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Steam in China  :   March - April 2000

Tonghua, Da`an Bei, Shuangyashan, Jixi, Beipiao, Tongliao, Tongchuan, Pingshi

Florian Menius reports on a 5-week-steam tour to China between March 5th and April 9th. The first three weeks, my brother Stephan accompanied me. The rest of the time I travelled on my own. During the whole trip, we had no guide. In total 139 steam locomotives were seen working or at least under steam, most of them CNR engines. Total costs for five weeks in China (including flights Berlin-Beijing/Hong Kong) were some 2200DM (flight : 1000DM, on land 1200DM) or about 1100 U$ per person. I do not want to know, what an equivalent "guided tour" would have cost ...


Introduction

Question : Is it possible that there is a depot housing some 50 QJs in China in the year 2000 and this place is not Daban ? I think, 98 % would say "No ! ". But the correct answer is "Yes" ! It is Da`an Bei.


Summary :

Tonghua : fine JS mainline action
Da`an Bei : paradise of steam !!
Shuangyashan : QJ hauled passengers + coal trains
Jixi : no CNR steam, SY and JS in use in different coal mines
Beipiao : still steam, but low traffic levels
Tongliao-Xinlintun : 30-40 % of freights still QJ hauled
Tongchuan : further dieselisation, 4  DF7 present now !!
Pingshi : still 100% steam

Tour Details :

March 5th, Sunday

I arrived at Beijing Capital Airport on board BA 39 from London Heathrow at 10:35 .Stephan should have arrived some one and a half before on board KL 897 from Amsterdam. But KLM arrived some 2 hours late around 11:00 due to baggage problems in Amsterdam (seems to be KLM`s major problem nowadays : when he flew back to Germany his baggage was forgotten at Amsterdam ...).
We took the airport bus to the International Hotel (fare 16 Yuan) and walked to Beijing main station.
At the "foreigners ticket counter", we had no problems to get hard sleeper tickets (164 Yuan/ person) for train 537 to Tonghua, departure 17:20. Before sunset (around 18:15), no steam was seen. After darkness, neither at Jinzhou and Dahushan nor at Huanggutun, any steam was visible.

March 6th, Monday

After sunrise (around 7:00) - some 40 km beyond Siping : the same as before : absolutely no steam between Siping and Meihekou and on the line towards Tonghua. Sun was shining, snow covered fields and hills, but sadly no steam.

Tonghua / Hunjiang

At 11:32 we arrived at Tonghua where we were greeted by 3 JS (8154, 8158, 8201) waiting at the depot or shunting in the station. We checked in at the GuoMaoHotel, situated to the right opposite to the station. Double was 120Yuan.
Tonghua still has got a fleet of some 20 JS. All "old" JS (5xxx series) seem to have big deflectors whilst the "new" locomotives (8xxx series) have either no (8154, 8155, 8211, 8231, 8233, 8234) or high deflectors (8158, 8201). The deflectorless engines are predominantly used as pilots at Hunjiang and Tonghua or for tripping locals freights e.g to Dongtonghua, Xintonghua or to Hunjiang power plant. Line work is in the hand of deflectored engines. Each 3 days north and south of Hunjiang showed the following pattern of working :

Tonghua-Hunjiang : Both freight and passenger trains have a quite unpredictable mix of DF4, DF5 and JS. In general some 50 % of freights are JS worked. In the early morning, there is a tender first working from Tonghua (leaving between 6:00 and 9:00) towards Hunjiang serving the local factories and mines, e.g at Daoqing and Guyuan along the line. This train arrives at Tonghua between 12:00 and 14:00 (engine funnel first). Another quite reliable steam hauled train is an afternoon freight from Tonghua to Hunjiang, leaving around 15:30. In the afternoon there are fewer freights than in the morning. The 15:30 freight is often the only steam hauled freight between noon and sunset.
Passenger workings are quite unpredictable. Some trains were diesel worked every day during the visit. Unfortunately, these trains are in the best light around noon. For details see table below and  Tonghua Timetable  . Two general rules :

Trains on the line towards Ji`an are quite unlikely to be steam hauled with the exception of T791/792 Tonghua-Guosong-Tonghua.Trains having a stop of more than 7 minutes at Hunjiang can change locos. But sometimes there is no change of engines, too. T 803 for example has a pause of 14mins at Hunjiang, but does not change loco.
In addition to the trains published in the current CNR timetable, trains 665/666 Shenyang Bei-Tonghua start and terminate at Quanyang (Hunjiang-Baihe line) now. T665 has been retimed between Shenyang and Tonghua, too.

    T 665 : Shenyang Bei (appr.7:30 - 8:00) - Tonghua (appr.17:25) - Hunjiang 18.52 - Quanyang ?
    T 666 : Quanyang ? - Hunjiang 10.12 - Tonghua 11:52 - Shenyang Bei 20:37

Tonghua departures :

(If nothing different indicated : diesel = DF5)

train
dep.
to
number of days observed
steam
diesel
comment
807
06:10
Linjiang
2
1
1
 
805
07:33
Ji `an
1
-
1
 
651
08:14
Dalizi
2
-
2
 
645
08:41
Baihe
5
3
2
if diesel : DF4
801
10:30
Quanyang
5
-
5
DF4 daily
803
15:24
Songshuzhen
5
3
2
 
655
16:16
Ji`an
1
-
1
 
791
16:55
Guosong
1
-
1
 
665
17:25
Quanyang
-
-
-
 
653
18:30
Hunjiang
1
-
1
 
Y257
21:09
Baihe
-
-
-
 

Tonghua arrivals :

train
dep.
from
number of days observed
steam
diesel
comment
792
07:01
Guosong
2
2
-
 
804
07:59
Songshuzhen
2
1
1
 
Y258
08:36
Baihe
2
2
-
 
656
09:25
Ji`an
1
-
1
 
808
09:52
Linjiang
4
2
2
 
666
11:45
Quanyang
3
-
3
DF4 daily
646
14:35
Baihe
6
-
6
DF4 daily (same engine every day !)
806
15:21
Ji`an
2
-
2
DF4 daily
652
16:12
Dalizi
3
-
3
 
802
17:20
Quanyang
4
-
4
 
220
21:10
Hunjiang
1
-
1
 

Most scenic section is the area between Daoqing and Guyuan (8 km south of Daoqing). Furthermore, both river bridges some 2 km south and north of Dongtonghua are photogenic.Dongtonghua-Shuidong section is quite nice, too but not very spectacular. When going to Dongtonghua, take Bus No. 3 (leaving in front of Tonghua station). Fare is 0.6 Yuan. Bus No. 3 operates between 06:00 and 18:30. Daoqing can be reached by bus (Tonghua-Baishan(Hunjiang) ) or by passenger train.

Hunjiang-Songshuzhen-Baihe : North of Hunjiang, nearly all freights are steam hauled, some of them double headed. But every day, one DF5 was on freight duties, too. No DF4 was seen hauling a "real" freight, but hauled the mixed Songshuzhen-Hunjiang train in the morning. As reported previously, there is a very reliable freight departing from Hunjiang between 08:00 and 08:30. Freight arrivals and departures at Hunjiang are to be (+/- 30-60 min):

Trains indicated (L) are local trains to Sanchazi or Zazi and arrive tender first at Hunjiang. Other trains go further on towards Dayangcha/ Songshuzhen, but keep in mind that at least one of these trains will be DF5 hauled !
Worst case is, when the 08:15 (classic) departure has got a DF5 due to the fact, that the 16:00 returning (in the best light) will have the same engine, too.

Passengers : During daytime, there are 4 passenger trains each direction. T 955/956 Hunjiang-Songshuzhen are not published in CNR timetable.

Apart from the "classic" Hunjiang spot at the river bridge just north of the station good photo possibilities can be found some 6 km north of Hunjiang and along the following 4kms to the station of Zazi. To get there, take one of the frequent buses running over the new "highway" and leave the bus at the tollgate near the road tunnel.
Furthermore, the "classic" locations around Dayangcha (27kms north of Hunjiang) offer great photo spots. Take one of the buses northwards and get off at Sanchazi. North of the "city" of Sanchazi, the road to Dayangcha leaves the "highway". About every 60 - 90 min, there is a minibus to Songshuzhen. Alternatively catch a taxi at Sanchazi.

Back to the tour (March 6th) :

After a little pause, we went out to explore. At first we visited the western end of Tonghua station near to the depot and the junction of the branch line to Xintonghua. JS 8154 (nd) was shunting there. Then, we walked to the eastern end of Tonghua station and further on the 8 km to Dongtonghua.The following trains were observed :

T646 14:30 DF4 4125 sb, to Shenyang Bei
G 14:55 JS 5751 nb
G 15:00 JS 5480 sb
T806 15:15 DF5 5009 sb, to Tonghua
T652 15:50 DF5 1256 sb, to Tonghua
T803 15:50 DF5 1194 nb, to Songshuzhen

At Dongtonghua, SY 0311 and GK1 0028 were serving the steelworks while JS 8211 (nd) was CNR shunter. Temperature was down to some -10°C, but a strong wind blew. By 16:30, sunlight failed. So we decided to give up and walked back to the road to catch bus No.3 back to Tonghua. While waiting for the bus, an unidentified JS passed through Dongtonghua station hauling a freight towards Hunjiang.
Around 17:00, we arrived at Tonghua. We had planned to have a look at T 791 (Tonghua-Guosong, dep. 17:25 according to CNR timetable), but we had to realise, that it now leaves 30 min earlier at 16:55 (and had left Tonghua a few minutes before our arrival).

March 7th, Tuesday

We left the hotel at 6:30 and walked to the S-bend north of Tonghua station. Again some -10° C, clear sky and sunshine in the morning.

T 792 07:05 JS 5751 sb, from Guosong
G 07:20 DF5 1194 sb, from Hunjiang / Ji`an
T 804 08:00 JS ? sb, from Songshuzhen

JS 8155 (nd) was pilot at the northern end of Tonghua station. We took Bus No.3 to Dongtonghua. At the river bridge some 2 km north of Dongtonghua, we started our linesiding session. During the day, we walked to Shuihe (8kms from Dongtonghua) and return. The following trains were observed :

T 645 09:00 JS ? nb, to Baihe
G 09:10 DF5 ? nb
G 09:30 JS 5751 (tf) nb
T 801 11:00 DF4 4124 nb, to Quanyang
T 666 11:05 DF4 4160 sb, to Shenyang Bei
G 11:25 JS 5485 nb
G 11:35 DF5 5010 sb
G 13:15 JS 5480 + JS 6366 (tf) sb
G 13:30 DF4 4033 sb
G 14:15 JS 5751 sb
T 646 14:30 DF4 4125 sb, to Shenyang Bei
G 14:45 DF5 1695 nb
G 15:30 JS 6360 nb
T 806 15:50 DF5 1193 sb, to Tonghua
T 803 16:00 DF5 5010 nb, to Songshuzhen
T 652 16:30 DF5 1516 sb, to Tonghua
T 802 17:20 DF4 4232 sb, to Tonghua

As said above : After 14:00 no steam except of the 15:30 departure. We arrived at Dongtonghua station at 17:45. Today, JS 5751 was Dongtonghua pilot; the steelworks had GK1 0036 and 0091 in use. Furthermore, JS 8211 was waiting in the station, heading a Dongtonghua to Tonghua local freight. Sunset around 17:45; back to Tonghua by bus No.3.

