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Steam in China, November and December 2007

by Derek Jenkins

Pingdingshan, Xuchang, Xinxiang Narrow Gauges, Jalainur, Fushun, Meihekou, Fuxin, Pingzhuang

I had intended to fly KLM to Beijing but they managed to get me only from Birmingham to Amsterdam there cancelling the Beijing flight, after it was due to depart, without explanation or apology. I was then shoehorned into a pretty dreadful China Southern flight which itself was late. As a result I finally arrived at Beijing Xi too late to catch K279 to Pingdingshan. Surprisingly I was able to acquire a soft sleeper on K261 only half an hour before it departed and headed for Pingdingshan.

PINGDINGSHAN, 10th - 13th November
There are now 11 diesels here. Indeed some arrived during my visit. Nevertheless I saw 22 locos in steam. The daily requirement (excluding the Yuzhou line) is now probably about 10 diesels and 12 steamers. I actually saw 5 QJ in steam. 6690 was shunting Dong yard on my arrival but I never saw it again. 6450 appeared the same day and again never reappeared. 2 days later 6650 and 7186 arrived together. 6650 went on shed and 6786, which had been dead was fired up to replace it. Currently, therefore the new diesels are not replacing any QJ but rather taking over JS duties and several JS and one SY were permanently on shed but in steam but SY 1687 was hard at work on coal trains and on one occasion took a 60 wagon train of empties out of Tianshuang yard. . Also during my visit both JS 8120 and 8065 came out of works following full overhauls and were steamed.
Other things:-
Despite previous reports to the contrary steam still works to Mine 4. Mine 1 is now used for coaling locos. The Yuzhou QJ are coaled here too. The doubling between the 2 yards is still not finished there being no start on work on the necessary bridge at the head of Tianshuang yard but considerable work on track rearrangements is going on everywhere.
On China Rail coal trains from Dong in the Luohe direction are now in the hands of SS4's and new HXD's. I saw only 1 SS1 at Dong and that was parked well out of the way.
Locos seen (all in steam) :- QJ 6450, 6650, 6690, 6786, 7186. JS 5644, 6225/53, 6429, 8030/1, 8054/7, 8062/5/8, 8120/2, 8338, 8421. SY 1209, 1687.
Diesels :- GKD3B 0003, DF4DD 0091/2, DF7G 5121, 5172, 5178, DF10D 0060 0087/8 0131, DF10DA 0158.

XUCHANG, 13th - 16th November
This diesel operated narrow gauge line is still alive and well and relatively busy. It is not the line that has been offered for sale on the internet as all the pictures that relate to that show Xinzheng some kilometers to the North. Line work is exclusively in the hands of JMY 380 hydraulics of various body shapes. Freight traffic consists of coal, which originates West of Xuchang and heads either to Zhoukou or an unloading point East of Laozhong, and crushed stone. The coal trains load to about 500 tonnes. The passenger train still runs Xuchang to Dancheng. It departs Xuchang 07:00 and is due Dancheng 12:20 making it, by far, the farthest that can be travelled by narrow gauge in China. On the day I rode it consisted of 3 coaches in a navy and cream livery, a van for passengers' heavy goods and an open wagon which was not used. The train was well patronised particularly beyond Yanling and by Taikang was almost full. It was here most got off. Timekeeping was not good. I rode to the junction at Huaiyang by which time we were 50 minutes down. The return was equally late. Due into Xuchang at 18:50 it was the best part of an hour down.
Locos seen :- JMY 380 - 3807/8/16/20/25 38012/8

