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Steam in China Feb / Mar 2007

by Dave Fielding

Part 3: Aiyouying, Qinghemen, Beipiao, Nanpiao, Jinzhou 701, Huladao, Lingyuan, Pingzhuang, Yuanbaoshan, Hongmiao, Chengde

Aiyouying and Qinghemen (10th Mar)

After a second night staying in Fuxin, the day started bright but breezy as we again visited the level crossing north of Wulong station for the morning shift change. There was just one change from the locos seen the previous day. By 9:00, all locos had moved off, two of them taking the curved track to the east which I assume leads to a working mine. Shortly a train of side tippers and China Railway empties passed through south in the direction of Wangying.

I wanted to investigate the mines at Aiyouying and Qinghemen, 29 and 35 km south of Fuxin on the China Railway main line, so we set off in our mini bus at 9:45. On the edge of Aiyouying we turned off left towards the China Railway line and found SY 1195 doing some light shunting. According to the local guide who was accompanying us, this was the only loco here. A little further on, next to the standard gauge connection towards the main line was a very attractive 762 mm narrow gauge system at a small coal mine. It was worked by little 4 wheel blue electrics of the type found at Shibanxi, 1 and 5 were in use with 3 and 4 stabled. The overhead was supported from wooden masts. A number of women were busy picking out waste from loaded tubs of coal.

We continued on towards Qinghemen, and as we approached the town, were very surprised to come upon JS 8116, in light steam, facing us on the left. To the right of the main road was a very modern power plant. It seemed a new power plant, or extension to the existing plant was being built on the left hand side of the main road. Two railway overbridges connected the plant on the right in the direction of the main line. The JS was standing on newly laid sidings at a lower level than the connecting tracks. My guide talked to the loco crew and discovered the JS had arrived just two days earlier from Jinzhou Power Plant (at Banjiaotai, around 63 km away) on loan. Certainly there were no steam loco facilities and a hose pipe, dragged across some of the new tracks, was being used to top up the tender.

The Qinghemen Coal Mine SY was found at the China Railway station. It was crewed and in steam, stabled next to a water crane.

SY 1460 resting at Qinghemen China Railway station

Locos seen (working / in steam):

Aiyouying Coal Mine
SY  1195(1982/10) 

Qinghemen Power Plant
JS  8116 

Qinghemen Coal Mine
SY  1460(1986/6) 

For the SY, the numbers in brackets indicate the year and month on the Tangshan builder's plate carried.

We then returned to Fuxin and dropped off our local guide. At the power station level crossing, north facing SY 0849 propelled a train of wagons south, followed around 14:00 by SY 1378 on the southbound passenger. The weather was now dull as we set off for Beipiao.

Beipiao (10th - 11th Mar)

After a drive of around two hours, we had our first sight of steam on the Beipiao system. SY 0387 was working a train south west from a mine at Sanbao to Beipiao. This line is shown on the Quail Atlas and appears to be a mine system line. We continued through Beipiao city as the SY had appeared to continue on through Beipiao on a line avoiding the China Railway station. To the south west of the city, guide Jun was trying to establish the location of the mine system workshop when a SY, tender first, ran over a level crossing towing two side tippers in the direction of Beipiao. It was SY 0387 again. In the gathering dusk we set off to our hotel.

Another bright morning and we set off to the China Railway station and the adjacent Guanshan coal mine. The Coal Mine Company offices also appear to be here. The mine railway yard is to the north east of the mine and here SY 1004 was awaiting its next duty. At the far end of the yard a SY was shunting, yet again it was SY 0387. Subsequently SY 1004 departed for the China Railway yard and returned with a train of empty wagons. From a crew, the information was that two locos are stationed at Guanshan and also work the line to Sanbao and the mine there. A further loco is stationed to the south west of Beipiao at Taiji. Of the four mines there, mine 1 and mine 4 are still working, 2 and 3 are closed. Taiji is where the loco workshop is situated.

