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Steam in China 2006

Shibanxi, Liujiaxia, Baiyin, Pingdingshan, Hegang, Jalainur, Tiefa, Nanpiao

by Roger Blundell



Sunday 11 June

British Airways flight BA 38, ticket booked on internet for £380.  Online check in very convenient.  The usual late start from Heathrow due to congestion  


Monday 12 June

Beijing arrrive 0949, 14 late.  1055 flight to Chengdu, Y1260 (£87.50) takes off 1118 arrives Chengdu 1343.  Book ticket for 14th on late evening flight to Lanzhou Y630 (£43.75).

Negotiate taxi to Qianwei with city taxi driver for Y300 (£21).  Depart airport at 1417 and taken to long distance vehicle which proceeds to waste about half an hour getting petrol in town then along expressway to outskirts of Leshan where I am transferred to a local taxi with a mad driver.  Had it not been for horrendous road works I would probably have made the 1730 from Shibanxi but only reached the roundabout on the outskirts of Qianwei, 7½ miles away, at 1719.  A nuisance but able to catch up by dint of an early start next morning.

Tianbo Hotel had only suites available at Y580 so continue down road to next hotel on right (Feng Huang?) where a very good clean en suite room was Y100 (£6.95).  This place is between the two bus stations, actually only one block after the local bus terminal, just before the traffic lights.

Good massage place on the street first left after the local bus station, Y45 (£3.15) for one hour.


Tuesday 13 June

Taxi at 0545 to Shibanxi, Y26 (£1.80) on meter.  Enter ‘Old China’ once again but arrive at station so early breakfast is not even cooked.  If you are catching the 0700 train 0600 is the earliest you need to leave Qianwei.


0700 Shibanxi – Huangcunjin 0815      7

0820 Huangcunjin – Caiziba 0850        7

1100 Mifeng – Huangcunjin 1145          10

1150 Huangcunjin – Shibanxi 1320     10

1400 Shibanxi – Huangcunjin 1515      10


This is still just as classic a line through rural China at its best.  Lovely South China setting amongst wooded hills, valleys, water and traditional old houses, although many of the latter now have satellite dishes.  Traditional rural ways of life continue, ducks everywhere amongst the rice fields, also horses to carry goods and water buffalos for ploughing.  A magic landscape and a magic line.

I was the only outsider on the trains all day.

The 0700 was well loaded with provisions for local shopkeepers; Bagou consignments were taken forward by hand trolley.

At Caiziba value train clattering off around the big curve then walk down to Mifeng.  En route No. 9 comes up on a brick train.  The bricks are dropped off where required & left in a big heap by the lineside.

On the 1100 from Mifeng we crossed No. 9 on a coal train at Jiaoba.

After watching the 1520 depart walk back from Huangcunjin to Bagou.  Book into the usual ludian below the station, same babbling family, just imagine having granny as a mother in law.  Pay Y50 (£3.45) for the same room/same price as last year.  Good 3 plate dinner 25 Yuan, uninspiring breakfast 5 Yuan.  Communication through phrase books proves difficult, not all the family are literate.  I am asked through young girl interpreter if I think the place is good value, my reply is that it is just average.

Attempt to phot 1840 from Bagou to Huangcunjin, light down to 30th at 2.4.  A lovely sight even so.


Wednesday 14 June

0845 Bagou – Huangcunjin 0850          10

0855 Huangcunjin – Shibanxi 1015      10

1045 Shibanxi – Huangcunjin 1205      10

1210 Huangcunjin – Mifeng 1305        10

1320 Mifeng - Shibanxi – 1350             7 train engine, 10 pilot


Another dull and cool morning at Bagou.  Late start from Bagou due to large volumes of merchandise being handled.  Cross No. 7 on coal empties at Mifeng 0945 hrs.  Late start from Shibanxi at 1045 following late arrival and coaling of loco.  Further delay crossing No. 7 again with its loaded coal train at Jiaoba.

Once again we met up with No. 7, still at Mifeng with its coal train at 1300.  This of course meant that the runround loop was blocked so a complicated set of shunting moves took place and we eventually left double headed with the coal wagons remaining at Mifeng.

The dreaded tourists were on the scene this day.  My coach (the staff coach) on the 1045 ex Shibanxi was invaded by a group of prosperous looking Beijingers who fortunately got off at Yuejin.  There were a few other Chinese tourists around at Shibanxi and Yuejin as well but none dared penetrate the rural heartland.


Down into the town for bus to Qianwei local bus station.  The long distance bus terminal at Qianwei is further down the road.  Get bus to Chengdu at 1450,  arrives at Chengdu Shiyang Bus Terminal on the southern outskirts at 1800.  Taxi to airport, which is nearby but driver goes long way round, Y54 including toll (£3.70)


There is a money change place at the airport but they would not change traveller’s cheques because their Beijing office had closed for the day.  Cash machine takes Nationwide debit card.


2220 flight to Lanzhou, departs 2212, Lanzhou arrive 2316, bus into town, arrives & terminates 0035 at Lanzhou Eastern Hotel where smart en suite room is discounted to Y222 (£15.40)


Thursday 15 June

Taxi from outside hotel to Liujiaxia, 171 Yuan (£11.90) including toll for mountain road.  Took 1 hour 40 minutes despite very fast driving on new road next to river once clear of the sprawling Lanzhou city.

JS 8223 photted arriving Liujiaxia 1154 on the one coach shuttle, a fine sight through the market stalls set up on the crossing street and platform.  Note that this time is slightly earlier than previous reports.


