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Steam in China, January 2008

by Wolfgang Klein

Pingdingshan, Huanan

Pingdingshan, 4th - 5th January:

Before joining Bernd Seilers "Steam Ice Quickie", I made a quick visit to PDS on Jan 4th and 5th (where I met Aaron Telfer & Derryl Bond).

Bernd organized me a guide and a driver - one of the most irrational situations I ever experienced: after one night on the plane and one in the sleeper, a black limo with darkened windows, accompanied by a driver wearing suit & tie, took a dingy looking longnose to some of the most shabby places in China. The main problem was, that my knowledge of the area was much better than theirs, but we managed to get along; at least the driver knew his way through the city of PDS, where I would have been completely lost.

I went for the first shot to the pond near Qikuang/7th mine for the morning passenger (before sunrise) with JS 8065. Went then for the passenger from Shisankuang/13th mine as far as the level crossing where the line bears north 2 kms after leaving Qilidian (JS 8122). Got the train again leaving Bakuang/8th mine. At the same time a lengthy freight left Bakuang steam hauled with one loco towards Qilidian.

Had a quick look around Tianzhuang then, where another long freight left steam hauled at the eastern end at the moment when we appeared at the western side :-(

Doubling of the line to Shenxi/Zongku is not yet completed, and Dave Habraken already reported that the scenic level-crossing-keepers hut with the little garden has been replaced by a new building with yellow tiles and a shiny red roof.

Not much action there at that moment, so I went on to the 5th mine, where track works between the mine and the level crossing were in place. Made the passenger from Baofeng from the little village below the mine, of course again JS 8065.

Went then to 7th mine and got an invitation to a meal and a cup of tea. Saw my only two steam hauled freight trains of the day (8038 with empties going west and 8338 with a loaded train rolling in from the West), followed by the passenger.

Spend the afternoon around Tianzhuang, where 8031 was busy shunting the complex to the left (washery?).

In front of the shed where four JS and QJ 6786 in steam, but idle (see list below). All diesels were out.

And that was the really sad sight: the really good trains were all handled by diesels, steam only had the passengers, and some shunting duties. Aaron and Derryl were told by their guide, that steam might finish every time between Chinese New Year and the summer. The coffin is already being built in form of a new hall at the south eastern corner of the yard, which shall house four steam locos as a museum.

Went then towards Shiasankuang/13th mine for the last passenger. I had not been any further as to the bridge on my previous visits. With the sun quickly sinking, I tried to get towards Shisankuang, but the line is quite close to the hills and the light even got worse. Finally the train left in the very moment we appeared at the (most ugly) platform of Shisankuang, so I ended up without a shot of that train.

I attended the "parades" at the shift changes at about 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. I arrived both times only when the change was already in full swing, and the place looked busy as ever. Of course that picture included as well the locos which were sitting idle in front of the shed for the whole day: Aaron and Deryll counted only four JS which actually went out for the night shift!

Locos seen:
JS 8065 passenger
JS 8122 passenger
JS 8031 shunting in Tianzhuang
JS 8038 freight
JS 8338 freight
JS 6225 freight (only seen at the parade)
JS 5644 freight (only seen at the parade)
JS 6253 in front of the shed, in steam, res.
JS 8030 in front of the shed, in steam, res.
JS 8057 in front of the shed, in steam, res.
JS 8421 in front of the shed, in steam, res.
JS 8120 shed, cold, no sight of repairs
JS 8068 shed, under overhaul
SY 1687 shed, cold, no sight of repairs
QJ 6786 in front of the shed, in steam, res.
JS 6429 dead
SY 1209 dead

Ten previously reported plus
DF7G 5078 (or is this a misreporting of 5178, D.F.?) and 5182.
Subsequently A. W. Beard has reported DF7G 5181 also here and DF10D 0182/3 newly delivered on 24th January.


From a personal sight, it was a very unusual trip having such a high class entourage (I couldnīt even stop them from carrying my tripod and my camera bag - in the beginning I felt distressed, but being unable to change it, I sort of fatally gave in and tried to enjoy it). Due to good planning I was quite confident with my results.
From the view of future enthusiasts it was disappointing. Gone are the times where you could simply go there, sit and wait - you will see basically diesel hauled freights, amongst them just a few steam locos, mainly on the passengers and on shunting duties. The parades are just a reflection of Pingdingshans glorious past, and in a few months or even weeks, the fascinating system will be completely dieselized. If you want to see it again - come quick, the clock ticks!

A quick word to Huanan:

I think that Bernd will write a seperate report about the (very sunny and apart from the last day very successful) "Steam Ice Quickie", but just a word to everyone planning to visit Huanan: when we were there January 10th/11th/12th, they were obviosly winding the operation down. From the evening of 11th, only 2 locos were running, and we havenīt had a single train on the 12th (No 41 banked No 4 around 3.30 in the morning, went to and returned from the mine and sat the whole day in Lixin waiting for a banker itself). So please check whether they are still running before you go.

Wolfgang Klein

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Đ 2008 Wolfgang Klein