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Steam in Central China - April 2008

by Dave Fielding

Changzhi, Zoucheng, Yanzhou, Shiheng-Chazhuang, Pingdingshan, Yuzhou, Jiangyou, Hanwang, Mianzhu, Yongrong, Shibanxi

The aim of this trip was to visit various locations in Central and Southern China even though some places only had an odd loco or two left working. I realised the trip was going to be challenging from a photographic point of view because of the likely weather conditions. However inspired by the recent reports of Peter Semmelroch and Dave Habraken amongst others, I planned an (over?) ambitious itinerary and was able to have the company of Mike Ma as my guide / interpreter. I felt it was now or never for a trip to these areas of China. However things didn't quite work out as planned...

Being price conscious, I flew Emirates from Birmingham to Beijing changing in Dubai with an internal flight from Chengdu to Beijing on my return. On landing at Beijing on April 1st, I was surprised when we taxied towards the new Terminal 3 which however seemed to be full of planes. There was no problem and Mike was there to meet me.

Changzhi, April 3rd, 4th

After a night in a hotel in central Beijing we caught the 9:06 train from Beijing Xi to Changzhi. I had visited Changzhi previously in October 2005 and following Chris Yapp's reports I was interested in making a further visit, perhaps even seeing a train on the branch to Huguan and Xingcheng. I had completely miscalculated the distance from Beijing to Changzhi, thinking we had to spend the night on the train before we arrived but in fact it was due to arrive at 21:31 on the same day so I had fortunately gained a day on my itinerary. The train actually arrived at 22.55 which was rather late to find a suitable hotel room.

On April 3rd we were out of our hotel by 6:30 and off to Changgang Group's yard and depot at Guancun. At the yard the two high deflector JS 5570 and 6219 were still present looking very out of use. On to the depot where outside on the right hand road were JS 8356 looking very smart but not in steam followed by SY 0324 and 2017 looking out of use. Outside on the left hand road was Dalian 2008 built diesel DF10D 0189, inside the depot on the same road was JS 8416 probably serviceable and on the other road JS 6102, looking neglected, possibly an abandoned overhaul. Alongside the depot was the dumped and tender less JF 116.
At 7:20 JS 6226 arrived at the depot for servicing. Later, at 9:15 the diesel, which was decorated with red ribbons at both ends (for good luck?), left for the yard and later departed for the China Railway connection with some wagons. Perhaps worth mentioning there were a couple of the now rare brake vans in the yard, but of course not required by a diesel hauled train.
As further activity here appeared unlikely we departed for the steelworks yard at Xiang. Nearing our destination, several of the Changcun Coal Mine's blue livered DF10Ds were noted near the Mine's depot (not investigated further), also Changgang's DF10D 0014 heading some wagons towards the China Railway yard at Changzhi Bei. On the servicing track alongside Xiang yard were SYs 0583 and 0886, both in steam. According to loco staff, these were the only two steam locos left here, and they expected a further diesel to replace one of them later in the year.
The only action noted was at 11:30 when diesel GK1C 0416, an orange livered B-B built Ziyang 2007, emerged from the steel works, whereupon SY 0583 departed into the steel works area (lunch time shift change?). Staff informed us that SY 0886 was waiting to go to Guancun for maintenance next day, perhaps the reason why it was being given a good steam clean.
At 12:10 we left to return to Guancun. Here we found JS 6226 hadn't moved and the gates to the depot closed. We hung around until 15:30 but then gave up. I was feeling very tired by now and Mike found a superior hotel for our second night in Changzhi.

The following morning we were at Guancun by 7:00. SY 0886 had already arrived from Xiang and was on the left hand depot road. Also present were DF10D 0189 on the right hand road ahead of the dead JS and 2 SYs, with JS 6226 exactly as we had left it the previous afternoon. With no indication of any imminent activity, we decided to leave. The amount of traffic was far less than I had expected and still all I had seen on the Huguan and Xingcheng branch was a railcar with permanent way crew.
The next area on my itinerary was Shandong province and its QJs. Mike found a bus to Jining departing at 9:25, but it was a long journey and we didn't arrive until 17:45. After 15 min we caught a bus to Yanzhou where we spent the night.