March 8th, Wednesday

Dull light all the day. Heavy wind in the afternoon, combined with some snowfall and rain. Another morning at Tonghua northern end :

T 792 07:05 JS 5480 sb, from Guosong
G 07:20 JS 5731 nb

JS 8155 was shunting again. JS 6271 was waiting at the platform for its wagons. It hauled Fast 645 to Baihe (dep. 08:41). We bought tickets to Hunjiang. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, we got tickets for T 651 (Tonghua-Dalizi, dep. 08:13) instead of those ones for T 645. The lady at the counter did not understand, why we wanted to get tickets for the later train ... Ten minutes late, at 08:23, T 651 left Tonghua, hauled by DF5 1193, while JS 6271 was waiting next to us ...
On the way to Hunjiang, T Y257 (JS 8158) and T 803 were crossed at Dongtonghua and Tonghua respectively. At Daoqing, JS 5751 was waiting (light engine); at Hunjiang Xi a DF5 hauled freight was crossed. Arrival at Tonghua at 09:33 (still 10 min late). The hotel just outside the station refused to give us a room. So we had to go to Baishan Shi Binguan, situated near the city centre of Baishan some 3 km south of Hunjiang station. A taxi is 5 Yuan. Taking Bus No. 1 is the cheaper option (0.6 Yuan) It operates between 06:00-18:00. Leave the bus, after you have crossed the river. Walk some 100m back and you will find the hotel. Comfortable double is 200 Yuan. Expensive, but good.
At 11:00, we left the hotel and walked back to the station and further on towards the river bridge. First steam locomotive, we saw at Hunjiang was JS 8234 (nd) returning light engine from the power plant at 12:00.
The about 1 km long branch line to the power plant starts at the northern end of Hunjiang station but leaves the northern part of the station to the south. About half way, there is a river bridge followed by a some 300m long steep grade. After this grade, the power plant`s yard is reached. The power plant has got a GK diesel as pilot. The power plant is served several times a day. Maximum number of full coal wagons is 12 wagons. So most trains have to be split. The power plant is served by the northern end Hunjiang pilot (it was JS 8234 every day). Furthermore there is a hump yard pilot (JS 8233) while a third engine (JS 8231) is shunting and serving the factories at the southern end of Hunjiang station. At the river bridge, the following trains were seen :

G 12:30 JS ? (tf) sb
T 801 12:40 DF4 4232 nb, to Quanyang
G 13:10 JS 6104 (tf) sb
T 646 13:30 DF4 4125 sb, to Shenyang Bei
G 13:40 JS 6271 nb

The departure of JS 6271 (obviously, it had left T 645 at Hunjiang) was the only photo of the day with sunshine ... After this, we walked back to the yard, where the three pilots (JS 8231, 8233, 8234) plus JS 8158 (hd) were present. The crew of JS 8234 invited us to the cab. At first we pushed back some 12 wagons to the very northern end of Hunjiang yard. The coal wagons were dedicated for the power plant. Then, Stephan was invited to go to the regulator ... The first time driving a JS on his own, he had to climb up the grade to the power plant hauling a maximum-weight-train of some 1000 t ... Quite impressive ! I should have been outside and taken a video of the scene ... The following two hours, we spent on board of JS 8234 shunting at the power plant`s yard, collecting some empty wagons at the power plant, returning to Hunjiang, serving a factory at the northern end of the station and then a second time tripping 12 coal wagons to the power plant. In the end, JS 8234`s crew was quite impressed, how soft Stephan coupled the engine to some wagons ... Normally, Chinese crews drive until hearing the "ruuummms".
While serving the power plant for the first time, a high-large-deflectored combination (JS 8158 [hd]+ JS 5731) left Hunjiang hauling a freight in direction to Baihe (15:00). Being at the power plant for the second time, T 955 (Hunjiang 15:43-Songshuzhen 18:16) left the station, hauled by JS 6104.
After our "driving session", we walked to the crossing between the station and the locomotive service area south of Hunjiang station. Four JS came along within 15 min (all light engine) : "our" JS 8234, 8231, 8233 and 5751.

March 9th, Thursday

In the morning, we took a taxi to the river bridge (10 Yuan) where we arrived just at the moment when the 8:15 freight left the Hunjiang yard. Running up the hill, we just got the train.

G 08:15 JS 6366 nb

After that, we started walking along the track towards Zazi. Sadly, the T 956 mixed was DF4 hauled :

T 956 08:50 DF4 4033 sb, Songshuzhen - Hunjiang
G 09:00 JS 5731 nb

Some 2.5 km north of the river bridge, the track joins the "highway", where we picked up a taxi to Dayangcha (50 Yuan). Journey time was about 45 min. We arrived at Dayangcha at 10:10. The day was spent walking down the 9 km to Sanchazi :

T 645 10:50 DF4 4158 nb, to Baihe
G 11:40 JS 6271 sb
T 646 12:50 DF4 4125 sb, to Shenyang Bei
T 801 13:20 DF4 4232 nb, to Quanyang
G 14:05 JS 6104 nb
T 802 14:30 DF4 4124 sb, to Tonghua
G 14:50 DF5 1695 nb
G 15:40 JS 5731 sb

At Sanchazi, JS 5855 was shunting and served two branch lines to coal mines. Both lines leave Sanchazi station to the north. Each of them is some 2 km long. Then :

T 955 16:20 JS 5731 nb, to Songshuzhen

At 17:00, sun disappeared behind the mountains. So we went back to the "highway" and caught a taxi back to the hotel (20 Yuan). From the taxi, we saw a freight heading for Dayangcha arriving at Sanchazi (17:10) and JS hauled T 803 (Tonghua-Songshuzhen) near Hunjiang.

March 10th, Friday

Got up early at 05:15. Local bus No. 1 starts not before 06:00. So we had to take a taxi to the station (5Y). We took T 804, departure 06:05 and went to Daoqing (2 Yuan). T 804 arrived JS hauled (tender first !) at Hunjiang, but motive power was changed to DF 5 5010. Arrival at Daoqing at 06:42.

T 807 07:15 JS 5858 nb, to Linjiang
G 07:35 JS 6306 (tf) nb
T Y258 07:45 JS 6366 sb, to Shenyang Bei

JS 6306 was shunting some 30 min at Daoqing and collected some wagons. It served the 500m long branch line to the coal mine south of the station, too. After its departure in the direction to Hunjiang (around 08:10), we left Daoqing. The rest of the day was spent on the 8 km - long section Daoqing - Guyuan. The summit is situated about 3 km south of Daoqing, but the steepest section just south of the summit - featuring a grade of 1.9 % - is treated by poles and nearly not useable if you want to take photos. 2 km south of the summit, there is a river bridge, whereas the following 3 km to Guyuan are unattractive.

T 808 08:45 DF5 1695 sb, to Tonghua
T 651 09:00 DF5 1193 nb, to Dalizi
T 645 09:30 JS 8158 nb, to Baihe
G 10:05 JS 5858 sb
G 10:20 DF5 5010 nb
T 666 10:45 DF4 4160 sb, to Shenyang Bei
G 11:00 DF4 4124 sb
G 11:15 JS 6306 sb
T 801 11:40 DF4 4033 nb, to Quanyang
constr.train 11:50 2 railbuses sb
G 12:20 JS 6366 nb
G 13:05 DF5 1695 nb
T 646 14:10 DF4 4125 sb, to Shenyang Bei
T 652 15:25 DF5 1193 sb, to Tonghua
G 15:45 DF5 5010 sb
G 16:15 JS 5858 nb

Again : No steam train between 12:20 and the 15:30 freight ex Tonghua.We took T 803, departure 16:28 back to Hunjiang. To our surprise, it was steam hauled (JS 5485). At Hunjiang the JS was not replaced. So, JS 5485 must have hauled T 803 all the way from Tonghua to Songshuzhen.

March 11th, Saturday

We took the bus to Hunjiang station and bought hard sleeper tickets for T 220 (Hunjiang 20:13-Changchun 05:03) for the evening (79 Yuan). Today, all passenger trains were 20 to 30 minutes delayed. Again, a morning session at the river bridge :

T 808 07:57 JS ? sb, to Tonghua
G 08:25 JS 5731 nb
T 956 09:20 DF4 4231 sb, from Songshuzhen
T 666 10:15 DF4 4160 sb, to Shenyang Bei
T 645 10:25 DF4 4158 nb, to Baihe
G 11:10 JS 6306 nb

We walked along the track to the scenic section near the road tunnel. Some 3 km north of river bridge, where the road and the railway are parallel to each other, you can see the (electrified) Hunjiang narrow gauge railway winding around the hill to the west of this place. Sightings :

G 11:45 JS 5855 (tf) sb
G 12:30 JS 5485 sb
T 801 12:55 DF4 4124 nb, to Quanyang
T 646 13:45 DF4 4125 sb, to Shenyang Bei
G 14:10 DF5 1695 nb
G 15:00 JS 5855 nb
G 15:20 JS 6271 (tf) sb
T 802 15:35 DF4 4232 sb, to Tonghua
T 955 16:00 JS 5485 nb, to Songshuzhen
G 16:40 JS 5731 sb
G 17:00 JS 6366 nb
T 803 17:45 JS 5858 nb, to Songshuzhen

After T 955, we started walking back to Hunjiang. T 653 arrived behind DF5 (19:40). It went round and headed T 220 back to Tonghua, dep. 20:13.

Engines seen at Tonghua :

JS 5480(ld), 5485(ld), 5731(ld), 5751(ld), 5855(ld), 5858(ld), 6104(ld), 6271(ld), 6306(ld), 6360(ld), 6366(ld), 8154, 8155, 8158(hd), 8201(hd), 8211, 8231, 8233, 8234
DF4 4033, 4124, 4125, 4158, 4160, 4231, 4232
DF5 1167, 1193, 1194, 1256, 1516, 1695, 5009, 5010
SY 0311 (Dongtonghua steelworks)
GK1 0028, 0036, 0091 (all Dongtonghua steelworks)

March 12th, Sunday

Arrival at Changchun at 05:03. Bought hard seat tickets for T 825, departure 06:30, arrival at Da`an at 11:24. T 825 got fuller and fuller and arrived overcrowded at Da`an.

Da`an Bei

On the way from Changchun to Da`an, a DF4 hauled freight was crossed at Kai`an (07:15), T Y272 at Nong`an (DFH3 0446, 08:00), two further freights at Wangfu 09:11 (DF4 1503, QJ 3179) and T 212 (DFH3 0184, 10:02) at Qianguo. At Qianguo, two high deflectored steam locomotives were shunting. Qianguo has a small depot west of the station, where a QJ (standard deflectors) was waiting. Some 4 km west of Qianguo a branch line extends south to refinery. At the junction to this branch line, there is a large yard, too. At Tongtu (10:20), a QJ+QJ double headed tanker train was crossed. East of Changshantun station, a branch line extends to a large factory. Changshantun station has got a yard, too and is destination for some freights, too. At the western end of Changshantun station, there is a servicing area (water cranes, coal supply). There is even a turntable there ! About 1.5 km to the east, a nice river bridge can be used as photo spot. Next to the bridge, there is a derelict building. Climbing onto the ruins, you have the best linside spot of the whole area ...

The city of Da`an is situated next to the station of Da`an whereas Da`an Bei station (Da`an North station) is situated some 3 km south-west ( ! ) of Da`an. We checked in at the Da`an Shi Binguan (double 200Y for the first two nights, the third night was 100 Yuan ). Just around the corner, there is a second hotel but it was not checked.
At Da`an Bei station, there are three lüdians : the grey building just right outside the station is the first one. If you turn right the two further buildings showing the CNR symbol are the two other ones. Single room is 30 Yuan there. Between 06:00 and 18:00 there is a frequent bus service between Da`an Bei and Da`an City (Bus No.5). It stops directly in front of the Da`an Shi Binguan and terminates at Da`an Bei. In the streets of Da`an you will find plenty of restaurants offering grilled meat-sticks. Together with Jiaouzi (available everywhere), home made noodle soap and 11% beer a wonderful possibility for having dinner.

Da`an Bei shed is situated north of the station. Between the shed and the station, there is a crossing : a perfect place for watching trains and steam movements.