1158 Liujiaxia – Gucheng 1206            JS 8223

Nice along the Yellow River with its mountain background.


1358 Gucheng - Liujiaxia 1406             JS 8227

1417 Liujiaxia – Shangpo 1600                        JS 8227 + JS 8223 banker Gucheng to Baijiba

I could only estimate the load of the mixed.  I put down 900 tons but on reflection I think most of the wagons were loaded rather than empty so it could have been as much as 1400 tons.  The train definitely needed two locos with much flog up from Gucheng and also from the river to Baijiba where the banker dropped off.  The passenger coaches and the van were both crowded.  British semaphores at loops add to the lines character.

A long hot wait at Shangpo where I was invited into someone’s house, a traditional old place with a small shop at the front and a rear courtyard with a rose and vegetable garden.


1826 Shangpo - Liujiaxia 1950             JS 8227

Only a light load with a handful of empty wagons but a very pleasant run along the gorge with the low evening sunlight.  Again train crowded with students.


Stay at Huakang Hotel on the river side of main street towards Gucheng, once again the nearest hotel to the station on this road would not take me.  Room with facilities Y80 (£5.60), quite good.  Foot massage upstairs by male masseur, a new experience!


Friday 16 June


0748 Liujiaxia – Gucheng 0756            JS 8223

Good along river with early morning sunlight.


Back to Liujiaxia by bus, recognised by English speaking lady from last year.  Explore town during morning, little to see but quite clean and pleasant down by the river.  Photograph 1158 arrival but sun is virtually overhead.


1202 Liujiaxia – Gucheng 1210            JS 8223

Travel with bus lady going home for lunch, I am invited to share meal and meet the family.  Given a glass of Chinese red wine, an experience I will attempt to avoid in future.  We return again at 1400.


1400 Gucheng - Liujiaxia 1408             JS 8227

1420 Liujiaxia – Shangpo 1555                        JS 8227

Conveyed 4 empty and 4 loaded wagons + 2 coaches and van, 490 tons gross.  Note that with this light load train was not banked so it must only be assisted when really necessary.  The wagons are now on the front in both directions.

Very good thrash out of Gucheng and also good on starts & other uphill sections.  Two trussed sheep in van provided further good sound effects.


Very hot afternoon, stay in train to avoid worst of heat.  Note that Shangpo is not the name used by locals for this place.

CNR diesel arrives with a very long freight, some of the wagons were had to be left for the following days train


1823 Shangpo - Liujiaxia 1956             JS 8227

Load 27 empty wagons, 2 bogies + van, 775 tons gross (by now I had sussed what a wagon spring looked like when empty or loaded.)

An excellent run.  Despite being almost a quarter of a mile behind the loco some very good noise was heard.  On the scenic climb out of Yanguoxia as the line curves up and round through barren rocky hills to the summit tunnel the loco looked superb. 

The train also made a very fine sight snaking round the curves along the river.  After crossing the river the low sun at rear glinting on the train added to the atmosphere.  Then a superb finale as we flogged up away from the river past the irrigated tree lined fields with the multi coloured riverside cliffs in the background.  The loco could even be heard in the still evening air when out of sight on an S bend.

After detaching the vans at Gucheng we rattled nicely along the Yellow River into Liujiaxia.

And so ended a fine afternoons bashing, not quite up to the standard of a pair of QJs on a 17 coach 770 ton express over Tianzhu but standing comparison with much of the best that was around in the 1990s – certainly a superb bash for 2006.


Good dinner at a restaurant on the riverbank then back to the hotel for a massage.  Presented with a different male masseur but after much bafflement and arguing a sweet young girl was brought in to perform.



Saturday 17 June

Small bus to Lanzhou West bus station, dep 0800 arrive 1000.  Very slow trolleybus to railway station then walk down road to bus station.  Being a Saturday roads noticeably less busy in town.  Hassle buying ticket for bus to Baiyin.  Booking office seems not to sell tickets for all the buses, they wanted to put me on the 1240.  Get on bus just outside terminal at 1129 & buy ticket on board.  Arrives Baiyin bus station 1255.


1515 Baiyin – Shenbutong 1555           SY 1047

1705 Shenbutong – Baiyin 1740           SY 1047

1815 Baiyin – Shenbutong 1850           SY 1047

1915 Shenbutong – Baiyin 1950           SY 1047

Load now 7 but still some very good noise all the way from the outskirts of Baiyin.  Trains not that busy, perhaps because it was Saturday.  The loco of the 1515 does not wait at Shenbutong but disappears for an hour or so.


This area is still an environment disaster, smog, dust, pollution, dereliction, multicoloured riverbeds and chimneys pouring out filth.


Stay again at Tongcheng Hotel again.  Last years Y120 rooms now being sold at Y90 (£6.25).  Meal in revolving restaurant on 25th floor.  Revolving mechanism had failed, given the state of Baiyin probably no bad thing.


This hotel has a swish bathhouse just round the corner downstairs which came up with a masseuse and an oil massage which will not be easily forgotten.  The girl, attractive to put it mildly, was somewhat younger than usual and wearing very tight & very short shorts plus a nice feminine lacy top.  She administered a 45 minute massage which was rather more all encompassing than usual and capable of driving a 95 year old wild.  All this for Y88 + Y15 for the bathhouse (£7.15).  So all you single men, or married men even who fancy a change from what ‘er indoors’ offers on a regular basis, don’t miss this place!