We then left Guanshan for Luotuoying to see the QJ there. It is QJ 6671, out of use at the cement works, still with the allocation Shenyang Bureau, Fuxin depot on its tender. However we overlooked a search for a line from Luotuoying to Baoguo, mentioned in one of the messages on Beipiao in the Steam_in_China news group.

As mentioned in Part 1 of these reports, my trip was running a day later than originally intended, and I now found myself wanting to visit the system workshop on a Sunday. When we arrived there, we found it well and truly locked up, with no one available to let us in, a very frustrating situation. All I can report is two locomotives behind a locked gate at the side of the workshop, both out of use, unidentified other than to say a SY with a JF beyond.

Mention should be made of the railway line shown on the Nelles Map of North-Eastern China (but not on the Quail Atlas) that heads out of Beipiao to the north west and then turns to the north east. When driving towards Taiji, the road dips down to pass under the line which is on an embankment. Shortly after, we turned left off the main road to reach Taiji, passing over the level crossing where SY 0387 had been seen the previous evening. The line on the embankment passed over the mine system line on a bridge, so presumably connected to the China Railway line out of Beipiao.

SY 0387 between Sanbao and Beipiao

Locos seen:

Beipiao Coal Mines
JF  unidentified* 
SY  0387(1971/6), 1004(1975/6), unidentified* 

Luotuoying Cement Works
QJ  6671& 

* out of use
& dumped

For the SY, the numbers in brackets indicate the year and month on the Tangshan builder's plate carried.

We left Beipiao and headed for Chaoyang and a brief look at the line to Mashan. Heading for Mashan, we were held up at a level crossing on the branch by a China Railway DF4 on a train of empty wagons returning to Chaoyang. We decided to return to Chaoyang for a lunch break, and then set off down the expressway for the Banjita exit and Nanpiao.

This is far from a complete description of the system at Beipiao and operations there. I hope future visitors will be able to add more detail and correct the rumours that have appeared recently.

The latest news on Beipiao comes from Bernd Seiler in Steam_in_China message 6657. It seems the "JF" I saw was in fact a JS, the JF was inside the depot.

Nanpiao (11th - 13th Mar)

We arrived at Xiamiaozi at 14:00. Diesel BJ 3132 was on the passenger to Sanjiazi whilst at the opposite end of the station SY 0973 was on the train to Huangjia. SY 1299 was waiting for work and was joined by BJ 3241 from the depot. In the workshop at the depot, SY 1092 had its motion dismantled. We awaited the return of SY 0973 from Huangjia with its train to Linghe. Back at Xiamiaozi, SY 0366 was taking water and later BJ 3248 arrived.

The next morning, we were out before breakfast to see the 6:40 passenger to Sanjiazi which was SY hauled, whereas the Linghe passenger was diesel hauled. Around 8:00, a SY hauled coal train headed for the power station. We then went to the Jinzhou 701 Factory (see below). After a briefer than expected visit, we returned to Xiamiaozi. SY 0973 was here and at 11:50 SY 1299 and BJ 3248 arrived from the depot. A little later, BJ 3132 arrived with empty wagons. We had a lunch break and on our return found SY 0754 had appeared to join SY 1299 and BJ 3132 at the servicing point next to the offices, while SY 0973 shunted some empty wagons and departed on the Linghe line. At 13:00 BJ 3248 had coupled onto the passenger stock for the Sanjiazi departure and at 13:30 SY 0754 had coupled on the other end of the other set of passenger stock. Shortly after BJ 3241 arrived on a train of coal. At 14:35, SY 0754 set off on the passenger to Huangjia, the train returning and departing at 15:00 for Linghe, to where we followed the train, with a couple of pictures at the river bridge just before the last halt before the terminus.

The following morning we were again up early, but the weather was dull and cloudy, with SY 0754 heading the early morning passenger to Sanjiazi. SY 1299 was noted bringing a single wagon out of the depot. We then set off for the expressway and Huludao, passing BJ 3248 on the returning morning passenger from Linghe.