Da`an Bei has got a fleet of some 50 QJs and some 5 JS . Predominantly, they haul freights between Ranghulu, Da`an Bei and Taipingchuan. On both lines, you can expect about 15-20 QJ hauled freights during daylight hours. But expect up to 4 goods trains DF4 hauled. Hardly any freight has less than 40 wagons with 42 to 45 wagons being "standard". If loaded, that means trains of more 3000t ! Most trains are single headed. During 6 days of observation, only 3 double headed trains could be noted.
Da`an Bei`s green DF4s are built between 1989 and 1990. Probably, they have been cascaded to Da`an from elsewhere. Orange DF4s can be seen, too. They are Tongliao based and even older than the green ones : 1986-1988. Furthermore, Baicheng based DF4 and DFH3 from Changchun can be seen at Da`an Bei.
Traffic on the line to Qianguo/ Changchun is slighter : about 5 to 6 freights each direction between Da`an Bei and Changshantun can be expected. The line to Baicheng hardly will see more than 2-3 freight trains each direction. Interesting detail : each line seems to have its "own" locomotives. So you will nearly see the same engines on a particular line every day.

Occasionally, there seems to be a lack of QJs. As of this reason Da`an Bei`s "monster trains" sometimes have to be hauled by JS, single JS, of course !! Have you ever seen a JS trying to accelerate a 3000t tanker train ? Wow !
If working on the line the JS are predominantly used on the line to Qianguo/Changchun or towards Baicheng but in one occasion, a JS was seen heading a (loaded) freight towards Taipingchuan, too. In direction to Baicheng and Qianguo, JS can be seen hauling passengers trains, too. The five wagon-tourist train Y267/Y268 Qianguo-Baicheng is quite likely to be a JS duty. Furthermore, JS are used as pilots at Da`an Bei (2 engines) and probably at Qianguo, too. The JS are either high deflectored or have no deflectors.

In addition to the freights, there is also a number of passengers (QJ, sometimes JS, too) :
The line towards Qianguo/ Changchun offers only two trains (but they were steam hauled every day) :

Amazing : You are not allowed to buy tickets and to board these trains at Da`an Bei.

The line towards Ranghulu has 2 pairs of passengers, both quite likely to be steam hauled (but can be DF4, too). Timings for Da`an Bei are :

T 705, 706 and T 703, 704 have the same engine. Express trains were exclusively diesel during our visit.

Most steam passengers can be found on the line to Baicheng. Steam departures observed :

* = seen both steam and diesel hauled (DF4 or DFH3)

The line to Taipingchuan has only three pairs of passengers at all : Out of them, both the nb and sb express trains Hangzhou-Qiqihar run during the night (DF4 hauled), whereas T 703/704 Qiqihar-Tongliao are DF4 hauled south of Da`an Bei (orange Tongliao based DF4). The only steam hauled passengers are T 951/ 952 Da`an Bei-Taipingchuan. They operate as mixed trains (3 YZ at the end of the train) with longer stops at some intermediate stations (Qian`an for example). T 951 leaves Da`an Bei early in the morning at 06:05. The same engine arrives back at Da`an Bei at 20:19, hauling T 952.

Major problem around Da`an is the lack of photo possibilities combined with unfavourable weather conditions : All four lines radiating from Da`an Bei have poles on both sides. There is a (fine) old style telegraph pole normally in a distance of some 30 metres to the track. But the telegraph poles are not the problem. It is the 3-wire-telephone pole. The telephone poles are nearly everywhere immediately next to the track and normally on the other side of the track than the telegraph poles. On the line Ranghulu to Taipingchuan line, the telegraph poles are normally on the eastern side of the line, the telephone poles to the west. So, the morning would be the best time for photography, when you can use the 30 metres spare place between track and the telegraph poles.
But : There seems to be a strong wind from the west nearly at any time. And the direction of the wind seems to be constant, too, as all trees are cambered to the east. So, the exhaust ever goes to the west, and this is exactly where you have to stand in the morning ... In the morning, the trains are hidden behind the engine`s exhaust, in the afternoon behind the telephone poles ...

Furthermore, the landscape is absolutely uninspiring. There are hardly any bends. Straight line for up to 20 km is not unusual. Maximum grade, I noted, was 0.4%. This "climb" can be found some 5 km south of Da`an Bei and is against northbound (empty) trains.In general, you can find not more than 4 different motifs :

The big river bridge some 5 km north of Da`an Bei is hardly not photographable, too. It is a positive (iron made) bridge and heavily guarded. Probably the best photo spot in the area is the bridge west of Changshantun, where you can find two bends plus some rows of birches one kilometre further west ...

Back to the tour (March 12th) :

After having refreshed at the hotel, we left the city to the northwest as we thought Da`an Bei station would be somewhat north of the city. Soon, we had to realise that it is southwest of Da`an city ... In the end, we arrived at "the Da`an Bei" crossing not before 15:00. This crossing is situated exactly between the station and the depot north of the station`s yard. JS 6237(hd, 1982 built), QJ 6367 and QJ 6882 were waiting next to the shed`s entrance. Decorated, deflectorless JS 6239 shunted at the northern end of Da`an Bei (southern pilot was high deflectored JS 6096). QJ hauled freights every 30mins ! Where else in China can you see such an spectacle !

G 15:25 QJ 6112 to Ranghulu
G 15:30 QJ 6554 from Qianguo / Changchun
G 16:00 QJ 7173 from Ranghulu
G 16:05 QJ 6367 to Ranghulu
G 16:30 JS 6237 to Qianguo / Changchun
G 16:55 QJ 7113 to Ranghulu

The departure of JS 6237, accelerating 44 loaded tank wagons was the most spectacular sight, I have ever seen !
In the meantime, several engines went in and came out of the shed : DF4 3316, QJ 6554, QJ 6143(d), QJ 6825, QJ 7113, JS 6096

We went back to the hotel using a three-wheeler (5Y).

March 13th, Monday

Having seen the amount of trains on the line to Ranghulu, we decided to visit this line. So we took T705 Da`an Bei-Ranghulu, dep. 06:20 ( DF4 hauled ). At Tashihai and Xinzhan, QJ hauled freights were crossed, another one overtaken at Xinzhan. We went to Taiyangshen, 56 km north of Da`an Bei. The whole day was spent between Taiyangshen and Lizhi, the next station to the north. Measured by Da`an`s standards, the line is "highly spectacular" here. There is a big salt lake just west of Taiyangshen. Furthermore, there is a wide bend 1 km north of Taipingshen, followed by a cutting, then rows of birches, Grades of up to 0.3% and 2 level crossings. After 3 km straight line, a second bend is reached.
But the very best there is, that due to the bends, the telephone poles are some 10 metres away from track and sometimes even hidden behind the birches ! Sightings:

G 08:20 QJ 7113 sb
G 08:25 DF4 3284 + DF5 1763 nb
G 08:50 QJ 6852 nb
G 09:20 QJ 6484 nb
light engine 09:45 QJ 6924 nb
G 10:00 DF4 3283 sb
T 581 10:10 DF4 6075 nb, to Qiqihar
T 704 10:40 QJ 7081 sb, to Tongliao
light engine 10:55 QJ 6586 nb
G 11:15 QJ 6554 sb
G 12:50 QJ 7173 sb
G 13:40 QJ 6112 nb
G 13:50 DF4 3315 nb
G 14:05 DF4 1098 sb
G 14:35 QJ 6887 sb
G 14:50 QJ 6367 nb
T 703 15:00 QJ 7081 nb, to Qiqihar
G 15:20 QJ 6809 sb
G 15:45 QJ ? nb

At 15:50, we took Fast train 548 back to Da`an Bei. QJ 6809 was overtaken at Taipingshen (waited there), QJ hauled trains were crossed at Taipingshen (unidentified, rolled in behind QJ 6809`s train), Xinzhan (QJ 6847), Jianmen, Tashihai and Da`an Bei. After arriving, we went to the crossing to the north again. We hoped for QJ 6809, hauling a complete train loaded with wood (must have been a whole forest ! 46 wood-loaded wagons !). But sadly, it did not appear before sunset (17:45). Instead of, JS 6096, 6239, QJ 6379, 6368 and 6571 were noted. T 211 Changchun-Baicheng arrived behind DFH3 0184 (17:20).

March 14th, Tuesday

A second day was spent on the Ranghulu line. We went to Xinzhan, where a flat bridge can be found some 2.5 km north of the station. It crosses a salt lake. A bridge is the only photospot, which cannot be found at Taiyangshen. But the telephone poles (to the west side) are very, very close to the track here. Combined with the wind, morning photography is ruined, too.
We took Fast T 581 Dalian-Qiqihar, leaving Da`an Bei at 9:06 arriving Xinzhen at 09:35. At Xinzhen, you can hire horse-powered "taxis" outside the station waiting for the arrival of trains. Sightings :

G 10:35 QJ 6554 sb
G 10:50 DF4 3315 nb
light engine 11:10 QJ 6361 nb
T 704 11:30 QJ 7081 sb, to Tongliao
G 11:45 DF4 3283 nb
G 12:40 QJ 6887 sb
G 12:55 QJ 7173 nb
G 13:20 DF4 3284 sb
G 13:40 QJ 6361 (tf) sb
G 13:50 QJ 6847 nb
T 703 14:30 QJ 7081 nb, to Qiqihar
G 14:50 QJ 6484 sb
G 15:15 QJ 6809 sb
G 15:30 QJ 6554 nb
G 16:05 QJ 6887 nb
G 16:30 QJ 7113 nb

Again, we returned to Da`an Bei on board Fast T 548 Harbin-Ulanhot, dep. 16:39 (half an hour late). A short visit to Da`an Bei`s "Northern Crossing" showed : JS 6096, 6239, QJ 6086, 6143, 6280

March 15th, Wednesday

Originally, we had planned to visit the Baicheng line. We had wanted to ride the Y267 tourist train, dep. 07:38 to Guang`an. Arriving at the station, we realised, that the Y267 train was neither listed on the board nor the ticket counter sold tickets. But : on time - at 07:33 - Y 267 arrived and it was hauled by deflectorless JS 8045. But we were not allowed to enter the train !
So we decided to have a look to the southern end of Da`an Bei`s yard where a new road overbridges the railway. There, we observed both the lines to Taipingchuan and Baicheng :

T 212 08:35 DFH3 0065 from Baicheng
G 08:50 QJ 7119 from Taipingchuan
G 09:30 QJ ? from Baicheng
G 09:30 JS ? to Taipingchuan
G 09:55 QJ 3287 + QJ 6825  from Taipingchuan

It was obvious, that the line towards Taipingchuan would offer more trains. So we walked down some further 3 km towards Jianshe. Here - in direction to Jianshe - a 0.4% grade against northbound trains begins, whereas southbound trains leaving Da`an Bei station are worked hard to accelerate the trains until this point. So to say, this is a kind of "summit" here. Furthermore, the telephone poles are installed some 15 metres away from the track here, sometimes hidden behind the birch rows and - although only for a few hundred metres - to the east side of the line together with the telegraph poles.

G 10:50 QJ 6086 sb
G 11:35 QJ 3251 nb
T 704 12:35 DF4 0670 sb, to Tongliao

In the meantime, we saw the exhaust of a steam engine leaving Da`an Bei towards Baicheng at 11:45. This must have been T 825 Changchun-Baicheng. So, we decided to watch the return working T 826 and walked back to the Baicheng line.

T 826 13:30 QJ 6848 from Baicheng

Rest of the day was spent at the Taipingchuan line again :

G 13:45 QJ ? nb
G 14:20 QJ 7102 nb
G 14:45 QJ 6586 nb
G 15:05 QJ 6156 sb
G 15:20 QJ 7119 sb
G 15:50 QJ 6825 sb
G 16:10 QJ 6571 nb
G 16:50 QJ 3251 sb

Now, we had arrived back at Da`an Bei station :

T 548 17:00 QJ 6848 to Baicheng
G 17:10 QJ 6891 to Taipingchuan

JS 6096 was the southern end pilot. The crew invited us to the cab and we spent the next hour hump shunting at Da`an Bei. After telling the crew, that Stephan had driven a JS before, he was allowed to drive JS 6096. This time, he had to accelerate one of those 45 wagon-freights (I do not know whether loaded or not, but according to the maximum speed of some 2 km/h and permanent wheelspin, it must have been a loaded one ...) But even JS 6096`s crew did not reached a higher speed with this train. Compared with JS 8234(Hunjiang) JS 6096 was in worse condition : the regulator did not work well. You could open it half way, but nothing happened. Instead of, the engine had to be driven using a maximum regulator`s amplitude of some 2 centimetres somewhere around the middle position of the regulator. At 18:30, we left JS 6096. While walking back to the station, JS 8045 arrived, hauling tourist train Y268 to Qianguo.
After dinner (meat sticks and jiaozi, the same as the 2 days before) we picked up our luggage at the hotel and went to Da`an Bei station, where we took T 547 (Ulanhot-Harbin Dong), dep. 22:57. Hard sleeper was 61 Yuan.