3808 leaves Xuchang with a train of empties

Xiuwu - Fangzhuang
I found this not to be operating. It had probably not worked for months. At the headquarters at Xiuwu the staff are retained and on my arrival the Head Honcho was found. He said that the line had not closed and he was awaiting the word (which he expected any day) to resume operations. I suspect this is a forlorn hope for although the track is extant it is in a poor state and locals have taken parts of it over for storing things and dumping rubbish. The man with the key to the shed was sought but he had gone to his daughters. Nevertheless the shed had so many broken windows that I could see in clearly. There were 10 locos - all venerable ZN120's.
Wucun - Huixian
This line has closed. A sad loss as it conveyed passengers in mixed trains. Staff (who again are still retained) said it closed last year. My arrival caused a stir as it was thought I was a potential purchaser. The staff are looking for someone to pay their wages - not, apparently, paid since closure. I could not get to the bottom of what had gone on as the line transported coal to the power station next to Huixian yard. The power station is clearly still running so 2 trains a day have been replaced by many blue lorries. Huixian yard is packed with rusting wagons. The man at the shed was pleased to let me in and here I found a wide variety of diesels ranging from CZ80's through NJ120's , ZN120's, NY380's to JMY200's. The youngest JMY200 being made as recently as December 2002 at Changzhou works.

From Xinxiang I intended to head to Beijing to meet Adrian Bagnall and head North. Xinxiang has a small allocation of soft sleepers on a number of Beijing bound trains. It was my misfortune to get one on K270. Despite this starting only from Luoyang it reached Xinxiang 2 hours late. Indeed not a single Northbound train arrived within 15 minutes of its booked time. By Beijing we were 2 minutes short of 3 hours late. It was now Adrian's turn to suffer torture by KLM as they cancelled his Beijing flight too. We had booked seats on a Beijing - Harbin flight. I had to take it - Adrian missed it and it was only by great good fortune that he eventually staggered into the soft sleeper waiting room at Harbin (not to be confused with the other waiting rooms which are called respectively - Motherhood, Baby and Soldier) 30 minutes before N91 left for Jalainur.

JALAINUR, 19th - 22nd November
We stayed at The Friendship Hotel in Manzhouli. The ladies who rang our phone nightly were presumably looking for the kind of friendship that comes from a fat wallet.
Lots of reports from here lately so not a lot to add. Some visitors seem to have had problems but we encountered none at all and were able to visit the works too with no difficulties.
Things here were probably at capacity. I noted 36 locos in all in steam but that is probably not all there were.
We spent one of our days around the tips at Nanzhan. These are well spread out and not accessed from a single yard like at Sandaoling so we walked many miles to get the shots and were able to catch one train on a tip as the sun set. A fine sight.
On the deep mine system it appears that the one coach passenger train no longer runs. Certainly it did not depart at the old time of 08:22 but the 2 one coachers that run to Nanzhan do still run. Also on the deep mine side we saw a banked train from the Northernmost mine in the hands of SY's 1416/48.
Locos seen. All SY and all in steam unless indicated :- 0471, 0613/82, 0794, 0867, 0924 (in works), 0957/8/9, 1126(in works), 1192/3, 1234 (dumped), 1240/56/84/5/6, 1371/4/6, 1401/16/24/48/49/50, 1600/1/18/50/4/63/78/81/8/9/90, 3005.

Tips at sunset

From Jalainur we took Train 1302 and headed to Shenyang and on to Fushun in a taxi.

FUSHUN, 23rd - 24th November
Stayed at The Tian Bao Hotel opposite the China Rail station and only a few minutes walk to the mine railway. A comfortable hotel with modest prices. Not a lot of change in operations here. Steam is still in use on maintenance trains. The traffic to/ from the big hole is slow. There have, however, been changes with the electric locos. The electric shed has always had a large number of locos parked in the yard but this time there were none. Further to this rationalisation there has been some renumbering. The elderly Japanese electrics have always been in 1xxx number series but we found one numbered 04 and others numbered 610/1/5 whilst others retained their original numbers. The EMU's have been re-engineered and renumbered too. We saw only one originally numbered set - 109. Others are in an 8xx series. Despite a report to the contrary we found the emu service well used.
We could have used an extra day here to have a look at the 2 steelworks sites. New Steelworks certainly still has steam as we saw an SY close to the exchange sidings from the train.
Locos seen :-
SY 0869, 1399, 1452
Electrics - Skodas - 1514/19/45/8/51. ZG100 - 616/7/9. ZG 150 - 134, 148, 618/27/30. Japanese - 04, 610/1/5, 1206/11/3/20