Yanzhou, April 5th

At 7:50 we left Yanzhou on a local bus for Yanzhou Xi and the Shandong Yankuang International Coke Co. From the road leading to the main entrance to the plant, we followed China Railway's track back in the direction of Yanzhou, and after a couple of km we could see depot and stabling point which is at the north east end of the plant. There were very few wagons in the large yard but on the track nearest to the boundary wall was QJ 6936 not in steam (the number on the smokebox door looked to me to be 6938 but a member of staff confirmed it was 6936). In very light steam at the depot were QJ 7188 and 7191. We climbed the mound of earth next to the depot for over the wall pictures. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the locos here are provided by the Yankuang Group Transportation Department who also provide the locomotives for the Yanzhou Coal Mining Company at Zoucheng (visited later).
We returned to the main Yanzhou to Jining road and hailed a taxi for the short ride to the depot of the dieselised JiBei Railway. Although entry was firmly denied, from the gate high deflector QJ 7121 was clearly identifiable and four other QJs were present.

Zoucheng, April 5th, 6th

We then continued on to the workshop of the Yanzhou Coal Mining Company at Zoucheng where I noted the twelve out of use/derelict QJs and derelict diesel. Then on to the stabling point at the west end of Dadongzhang yard where QJ 7189 was in light steam. Some time later, around 17:00, QJ 7190 returned light engine from one of the branches to the west. After a few pictures at the stabling point, we returned to a hotel in Zoucheng.

And then there were two...
the remaining working Zoucheng Mining Railway QJs, 7190 and 7189, at Dadongzhang stabling point.

The following day we were at the stabling point in time to see QJ 7190 moving off at 7:55, and then disappearing eastwards light engine in the direction of the workshop. At 8:15 QJ 7189 moved off and positioned itself in the yard adjacent to the offices. It disappeared eastwards from our position but later reappeared, shunted a single wagon onto a train and at 9:45 departed tender first with the train taking the right hand branch towards Baodian. It was not expected back until late afternoon so we packed up at this location.

The two remaining working QJs are in superb condition. The "QJ killer" on the system is the Dalian built Co-Co DF4DD class. According to Mike there are 10 of the class here but only 7 of them are in use at any time because of the high cost of diesel fuel. Nevertheless 3 more are expected by the end of 2008. I noted numbers 1021/2 built 2002 and 0031 built 2003 in blue and cream livery and the newer 0081/2/3 built 2007 in grey and blue. (From other observations, it would seem Mike's total of 10 refers to pre-2007 deliveries.)

By the way, I failed to locate QJ 7071 seen recently by Colin Martindale, who described it as being at "Tieyun". However Mike was nonplussed by this as he said it simply meant "Transportation Department".

Next point of call was the Zoucheng Iron Alloy Factory. QJ 7072 was easy to find. Although looking reasonably presentable, it does appear to be out of use now, certainly not having moved since Chris Yapp's picture a couple of weeks earlier. It carries the China Railway inscription for Jinan bureau, Yanzhou depot.
As I wanted to investigate the Hutun to Shiheng line, we caught a bus to Feicheng (departing 13:00, arriving 15:30) where we spent the night.

Hutun - Shiheng, April 7th

Having stayed the night in Feicheng, we caught a bus at 7:00 to Shiheng where there was the "Guochan Shiheng Power Plant" with C60 type and hopper wagons but no sight of a loco. There was also a large industrial type complex in the town with a largish hood diesel. Mike enquired at a level crossing on the edge of town and he was informed that some trains there were steam and some diesel hauled. We then caught a bubble car taxi to Hutun, where the China Railway line ends but no locos there either. A second bubble car taxi ride took us to a level crossing between a mine and a mine/power plant, which Mike identified as Guozhuan mine in the Hutun direction and the Chazhuan mine. Near the crossing was a post with a 4 on it which made me wonder if it was 4 km from Hutun. At the mine/power plant we could see a QJ in light steam. We walked in that direction and discovered it was QJ 6868. The crew appeared and drove off light engine tender first in the direction of Hutun only then to stop and drive forward to a gated siding where it stabled with no work to do. It was still only 9:40.
My impression from the track was this was not the line through to Shiheng but only to these mines near Hutun. However from Chris Yapp's recent report it appears I was mistaken, the line does run through to Shiheng. Also Shibata Taro's visit a month later found QJ 6868 out of use.