Engines seen at Da`an :

JS 6096 (hd), 6237 (hd), 6239 (d), 8045(Baicheng)
QJ 3115, 3179, 3251, 3268, 3287, 6086, 6112, 6143, 6156, 6280, 6281, 6361, 6367, 6368, 6379, 6435, 6484(d), 6554, 6571, 6586, 6773, 6809(d), 6825, 6847, 6848, 6851(d), 6852, 6882, 6887, 6888, 6891(*), 6924(d), 6926(d), 7081, 7086, 7102, 7113, 7119, 7173
DF4 0670(Tongliao), 1098, 1549, 1699(Baicheng), 2120(orange, Changchun), 2162, 2175, 2178 (all orange, Tongliao), 3283, 3284, 3287, 3315, 3316, 3317, 3985, 6075

* QJ 6891 has got two square shaped headlights instead of round ones

March 16th, Thursday

Arrival at Harbin at 04:31. Bought hard seat tickets for T 439 Beijing-Jiamusi, departure 05:54. This is an air-conditioned train and because of this reason, it is nearly double-priced : 64 Yuan one person!
T439 was DF4D hauled and arrived at Jiamusi at 14:09 . During the whole journey no active steam was seen. Only dumped QJs were noted :

At Jiamusi, we bought tickets for DFH3 hauled T 241 (Jiamusi 17:06 - Shuangyashan 18:50) to Shuangyashan (7 Yuan). At Shuangyashan outside the station, there is a good hotel but we went to a lüdian to the left side of the station. Double was 50Y.

March 17th, Friday

Shuangyashan

Shuangyashan Map

This industrial system has been described by Ted Talbot. As Ted Talbot described, the Shuangyashan coal railway has both QJs and SYs in use. In general, there is a mainline towards the southwest of SYS and a long branch line to the north. The mainline goes to Shuangxing, the branch line terminates at Fushan. The branch line leaves the mainline some 5.5 km away from SYS CNR station. The junction is called Changan. Both lines are steeply graded (up to 2.1%), have a summit only a few kilometres away from SYS and offer both coal freights and QJ hauled passenger trains. Passenger trains consist either of 9 or 11 coaches. All engines leave SYS funnel first. So, all loaded coal trains and passengers returning to SYS are tender first.
The "depot area" is situated west of the CNR railway station, the line itself leaves SYS railway station to the south as extension of the CNR branch line Fulitun- Shuangyashan. Immediately to the south of the station, the CNR "depot" or better service station can be found, but we never saw any locomotive there. CNR pilot is GK 0335, CNR passengers feature DFH3, freight trains DF4.
To the southwest, a branch line to the power plant leaves the station, whereas the "mainline" swings to the east a few hundred meters south of SYS. After some 1.5 km, the mine railway`s passenger station is reached. It is called "Zhongxin" (Chinese characters for "middle" and "heart") and is situated approximately in east-west direction. A branch line extends to the west. Furthermore, there is a footbridge in the middle of the station. Passenger trains over the coal railway start and terminate here. The line now swings to the south again. At km-post 2.5, a branch line extends to the south leading to the wagon repair shop whereas the mainline now extends in south-east direction. Some 2 km further on, a road overbridges the railway. Here, the climb starts. The mainline climbs up the hill and passes the passenger stop of Changan (not all uphill trains stop here). Immediately after the station, the some 400m long 2.1 % section starts. The following 2 km offer grades between 1.6 - 1.9 % until the summit is reached in some 8.5 km distance from Shuangyashan.
The branch line to Fushan leaves the "mainline" immediately south of Changan station`s platform and swings north there. Although there is no platform, the passenger trains stop immediately after the junction. The lines crosses the valley leading onto a dam (nearly not graded). About 1 km after the junction, the next passenger stop (Dongjing) is reached. Dongjing has got a siding, too but no platform. It is situated just before the beginning of a some 500m long 1.6 % climb leading to the summit of this line. Watching a QJ, accelerating the 9 YZ-wagon-train in this grade is a quite spectacular sight. The same spectacle is offered on the "mainline", where passenger trains normally consist of 11 coaches.The lines were not investigated beyond the summits, but some further climbs can be expected there.
Access to the line is quite easy. Being at Shuangyashan CNR station, just walk up the street (right angle to the railway), until you reach "Shuangyashan`s Major Place". Take bus No.1 and go until the very last station. It is situated next to Dongjing station on the line to Fushan (see Coal Railway Map) . Fare is 0.6Y. If you want to go further on along the mainline, you can take one of the frequent minibuses to Baoshan. They use the same route as bus No.1`s to Dongjing but go further on. If you want to go to the road bridge, where the climb begins, you can also take Bus No.8.
Compared with Ted Talbot's description ( November 1999 ), freight levels were very low in Mid March (1 and 3 freight trains a day respectively). Probably, you will have to come earlier.
Nevertheless, a visit to Shuangyashan will be worth it at any time. At least, you will have the passenger trains ( and they are worth it ). In Summer, you can see up to 6 funnel first passengers. For details see Shuangyashan Passenger Timetable . The timetable board at Zhongxin station showed four lines, served by passenger trains. Three lines start at Zhongxin (to Shuangxing , Fushan and Lingdong ). Lingdong is at the branch line to the south passing the wagon repair shop. The fourth line acts as a branch line of the Shuangxing "mainline". It leaves the mainline at Bafenchang and terminates at Shuangyang.
Although Ted Talbot recorded a DF7 diesel in November 1999, the system was 100% steam during our visit.

Back to the tour (March 17th) :

We did not get up before 08:30. The hard seat journey from Harbin to SYS had knocked out us. At 09:15, we arrived at the CNR service point south of CNR station. QJ 3593 was shunting there and serving the power plant`s branch line. At 09:30, QJ 3459(tf)+QJ3598(tf) arrived from Zhongxin station - the latter one being out of steam. Now we started to walk down the "mainline". At Zhongxin station, SY 0632 was shunting. We walked along the mainline to km8 near the summit. We observed :

T 72 10:20 QJ 6806 (tf) Fushan - Shuangyashan
T 82 10:35 QJ 6808 (tf) Shuangxing - Shuangyashan
T 32 11:05 QJ 7017 (tf) Bafenchang - Shuangyashan
T 83 12:45 QJ 6806 Shuangyashan - Shuangxing

At 14:00, we could see the passenger on the northern branch line (hauled by QJ 6808). The "mainline" offered the first (and only) freight of the day at 14:10 :

G 14:10 QJ 6805 to Shuangxing
constr.train 14:30 railcar to Shuangyashan
T 21 14:50 QJ 7017 Shuangyashan - Dongbaowei

Now we walked back to Zhongxin station, where QJ 3135 was preparing T 51 .

T 51 17:00 QJ 3135 Shuangyashan - Xinan
T 74 17:13 QJ 6808 (tf) Fushan - Shuangyashan

Although the passengers themselves are worth the journey to Shuangyashan, we very disappointed about freight levels.

March 18th, Saturday

We had planned to watch the 06:57 passenger departure to Fushan (T 71). But when we stood up, we realised, that there was heavy snowfall outside. Some 15cm snow had fallen during the night. Snowfall did not stop before 11:00.
Although photography was absolutely impossible, we left the lüdian at 07:00 and went to the coal mine railway`s loco service area west of the CNR station. QJ 6806, SY 0632, 0568, 1045 and SY 1486 were waiting there, but all of them under steam. Later SY 0632 left the service area. SY 1045 is supposed to be the 10th SY at Shuangyashan, Ted Talbot had not seen in November. After about half an hour, we decided to go back to our room and wait for the end of snowfall.
Perfectly timed, snowfall stopped at 11:00. So, we had some 1.5 hours to get out on the line the watch the passenger trains, leaving Zhongxin at 12:40, 13:40 and 14:40. We took bus No.1 to the very last station and walked through the snow-covered field to the south-western line :

T 83 12:55 QJ 6806 Shuangyashan - Shuangxing

Afterwards, we changed to the line to Fushan :

G 13:30 SY 0632 (tf) + QJ 3593 (tf, banker) loaded, to Shuangyashan
T 73 14:00 QJ 6808 Shuangyashan - Fushan

At 14:05, a QJ (light engine, probably QJ 3593) was seen on the mainline, heading towards Shuangxing. Back at the mainline, we had to watch a QJ hauled freight (14:30), going towards Fushan over the northern branch line. The mainline saw :

T 21 14:55 QJ 7017 Shuangyashan - Dongbaowei
G 15:15 QJ 3593 (tf) loaded, to Shuangyashan

We walked down to the road bridge. QJ 3459 was waiting inside the factory just west of the northern line's junction. From the road bridge, we took Bus No.1 back to SYS. A second visit to the "depot area" saw SY 0632 and SY 1045 waiting there in the last sun of the day (around 17:00).
We took T 872 (dep. 17:21) and left Shuangyashan. Arrival at Jiamusi : 19:35. The lady at the ticket counter refused to sell hard sleep tickets for T 850 to Linkou (although hard sleepers were still available). When I went to another ticket counter, she gave order to all her colleagues to sell no hard sleepers to the "waiguoren" ! So, we had to buy hard seat ticket (and upgraded on board of the train). T 850 (Jiamusi-Mudanjiang) left Jiamusi at 20:21.

Locos seen at Shuangyashan (all under steam) :

QJ 3135, 3459, 3593, 3598, 6805, 6806, 6808, 7017
SY 0568, 0632, 1045, 1486

March 19th, Sunday

T 850 arrived at Linkou at 02:50 where we were welcomed by the station`s policemen who insisted on checking our luggage before we were allowed to buy tickets for T 603 (Harbin-Hulin) to Jixi. T 603 left Linkou at 04:01. Happily, the CNR station chief of Linkou organised, that we could sit in the restaurant car : the train was overcrowded. At Didao, a SY was seen shunting. Arrival at Jixi : 06.30.

Jixi

CNR steam at Jixi ended last year (in October 1999, if I understood right). So, with Jixi retiring its last QJs in October, Bei`an and Suihua in November and Jiamusi in December 1999, the whole Harbin bureau district was free of CNR steam by the end of 1999 ! Only local, industrial and forestry railways are left in the far north.
In the area around Jixi, there are a number of collieries. Many of them use steam locomotives. Four different coal mine railway systems were seen, using steam but there may be further ones :

  1. colliery about 2 km south of Jixi, situated next to the CNR line to Hengshan. Noted : SY 0408
  2. 4 collieries around Hengshan, both two to the east and west of Hengshan CNR station. The branch lines to the two mines to the east are quite short : not longer than 500 metres. The branch lines to the east are about 2-3 km long. According to local staff, 6 SYs are in use, 3 of them were seen, 2 identified (SY 0804, SY 1369).
  3. colliery some 2 km north of Didao : the branch crosses the valley and leads to a coal mine at the northern side of the valley. A (unidentified) JS was seen serving this mine.
  4. large colliery some 4-5 km northwest of Didao. The branch line parallels to the road towards Mashan/ Linkou. Into the area of the coal mine, 3 SYs were seen.

With the exception of the system at Hengshan, it is quite senseless to go to Jixi without guide and official permit to enter the coal mines as the steam engines are normally inside the coal mine's area. Exception is Hengshan, where the engines are stabled at the mine railway`s stabling point situated to the west of the CNR yard. It is freely accessible, staff very friendly.

Accommodation: There is a very good hotel near the station. When leaving the station, turn left. The third building on the left side (wearing the CNR symbol) is the Long Fu Binguan. Prices are between 100-260 Yuan, suites up to 588Y.