Sunday 18 June

0735 Baiyin – Liugongli 0750               SY 1047

0805 Liugongli – Shenbutong 0832      SY 1583

0910 Shenbutong – Baiyin 0945           SY 1583


Note that the 0735 was running on a Sunday, well loaded too.  Caught this train to Liugongli then forward on the 0750.  More good noise on the 0735 en route and leaving Liugongli.  Fine climb up into the barren hills to Shenbutong with SY 1583.

As with last years visit no sign on either day of police or security services anywhere.


Bus from the picking up point one block south of the bus station to Lanzhou, depart 1000, Lanzhou bus station arrive 1118.

If you are going from Baiyin to Lanzhou airport it is 63 miles/101 km from the tollgate at the entrance to the Baiyin – Lanzhou expressway.


Arrive at railway station 1130 and like last year hard sleeper berth still available to Zhengzhou on T118 Lanzhou – Shanghai express for a mere Y256 (£17.80).  Scenic sections of run alleviate boredom.


Monday 19 June

Zhengzhou arrive r/t at 0248.  All night internet cafι above station at end of station building (far end from Xi’an).

Catch first bus to Pingdingshan at 0520 from bus terminal opposite station.  Sods about in Zhengzhou for 35 minutes then serves several small towns arriving Pingdingshan North bus station at 0820.  At a level crossing note a narrow gauge passenger train heading eastwards.   The first fast bus of the day leaves Zhengzhou after 0600.


To Pingdingshan Fandian.  Rooms now Y160, haggled down to Y138 (£9.60).  Last years price was Y120.

Book flight and airport taxi at Fandian travel agency for Wednesday.


1330 Zhongxin – Hanzhuang 1535        SY 1687

1549 Hanzhuang – Zhongxin 1758        SY 1687

Baking hot day, 98˚F.  All the fans in the coach were working, but to no effect, just like being in an oven, shades of bashing in India just before the monsoon breaks.

Some good noise on the uphill stretches on the way out but actually much better on the way back with the loco tender first.


2 diesels in use on Hanzhuang line freights, also JS 6253/8120.  The other passenger loco was JS 8065


Thankful for a/c taxi back to hotel.  Pingdingshan taxis now smart modern and metered.  In fact taxis in most cities now metered, start price in Liujiaxia is a modest Y3.  Beijing taxis though now start at Y10 then Y2 per km.


Good meal at Fandian then expensive but good massage, Y28 bathhouse + Y116 oil & walk over massage (£10)


Tuesday 20 June

A cooler day, minimum 74˚F, maximum 96˚F but cooler by evening with thunderstorms.


0740 Zhongxin – Hanzhuang 0945        SY 1209

0955 Hanzhuang – Zhongxin 1200        SY 1209

Hot quiet run on the way out but quite noisy coming back, not a patch on previous days run though.

1340 Zhongxin – Shisankuang 1450     SY 1209

1700 Shisankuang – Zhongxin 1825     SY 1209 to Tianzhuang then change loco for JS 8062 to Zhongxin

Mostly a quiet trundle but some noise up into Shisankuang and with the JS into Pingdingshan.


Despite diesels plenty of JS freights around, also two QJ were in steam, 6450 and 6850 I think.


Dinner again at the Fandian.  Order blind from the fish menu.  It arrives for inspection in a plastic bag, not quite a fish but a live tortoise peering out.  Rather tasty though, meat a bit like mutton or goat and a jelly tasting like oyster.  All nicely served around and under the shell with the head separate.  Restaurant also has a menu of speciality teas.


Another good massage, voucher from previous night saves having to pay for bathhouse, Y116 (£8)  Expensive by Chinese standards but its above average quality, lots of hot towels & pads and the girls pamper you rather more than usual. 


Wednesday 21 June


0600 Zhongxin – Shisankuang 0710     SY 1687

0750 Shisankuang – Zhongxin 1015     SY 1687

Slow and quiet but you can value the tender first outward run from the open vestibule at the front of the train.  Arrives back 15 late at 1015. 


To Fandian for pre booked taxi to Zhengzhou airport, Y260 (£18), including Y55 toll.  It’s about 85 – 90 miles (140 km).  I had thought this was a rip off, (travel agent made a point of telling taxi company that the booking was for a foreigner) and tried to haggle price down but to no avail, on reflection at about Y1.45 per km it’s not that much more than the km charge for a town taxi.  Even so next time I might try and arrange it myself.

Cash machine at airport rejected my Nationwide card twice.

1500 flight to Haerbin, Y1310 (£91), also rather expensive, but it did the business, saving some long train journeys.  Plane unfortunately goes via Dalian but everything worked well, took off at 1513, 42 minutes on the ground at Dalian, Haerbin arrive 1849, bus departs 1903 and arrives Haerbin station 1940, just right for the overnights to Jalainuer and Hegang.


My choice was to go first to Hegang, judging that the visit to Jalainuer could be better planned this way round.  Like last year no berths could be booked on T19 departing at 2020 so after two nights in a smart hotel, luxury massages, fast taxis and mingling with the new rich in the air it was down to earth and back to Old China with a big bump as I clutched my unreserved hard seat ticket and mingled in the waiting hall with hundreds or even thousands of others, most of them going on the Hegang train. 