With three diesels and four SY in service there appeared to be a surplus of motive power for the traffic on offer. There were no wagons at all in the China Railway sidings at Xiamiaozi. Coal traffic mainly originated from Zaojiatun mine and often there were both a diesel and a SY here. On one occasion, a SY was noted shunting at the small Qiupigou mine. The mines at Linghe and Sanjiazi, the two termini, did not appear to be producing any coal. There were wagons in the yard of Weizigou mine, but it also appeared very quiet. Of the SYs, I noted 0754 and 0973 in particular as being in typical Nanpiao condition, i.e. dirty.

SY 0754 rolls over the river bridge nearing the end of its journey on the afternoon passenger to Linghe

Locos seen (working except where noted):

SY  0366, 0754(no plates), 0973(no plates), 1092%(1976/6), 1299(1984/6) 
BJ  3132, 3241, 3248 

% in workshop

For the SY, the numbers in brackets indicate the year and month on the Tangshan builder's plate carried.

Jinzhou 701 Factory (12th Mar)

A great disappointment and the low point of the trip was to find the factory all locked up and just two caretakers on site. Despite the optimism of Barry Buckfield's report from October 2006, it is doubtful if any repair work has been done here in 2007. It appears it is now more difficult to obtain permission to drag locos to and from the works, particularly in winter. It was suggested future work may involve Jinzhou engineers repairing locos at customer sites, Xuanhua Steelworks being one such possible customer. So the only locos seen were the ex-Jitong Railway QJs stored outside, 6998 and 7002 at the lower level and 7040 at the upper level. It is understood from a February 2007 visitor, with a party who gained access to the workshops, that the Factory's own loco, JS 8162, is stored inside.

Locos seen (stored outside, ex-JiTong Railway):

QJ  6998, 7002, 7040 

Huludao (13th - 14th Mar)

On arriving at Huludao depot at 10:30, we found JS 6243 in steam at the depot. We set off towards Yangjiazhangzi, taking the old road to the summit to find JS 8207 approaching on a loaded train. We later took up position near the summit for pictures of the afternoon empties. At 14:15 the train appeared and we were surprised to find JS 8207 unusually working tender first. (However, re-reading reports of previous visitors, it is not unknown for the Yangjiazhangzi turntable to be out of action). The loco was struggling with its train and stalled on the curve before the summit, in full view of a mini-bus load of boss types who seemed to be monitoring the operation. The crew was prepared for problems and sand from a couple of sacks on the rear of the tender was spread on the rails. Not without difficulty, the train finally got moving again and after clearing the summit, raced down to Yangjiazhangzi. At 16:35, the loaded train arrived back at Huludao, where JS 6243 was shunting.

At Jun's suggestion we stayed overnight at Huludao to be able to see the morning departure. Today there were 3 x JS at the depot. At 08:50 JS 6243 coupled onto the train of empties chimney first, so no problem with pictures of the train approaching the summit. By 10:00 the wagons were off to the quarry but it was almost two hours before the loaded train appeared, and another hour before it passed the summit. We returned to the depot at Huludao. On my visit in 2005 there had been a uniformed security guard who prevented access. He was no longer present, but his role had been taken over by the two lady crossing keepers, and no way would they allow Jun and myself to check the depot out. The third JS, which we had not identified, was 6307 and we didn't see SY 0513 and SY 1415 which were both inside the depot. JS 6243 arrived with its train and it did not appear there would be another working that day. So we set off for Lingyuan and arrived around 18:00.