Back to the tour (March 19th) :

After arriving, we checked in at the LongFu Hotel (200Y until the following evening). We had to relax, enjoyed a bath and the fine beds, before we left the hotel around 10:00. We walked to the Jixi-Hengshan line in hope for QJs. But when we reached the line, we were disappointed : the trackbed had a clear message : apparently no recent use of steam, but many diesels. A typical sign for usage of diesels are fresh oil leaks between the rails whereas steam locos predominantly produce oil leaks outside the rails. 2.5 km south of Jixi, the line passes a coal mine where SY 0408 could be seen under steam but did not move. Then, it proved that the trackbed was right :

G 11:10 DF4 3512 sb, to Hengshan
G 11:45 DF4 ? nb, to Jixi

Now, we decided not to walk to Hengshan all the 12kms but to take a bus. The Jixi-Hengshan line itself is quite spectacular. It offers a summit, steep grades in both directions including a horseshoe bend on the Jixi side. It must have been great to watch QJs here, hauling the freights.
We went to the nearby road and caught one the frequent minibuses to Hengshan (1.5 Y). At Hengshan, DF4 3512 was shunting the CNR yard whilst SY 0804 waited at the stabling point to the west. SY 0804`s crew was having lunch at the station building. When they came out and realised the two "waiguoren", they invited us to the cab. They offered us a cabride to the coal mine. A few minutes later, we were on the way to a coal mine situated approximately 3 km soutwest of Hengshan. SY 0804 (tender first) was hauling 6 empty coal wagons. At the mine, SY 0804 left the coal wagons and returned light engine to Hengshan. Staff told us, that the 6 wagons would be loaded manually (using shovels) and this would take at least half a day ! Furthermore, we were told, that Hengshan has got a total of 6 SYs. When we arrived back at Hengshan, SY 1369 was at the stabling point, having worked in some loaded wagons from the other branch line west of Hengshan. A third SY was waiting within the area of one of the coal mines at the east side of Hengshan but did not come out. After some smalltalk, we left Hengshan around 15:00 and took a bus bus back to Jixi. The buses to and from Hengshan start and terminate at a bus station some 2 km south of Jixi station. This bus station is easily reached by urban bus No. 1. It starts some 100 metres south of the bus station whilst its other terminus is Jixi main station. Fare is 0.5 Y.

March 20th, Monday

We intended to investigate the branch line north of Qinglong (situated half way between Jixi and Linkou). So we took a (shared) taxi for 50Y to Qinglong station. Qinglong is situated in the middle of the nowhere, a little Chinese station with two sidings. A talk to local staff brought out, that there has never been a branch line at Qinglong ! The branch line to the north actually extends between the stations of Lanling and Wulong (half way between Langling and Qinglong) but is no longer used.
Out of the taxi, we had seen a very rusty track some 10kms before Qinglong. So, the given information seemed to be correct. We decided to walk to the junction.

G 09:45 DF8 0063 eb
G 10:15 DF8 0139 wb
T 666 10:45 DF8 0089 wb, to Mudanjiang
G 11:05 DF8 0141 wb
T ??? 11:30 DFH3 0067  eb, to Jixi
G 12:20 DF8 0043 eb

When we arrived at the station Wulong (6km east of Qinglong), weather got worse and worse, light got duller and duller and wind heavier and heavier. So we decided not to walk to the branch line's junction. We took a minibus back to Jixi (5Y). Near Didao, we passed the two collieries detailed above. The rest of the day was spent shopping and waiting for our train, T Y202, leaving Jixi at 20:39. Hard sleeper was 102Y.

March 21st, Tuesday

Arrival at Harbin at 06:07 but we decided to go on to Harbin Dong (printed destination on our tickets). Nearly everyone left the train at Harbin. At Harbin Dong (06:34), a total of 4 persons left the train ! With the help of some very friendly railway employees, we were allowed to buy hard sleeper tickets for T 418 (Harbin 08:04 - Tianjin - Jinan) for the "short" distance to Jinzhou only. So, we could avoid 11 hours hard seat ...
The following steam engines were seen en route :

The sight of a QJ at Dahushan seemed to indicate that steam on the line towards Tongliao has not yet disappeared completely (and it was true, but see below).
Arrival at Jinzhou : 19:33. We checked in at the newly opened Xintiande Hotel to the right of the station. Very good room for 200Y offering warm water at any time of the day !

March 22nd, Wednesday

After breakfast, we took T853 (Jinzhou-Chifeng), departure 07:51 to Beipiao Nan (arr. 10:18). T 853 has got a soft seat wagon. It costs 5Y extra, but you can avoid hard seat. At Bajiaotai, a JS was sitting next to the power plant. All trains which were crossed this morning were DF4 hauled : T866 at Nihezi (DF4 7457), a freight a Yi Xian (DF4 7427) and T607 at Beipiao Nan (DF4 2117).

Beipiao

At Beipiao Nan, we took bus No.5 to Beipiao. Fare is 2Y. Beipiao has only one hotel : the grotty Beipiao Shi Nanshan Binguan. Bus No.5 from Beipiao Nan runs along Beipiao's main street. Leave the bus after it turns left. The white and yellow, flat building on the left side of the street is the hotel. Prices are 40 - 60Y per person. Some metres further on, you will find a railway crossing. Beipiao station is half an kilometre to the east whereas the left track to the right is the line towards Beipiao Nan. The right track leads to a huge factory / power plant which employs some SY (including SY 0387 and SY 1451).

The Beipiao-Beipiao Nan line is 100% QJ worked, although freight levels can be very low during daytime. The Beipiao-Beipiao Nan passenger service - published in the CNR timetable - had been cancelled by March 17th undo reverted to run from Beipiao to Chaoyang now. There is no possibility to turn the engines at Beipiao. So, half of the trains are tender first. There is no general rule, which direction will be tender first. Nevertheless, uphill workings towards Beipiao are more likely to be tender first than downhill towards Beipiao Nan (valid for freight trains, too). The current passenger timetable - valid since March 18th 2000 - is :

Beipiao Passenger Timetable :

T 01
T 03
T 05
km
 
T 02
T 04
T 06
06:30 10:40 14:16 0 Beipiao 09:30 13:41 18:11
06:47 11:02 14:32 6 Luotuoying 09:09 13:26 17:50
07:23
|
15:16 31 Nengjia 08:34 12:46 17:14
07:50 12:03 15:43 56 Chaoyang 08:05 12:18 16:45

The Beipiao to Beipiao Nan line is quite scenic. It offers three big and photogenic river bridges. Immediately east of Beipiao Nan, the well known large iron-made river bridge can be found. But a new bridge (made of concrete, of course) is currently being built parallel to the old one. At the other side of the bridge is the junction for the branch line to Beipiao. A triangle provides a connection from Beipiao to both Beipiao Nan and Chaoyang. Some two kilometres south of Luotuoying, next to a railway crossing, the second bridge is situated. It is a curved irony bridge, offering good photospots for southbound trains all the day. About 10kms distance from the triangle, the station Luotuoying is situated. North of the station there is a large coal mine and a branch line further north. The "mainline" to Beipiao swings to the east and crosses the valley on the third large viaduct. Luotuoying has got a own pilot. During the 3 days, we spent at Beipiao, it was QJ 6476. It serves the branch line, too.
After about 3 km, the "mainline" reaches the city of Beipiao. But Beipiao station is on the other side of the town, some further 3 km away. There are two railway crossings in the city of Beipiao. One of them is that immediately next to the hotel. The passenger trains stop at both these crossings in addition to the halt at Beipiao station. Beipiao itself has got its own pilot, too (QJ 6226). At the northern end of the station (and of the whole line), another coal mine is situated. Both the CNR pilot and the power plant`s SYs were seen going into this coal mine.
The most scenic section of the line from Chaoyang to Beipiao Nan are the first 4 kilometres next to the triangle at Beipiao Nan. Sadly, freight traffic is very, very low here : only 2 or 3 steam hauled freights a day.
The only "sure" working was a freight, leaving Chaoyang around 08:20 (after the passenger to Beipiao). It goes to Yi Xian and was observed on 3 subsequent days. It was hauled by QJ 6480 every day.
Between Beipiao Nan and Yi Xian best photo spots can be found around Zhoujiatun including a fine, European style, curved 8-arch-viaduct and a girder bridge some 4 km further on towards Yi Xian.
Quite interesting is the Beipiao weather, too. Every morning was clear and sunny. At about 09:00 a wind started to blow and got heavier and heavier. Clouds appeared and - even worse - huge amounts of dust were blown away by the wind. Normally, photography after 15:00 was senseless, because everything was grey in grey at that time. This description of the weather was valid for all three days (22th - 24th) around Beipiao !

Back to the tour (March 22th) :

Riding bus No.5 from Beipiao Nan to Beipiao, we could see 3 QJs in the station of Luotuoying. After checking in at the hotel, we first went to Beipiao station, where QJ 6226 was shunting. Then we decided to walk down the track to Luotuoying. At the viaduct north of Luotuoying, we waited for T898 which should leave Beipiao at 13:15 and go to Beipiao Nan according to CNR timetable. But suddenly, QJ 3185 arrived tender first from the other direction : we did not yet know about the timetable change 4 days before at this time.

T 04 13:35 QJ 3185 (tf) nb, to Beipiao

South of Luotuoying next to the curved river bridge, the following trains were observed :

G 14:10 QJ 6943 (tf) nb
T 05 14:35 QJ 3185 sb, to Chaoyang
G 15:40 QJ 6776 sb

We took Bus No.5 back to Beipiao and visited Beipiao station again. This time, we found the place, where the new timetable was published. QJ 6226, SY 0387 and SY 1491 all went to the coal mine and stabled there.

March 23rd, Thursday

In the morning, we took T01, dep 06:30 from Beipiao to Nengjia (between Beipiao Nan and Chaoyang). At Beipiao, QJ 6226 was shunting, QJ 6476 at Luotuoying. T01 was hauled by QJ 3185 funnel first. The whole day was spent between Nengjia and Beipiao Nan. Quite interesting was the use of the Chaoyang pilot JS 8236 on T04 and T05.

G 08:00 DF4 ? eb
G 08:30 DF4 ? wb
T 02 08:45 QJ 3185 (tf) eb, to Beipiao
G 09:10 QJ 6480 eb
T 607 10:15 DF4 2118 eb, to Shenyang Bei
T 853 10:30 DF4 7453 wb, to Chifeng
T 619 11:00 DF4 2124 wb, to Chaoyang
T 03 11:20 QJ 3185 wb, to Chaoyang
T 04 13:00 JS 8236 eb, to Beipiao
T 520 13:30 DF4 2271 wb, to Chengde
T 854 14:30 DF4 7454 eb, to Jinzhou
G 15:00 QJ 6707 eb
T 05 15:05 JS 8236 (tf) wb, to Chaoyang
T 519 15:30 DF4 2117 eb, to Shenyang
T 608 15:35 DF4 2264 wb, to Chifeng
light engine 15:50 QJ 6776 Beipiao - Beipiao Nan
light engine 15:55 QJ 6943 (tf) Beipiao Nan - Beipiao
G 16:00 DF4 1652 wb

By now sun had disappeared and we took bus No.5 from Beipiao Nan back to the hotel. A quite frustrating day as we had only tender first trains in sunlight and funnel first trains, coming out of the sun or in unexpected direction (e.g. the 15:00 freight : we awaited T 05 at that moment). In the evening, we went to the crossing at the hotel to watch T 06 arriving from Chaoyang. But it was more than 5 min too early, so that we did not see it. Instead of :

G 18:10 QJ 6672 freight towards Beipiao Nan

March 24th, Friday

The day started as the day before : we took T01 to Chaoyang. This time, we entered the train at the crossing. QJ 3185 was on the passenger duty again, but - sadly - tender first today ! This time, we went as far as Chaoyang, where we went to the crossing east of the station :

T 02 08:10 QJ 3185 eb, to Beipiao
G 08:40 QJ 6480 eb

JS 8236 was pilot at Chaoyang. At 10:00, QJ 6679 (Yebaishou based) arrived from the Yebaishou direction and began shunting at Chaoyang, too. Except for the two shunters (JS 8236, QJ 6679), there were no more steam movements at Chaoyang until we left the place at 12:18 (T 04 to Beipiao, QJ 3185 funnel first). QJ 6679` s crew invited me to the cab where I spent nearly an hour.
We left T04 at Luotuoying and walked to the curved viaduct. Surprisingly, sun shone at the moment, when the passenger T05 came back : QJ 3185, tender first, of course.

light engine 13:45 QJ 6991 nb, to Beipiao
T 05 14:45 QJ 3185 (tf) sb, to Chaoyang

We took bus No.5 back to the hotel, where we collected our luggage and went to Beipiao Nan station by three-wheel-motortaxi (15Y). We took T 621, dep. 17:21 to Yi Xian (18:01). QJ 6672 waited at Beipiao Nan (funnel towards Chaoyang), a DF4 hauled freight was crossed at Zhoujiatun, a QJ hauled at Yi Xian. At Yi Xian, there were two further QJ hauled trains ready for departure :

G 18:15 QJ 7117 to Fuxin
G 18:20 QJ 6707 to Beipiao / Chaoyang
G 19:10 QJ ? from Fuxin

We took T880, Yi Xian 19:51 to Jinzhou 20:41 where we checked in at the Tianyide Hotel again.