By deviously making my way to the gate before it opened I was one of the first to reach the conductors booth.  It was pandemonium here, everyone pushing, shoving and shouting, glad I was one of the first.  The conductor dealt with some 10 people with priority chits then gave me a berth, Y97 in total (£6.75), cheap as this is a non a/c train.

Note that Conductors booths are now always in the second coach from the dining car.  

It took awhile to fight my way through just one hard seat coach, people wedged in the vestibules and standing all the way along the corridor, food trolley blocked in, sweating hot but eventually made it from coach 6 to coach 15, a nice old vehicle with wooden panelling, partly a staff coach.  All very traditional, even down to the attendant washing her feet in the hand basin.


Thursday 22 June

Arrive Hegang r/t at 0548.  Phot 0600 to Junli then wretched electric backs on to 0640 to Xingshan.  Did not see the 1418 leave but a steam crew said it would be electric worked.


A few timetable alterations:-


0815 Jipei – Junli now departs 0830, return arrives back at Jipei 1021.  I assume these retimings are to accomodate the diversion via Junde of the 0655 ex Junli.

On the Shanzhuang line the morning train is at 0630 from Junli arriving Shanzhuang at 0740.  It returns at 0800, omitting stops at a number of stations, waits 23 minutes at Fuli to cross the 0830 Jipei – Junli and terminates at 0919,

The afternoon train departs Jipei at 1540 and is advertised to call at only the penultimate station arriving Shanzhuang 1635.  It returns at 1655 arriving Jipei 1800.


0630 Jipei – Shanzhuang 0740             SY 1030

0800 Shanzhuang – Fuli 0834              SY 1030

0858 Fuli – Junli 0920                           SY 1498

0930 Junli – Jipei 1021                         SY 1498

1335 Jipei – Dalu 1350                         SY 1498

1540 Jipei – Shanzhuang 1637             SY 1030

1655 Shanzhuang – Jipei 1800             SY 1030

1835 Jipei – Junli 1920                         SY 0799

1930 Junli – Jipei 2015                         SY 0799

Good noise from SY 1030 on the delayed 0630, tender first with open vestibule.  At Shanzhuang attendants buy live fish from woman on platform whilst others go off picking wild flowers.  On the 1540 the noise up through the final attractive rural section to Shanzhuang was even better.

On the evening Junli trains the load is only 2, the return terminates in number 4 road at Jipei.


At Hegang CNR several express formation trains were seen during the day which could not be identified from the TT or the station boards.  The Harbin – Qitaihe overnight set seems to work to Hegang during the daytime vice N89/N90 but no clues as to the other workings.

Decide to avoid the rip off skyscraper hotel outside Hegang CNR station and search out another.  Find International Hotel, come out of the high level entrance to Jipei, turn left along approach road then instead of turning left at the end towards the bridge and the CNR station go right to the big roundabout.  The International Hotel is on the left turn just off the roundabout, on the left hand side.  Very good clean en suite room Y98 (£6.80).


Friday 23 June


No loco on the 0640 to Xingshan.  This normally means it will be electric.  0630 to Shanzhuang worked by SY 3013, which I need for haulage.


0600 Jipei – Junli 0650                         SY 0799

0700 Junli – Junde - Jipei 0825            SY 0799


Very crowded outwards with miners to Xing'an and Junli.  Stand in front vestibule with many others.  A pleasant spin round the Junde triangle, mostly attractive and rural but with the ever present coal mines in the background.  Nice views of the loco going round the curves, gets along well with some good noise.  Train well patronised at Junde where there is a pleasant little village of small traditional houses by the platform.  Gets back in late after the usual signal stop outside Jipei.  Well done the man who sussed out this working!


Walk to bus station (between the two hotels opposite the CNR station).  Given ticket for 0910 bus to Jiamusi.  Smart new vehicle, departs 0916 and terminates at the bus station across the square from Jiamusi CNR at 1034.

To my surprise a soft sleeper is sold to me for Harbin on train 1490, the 1108 to Tianjin, and by 1052 I had been escorted by the soft class waiting room attendant to the train, where I am able to recline in the considerable luxury that befits an English Gentleman on a Grand Tour of China. 


Arrive Haerbin at 1842, 13 late.  Only able to book hard seat on N91 to Jalainuer.  Decide to go to Haerbindong where train starts at 1923 for ease of excessing.  Take taxi with lunatic driver, departs 1856 arrives 1911, much further away than I thought.   Excessing process on this train not straightforward.  Go to booth, ticket detail written on list then escorted back to my reserved seat (in same coach) and told to come back later.  Conductors booth then deserted for over an hour until at about 2130 attendant draws my attention to a huge mass of people surrounding it.  I go there and am immediately given a soft sleeper excess ticket, total price (a/c) Y326 (£22.60).


Saturday 24 June

Arrive Jalainuerxi 1015.  Book return ticket for Tuesday on train 1302 to Tieling, Y234 hard sleeper (£16.25).

Taxi to opencast pit, driver demands Y50, I gave him Y20 which is probably far too much, town fare is Y6 but pit may be outside this area.  Huge argument develops, almost come to blows, only subsides once I take car registration details and threaten to call police.

The pit and its railway system are an amazing sight, like an enormous model railway layout.  There is some coal traffic (at the bottom) but most of the traffic is spoil being moved out.  Twice counted 19 locos in use and at one time could see 4 trains on the move uphill.  The ‘main line’ from Nanzhan to the bottom of the pit is actually double track and operated by a flagsman on every train (passenger and freight), tablet working, pointsmen, signal cabins and colour lights, some of which are portable.