With the stalled train of empties behind him and the left hand rail already sanded, a crew member is busy sanding the right hand rail

Locos seen (working except where noted):

JS  6243, 6307@, 8207 
SY  0513*, 1415* 

* in depot
@ in steam at depot

Lingyuan Steelworks (15th Mar)

Having stayed overnight in Lingyuan, we proceeded to the yard and depot area which is to the south west of the steelworks and outside the confines of the works (refer to Jan Schirling's map). Here we found SY 0724 and DF5 diesels, 1033 (built 1988) and 1040 (built 1989), shunting. In the depot, on one track we found SY 0072 and SY 0073, both looking smart but dead, and on the second track DF5 1026 and SY 1386 both being worked on. SY 1387 was stored outside the depot and we were informed that SY 1096 and SY 1708 were at work in the steelworks but would return for servicing in mid afternoon. If Beipiao had been a bit nearer or the expressway being built in that direction was complete, it would have been an opportunity to return and check out the depot there. As it was we decided to hang around the steelworks entrance, despite the polluted atmosphere from the works and road traffic at the level crossings, waiting for the two SY to appear. Around 15:00, SY 1096 backed out of the works and headed to the servicing point for fire cleaning, watering and coaling. It then disappeared back into the works. Finally I saw my first Tongling built SY when 1708 arrived for servicing. Loco staff opinion was that although the Tongling loco was well finished, in service it wasn't as good as a Tangshan example. After a successful visit, having been made very welcome by the helpful locomotive staff, we finally departed for Pingzhuang at 16:20.

Tongling built SY 1708 takes water near the depot


Close up of SY 1708's builder's plate

Locos seen (working except where noted):

SY  0072%(1968/1), 0073%(1968/2), 0724, 1096(1976/7), 1386%(1985/7), 1387*(1985/7), 1708 
DF5  1026, 1033, 1040 

% inside depot
* stored outside depot

For the SY, the numbers in brackets indicate the year and month on the Tangshan builder's plate carried.
SY 1708 carries builder's plate Tongling 1987.

Pingzhuang (16th - 17th Mar)

At the start of our first day here, we headed for the level crossing on the opencast side of the brewery. We were just too late to see the workers' passenger (SY + flat wagon + coach + flat wagon) departing south at 8:00. At the stabling point near the wagon works, SY 0798 was in steam and SY 0463 was on an adjacent track looking withdrawn with builder's plates and cab side number plates removed. We moved to the deep mines system stabling point where SY 1425 and SY 1052 were being serviced. Shortly afterwards a long loaded train arrived from the deep mines to the north, headed by SY 1079 and banked by SY 0210. Both locos left the train for servicing. After some time taking pictures, we explored the sheds at a lower level than the running line. On the right hand road of the small two road shed we found out of use smoke deflector fitted SY 1083. Entry to the adjacent long shed wasn't possible. On two previous visits I had squinted through cracks in the wooden door and noted an ex-works SY immediately behind the door. On this occasion, there was no loco in this position but further down the shed was the other smoke deflector fitted SY, 1084. On my visit in September 2005, SY 1083 had been working and SY 1084 had been in the same road of the small shed now occupied by SY 1083.

We next went to Wufeng, the yard and junction for the Wujia mine. SY 1052 arrived with a loaded train and waited for some time before continuing to the China Railway yard at Pingzhuang Nan. The location of the depot and workshop near Wufeng are more readily visible at this time of year when the fields are clear of the maize crop. Entry, as in 2005, was again no problem by asking at the gatehouse of the Chi Feng Hong Wen Machine electricity Co. Ltd. As has been previously reported, JS 8216, 6544, 8246, 6246 and 8218 from Yuanbaoshan are stored alongside the depot/workshop. The Yuanbaoshan system is part of the Pingzhuang Coal Mines Bureau. In the depot yard was SY 1425, seen earlier at the deep mines stabling point. Inside the depot were SY 1487 with fire lit having minor repairs, SY 0400 dead, and SY 0517 in steam. There was no loco in the workshop. The whole place was very quiet, maybe it was an early lunch break. We got to Wujia mine at 11:45. SY 1079, seen earlier, was coupled to a train of empties. The crew said they had arrived light engine and the wagons had already been present at the mine.