March 25th, Saturday

We took T853, dep. 07:51 again and went to Zhoujiatun (en route no steam again except for the JS at Bajiaotai), where we spent some 5.5 hours :

T 619 10:10 DF4 2118 wb, to Chaoyang
G 10:15 QJ 6943 eb, 1 wagon only
T 607 10:50 DF4 2264 eb, to Shenyang Bei
G 11:30 QJ 6943 wb
G 11:45 QJ 6480 eb
T 520 12:55 DF4 2117 wb, to Chengde
constr.train 13:30 2 railcars eb
G 14:20 QJ 7116 wb
G 14:35 DF4 1652 wb
T 608 15:00 DF4 2124 wb, to Chifeng

We took T 854, dep. 15:23 back to Jinzhou (arr. 17.11). A freight was crossed at Yi Xian (QJ hauled), another one at Xihoutai (DF4 7427), T 865 at Qilihe (DF4 7457), a freight at Bajiaotai(QJ 7117) and another one at Xuejia (DF4 4398). A QJ was sitting a Jinzhou shed.
In the evening, Stephan took T 590 to Beijing (dep.20:58) and flew back to Europe. The following 2 weeks, I travelled on my own. I took T343 (Hangzhou-Qiqihar), dep. 20:11 and went back to Da`an Bei. Da`an Bei simply offered much more steam than the area around Beipiao ...

Steam locomotives seen around Yi Xian/ Beipiao (Fuxin based, if not indicated) :

JS 8236
QJ 3185, 6226, 6476, 6480, 6672, 6679(Yeb.), 6707, 6776, 6943, 6991, 7116, 7117
SY 0387, 1451 (both : Beipiao Power Plant)

March 26th, Sunday

Arrival at Da`an Bei at 05:12.

Da`an Bei (2)

I took mixed T952, dep. 06:05. It was hauled by QJ 6891. QJ hauled freights were crossed at Jianshe, Shuzijing and Qing`an, where I left the train (arr. 08:08). I had not yet left the station when the local police officer appeared and made me follow him to his office. I told him, that I only wanted to see some steam trains here, but he seemed not to believe in that. I was not allowed to leave the station`s building and had to take T703, dep. 12:00 back to Da`an (QJ hauled freights were crossed at Shuzijiang and Haituozi). The whole morning was lost ! At least 5 QJs and one DF4 were heard passing the station between 08:00 and 12:00 (but there may have been more trains, too). As I did not want to go back to Da`an at noon, I left T 703 at Haituozi situated half way between Qing`an and Da`an.
If you do not have much time for your visit to Da`an, you should go to Haituozi. The surroundings of Haituozi offer all photospots, available around Da`an : A flat bridge crossing a lake, a dam and two bends to the north, birch rows, 2 crossings and a cutting to the south. In between Haituozi station : it has got an old station building and a nice spring on the platform. The bridge is best for southbound trains before 11:00. Sightings :

T 704 13:00 DF4 2175 sb, to Tongliao
G 13:50 QJ 6086 sb
G 14:05 QJ 6435 sb
G 14:20 QJ 3115 nb
G 14:50 QJ 3268 nb
G 15:30 QJ 7086 nb
G 16:25 QJ ? sb
G 16:50 QJ 6825 sb
G 17:50 QJ 3287 nb
light engine 18:05 DF4 3316 nb
G 18:25 DF4 3317 sb

By 16:00, light failed. In the afternoon the station chief of Haituozi invited me to his office, where I waited. He told me, when the next train would arrive, I went out, took a photo and returned. A quite comfortable way of "linesiding".
Originally, I had planned to take T 951, dep. 19:24 back to Da`an Bei. But the crew of DF4 3316, which waited for the southbound freight (hauled by DF4 3317) until 18:30 in the station, invited me to go with them. I agreed, of course. Maximum speed was 80km/h between Haituozi and Da`an Bei. With the exception of the two bends north of Haituozi, the whole line to Da`an is straight line (more than 20km). At night, you can see the signals of the next station some 6 - 8 kilometres in advance ... We arrived at Da`an at 18:50 where I went to the lüdian right of the station : single room for 30Y.

March 27th, Monday

Originally, I had planned to take an early bus to Changshantun (30 km towards Changchun). I had hoped, there would be a connecting bus service from Da`an Bei to Qianguo for the Hangzhou-Qiqihar express train (T 343, arrival 05:12). But the day before, there had been no bus waiting for this train. So, I decided to take T212, dep. 08:38 to Changshantun. The morning was spent at Da`an Bei`s "northern crossing" :

T 705 06:20 DF4 1549 to Ranghulu
G 06:45 QJ 7173 from Ranghulu
G 06:50 QJ 6484 to Ranghulu
T Y267 07:30 QJ 6888 from Qianguo
G 07:55 QJ 6847 from Ranghulu
G 08:00 QJ 6773 to Ranghulu

QJ 6281, 6586, 6484, 6773 and JS 6096, 6239 were seen leaving and entering the depot. QJ 2749 is dumped inside the depot area but visible from outside. Now, I was happy not to have taken a taxi to Changshantun as there had been no steam train on the Qianguo line except for T Y267 before 09:00.
On the way to Changshantun, T581 was crossed at Da`an (orange DF4 2120), QJ 6851 with its freight at Tahucheng. At Changshantun, QJ 6435 and QJ 6926 were shunting. I went to the bridge east of the station (see above) :

G 09:35 QJ 6435 (tf) wb
G 10:20 QJ 6586 eb
light engine 10:30 QJ 6926 wb
G 11:05 JS 6237 eb

I took T 825, dep. 10:50 back to Da`an Bei (DFH3 0098). T825 waited some 20mins for JS 6237 with its 46 tank wagons ( loaded ! ). Probably, they did not want to stop the JS with its heavy train a Tahucheng and preferred to make T825 wait.
At Da`an Bei, DFH3 0098 was replaced by Baicheng based DF4 1699 to haul T 825 to Baicheng. T704 (Qiqihar-Tongliao) arrived behind QJ 7081 (12:13). I entered this train and rode to Tongliao (arr.18:55, hauled by Tongliao based orange liveried DF4 2178). Northbound trains were crossed at Da`an Bei (freight, QJ 3287), T 703 (DF4 2162) at Qianyu, a QJ+DF4 double-headed freight at Haituozi, another QJ hauled freight at Zhizijing. QJ 3268 and its freight were overtaken at Zhende, a DF4 hauled freight crossed at Youzijing. Qingfeng saw QJ 3115 (sb freight) and QJ hauled nb mixed T 951. The last QJ hauled freight was seen at Taipingchuan. Beyond Taipingchuan, all trains were DF4.
Directly opposite of Tongliao station, there are two big lüdians or hotels. I took the right one and got a single room for 81Y.

March 28th, Tuesday

Tongliao-Xinlitun

Between 40 and 50 % of freights along this line are still QJ hauled. Other freights are hauled by quite old Tongliao based green DF4s (built between 1980-1984). QJs had either Zhangwu or Dahushan depot characters. Some goods trains are doubleheaded, too. But all diesel-steam combinations observed had the DF4 as first engine in front of the QJ.
Passenger trains are exclusively diesel and offer both orange (Shenyang based) and green (Fuxin based) DF4s. Furthermore DFH3 and even DF11 (T467 Beijing-Qiqihar) can be seen.
Most scenic section is between Bahuta and Mulitu. The line passes through hilly landscape and sand dunes (Thorge Bockholt reported before). As Thorge reported two years ago, there are narrow gauge lines both at Mulitu, Yamenying and Bahuta. All three lines are said to have little diesels (I only saw the Yamenying system working). These railways carry sand from the sand mines to the CNR railway stations, where the sand is shovelled (by hand) into a big reservoir. Than, a kind of sand shovelling crane puts the sand into standard gauge wagons. The sand railways seem to work only a few hours a day. But when working the are very busy. On March 29th, the Yamenying system was working between 09:00 and 10:30 only, but 2 trains were in use. There was a train about every 10-15 minutes. The Yamenying railway used two unnumbered diesels. Each rake consisted of 6 sand wagons with the locomotive at the CNR station`s side of the wagons at any time. The last wagon of each rake had numbers (05 and 10), which are probably valid for the whole rake. All three ng line leave the CNR station to the northeast and cross the Tongliao - Ganqiqia toll road.
A big problem of the CNR line are poles. Similar to Da`an, there are both old-style telegraph and modern telephone poles along the line. The telegraph poles are some 30 meters to the west, the telephone poles some 5 meters to the east. Around Yamenying station and some 3kms south of Mulitu, you will find the only photogenic places, where the telephone pole is more than 10 metres away from the track. In addition to the missing telephone pole, Yamenying stations has got a water tower, too. It provides a very good background. Furthermore, the (unused) switching points both south and north of Yamenying station offer nice photopossibilities. Around Mulitu, several bridges offer possibilities for photos, too.
To go to Yamenying, take the 07:00 bus to Ganqiqia. It leaves at Tongliao main bus station opposite the railway station. Fare is 5Y (Bahuta 6Y, Mulitu 3Y). To know where to get off the bus, just count the narrow gauge crossings.

Back to the tour (March 28th) :

I took the above mentioned 07:00 bus to Bahuta. At Yamenying, a northbound QJ hauled freight was seen. There was a very heavy wind blowing from north to south all the day. The wind was similar to a JingPeng storm, but being in the dessert, you have no chance to hide behind hills here ... Sometimes, you could even not hold your camera against the wind. Nevertheless, I started to walk the 14 km back to Yamenying, permanently facing the wind. The day began quite frustrating with DF4s hauling nearly every train in the morning :

G 08:05 DF4 0438 + QJ 6349 nb
G 08:40 DF4 0668 (1984) sb
G 09:05 DF4 0568 (1983) sb
G 09:25 DF4 0539 (1983) sb
G 09:35 DF4 0661 + DF4 0662 (both 1984) nb
G 10:00 DF4 0671 (1984) sb
G 10:20 QJ 6370 nb
T 630 10:30 DFH3 0148 sb, to Jinzhou
T 587 10:45 DF4 1647 nb, to Tongliao 
G 11:05 DF4 0393 (1981) sb
G 11:30 QJ 6771 nb
T 883 11:45 DF4 2488 nb, to Tongliao
G 12:00 DF4 0384 (1980) sb
G 12:30 DF4 0683 + DF 4 0584 nb
G 12:45 QJ 6485 sb

By 13:00, I arrived at Yamenying station. To my surprise, QJ 6771 was still present there. It should have arrived there as early as around 11:40. It did not leave Yamenying before 13:45. The rest of the day was spent around Yamenying station :

G 13:10 DF4 0666 sb
T 629 13:20 DFH3 0121 nb, to Tongliao
T 880 13:40 DF4 1647 sb, to Jinzhou
G 13:45 QJ 6771 nb
G 14:20 DF4 0438 sb
G 14:45 DF4 0661 sb
G 14:50 DF4 0383(1980) + QJ 6885 nb
T 884 15:25 DF4 2488 sb, to Dahushan
G 15:30 DF4 0548 nb
G 16:05 QJ 6777 sb
G 16:10 QJ 7120 nb

I caught a minibus back to Tongliao. I arrived there at 17:15 : a few minutes too late to watch the 17:18 departure of T722 Tongliao-Daban.
By the way : Now, I know, why some visitors had problems to visit the footbridge at Tongliao station: the building next to the footbridge is the local police office ...