Weather very hot, retire for long lunch and to book into Florian’s ludian 200 yards/metres south of the level crossing on the deep mine line (near Daqiao station).  A lot of hesitancy by the folks at the ludian but eventually they took me in.  Room Y30 (£2.10).  There is a good cheap retaurant almost opposite.

To Daqiao for the 1640 passenger.  No sign of it, staff say come back tomorrow & it will leave at 0820.

Back to opencast pit, very busy till about 1900, stock for passenger workings already stabled near platform.


1935 Control Office – Spoil Tip 2017                SY 1119

2019 Spoil Tip – Control Office 2056                SY 1119


One coach train, pushed on the outward journey.  A very interesting run.  The coach was very clean and smart with a lady attendant and potted plants on the tables – real ones, not plastic!  At this time of year there was still sunlight for photography until 1945, the sun setting at 2005 then fine views with a deep red glow behind the mountains to the west. 

A few glimpses near Nanzhan of traditional Inner Mongolia with small shacks + herds of sheep and goats on the odd bits of grassland.

On the return journey we passed three uphill spoil trains flogging away.  The pit looked very good in the twilight at 2100 with the black outlines of the locos and trains with headlights on.  The pit train departed at 1934 and arrived back at 2104.





Sunday 25 June

To Daqiao early morning to check if passenger will run.  The coach is there, back to main road for dumpling breakfast then to station where 5 locos are gathered.


0840 Daqiao – Shiyijing 0900               SY 1618


This line is far from exciting.  Mostly urban passing small houses and general dereliction.  At Shiyijing loco uncouples and disappears down the line.  Ladies on the train tell me it will return at 1900, so that’s why it was not at Daqiao yesterday afternoon.


Bus back to Jalainuer (road is quite close) then taxi to opencast mine.  Between 1005 and 1145 uphill spoil trains left the control office at 1009, 1017, 1042, 1116 and 1132.  Then the thunderstorms started so retire for another good cheap lunch at the restaurant almost opposite the ludian returning to the pit at 1540 after sky clears.

Uphill trains ran at 1549, 1625, 1635, 1711, 1719, 1728, 1741, 1746, 1818, 1832, 1841, 1848, 1858, 1938(passenger), 1948 and later at 2026, 2038 and 2051.  To think that I had been worried Sunday would be a quiet day!

The operation is slick and first rate, the reversing point by the control office is always busy.  All locos on both systems are in fine external condition and seem very sound mechanically.

This day a fierce dust storm blew up and each evening midges were a real nuisance from about 1700.


1936 Control Office – Opencast Mine 2013                   SY 1587

2018 Opencast Mine – Control Office 2057                   SY 1587


A fascinating run with locos everywhere.  Superb low sunlight for fotting from 1915 to 1940.  A spoil train followed us back up one level below with some fine thrash.  And all this operates at night as well as daytime.


Private car ‘taxi’ back to ludian and another argument over the fare.  Note that there are very few taxis or buses going past the opencast mine.

At the ludian more complications, different people there who wouldn’t accept that I had paid the previous day.  They also wanted to take my passport to photocopy details.  This I refused & did the copying myself.  On future trips I will take copies from home.


Monday 26 June


0736 Control Office – Opencast Mine 0813                   SY 1240

0817 Opencast Mine – Control Office 0855                   SY 1240


Interesting but not as captivating as previous evenings twilight run.  I suspect a run in darkness would also be good.

The other train got held up arriving back at 0905 with the result that the empty coaches were worked back separately to Nanzhan, both locos tender first, one pulling, one pushing.

The system was very busy this day with a continuous stream of uphill trains.  Some variety with two chimney first hauled trains (as opposed to pushed), one was a departmental train towards Nanzhan and the other a downhill spoil train.  Again I counted 19 locos in use.


Back to the station with yet more taxi hassle from a dubious looking character and vehicle not fully licensed.


Train 1302 departs at 1316, another smart a/c rake.  Sleepers full of Russians, indeed everybody in Jalainuer assumes you are Russian.  Once again a journey across the endless Mongolian grasslands and sand dunes with grazing animals, big skyscapes and even some yurts – the first real ones I’d ever seen.  Not quite the same as Jitong or Ulanhot with steam haulage but very pleasant nevertheless.  Line also very scenic late evening, the spiral section that once was SL worked looked very good.

At Dayan no locos, steam or diesel were seen, just long rakes of new C70 coal wagons.

Dining Car on this train (and some others) was opened up to hard seat passengers.


Tuesday 27 June

Tieling arrive 0813 (18 late).  0827 small bus to Diaobingshan, takes about 55 minutes.


At the station a BJ diesel and SY 1770 depart light towards Sanjiazi at 0932.

The start of a bad day.  0940, 1451 & 1832 to Wangqian, 1406 & 2120 to Dongguantun, 1426 & 1731 to Daqing all worked by BJ diesels.  So I was left with no choice but to follow the one steam around and spend the day on the stimulating and exciting Daming branch.


0952 Diaobingshan – Daming 1037                  SY 1772
1258 Daming - Diaobingshan 1344                   SY 1772
1439 Diaobingshan – Daming 1525                  SY 1772
1700 Daming - Diaobingshan 1803                   SY 1772
1820 Diaobingshan – Diaobingshannan           SY 1772


Some brisk running though on the branch past the collieries and the endless rows of sweet corn.  The Daming rake and one other are now 3 vehicles only as passenger numbers continue to fall.  The 1439 leaves from the main platform at Diaobingshan rather than the usual Daming line next to the servicing point.  Nice phot of last train leaving Diaobingshannan.