Back at the opencast side level crossings near the brewery, there was now more activity with SYs 1025 and 1085 shunting, SY 1764 light engine and SY 0942, with a decorative blue panel above the front buffer beam, pushing a train of a crane and two vans. Dumped in the nearby compound were JS 1001 and JS 5758, both with large number plates mounted high on the smoke box front, and readily identifiable without entry to the compound.

Returning to the deep mine side, SY 1079 arrived with a train of empties and a wagon of timber, then left its train to take water. From the opposite direction, SY 0210 arrived with a loaded train from the north, then set off back light engine, probably to collect more loads. Next SY 1079 set off to return light engine to Wufeng to collect wagons to take to the Wujia mine. The branch to Wujia steepens considerably approaching the mine and this was a chance to get some pictures of a train charging up the bank that I had just missed in September 2005. This was a most satisfactory end to the day.

On our second day, we again headed for the level crossing on the opencast side of the brewery. There was not only a workers' passenger heading south, but also a second heading north, both steam hauled. When seen in 2005, the northbound train had been electric hauled. At the stabling point near the wagon works was a loco not seen the previous day, SY 0943 in ex-works condition. We checked up on the deep mine side and found three of the locos seen the day before. Around 09:00 we set off on the forty minute drive to Yuanbaoshan.

Pingzhuang used to be regularly visited, either en-route to or returning from the JiTong Railway. More recently there have been few reports. It is some years since 2-8-0 KD6 487 was taken out of service, later to be preserved at Tiefa where it was returned to more original condition, with Pingzhuang receiving SY 1764 in exchange. Now, with Pingzhuang's final working JS and final working smoke deflector fitted SY laid aside, both of which had been active on my visit in September 2005, the previous locomotive variety no longer exists. However, the system remains busy, particularly on the deep mines side. On this visit, there did not appear to be any coal being brought out of the opencast pit. Various electric hauled trains could be seen being loaded in the pit, but the few moving trains noted were heading to and from the north in the direction of the spoil tips.

On the left, SY 1079 with a loaded train from the northern mines, and on the right, two other SY at the servicing point


JS from Yuanbaoshan rust away at the depot/workshop near Wufeng


SY 1079 starts the final climb to Wujia mine with a train of empties

Locos seen (working except where noted):

JS  1001+, 5758+, 6246*, 6544*, 8216*, 8218*, 8246* 
SY  0210, 0400%, 0463&, 0517@, 0798, 0942(1975/1), 0943, 1025, 1052, 1079, 1083++, 1084++, 1085, 1425, 1487%, 1764 
Electric  7326, 7328, 7349, 7359, 7362, 7370 

* stored outside at depot/workshop
@ in steam inside depot/workshop
% inside depot/workshop
& possibly withdrawn
+ out of use in compound
++ stored inside

For the SY, the numbers in brackets indicate the year and month on the Tangshan builder's plate carried.

Yuanbaoshan (17th Mar)

We arrived at Yuanbaoshan to find JS 8249 in steam at the fire cleaning point outside the depot. DF12 0105 was in the adjacent yard. We drove up from the depot through the town, and were held at the level crossing next to the passing loops (Gifei ?), on the branch from Majiawan for DF12 0106 to pass with loaded coal wagons. We continued on uphill to a small mine, mine 2, where JS 8250 was not being over exerted with some light shunting. The two locos seen were the sum total of remaining steam operation that day and loco crew expected more diesels later this year. We took up a position for photography near Majiawan, a side on view being the best option for a tender first descent of the branch. There was steam to be seen above the town, but JS 8250 could only have been working between the mine and the passing loops as when a train finally appeared, it was diesel hauled. We decided to set off on the short drive to Hongmiao.

JS 8250 positions wagons for loading at mine 2

Locos seen (in steam/working):

JS  8249, 8250 
DF12  0105, 0106 

Hongmiao (17th Mar)

This is another coal mine that belongs to the Pingzhuang Coal Mine Bureau. A short branch connects it to the China Railways' line from Yuanbaoshan to Chifeng. As we arrived SY 1418 was completing its morning shunting at the mine, after which it parked outside the offices facing the mine yard. According to staff, a diesel was expected this year. We then set off on the long drive to Chengde.