We then abandoned our investigation. My original plan was to spend two days in Shandong province but the extra day available from my earlier miscalculation had enabled three days to be spent in the province. My intention had been to catch the overnight train K205/K208 to Pingdingshan, but Mike was unable to get tickets. The alternative was to catch buses to Jinan and then on to Zhengzhou to spend the night before continuing to Pingdingshan. We departed Feicheng at 12:30 reaching Jinan at 13:50. In 15 minutes we were departing to Zhengzhou where we arrived at 19:45.

Pingdingshan, April 8th, 9th

We awoke to a very wet morning. The possibility of a side trip to the Xingyang Brickworks narrow gauge in such conditions seemed pointless.
A bus at 8:30 to Pingdingshan arrived at 10:45. After checking into a hotel for two nights, rain was still lashing down and the best option was to head for Zhongxin station and ride one of the passenger trains. The choice was the 13:30 westbound to Baofeng and Hanzhuangzhan with JS 5644 as I had ridden the eastbound train (hauled today by JS 8031) on a previous visit. After 25 minutes and three halts we were joined on the left by the China Railway line from Pingdingshan to Baofeng with some concrete posts erected for future electrification. At our next halt at Miaopu there were loops on the mining railway where we passed DF10D 0183 on a loaded train, and on China Railway. Shortly after, a new station, named Yuguanying, (maybe replacing an older station) had been built on the China Railway line. After calling at a further halt, the mining railway and China Railway parted company before arriving at Baofeng where the mining railway and China Railway stations are adjacent. The mining railway line first heads north west out of Baofeng, parallel to China Railway, but then climbs over the national railway, heading west and north west. At Junyinggou, JS 8057 was waiting to pass us on a train including wagons of coke, their sides built up with wooden planks and their loads netted over. Between Baofeng and Hanzhuangzhan, I only noted six halts and may have missed a couple. The loco ran around its train ready to return at 15:50, it was still raining and light was diabolical. The only loco I noted on the journey back was JS 8065 at Qikuang (7th mine).
The next morning was dull but dry, and we set off to watch locos leaving the depot. JS 8068 could be seen in steam in the depot yard. Seven diesels emerged before JS 5644 at 9:10 and JS 8057 at 9:15. A diesel that had entered the depot earlier left at 9:30 to be followed at 9:35 by JS 8062. At 9:50 JS 8338 headed west to Zhongxin with the return passenger from Shisankuang (13th mine) and at 10:10 JS 8054 made a total of four JSs leaving the depot to work.
To check the situation with the QJs we caught a bus to Yuzhou at 11:15 followed by a taxi to Yuzhou "station". Here we found QJs 6450 (not usually based at Yuzhou) and 6650 in steam. Mechanical front loaders were transferring coal to a line of wagons. We then took another taxi to the yard at Huangyudian. On my previous visit here, I had not realised there was a nearby rail connected mine at the Yuzhou end of the yard. There was a DF4DD about assembling a train, and it was suggested to us the train would depart for Pingdingshan, diesel hauled and banked by the QJ that worked the line to the mine. However the diesel hauled the train single handed leaving behind an almost empty yard with QJ 6690 simmering away with nothing to do. Apparently a Yuzhou QJ (6786?) had been in an accident in February and had been sent to Pingdingshan to be repaired.

QJ 6690 waits for work at Huangyudian.

On the adjacent main road, we caught a bus back to Pingdingshan at 15:15 for some train watching at the west end of Shenxi yard. The first steam action was JS 8057 with 7 wagons from one of the two branches. There was no more steam until the Zhongxin bound passenger arrived at Shenxi halt. Here it was delayed for ten minutes at least before JS 8062 arrived on with wagons from the west, really frustrating as the evening sun for the departing passenger was setting rapidly. At 18:20 (due away 17:47) the line was clear and the train was on its way, the loco being JS 8031.