SY 1770 noted at Sanjiazi 1450 hrs on a coal train off the Wangquan line.


As if this somewhat tedious days bashing was not bad enough I was then to find that the famed bathhouse centre had been demolished – what is the matter with this town?  So back to the old favourite hotel by the station, Y100 (£6.90) room with facilities including hot water.


Wednesday 28 June


Up early, usual hassle getting deposit money back, then to station to check the 0532 to Wangqian – it was diesel of course.  However an SY was stood at the other end of the rake indicating a steamier day ahead.

And so it was to be:-

SY 1772 backed on to the 0628 to Wangqian, whilst SY 1751 arrived on the 0547 from Daming.  Then better still SY 1770 ran in on the 0554 from Daqing which formed:-


0640 Diaobingshan – Dongguantun 0819         SY 1770

0829 Dongguantun – Diaobingshan 1003         SY 1770


A lively run on the way out with some good noise but quieter on the return.  A very pleasant morning on this rural line with good scenery in places.  Trains on this line, still load 7, now convey a buffet trolley, a first for a mine railway?


A 3½ hour wait in Diaobingshan gave time to locate the bus station – just up the road on the left from the bridge where you get off the bus from Tieling, and check the buses to Fuxin.  One leaves at 0600 for Beipiao (? any steam on the mine railway here) and another at 0800 to Fuxin only.  Also an 0700 to Tongliao, would have been useful to know a few years back.


1258 ex Daming and 1254 ex Wangquan arrive with SY.   There was a diesel around at 1400, it probably worked the 1426 to Daqing.


Off to Dongguantun again:-


1406 Diaobingshan – Dongguantun 1539         SY 1770

1617 Dongguantun – Diaobingshan 1756         SY 1770


Nice afternoon spin, couldn’t really think of anything better to do on a summer’s afternoon in 2006.  Good on the 1617 coming back through the hills & by the lake followed by a fast spurt down through the Diaobingshan suburbs.  Not too hot either, a mere 84ΊF.

SY 1772 arrives Diaobingshan with 1700 ex Daming and SY 1751 with the 1644 ex Wangqian.

Note young lady enthusiast, possibly Japanese, boarding the 1820 to Daming.  She had been bashing since at least 0640 in the morning.

Good rush hour atmosphere at Diaobingshan with 3 steam locos + 3 rakes in the station and no diesels.  Busy with commuters, locos arriving, running round trains, being serviced and departing


1832 Diaobingshan –– Wangqian 1933 SY 1751
1953 Wangqian - Diaobingshan 2025               SY 1751

1832 runs via Xiaonan.  An enjoyable twilight bash with some sprightly running on the rural sections.


Two SY and no diesels at Diaobingshan at 2045 so the 2120 to Dongguantun was probably steam.


Thursday 29 June


Up at 0445 again and yes the 0532 to Wangquan was diesel again so another leisurely breakfast before starting bashing on a very grey day that turned into a wet evening.


0628 Diaobingshan –– Wangqian (via Xiaonan) 0752               SY 1751
0802 Wangqian - Diaobingshan 0845                                       SY 1751
3 cars only on these trains, rattle along well.

On the platform at Diaobingshan two staff of the ‘Tiefa Locomotive Travel Agency’ first accost a rather wealthy looking Japanese photter and take him away to relieve him of money then return to try their luck with me on the 0952.  After the usual spiel about operations and ticket prices being subsidised for local people I am asked if I am taking photographs, for which there is a fee of Y100.  I reply that I am not taking photos, which causes some confusion between them.  After a while they decide it impose a charge of Y30 which I argue against for a while then refuse to pay unless they give me a receipt.  By now the clock has ticked round to 0952 and they have to dive off, asking me to go to their second floor office on my return.  This I decline to do and instead ask them to come to the platform.  When I got back from Daming there was no sign of them.


0952 Diaobingshan – Daming 1037                              SY 1772
1258 Daming - Diaobingshan 1344                               SY 1772
A quiet trundle on this line.
1406 Diaobingshan – Dongguantun 1539                     SY 1770
1617 Dongguantun - Diaobingshan 1756                      SY 1770
Outward run not exciting, much better coming back with some very good thrash in places from the tender first loco.
1820 Diaobingshan –– Daming 1906                             SY 1772

1920 Daming – Diaobingshan 1956                              SY 1772

Just 3 cars so quite full outwards.  Return calls only at Diaobingshannan where all the conductors get off leaving just the travelling shunter and myself on the train.


Other trains seen during the day:-

0554 Daqing – Diaobingshan SY.  Same loco and stock form 0640 to Dongguantun

0640 Diaobingshan – Daming SY

0547, 1700 Daming – Diaobingshan both SY

0616 Wangqian – Diaobingshan diesel

0940 Diaobingshan –– Wangqian departed with SY but the

1254 ex Wangqian arrived Diaobingshan with a diesel

1644 Wangqian – Diaobingshan diesel

1451 and 1832 Diaobingshan –– Wangqian assumed diesel.

2120 Diaobingshan – Dongguantun diesel


Friday 30 June


Up at 0445 for the third day running and of course the 0532 to Wangqian was diesel for the third day running.

