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Steam in China - March 16th to 23rd, 2008

by Chris Yapp

Xingyang, Pingdingshan, Yuzhou, Shiheng-Chazhuang, Sishui, Zoucheng and Yanzhou

I arrived at Beijing International Airport Terminal 2 mid-morning on 16 March on the overnight KLM flight from Amsterdam. After checking in at a hotel close to the Airport, I paid a short visit to the Railway Museum to see new arrivals since my last visit - ST759 2-6-4T from Myanmar, MG35 2-6-0 and a small and very rusty narrow gauge 0-4-0T on display in a garden in front of the museum. After that I went into the city centre for a little tourism visiting Jingshan Park and Kong Miao (Confucian Temple) which were both undergoing pre-Olympics restoration when I tried to visit them last year.


On 17 March, I took the first China Southern flight of the day to Zhengzhou arriving at about 9:00am where I met my guide and driver. We headed for Xingyang Brickworks and arrived before 11:00am. 207 was working. I stayed until 4:00 pm and saw five round trips. A fellow enthusiast I met said that there had been 12 round trips every day that he had been there. My guide said that the line had re-opened about a week before my visit, but did not specify how long the line had been closed or why. I was unable to gain access to the workshop. The gate was locked and my guide said that access was no longer allowed.

207 passing approaching the first unloading point at Xingyang


I spent most of the next three days at Pingdingshan. Only one diesel was working the last time I was there. This time there were 14 diesels working and another receiving attention in the workshop.

In summary, I saw seven JS working on the network (5644, 8030, 8057, 8062, 8065, 8068, 8122) and another two (8054, 8120) in steam in the depot yard. There was no sign of any SY and the only other JS seen was 8031 under repair in the workshop. I also saw thee of the Yuzhou line QJ (6450, 6650, 7186) working plus inactive 6690 in the depot yard at Tianzhuang and 6786 (presumed) receiving a major overhaul in the workshop.

I spent my first morning (18 March) at the western end of Tianzhuang yard. Between 08:15 and 11:30 a total of 13 diesels and only four JS emerged from the depot (8030, 8062, 8068, 8122). JS8065 worked the Shisankuang to Zhongxin passenger; JS8068 spent the morning shunting the unloading point on the north side of the yard; 8122 took empties up the line to Mines 10/12 at 09:15 and returned on loads at 10:50; 8062 banked diesel-hauled empties towards Shenxi at 09:25; 8030 went light engine up the line to Mines 10/12 at 10:25; and 8065 arrived light engine from Shenxi and went on depot at 10:40.

In the afternoon on 18 March I followed the Zhongxin to Hanzhuangzhan passenger headed by JS8030 with photographs at Wukuang (Mine 8) and on the climb near Gaozhuangzhan. I called at Baofeng on the way back to Pingdingshan and found the stabling point deserted and not used for several days.

JS8030 near Gaozhuangzhan on the Zhongxin to Hanzhuangzhan passenger train

I started 19 March with a visit to the depot/workshop at Tianzhuang - seeing QJ6450 and 7186 heading off the line from Mines 10/12 running light engine eastbound as I arrived - no time to get a photo. There were six JS in steam in the depot yard at 08:00 (8054, 8057, 8062, 8065, 8120, 8122) whilst JS8068 was in steam inside the workshop receiving attention from a welder. There was less JS activity than on the previous morning – 8057 and 8065 ran light engine towards Mines 10/12 at about 08:30 and did not reappear; 8062 and 8122 ran light engine towards Shenxi at 08:40; and 5944 passed through on the Shisankuang to Zhongxin passenger train. Although a diesel was shunting the unloading point on the north side of Tianzhuang yard, JS8068 came off depot at 10:00 and did some shunting.

Later in the morning, I went to Bakuang (Mine 8) but found only a diesel shunting. I moved on to Shenxi yard where I found JS 8062 shunting prior to an 11:30 departure on empties towards Mine 2 banked by a diesel.

After lunch I went to Qikuang (Mine 7) to see JS8065 on the Zhongxin to Hanzhuangzhan passenger service. Just before the passenger JS8122 arrived tender-first from the west on a short freight. After the passenger passed, 8122 returned westbound light engine. I also headed west and found 8122 at Jiukuang (Mine 9) where it set off banking diesel-hauled loaded wagons towards Baofeng. I spent the rest of the afternoon on a tour of Mines 11, 6, 4 and 1 looking for steam activity without success. Staff at Mine 4 said that there had been a steam working up the bank from Shenxi in the morning.

On 20 March, I decided to start at Shenxi yard - with the idea that the local control might have advance warning of any JS-worked trains heading to the mines. JS5644 once again performed on the passenger, but the only other action was JS8062 arriving on a long rake of empties at 10:30 and taking a dozen of them on to Mine 1 almost immediately. 8062 returned about 40 minutes later on loads, but simply deposited them in Shenxi yard and returned towards Tianzhuang light engine.

JS8122 running light at Qikuang (Mine 7)

If, as suggested on the Farrail website, three more diesels arrive in summer 2008, JS activity is likely to be reduced to the two passenger services and standby duties.


QJ6650 shunting at Yuzhou

My travel plans required me to be at Zhengzhou Airport in the evening, so I travelled via Yuzhou. I found QJ7186 tender first on around 40 empty wagons at Hanguydian, about 30 minutes drive from Yuzhou. The crew did not expect to leave until after 17:00, so I continued towards Yuzhou. At a narrow gauge level crossing on the outskirts of the town, I found diesel 805 (JMY 380) standing on a coal train.