March 28th, Wednesday

Took the 07:00 bus to Yamenying again. Bright sunshine today with absolutely no wind. The morning was spent around Yamenying station. Between 09:00 and 10:30, the sand railway was busily operating (read above).

G 08:10 DF4 0664  sb
G 08:50 DF4 0635 + QJ 6771  nb
G 09:10 QJ 6369 sb
G 09:45 QJ 6370 nb, arrival
G 09:50 DF4 0662 sb
G 10:05 DF4 0584 + QJ 6485 sb, arrival
T 630 10:30 DFH3 0121 sb, to Jinzhou
G 10:30 QJ 6370 nb, departure
T 587 10:50 DF4 1647 nb, to Tongliao
G 11:10 DF4 0438 nb
G 11:15 DF4 0584 + QJ 6485 nb, departure
G 11:45 DF4 0635 + DF4 0393  nb

I boarded T883 (DF4 2488, the worst DF4, I have ever seen in China : Even one of its headlights was missing ...), dep.11:49 at Yamenying and got off at Mulitu (arr.12:05). I went to a nice cutting some 2.5 km south of Mulitu :

G 12:20 DF4 0663 nb
T 629 13:25 DFH3 0148 nb, to Tongliao
T 880 13:30 DF4 1647 sb, to Jinzhou
G 14:00 QJ 7120 nb
G 14:10 DF4 0539 sb
G 14:40 DF4 0442 sb
G 14:55 QJ 6777 sb
T 884 15:15 DF4 2488 sb, to Dahushan
G 15:50 QJ 6370 + QJ 6771 sb

Back to Tongliao by minibus. This time, I arrived some minutes earlier and could watch QJ3073 heading T722 to Daban. Taking a photo from the footbridge is nearly impossible. You will need a lens with less than 30 mm in diameter to be able to take photos there.
At 18:10, I left Tongliao. Hard sleeper for T458 (Tongliao-Hohot) to Beijing Bei was 122Y.

Steam locomotives seen around Tongliao (QJ from Zhangwu, DF4 Tongliao, DFH3 Shenyang if not indicated different) :

QJ 3073(Chabuga), 6349(Daban), 6369, 6370, 6485, 6771, 6777, 6885, 7120
DFH 3 0121, 0148
DF4 0383, 0384, 0393, 0438, 0442, 0539, 0548, 0568, 0584, 0635, 0636, 0661, 0662, 0663, 0664, 0666, 0668, 0670, 0671, 0683, 1647(Fuxin), 2488(Shenyang)

March 30th, Thursday

Arrival Beijing Bei at 09:01. I took the underground to Beijing main station (3Y). Tickets for T K41 to Xi`an (dep.17:10) were not available. So I had to take K55, departure 15:20 at Beijing Xi. With this earlier train I had no chance to visit Dahuichang. K55 consisted of 16 double-deck wagons and was hauled by Shijiazhuang based SS8 0044 when leaving Beijing Xi.

March 31st, Friday

Arrival at Xi`an at 06:38. The next bus to Tongchuan left at 07:20. It was a sleeper bus to Yan`an. Fare was 18Y. At 09:35, I arrived at Tongchuan bus station.

Tongchuan

In March 2000, the Tongchuan Coal Railway got two further diesels : DF7C 5217 and 5218, both having 1999 builder plates. So, 4 diesels are available now. As there are normally only 3 locomotives in use during daylight, a JF working to the line will be very seldom. Fortunately, both DF7Bs (3134 and 3135) were not in use during my visit. On the other hand, the two DF7Cs were used daily. But at least one JF was on the line. The diesels now work nearly all trains to Dongpo and Hongtou (only 3 JF worked trains towards Dongpo were seen during 5 days) whereas all trains to Wangshiwa were JF hauled. Normally, there are two workings to Wangshiwa during daylight : the first one leaves Tongchuan between 10:00 and 11:00, the second one between 15:00 and 17:00. The locomotive is funnel first towards Wangshiwa. At Wangshiwa it normally stays for about one hour before returning to Tongchuan tender first. According to local staff, a JF`s maximum load in the 3.0% grade out of Tongchuan is 12 empty coal wagons whereas a DF7 can haul up to 25. Usual pattern of working is : in the early morning (between 06:00 and 08:00), some 3-5 loaded trains will arrive at Tongchuan. Now, all engines will be at Tongchuan Nan. The first trains of empties will have the diesels. They normally go to Dongpo or Hongtou. If all diesels have left Tongchuan Nan, the following trains will be JF hauled. This means for example : If there are two diesels in use, the first two uphill trains will be diesel. If there is a third train towards Dongpo, it will have JF tender first. The last uphill train of the morning will be the Wangshiwa train. Around noon, the same will happen as in the morning : all locos return to Tongchuan. Then, they leave Tongchuan again, the first trains will be diesel again with the Wangshiwa one being the last one ... But : the Wangshiwa train was JF hauled even when a diesel was available at Tongchuan Nan.
As you can imagine, it is essential to know how many diesels are actually in use and where they are at the moment. The same is valid for the JF`s : You have to know which (and how many) engines are funnel towards Wangshiwa and Tongchuan, and where they are at moment. So, it is essential to visit Tongchuan Nan`s stabling every morning and to note the engines being there. Never rely on what local staff tells you ! In one occasion, I was told that there should be a JF at Hongtou but I knew that all JFs were at Tongchuan at that moment. Well, there was a engine at Hongtou, but a DF7 !

The Tongchuan Coal Railway has often been described recently. For orientation, see  Tongchuan Maps . Some additional notes of interest :
Accommodation : In addition to the recommended Tongchuan Hotel (known as "To Tongchuan Binguan", prices : 120-360 Y), there are two further hotels only some 100 and 200 metres south of To Tongchuan Binguan. A fourth hotel, the "Yan`an Binguan" is situated opposite of Tongchuan main station.Probably the "most suitable" hotel is the "Tongchuan Shi Qichezhan Binguan" (Tongchuan Bus Station Hotel). If you arrive with the bus from Xi`an, the bus will either go to the bus station or stop at the circle traffic some 150 metres to the south below the new "highway". The bus station is the big, white building with a tower on the eastern side of the river. The advantages of "Tongchuan Shi Qichezhan Binguan" are : it is cheap (12-90Y), situated only some 200m distance from the loco stabling point at the southern end of Tongchuan Nan station (if you get a even numbered room, you may even see the servicing area from your window) and both bus No. 1 and No.2 terminate directly in front of the building.
Local buses : To get to the steep grade, you may either take bus No.1 (get off where the railway crosses the river) or bus No2 to the place, where the railway overbridges the road. You have the choice between minibuses (fare 1Y) and "real" buses (fare 0.4 - 0.8Y, depending on distance). Keep in mind, that the minibuses do not terminate at the bus station ("qichezhan"). Line No. 1 operates between 05:30 and 23:30, No.2 between 06:00 and 19:00.
Linside buses : For the first 5 km out of Tongchuan, a road parallels the line. Minibuses to Dongpo or Baishui run along this road about every hour. If you want to go to Qioaziliang (and you do not want to walk through the 780m long tunnel at Qiaoziliang) take one of these buses and go as far as Wangshiwa. The village of Qiaoziliang is situated at the place, where the road to the north - passing over the 780m long tunnel - meets the direct Tongchuan-Dongpo road. But the footpath from here down to the station is very bad and dirty (see Tongchuan Maps ). The city of Wangshiwa is situated above the Wangshiwa branch line's tunnel. Leave the minibus at the lowest point along the road within the village. Walk down one of the paths to the north and you will find the line. Some 1.5 km along the line, you will find Qiaoziliang station.
Tongchuan City Map : For not being overcharged when using the local buses and for orientation, it is very useful to buy a city map of Tongchuan. Then, you can show where you want to go to. Maps are available at the bus station. Price is 2Y.
Coal mines : According to local staff, the coal mine at the branch line to the north is no longer served. The only "trains" along this branch line are the DF7s when going to their "shed".
CNR pilots : There are still 3 QJs based at Tongchuan Nan for shunting and tripping local freights to Tongchuan and over the branch line to the east. One engine is standby at any time. During all 6 days, QJ 6532, 6550 and 6652 were in use. The most amazing fact to be reported about these QJs is, that all three engines were overhauled at Luoyang Locomotive Works between August and November 1999. Talking with QJ 6652`s driver brought out, that even the railway employees had been quite surprised when they got back overhauled QJs instead of the expected diesels ...
This is a even more amazing fact when hearing about the city of Tongchuan's a "anti-pollution-campaign" which started recently (QJ 6652`s driver told about this). Dates of overhauls : QJ 6532 (9.99), QJ 6550 (8.99), QJ 6652 (11.99)

Back to the tour (March 31st) :

I left the bus from Xi`an at the circle traffic. I took a taxi and checked in at the To Tongchuan Binguan (150Y per night). I stood there for two nights before changing to the "Tongchuan Shi Qichezhan Binguan".
I took bus No. 1 to the railway bridge north of Tongchuan station and started to walk up the line (11:00). Staff at the junction to the branch to the north told me, that due to some track maintenance, there would be no trains to Wangshiwa this day and (as a consequence of this fact) no steam train for the rest of the day. Nevertheless, I walked up the line towards Qiaoziliang.
The station at km 4.5 is called Shijiahe. There, I was told there would be no trains at all for the rest of the day. Near the tunnel, I saw the first train :

G 13:50 DF7 5217 to Tongchuan

I walked through the tunnel and further on along the Dongpo line to the crossing some 2 km north of Qiaoziliang junction. As mentioned previously, there are two stations at Qioaziliang : one situated at the junction of the Wangshiwa branch line and a second about one kilometre further north along the line towards Dongpo. Staff at Qiaoziliang (northern station) told me, that 2 new diesels had arrived some weeks before. Furthermore, they claimed that only two JFs still would be in working order. A diesel hauled freight towards Dongpo was to arrive around 17:00 at Qiaoziliang, but I decided to go back to Tongchuan at 16:30 and to have a look at Tongchuan Nan station. One of those incredibly weak lorries offered me a free ride back to Tongchuan.
I arrived at Tongchuan Nan at 17:30. At the stabling point south of the station all 3 QJs were waiting for work (6532, 6550 and 6652). But there were no less than 6 JFs under steam sitting around, too !
JF 2113, 2182, 2365 and 4025 were funnel first towards Qiaoziliang. During the following days, JF 2182 and JF 4025 were seen hauling the Wangshiwa trains whereas JF 2113 and JF 2365 were either spare locomotive or pilot at Tongchuan Nan all the time. Both were not seen working on the line. JF 2368 and 2369 were present, too, but funnel first towards Tongchuan and used on the Dongpo line exclusively. So to say, Qiaoziliang's staff was right when they talked about only two workable engines ... - but only for the Dongpo branch line, of course !