0554 Daqing – Diaobingshan SY.  Same loco and stock form 0640 to Dongguantun

0628 Diaobingshan –– Wangqian SY

0547 Daming – Diaobingshan SY


0640 Diaobingshan – Sanjiazi              SY 1767

A new SY for haulage.


Suffer diesel on return (0616 ex Wangqian) then taxi to bus station and 0800 bus to Fuxin.  This was an Old China bus, rough and rattling, slow and with many long sections of road works but fairly comfortable as the seating was configured for long distance travel with plenty of leg room.  Runs via Faku outskirts (0830) and Zhangwu outskirts (1040) and I think Ajin also to arrive at a smart new bus station in Fuxin close to the railway station at 1245.


Go to Wulong for the 1322 to Xinqiu but no sign of it.  Wait for the main train which turns up at the expected time.


1435 Wulong – Wangying 1500            SY 0540

1709 Wangying – Xinqiu 1827              SY 0540

1840 Xinqiu – Wulong 1930                  SY 0540

This rake still load 8.  Some good thrash starts on the 1709.  This train departs Wulong at 1738 and whilst well loaded it is noticeably less busy than a few years back.

The 1840 departed late at 1847 due to a coal train being sent out in front.


Stay at usual hotel across road from CNR station, no en suite rooms available, very clean room without facilities Y60 (£4.20).  Staff friendly and helpful but this cheap room was at the front and noisy.

Massage place a few doors along, run by three attractive 30-ish slappers.  Massage (only) Y40 (£2.75), quite good and value for money.  Not sure about the relaxing aspect of it though!  Judging by the hand symbols and the pictures around the walls I think the ladies were hoping I would purchase an additional service although there was no hard sell or seduction attempted.


Saturday 1 July


Taxi to Wulong to check the 0620 to Xinqiu.  Not running, these workings must be discontinued.


0640 Wulong – Wangying 0705                                    SY 0540

0914 Wangying – Wulong (0942) Xinqiu 1035               SY 0540

1339 Xinqiu – Wulong (1432) – Wangying 1455            SY 0540

1714 Wangying – Wulong (1738) Xinqiu 1835               SY 0540

1845 Xinqiu – Wulong 1934                                          SY 0540


Good tender first thrash on both trains to Xinqiu and a good slow speed climb up into Wangying in the afternoon.

No sign of any of the other Wulong – Xinqiu shuttles.

A fair amount of SY freight was noted on both days but no electric locos were seen working.  A general air of decay surrounds this system, most station awnings have been demolished and many industrial buildings along the way are derelict.  Large parts of Xinqiu town centre have been cleared for redevelopment and there is much new house building on the outskirts of Fuxin.

The same coal train that delayed the 1840 the previous evening ran again but slightly earlier.  At the first station beyond Ajin towards Fuxin, where this train reverses an army of scavengers with sacks descends upon it like ants.


Back to same hotel, another clean smart room, with facilities and at the quieter rear side for Y80 (£5.60).  Why do people stay miles away when you can get such good value here?

Book ticket for next mornings 6766 passenger to Jinzhou, 0605 in timetable, retimed locally to 0616.

Massage place shut at 2110 hrs, such is the nightlife in Fuxin at weekends.


Sunday 2 July

To station barrier at 0601 and there at platform 1 stands a smart new express train, L702, for Jinzhou, leaving at 0603.

Fight way past barrier staff and on to the train just as doors are being closed.  The set used on this working is off a new Beijing – Fuxin express:-

2111/2114 1242 Beijingbei – Chengde – Fuxin 0533

2112/2113 1800 Fuxin – Chengde – Beijingbei

I assume these trains have replaced the Chengde – Jinzhou service with the same numbers.


The expresses between Jinzhou and Fuxin are:-


L702 0603 Fuxin – Jinzhou 0801

L704 0920 approx Fuxin – Jinzhou 1150

L703 1357 Jinzhou - Fuxin

L701 1520 Jinzhou – Fuxin


L704/L703 uses the stock of the Shanghai express and L702/L701 that of the Beijing service.


Book ticket for Beijing on next days 1258 hrs train.  No soft seats available but obtain soft sleeper for Y196 (£13.60)


Then taxi to Nanpiao, or rather two taxis and three drivers.  Price is now Y100 (£6.95), up from Y80 two years ago.

Better journey though with a new section of fast road near Nanpiao.  There are still some bad stretches but no diversions across fields and watercourses.  Journey takes about 80 minutes.

Arrive at Huangjia foot crossing 0946, perfect timing just as SY 0366 appears, rolling down the hill in a haze of black clag with the 0845 from Sanjiazi.  A perfect start to a days bashing on a system that has recently bought a batch of diesel locos.


0945 Huangjia – Xiamiaozi 0951                      SY 0366

Part of the railway track bed by Nanpiao market has now been converted into vegetable plots, giving even more local colour.


On arrival at Xiamiaozi loco shunted 2 dead diesels around, including repainted BJ 3132.  BJ 3246? was on the depot looking pretty derelict.


At 1010 SY 1478 worked a 3 wagon trip on to the Sanjiazi line and SY 1092 worked another freight down this line at 1410.  In fact all traffic this day was in the hands of 5 steam locos, what a bright managerial brainwave it must have been to buy a pile of useless diesels.


