open. The SYs are 0686(73/7), 0735(73/10), 0906(74/11), 1170(82/4) and 3019(Ch94/7). 3019 appeared to be freshly painted!
The only SY in steam seen in the Tongling area was 0384 at Fengkuang coal mine. This is a Tongling SY rented by the mine. The mine is served by one train about every second day. The line from the mine via Tongling Rolling Stock works passes through very pleasant countryside. Train operations on the Fengkuang mine line are not fully understood and there may be other workings possibly by the works' DFH5s. On a loop at the mine were around 6 or 7 new wagon chassis. These appeared to be for tank wagons. The mine is about 5km from the works in a quite hilly area. The works is (or was) one of those - similar to Jinzhou 701 - built to manufacture military equipment during emergencies but used for railway manufacture and repair at other times. Seeing the new wagon chassis at the mine may indicate that there may well be manufacturing work taking place in a hidden location near the mine and that there may well be other traffic in addition to coal traffic on the line. If there is though it would be very little and it may now be diesel-hauled. Tongling works is now building new type C70 general-purpose gondolas for the national railways. This type is a development of the C64 based on a higher maximum axle-load. While it was thought the MoR was planning to build wagons to a new standard axle-load of 25t the C70s appear to have a maximum axle-load of only 23.5t - as against 21t for the C64 and most other standard MoR types. (The "70" indicates the payload in tonnes for this type). The C70s are being produced in a dark blue livery. One was seen in a train later on the trip while a new P70 boxcar in the same blue livery was also noted in a yard at some stage.
For narrow-gauge historians, a good tourist map on the wall at the hotel in Tongling showed a railway of about 10km in length (and with a short branch) extending in roughly an easterly direction from the town of Datong close to the Yangtze River. This apparently served at least one coal mine. Hotel staff and the taxi driver indicated that this was an old narrow-gauge line but were adamant that the line no longer existed. A trip was made out to Datong but no sign of the line was seen during the brief exploration.

8. Wuhu-Hangzhou via Changting (24 April)

A very pleasant daylight train journey was made on 24 April from Tongling to Hangzhou via Changting. The day train had a single East German-built RZ (soft-seat) coach in which at no stage were there more than 15 passengers. The train staff were very attentive and friendly, the day was sunny and clear and the countryside pleasant without much polluting industry.
The line from Wuhu to Hangzhou was recently doubled and after the opening of the new bridge over the Yangtze at Wuhu this line has become an important freight corridor to and from the north bypassing Shanghai and Nanjing. Freight traffic between Wuhu (possibly from Hefei) and Hangzhou is hauled by a roughly 60:40 mix of DF4Bs and new freight DF4Ds. Passenger traffic appeared to be hauled by a mix of DF4Bs and DF4Ds in their passenger versions. A single ND5 hauled freight was passed between Wuhu and the junction with the Yingtan line at Xuanzhou - presumably this had come from the Yingtan line and was bound for Nanjing.
At the junction station of Changting there is a loco depot on the southwest side of the yard. Through trains do not exchange locos here but there must be a fair number of freight trains with Changting as an end destination. The yard at Changting is large and looks new, but it was also rather empty. The new JV railway from eastern Jiangsu terminates here but no locos from this line were seen. What appeared to be the yard pilot was blue/gray DF7C 5554.

9. New Steam Locations

While chatting to the railway and loco staff of the ore line at Shaoxing the one gent who seemed to know quite a bit about steam locos mentioned that there was still steam operating at a steelworks and some kind of mining set-up at Jiande and Lanxi on the CNR branch from Jinhuashi to Baisha. This gent knew that steam had finished at Hangzhou Steelworks and that there was still steam at Hangzhou Glassworks. He indicated that there were small numbers of SYs still in operation at both Lanxi and Jiande.

May 2006
Bruce Evans

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2006 Bruce Evans