Electrics at Fushun

MEIHEKOU, 25th - 26th November
From Shenyang to Shanchengzhen on Train 4235. This train has a soft seat coach tacked on the back so we rode in this almost empty vehicle with the rest of the train heaving. Annoyingly this train now omits its Haishantou stop so we had to get a taxi to Hongmei but fortunately the driver knew the whereabouts of The Zhuanyong Hotel. I know not why other visitors have stayed in Meihekou. This hotel is cheap, comfortable and only 5 minutes walk from the line.
Neither of us had been here before and we were almost too late. Line work is now shared equally between 2 SY and 2 DFH5. The passenger train though is diesel. The weather on our first day was dire. By 14:30 there was more light inside a black bag and then it started to rain heavily. As we were sheltering I saw a third DFH5 0104. As we didn't see it again Adrian maintains it was 4010 running backwards but the truth is steam is going to be eliminated here shortly.
The following day produced an almost crystal clear day but we were faced with the inevitable problem of trying to photograph steam on a 50/50 line. When it was all steam this line would have been good.
SY (In steam) - 1216, 1662. (Serviceable in shed) - 1564. (Dumped) - 0791, 1217, 1445.
DFH5 0104, 0301, 4010.

Hongmei - SY 1216

Back to Shanchengzhen where there were more staff than punters for N198 (Orange DF4 and green stock) back to Shenyang and needing to chill out we upgraded into an almost empty soft sleeper coach.

FUXIN, 27th - 29th November
Train 4208 from Shenyang. Another Orange DF4 on green stock. This loco appears to work right through to Chifeng.
Both Adrian and I had been to Fuxin as far back as when QJ's roamed the main line and this visit was probably a mistake. With the big hole now closed (but not to lorries with which it now teems) and the vast electric railway shut things are a sad shadow of their former selves. It is not long since closure but track has been ripped up, contact wire torn down and generally dereliction is everywhere. A number of electric locos, however, still lurk amongst the weeds at the electric depot. Even the hutongs which gave the whole thing a lot of interest have been replaced by numerous blocks of flats.
On the non electric side we found 13 SY in steam but 3 DF5D are now here. They run the passenger service but we saw them do nothing else. Of the SY's one does the long standing stationary boiler job and 3 do nothing at all. They are the SY that used to operate the big hole maintenance trains. They are all still steamed and stand at the upper stabling point awaiting duties which will never come. The remaining 9 do the turns they always used to but with no coal from the washery for the hole they do less than before. The crew change at Wulong is still interesting with 5 or 6 SY present but the proximity of the new flats to the line casts a shadow across the tracks at this time of year.
The area where many older locos including JF and YJ were stored has been swept away and here now is what is known as The National Mining Museum. Currently it consists of rusting SY 0939, equally rusting ZG 150 113, a large crane, a wagon, piles of rusting metal and dereliction.
One happy find was that the narrow gauge electrics at a mine at the back of the hole which I believe is called Soujiawan are still running.
We were pleased to escape on N151 a train that would have been at home in the 1980's. All it needed was a QJ up front instead of the orange DF4. Green stock with individual coal fired boilers, sellotape around the windows, freezing icicle hung toilets and mice which scuttled about our coach. At 06:30 we were awakened by martial music at max decibels and to complete the ambiance at Pingzhuang we descended on to the ballast.

PINGZHUANG, 30th November - 1st December
Little change here. Electrics still serve the hole and the non electric side remains all steam with 10 SY seen in steam. No JS were seen in steam. Things were slow and it looked like there was a shortage of wagons from China Rail as when wagons did arrive they were hastily distributed. The long climb for loaded trains from the northerly mines into the main yard is a superb thrash but with few trains not easy to be in the right place at the right time but I was and SY 1052 made both a memorable sight and sound. Deflectored SY 1083 was ex works 5/11/2007.
Locos seen :- JS 1001 (dumped) . SY 0400, 0463 (dumped), 0798, 0942/3, 1025/52/83/5, 1441, 1764.

SY 0400

And so to Chifeng , a bizarre taxi journey, to find the station there a building site. Train 2560 (now with 3 soft sleepers - not like the old days) to Beijing Bei and another building site.
The Dutch disastermen of KLM did it again. 3 hours late from Beijing. Missed connections at Amsterdam and eventually home.

Derek Jenkins

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2007 Derek Jenkins