When I arrived at Yuxhou, I found QJ6650 in steam at the stabling point. The reason for the delay to 7186 was immediately apparent. Yuzhou has only three tracks - one was occupied by wagons being loaded with coal by three mechanical diggers, the second was occupied by loaded wagons and the third was occupied by 6650. A short wait until all of the wagons were loaded was rewarded by some shunting by 6650 to free a track for the arrival of 7186. Unfortunately, 7186 did not arrive before the light failed. The nocturnal habits of the Yuzhou QJs must, at least in part, be a result of the need to load wagons in daylight and it takes a long time to load 60 wagons using diggers.

The evening was occupied by a Shandong Airlines flight from Zhengzhou to Jinan and a drive on to Feicheng.

Shiheng Chazhuang

The next morning (21 March) I met the very enthusiastic Mr Zhao from Zoucheng and we set off to find the Shiheng Chazhuang Coal Railway at the end of the China Rail branch to Hutun. The line extends a short distance westwards from Hutun to Shiheng where there are three coal mines close together. The second and third are rail-served, but I did not get a chance to explore the eastern of the three mines.

There are two level crossings in the Shiheng area - one between the first and second mines and the other between the second and third mines. We walked along the track to the second (middle) mine and found high deflector QJ6868 in steam. After a few minutes it disappeared light engine towards Hutun. At about 10:20 China Rail DF44186 appeared running light from Hutun, returning from the third mine with loads about 20 minutes later. At 11:10 6868 reappeared with two wagons and continued to the third mine where it picked up a train of loads and returned to Hutun. 6868 beat us to Hutun and back - we next saw it at 12:30 locked in the yard of the second mine supporting the view expressed in a previous report that the loco is only active in mornings.

QJ6868 passing the middle mine at Shiheng

Mine and security staff at the second mine were very friendly - no problems. They told us that Laiwu has a contract to provide the engine and crew. Locomotives are exchanged with Laiwu as required. There is also a narrow gauge electric railway at the middle mine.

Daewoo Cement Works, Sishui

A drive of about two hours took us to the cement works at Sishui where high deflector QJ7129 was in steam at the stabling point at the rear of the works. DF5BG0030 was in the depot building and another unidentified QJ in poor condition was under plastic sheeting at the end of the headshunt. Apparently both 7129 and the diesel work on most days, but the workings are unpredictable. We arrived about an hour after work ceased for the day. My guide had waited from 09:00 until 16:00 for activity on his previous visit.

QJ7129 at the stabling point at the Daewoo Cement Works at Sishui

Yankuang Coal Company

I spent all day on 22 March on the Yankuang system starting with a visit to Dadongzhuang stabling point at 08:00 where QJ7189 and 7190 were being prepared for action. The lighting installed in 2006 makes the stabling point relatively unattractive for photography. Both locomotives moved to Dadongzhuang yard at about 08:20.

At 08:45 7189 took empties tender-first to Xinglongshan and was seen passing the mine at Baodian at 15:15 heading for Xiagongchang. It returned to the coaling line at Dadongzhuang at 16:20. 7190 left Dadongzhuang at 09:55 tender-first on empties to Dongtan Mine where I saw it set off back towards Dadongzhuang on loads at about 12:50. It was next seen arriving light engine at Dadongzhuang coaling siding at 16:30 from the Zouxian direction.

The day was rounded off with a quick visit to Zouxian depot where the following were stored or dumped: QJ3538, 3559, 6284, 6782, 6811, 6812, 6814, 6848, 6866, 6933, 7123, 7126 and 7128.

At 08:00 on 23 March, QJ7189 had already left the stabling point and 7190 departed light engine to Xinglongzhan within minutes of my arrival. 7190 returned from Xinglongzhan tender-first on loads at 09:35 and took the Nantun line. An attempt to see 7189 at the power station was unsuccessful because the approach roads were blocked by queues of coal trucks.

Overall the system did not seem particularly busy and there seemed to be more than enough diesels available to do all of the work.

QJ7190 on empties on the way to Dongtan Mine

QJ7189 passing Baodian Mine on loads

Zoucheng Ironworks

QJ7072 remains beside a public ‘road’ at the ironworks, but has not worked since the cessation of rail traffic around October 2007. The location would not be easy for the casual visitor to find without a guide.

QJ7072 out of use at Zoucheng Ironworks

Yanzhou Coking Plant

I made a brief visit to the coking plant at Yanzhou mid-afternoon on 23 March. The works is surrounded by a high brick wall with razor wire. There is a small hill between the stabling point and the adjacent China Rail line that gives a view into the yard. QJ7188 and 7191 were both in steam at the stabling point and 6933 was in steam in the yard. No wagons could be seen anywhere in the yard.

QJ7191 in steam at the stabling point at Yanzhou Coking Works

On 24 March I took a late morning Shandong Airlines flight to Beijing arriving in an almost deserted Terminal 3. A bus transfer to a crowded Terminal 2 was followed by a wait of an hour before the check-in desks opened for the evening Thai flight to Bangkok. A week later the experience was very different with most international flights using Terminal 3 and Terminal 2 handling only 2-3 flights an hour.

Departure from China was not the end of steam on my trip. On 26 March every year there is a steam special to mark the anniversary of the launch of the first rail service in Thailand between Bangkok and Ayutthaya. I visited Bangkok Noi shed on 25 March to see the engines (953 2-8-2, 824 4-6-2) being prepared and found two lineside locations for the northbound working on 26 March.

Chris Yapp

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© 2008 Chris Yapp