A very hot day.  To pass the time away and stay cool adjourn to bathhouse in basement of restaurant by road junction/bridge (turn right from railway).  Huge attempt at rip off.  Bring down bill for bathhouse and massage from Y115 to Y60 (£4.20) but still expensive.  That will be my last visit.  The new hotel may do massage, it does have a smart bathhouse.  Walk to said hotel along the Sanjiazi road (beyond the river bridge/junction)  You can’t miss the hotel, a big imposing building on the left.  Walking time from Xiamiaozi platform is 15 minutes.

In addition to the usual giggling girl waitresses and receptionists the hotel has an English speaking manageress who informed me that a standard room is priced at Y188 (£13) but en suite rooms without windows are available at Y128 (£8.90) A disadvantage of these is that they are on the fifth floor and there was no lift.  On the ground floor is a good fish restaurant.


1435 Xiamiaozi - Huangjia 1441                       SY 0366

1446 Huangjia – Xiamiaozi 1452                      SY 0366


1459 Xiamiaozi – Sanjiazi 1541                                   SY 1478

1700 Sanjiazi – Huangjia 1750                         SY 1478

Train clatters and bounces off into the undergrowth towards Sanjiazi enveloped in black smoke.  This system is a delight, gently decaying but with a certain charm that accompanies a rundown branch line.  The route is mostly rural and quite scenic with the occasional factory or mine.  The line follows the rolling contours of the land surrounded by lush green hills. Some of the rivers and streams even have clear water!  Odd bursts of good noise from the loco in both directions.

Back at Xiamiaozi an atmospheric crossing with SY 0366 in the platform waiting with next Sanjiazi service, not too full being a Sunday.


1755 Huangjia – Linghe 1842                           SY 1478

1850 Linghe – Xiamiaozi 1925                         SY 1478

The 1755 was much more crowded.  Although this line passes through a much more built up and industrialised area it does have a background of fine hills and could really be described as scenic.  Nice runs in both directions with a fierce red sun setting behind the hills.  Like the Sanjiazi route this line is undulating with some nice noise from the loco in places.

1930 hrs at Xiamiaozi saw all 5 SY close by in the dusk, a very fine sight marred only by a dead diesel in the yard.  Watch SY 0366 depart for Huangjia in the half light before returning to hotel for another fish meal.  I think this is the first rural Chinese hotel I have ever stayed in.


Monday 3 July


Early morning phone wake up call at 0400.  Out at 0415 but took a while to wake reception staff and to get deposit refunded.  Already light with people up and about, including old ladies taking an early morning stroll.

The first two trains of the day start at Xiamiaozi but if you are staying at the Nanpiao Hilton you cannot cover them so the report on the QJ Country site about this new hotel was very welcome news.  

I was a bit worried that diesels might be out today but nearer the station two columns of clag rose into the dawn air with SYs 0754 and 0973 doing the business.   .


0443 Xiamiaozi – Sanjiazi 0517                                   SY 0754

0535 Sanjiazi – Huangjia 0637                         SY 0754

Lovely early morning light on the 0443 with mist in valley.  Train nominally non stop but in fact we stopped at Daguopu and then slipped to a standstill climbing away up the cutting to the summit.

The 0535 is basically a school train.  At one station about a hundred kids got on.


0642 Huangjia – Linghe 0737                           SY 0754

0849 Linghe – Xiamiaozi 0926                         SY 0754

0935 Xiamiaozi – Huangjia 0941                      SY 0973

The 0642 was equally as crowded as the 0535 from Sanjiazi, mostly people off to work at the mines.  By now the early morning mist had been replaced by the more usual smog.

Breakfast on soya bean dumplings at Linghe, an experience best forgotten.

The train from Linghe also very busy, it arrived Xiamiaozi at 0929 where at the CNR platform there was no sign of the 0931 to Jinzhou, thereby saving me the decision of whether to catch it throughout or go down to Huangjia with steam and hope it would still be there.

So it was a final rattle down the hill with SY 0973 then a nice phot of the 0945 departing past the market.


Again this morning there were five SY in use, covering all the revenue earning traffic but BJ 3241 had spluttered into life and was down at Huangjia attached to a wagon with a crane on it.


And so ended a very satisfying 24 hours at Nanpiao, very glad I took a chance and gave it a go. 

Long may the diesels continue with this level of activity.  Perhaps diesel fuel is too expensive to use.  Whatever the reason it would seem that buying the diesels was less than a masterstroke by the company.  And they tell us that we in the west should be fearful of the new up and coming China!

Management that displays this level of business acumen seem to be more of a threat to themselves than anyone else.  


Taxi from centre (beyond market and down from the first road crossing) to Jinzhou.  Y100.  Takes about one hour ten minutes, then short wait in luxurious soft class waiting room before being escorted to Beijing train.  The diner on this train was available to hard seat passengers but the connecting door from the sleepers was locked.

Arrive Beijing r/t at 2000, note expresses, including one to Baotou, departing very full with people standing all along the aisles.

Taken by tout and mianbo to hotel on south side of city.  Small basic en suite room with no window but very clean Y160 (£11.10)


Tuesday 4 July

Taxi back to a quarter of a mile from Beijingzhan for Y10.  Couldn’t get any closer due to traffic jams – before 0700!

Airport Bus from International Hotel.  These now run every 15 minutes and depart from the road just by the ticket kiosk.


Home on BA 039 complete with upgrade.  I’m sure my very smart appearance after 22 days in China + my 30 year old duffle bag contributed to this.  Arrive LHR on time at 1510.


Total cost of bash around £1150, not too bad considering this included 3 flights, two of which were expensive and long distance.

Roger Blundell

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© 2006 Roger Blundell