Locos (seen and information from loco crew):

SY  1418(1985/12), 1565 

SY 1418 seen working, SY 1565 said by loco crew to be spare in locked depot.

For SY 1418, the numbers in brackets indicate the year and month on the Tangshan builder's plate carried.

Chengde Steelworks (18th Mar)

I had originally intended to end my trip at Chifeng and return to Beijing from there. However Jun suggested I continue to Chengde, where both he and the driver are based. We could take a look at the steelworks in the morning and I could return to Beijing in the afternoon, a four hour train journey. I agreed to this, despite Jun later informing me that several new diesels had recently arrived, and there was only one working steam loco left at the steelworks.

After the wonderful weather on the trip so far, we set off under an overcast sky, through the road tunnel, to the polluted air trapped in the valley containing the steelworks. The line connecting the steelworks to Chengde was on our right as we passed a small yard containing wagons and a shiny diesel, when some out of use SY were glimpsed behind a brick wall. It turned out to be a former steam servicing point with SYs 1422, 1753 and 1639 lined up. We continued on to the steelworks and its far end where there is a footbridge high above the track (refer to Jan Schirling's map). Here we found a couple more shiny diesels shunting. We continued on around the steelworks boundary to a yard between a block of flats and, at a lower level, what was the loco workshop. In the yard SY 0048, one month short of its fortieth year, was hard at work. Information from the crew was that SYs 0532 and 1522 were also at work elsewhere. Around the depot were three more out of use SYs, a JS out of use and a SY that looked withdrawn. In the workshop was SY 0533, re-painted, probably after repair, but not put back in service. Around the depot were several more diesels, in green livery with cream stripe, all class GKD1A, from number range 0078 to 0086. The latter had builder's plate Dalian 2006. What appeared to be a new diesel depot was complete with just the track work being finished off.

The SY and JS seen were familiar performers when the branch to the steelworks from China Railways at Chengde was steam worked, indeed I had seen several of them in 2001. There is still talk of the line through Chengde city and its steep climb being replaced, but for the present the line remains. A coke train was noted crossing the river bridge hauled by a green DF4, no different from a China Railways member of the class apart from the absence of bureau and depot markings.

Locos (seen and information from loco crew):

JS  6368* 
SY  0048(1967/4), 0099&(no plates), 0532, 0533@(1972/7), 0872*(1974/8), 1029*(1975/7), 1422+(1985/12), 1522, 1639+(1989/1), 1726*(1992/7), 1753+(1994/1) 
GKD1A  0078, 0079, 0080, 0082, 0085, 0086 

SY 0048 seen working, SY 0532 and SY 1522 said by loco crew to be working elsewhere in the works.
* out of use at depot/workshop
+ out of use at stabling point outside steelworks
& withdrawn at depot/workshop
@ workshop, re-painted

For the SY, the numbers in brackets indicate the year and month on the Tangshan builder's plate carried.


This was a very worthwhile trip with many steam locos seen in action. As you will judge from the report, I am not a dedicated photographer and no attempt has been made to assess the photographic possibilities of the locations visited, I leave this to others who are better qualified.

My aim for the final part of the trip was more relaxation than on a group trip with no overnight train journeys. I was mostly re-visiting locations with the addition of places within easy reach on my route, south of Fuxin, Beipiao, Jinzhou 701 and Lingyuan. After the first day with my guide Jun, we seemed to abandon the traditional lunch on the go, e.g. instant noodles or sausages (ugh). No matter where we were, Jun managed to find a café or restaurant for a mid day meal and beer. This has resulted in me now carrying around more pounds than when I started the trip.

I would like to thank Jun for his companionship on the final part of the trip. He is a very keen steam photographer. He is pessimistic, as we all are, about the future of steam. If you need the services of a guide on your trip, I can recommend Jun.

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© 2007 Dave Fielding