April 1st, Saturday

When waking up, it was raining heavily. To go linesiding would have been senseless. So, I decided to stay at the hotel until the rain would stop. That happened at 12:00 and I walked to Tongchuan Nan station. JF 2113 was shunting there, JF 2365 spare and JF 4025 waited in the station. So, JF 2368, 2369 and 2182 had to be out on the line. QJ 6652 was on standby duty, QJ 6550 served the branch line to the west. At 13:00, it started to rain again. QJ 6652`s driver invited me to his engine. While talking about Tongchuan's "anti-steam-campaign" and the unexpected return of overhauled QJs at Tongchuan (see above), JF 2369 rolled in, hauling some 10 loaded coal wagons. Only 20 minutes later (13:40), JF 2368 arrived, too :

G 13:20 JF 2369 from Dongpo
G 13:40 JF 2368 from Dongpo

At 14:00, I took bus No.2 and went out to the line. Now, rain had stopped :

G 14:45 DF7 5218 to Tongchuan
G 15:20 JF 2182 (tf) to Tongchuan
G 16:00 DF7 5217 to Tongchuan
G 16:10 DF7 5218 to Dongpo
light engine 16:20 DF7 5217 to Dongpo
G 16:40 JF 4025 to Wangshiwa

It was too dark now to wait for further trains. So I went back to Tongchuan Nan and visited the servicing area south of the stabling point, where JF 2182, JF 2368 and QJ 6532 could be found.

April 2nd, Sunday

WS recently reported on the Diantou Local Rlwy. between Diantou and Qinjiachuan situated some 80 kilometres north of Tongchuan. In the evening of April 1st, I had asked when a bus to Huangling would leave. I was told, it would leave at 07:00. So, I arrived at the bus station at 06:30 in the morning, checked in at the "Qichezhan Binguan" and waited for the bus. Now, the bus was said to leave at 07:30. But in fact, it did not arrive before 08:20. Then, the bus went the 300 metres to the circle traffic, where it stopped again and waited there until the last seat was full. Some two hours after scheduled departure, the bus left Tongchuan at 9 o'clock. Very annoying to lose two hours waiting for the departure of the bus.

Diantou Local Railway

I went as far as Huangling (fare 9Y, journey time 2 hours). The Diantou - Qinjiachuan line is highly spectacular. It passes the city of Huangling about one kilometre to the north. But it is not visible next to Huangling : there are two very long tunnels (tunnels No.3 and No.4). From Huangling bus station, walk down the road to Yan`an. About 500m after you left the city, the road swings to the right. After this bend, there is a white building on the northern side and a valley starts there. Walk into this valley and you will reach the line between tunnel No.3 and 4. I walked the 8 km to Qinjiachuan along the line. The line's description :

This section offers grades against trains working to Diantou. According to WS, the line is QJ worked but tender first towards Qinjiachuan (downhill).
On April 2rd, there were no trains during daylight due to maintenance works near tunnel 4. But - no doubt - this line will be worth further investigation. Staff at Qinjiachuan told, that the QJs are based at Diantou. They deliver coal to the industrial complex about 1.5 km north of Qinjiachuan station along the line to Yan`an.
At Qinjiachuan, DF1 1702 was shunting and served the industrial complex, too. I had thought the Pucheng-Yan`an line would be a local railway. So, I was very surprised that DF1 1702 had the CNR Zhengzhou bureau, Xinfengzhen depot code on both sides !
I took a minibus back to Huangling (fare 3Y, appr. 30min) and another one further on to Tongchuan (9Y). An evening visit to Tongchuan Nan stabling point showed all 3 QJs and 5 JFs sitting around.
Only JF 2365 had disappeared, but probably it was not on the line. Whenever I saw JF 2365 it was spare (not even shunting as JF 2113 did ). JF 2365 was not seen until the evening of April 5th (3 days later).

April 3rd, Monday

As usual, a morning visit to Tongchuan Nan : only JF 2113 and 2182 were present. I took bus No.2 to the railway bridge and walked to the curve some 500m east of Shijiahe. In the early morning, there was some fog and it got more and more foggy. Around 09:00, you could see some 50 metres ...
Fortunately, the fog disappeared until 12:00, but the morning was lost for photography. Sightings :

G 07:00 JF 2368 to Tongchuan
G 07:45 JF 4025 (tf) to Tongchuan
G 08:05 JF 2369 to Tongchuan
G 08:30 DF7 5218 to Tongchuan
G 09:10 DF7 5217 to Tongchuan
G 09:20 JF 2368 (tf) to Dongpo
G 10:10 JF 4025 to Wangshiwa
G 10:55 DF7 5218 to Dongpo

I took a minibus and went to Qiaoziliang village (fare 1Y). There I walked down the valley to Qiaoziliang station. I was still walking when I heard a steam engine at 11:45. Probably, JF 4025 returned from Wangshiwa. Now, even the sun was shining. At Qiaoziliang, I waited for JF 2368 :

G 13:20 JF 2368 to Tongchuan

I walked along the branch line to Wangshiwa and waited for the afternoon train to Wangshiwa. Sadly, light was dull again, when JF 4025 arrived :

G 16:30 JF 4025 to Wangshiwa

At Wangshiwa village, I took a taxi back to Tongchuan (20Y).

April 4th, Tuesday

The first day, starting with sunshine ! This day, 3 JFs were at Tongchuan Nan (2113, 2182, 2368). So, JF 2369 and 4025 could be expected to arrive :

G 06:55 DF7 5218 to Tongchuan
G 07:25 JF 2369 to Tongchuan
G 07:45 DF7 5217 to Tongchuan
G 08:20 JF 4025 (tf) to Tongchuan
G 10:10 DF7 5218 to Dongpo
G 11:25 JF 4025 to Wangshiwa
G 13:30 DF7 5218 to Tongchuan
G 14:10 JF 4025 (tf) to Tongchuan

Only one train to Dongpo this day (DF7 hauled, of course). And DF7 5217 was still at Tongchuan ! So, I took a minibus to Wangshiwa again and waited for the afternoon train. It arrived "on time" when light was dull again :

G 16:35 JF 2182 to Wangshiwa
G 17:20 JF 2182 (tf) to Tongchuan

Took a taxi to Tongchuan (15Y) and got JF 2182 again at the river bridge north of Tongchuan Nan station :

G 18:10 JF 2182 (tf) from Wangshiwa

April 5th, Wednesday

The last, sixth day at Tongchuan was first with sunshine all the day. Only 2 JFs were at Tongchuan Nan (2113, 2368). I walked up the line again :

G 07:00 JF 2182 (tf) to Tongchuan
G 07:20 JF 2369 to Tongchuan
G 07:35 DF7 5218 to Tongchuan
G 07:50 DF7 5217  to Tongchuan
G 08:25 JF 4025 (tf) to Tongchuan
G 10:10 DF7 5218 to Dongpo
light engine 10:40 DF7 5217 to Dongpo
G 11:15 JF 2182 to Wangshiwa
G 12:45 JF 2182 (tf) to Tongchuan
G 13:45 DF7 5218 to Tongchuan
G 14:50 DF7 5217 to Tongchuan
light engine 14:55 DF7 5218 to Dongpo

Again, no steam train to Dongpo. Because I wanted to catch the 17:49 train to Zhengzhou (T682), I stood at Shijiahe and did not go to Wangshiwa for the afternoon train. But unfortunately, it did not leave Tongchuan Nan before 17:15 (JF 2182). It would have been the first afternoon train in sunlight during the 6 days at Tongchuan!
A last visit to Tongchuan stabling point around 17:20 : JF 2365 had appeared again (spare locomotive, again). But in addition to JF 2368, 2369 and 4025, DF7B 3135 was present now. I had seen neither DF7B 3134 nor 3135 during the 5 days before.
I boarded T 682 (Tongchuan- Zhengzhou) at Tongchuan Nan, dep. 17:49. With the exception of Tongchuan Nan, all pilots along the line to Xi`an were DF4. Tongchuan seems to be the last refuge of steam ...

Locomotives seen at Tongchuan :

JF 2113, 2182, 2365, 2368, 2369, 4025
QJ 6532, 6550, 6652
DF7B 3135
DF7C 5217, 5218
DF4 0417, 1027, 1574, 6327, 6331, 9185, 9187

April 6th, Thursday

Arrival at Zhengzhou at 07:47. I wanted to catch T543 (Zhengzhou 10:55 -Guangzhou) to Chenzhou, but there were no sleepers available for the next four days. So, I had to buy a hardseat ticket (136Y). Fortunately, I got a reserved seat as the train became very crowded ...
The following steam locomotives were noted :

April 7th, Friday

Arrived at Chenzhou at 04:44. It was raining heavily. I took T 341 from Chenzhou (05:48) to Pingshi (06:45) and checked in at the hotel just left of the station. It was still raining, when I went back to the station. JS 6377 was waiting there light engine at 07:30.

Pingshi

The Pingshi-Muchong coal railway is still 100% JS worked. Traffic is light. In addition to the daily mixed train T 951 / 952 (see Pingshi Timetable), there will not be more than one or two freights in each direction during daylight hours. April 7th for example saw only one pair of goods trains. It left PingNan at 08:45 short time after the mixed had left at 08:00 went to Jiangshui coal mine. It arrived at PingNan at 15:49 just before the mixed worked in (16:20).
All JS wear Shaoguan depot character. Shaoguan is supposed to have some 15 serviceable JS. They work both the Pingshi-Muchang and the Huanggang-Geding lines. Furthermore, they are used as pilots at Lechang, Huanggang, Shaoguan and Maba. Quite amazing is the fact, that the Pingshi-Muchang line is marked as a "local railway" in the Quails Atlas but worked by CNR locomotives. The JS are in bad condition. Probably, everyone is waiting for the Guangzhou-Shaoguan section to be electrified which will set free enough DF4s to eliminate all steam in Guangdong province.
Both freights and the mixed start and terminate at PingNan station which is situated about 1 km south of Pingshi "main" station. There is a small depot immediately next to PingNan station, too.
The most scenic sections of the line are the first 3 km out of PingNan, where two big river bridges can be found, the area between km 8 and Yiliuhu (km 19), a large river bridge near Xintuanjie (km36) and the area around Liping (km 52). At Liping, a 5.5 km long branch line to Jiangshui extends to the south. At Hulukou (km19), you can find a horseshoe curve, grades in both directions and a coal mine using a electric tramway.
When I arrived at PingNan station, the mixed had left the station some minutes before. JS 6373 and 6376 were waiting at the depot (has got a turntable, too). Railway staff told me, that the freight would leave at 08:30 and invited me to come with them riding the caboose. I agreed, of course.
Riding a train is the best you can do when weather is as bad. The freight was hauled by JS 6377. At Xinzhoujia (km 43), we left some wagons and went on to Jiangshui (arr.10:26). Inside the coal mine, there must be  a wye or a turntable as JS 6377 came back from the mine funnel first again. After having lunch together with the very friendly railway staff, JS 6377 left Jiangshui at 13:00 again. At Liping (km52) water was taken. At Xinzhoujia, some further loaded wagons were collected and we arrived back at PingNan by 15:50. Immediately, I walked back to the first viaduct and watched JS 6428 arriving with its mixed train T 952 (14 loaded coal wagons + 2 YZ coaches at the rear).

April 8th, Saturday

I left Pingshi at 05:36 (T597) and went to Shaoguan (arr. 07:02). Lechang pilot was a JS (unidentified). At Huanggang, three JS were present (including JS 6505, 6508).
Sadly, the 08:55 passenger Shaoguan-Guangzhou has been retimed and leaves Shaoguan at 08:05 now. So I did not have enough time to explore the depot, located to the east of the station. JS 6507 was the only one of the 5 JS there, that could be identified.
Between Shaoguan and Guangzhou, JS 6463 was seen shunting at Maba. Arrival Guangzhou : 11:15. I bought tickets for the Guangzhou(13:20)- Shenzhen(14:55) express train Z51 (fare 70Y) hauled by DF11 0018.

Locomotives seen (all JS Shaoguan based, built 1985/86; DF4 Guangzhou based, built 1975/76 ) :

JS 6373, 6376, 6377, 6428, 6463, 6505, 6507, 6508
DF4 0005, 0012, 0047

After crossing the border at Lo Wu, I spent the evening at Hong Kong before using the airport express to get to Chek Lap Kok Airport. The luggage check-in in the city is a great and comfortable idea !
At 23:45, I left Hong Kong on board BA 28 to London Heathrow, where I took BA 982 to Berlin Tegel arriving there at 10:50 Sunday morning.


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