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Steam in China 2006

by Glyn Dawson

Huanan, Jixi, Weihe, Tiefa, Xingyang, Yinghao, Dagu, Baiyin, Liujiaxia, Yaojie, Shibanxi, Panzhihua, Jiangyou, Futuyu

We joined the East Europe Rails Tours trip to China Sept 12-Oct 4th, 2006. Weather was sunny to begin with, some rain then cloudy.

Sept 12: We traveled O/N on Train K339 from Beijing to to Jiamusi (22h) then bus to Huanan. 011 was shunting the yard and left around 5:30pm with empties for Lixin and the mine. Day 2 we chartered the railcar to Lixin and got great shots of 011 banking 041 around 8pm. The line was working normally and 011 made a trip to the mine before 043 arrived with empties at 2 pm. The line seems in excellent shape although 043 had some mechanical problems and 011 required smokebox welding while getting coaled! Japanese gricers were using motorbikes to get to the summit.

After another day of normal operations around Touyaozi and the 2:30 pm crossing at Xiahua, we left for Jixi, Sept 15:First action in the mist was SY 1351 banked by both 0237 and 0863. SYs 0590, 0733 and 1058 were at the Dongshan Washery stabling point. Jixi was excellent for the SY morning parade up the hill to Henshang Colliery (0341, 1341, 0746, 0895, 0804), in the sun. Trains split at the top and bankers and lots of activity were as described by others. Dido Colliery Washery produced 1205 and 1231 at the stabling point (unfriendly driver) and 0407 with a train of coal.

We took advantage of the re-opening of this classic logging line while the road was rebuilt, to drive to Mudanjiang then spend the next day on the 8km or so stump of the Wehei line, with 054 working the four round-trips. Operations were expected to continue into late October. Trains were well-filled and a wide variety of merchandise was carried in the third coach/van, with a flat trick loaded with grapes being added to the afternoon train. A real operation and a great loss.

Overnight to Shenyang then a chartered YJ (269) freight at Teifa. Normal operations here with all departures from Diaobingshan being tender first (1767, 1770, 1772). Management claims that any of 18 locos (15 SYs, one JS, one KD and the YJ) can be steamed for charters. The last SY (1772) was working passengers to Daming. Highlight of Teifa was the changing of the traffic cops, 3 smartly dressed ladies goose-stepping! We then flew Shenyang to Zhengzhou and drove to Xingyang.

The brickworks was being worked intensively by 07 with slick turnarounds at both ends. An amazing operation with the classic bridge and seemingly a secure future. The spare C2 (207) was in steam.

Drove to Mianchi then Yinghao where 3 locos were in use (04, 15 and 16). The line had been closed for a few days prior to our visit and the locos are not in good shape. Bringing empties up the hill involved a 10 min run and a 20 min blow-up, with steam coming from all over the loco. Repair shop and village were as described previously. This line seemed to be the most in danger of expiring with the new mine served by lorries. Drove to Luoyang then overnight to Beijing.

Sept 22: Free day in Beijing. The JF was in action at the wagon works.

Dagu Mining Railway
Sept 23: Flew to Yingchuan and spent the afternoon watching the last 3 QJs (with 7195 and 7205 in light steam, 7194 dead - all with safety clips on the rails). Some shunting is said to be possible but all line work is diesel so the classic desert line is finished as far as steam is concerned. So we took the overnight train to Baiyin.

Sept 24: This is a busy SY system as described previously. Depressing location but lots of steam action with both passengers and empties worked hard. 1083, 1047, and 1581, 1583 were in action. Overnight in Baiyin then early morning to Liujiaxia.

Sept 25:Still a busy two JS operation. One arrival (8227 with 1 wagon ) around 10 a.m., 8223 worked the single coach train to the market around 11:30 a.m, the (different) 2 coach train around 2 pm, attachment of 9 wagons then a banked volcanic exit (8227 tender first) up the gorge at 2:30 pm. First real rain of the trip but a great atmosphere here. Drove to Haishiwan.

The canyon line appeared to be closed for repairs to the rock protection tunnels but as the trains are diesel worked now, it wasn't a loss. After a long wait we had SY 0663 work to and from the power station. A shadow of its former self but for any birdwatchers we did see a pair of ibisbills at the marsh near the power station viaduct. This is the equivalent of a working QJ! Drove to Lanzhou for the night train.

Overnight train to Xian K120), a very wet early morning visit to the Warriors then K5 to Chengdu and bus to Qianwei and on to Shibanxi. The system was working flat out with 4 passengers and 2 freights each day. Locos (7, 9 and 14) appear in good shape and trains were well-patronized (including the pigs loaded at Bagou). We left Sept 30 (Sat) before the expected arrival of large numbers of Chinese tourists but benefited from the tree pruning and the driver practising his steam production on the upper hairpin. We saw no evidence of other tourists on the three days we were there.

Panzhihua Steelworks
Overnight train from Chengdu was almost 2h late while we waited fro 4 trains to use the single line so we only had 5 sunny hours here. Great action around the blast furnaces but diesels were working the slags. 0694 appeared to be in steam in the diesel section. 0320 was the :super-shine" and worked the furnaces with 0624, 0830 and 0831. 0399 and 1297 were working in the slag tip area. Loco depot was out of bounds. Steam is supposed to end in 2006. Overnight train back to Chengdu.

Jiangyou Steel Fabrication Works
Drove out from Chengdu to find 0122, 0256, 0378, and 1463 dead around the Depot/shops. Supposedly all are usable. 1133 and 1161 arrived on empty wagons and 0673 brought in a tanker train, later taking fulls (tender first) to the Power station. We may have been the first Westerners to visit here. They have 7 diesels so steam may not last long. The Golden Week autumn holiday had begun so things were quiet. In general the area was flat and the photo potential not high.

Buddha Valley Railway, Futuyu
Sunny with nice mountain scenery 4-5 hours from Beijing. Locos 0888 and 0999 were in steam (0999 had tripped to the power station a.m.) with 0666 dead. Not lucky for us! 0999 chugged up and down for us.

We travelled around 10,500 miles in China visiting 4 NG and 10 SG lines. Dagu and Futuyu were the only strikeouts (but even here the locos made smoke for us!) and we were lucky with the NG, with flat out working on all lines.. So life post-Jingpeng goes on, with some great photo opportunities. China is a pretty depressing place to visit but the people are friendly and manage to struggle against the odds!

Glyn Dawson, Chicago, USA. (home of the working QJs!).

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2006 Glyn Dawson