So eight JS had been seen working (5644, 8031, 8054, 8057, 8062, 8065, 8068, 8338).
Three QJ were seen around Yuzhou, if not working at least in steam (6450, 6650, 6690).
Eleven diesels were noted at work, all of which have been recorded previously.

The following morning, I wanted to catch train K205/K208 and travel overnight to Jiangyou. Before arriving at Pingdingshan, Mike had been able to obtain just one hard class sleeper ticket. So he was really excited, not to say relieved, to find Pingdingshan station had just one remaining similar ticket for him to purchase. Ten minutes late at 9:10 we set off on our 22 hour journey.

Jiangyou, April 11th

We arrived at Jiangyou on time at 6:55, to yet another grey overcast day. Mike found us a hotel and a rather unappetising noodle breakfast, after which we caught a taxi to the local steel works. The locomotive workshop was located where SY 0378 (Tangshan 1971/06) and SY 1244 (Tangshan 1983/08) were outside dead, SY 1463 (Tangshan 1986/06) was outside in very light steam and within the workshop were SY 1207, DFH5B 3019 and a SY being repainted with no visible number but thought to be 1161. SY 1244 was said to have been sent here to be cut up but found to be in such good condition it was taken into the steel works fleet.

SY 1244 at Jiangyou Steel Works workshop.

At 9:00 we left the workshop area and continued in our taxi to a small marshalling yard in open fields outside the factory area. Here SY 0671 was shunting. Diesel GKD3B 0005 in dark blue / grey livery with large lettering ZYLW on the body side, seen earlier from our train as we arrived at Jiangyou was also present. A second SY, 1228 (Tangshan 1983/06) was in light steam over a pit next to a water column. This loco does not appear to have been recorded anywhere previously. SY 0671 disappeared and reappeared a couple of times to and from the direction of the steel works and DFH5B 3046 (built Ziyang 1994) arrived from the opposite direction with 5 wagons. By 11:25, the two diesels and SY 0671 had stabled near SY 1228 for their lunch break.

SY 0671 shunts in a yard near Jiangyou Steel Works.

At the other side of Jiangyou city and on the opposite side of the China Railway main line is a large power plant. Mike had been here on a previous visit in March 2007 and we found SY 1133 (Tangshan 1981/04) was again the loco here, trip working to the main line connection. Although seeming to be the regular engine here, it may well belong to the steel works.

SY 1133 at Jiangyou Power Plant.

Of course since I returned home, there has been the terrible earthquake in Sichuan, and Mike has informed me he got news that in Jiangyou there were many houses badly damaged and many people died as houses collapsed there. On the next day we were off to Hanwang and Mianzhu, again towns that have subsequently been in the news, both nearer the epicentre of the quake and suffering very badly.

Hanwang and Mianzhu, April 12th

At 9:20 we left in a "Transit" size bus to Deyang, arriving at 10:55. From there we had a small size "van bus" for the rest of the day. We bypassed Mianzhu on its ring road and reached Hanwang by 12:30. We followed on foot the track through the town to the rear of the Fertiliser Factory, where SY 1194 (Tangshan 1982/10) was in steam behind the gates. A member of its crew appeared from a hut to open the gates and let us in to take pictures under the grey sky. After a snack lunch of a pancake from a little stall we found our way to the China Railway yard at the end of which was SY 0418 (Tangshan 1970/07) under the disused ore bunker. What exactly is its purpose remains unclear, but it was in light steam and a connecting pipe indicated it might have been supplying hot water. On the same track were three ballast hopper wagons, two of which were newly repainted.

SY 0418 at Hanwang (Photo: Mike Ma)

We left Hanwang at 14:15 just after the arrival of a China Railway's freight and by 15:00 located the small yard in Mianzhu where SY 0045 (Tangshan 1967/04) is kept. It was in its shed, just about in steam, and was said to be undergoing maintenance.

SY 0045 at Mianzhu (Photo: Mike Ma)

We continued on towards Chengdu for the night, but on the way decided to look in at Qingbaijiang at the new site of the Chengdu Seamless Pipe Works. Last November Terry Andrews found 7 SYs here. Unlike Terry we didn't get further than the gate and Mike was assured there were no steam locos present. However our keen driver set off around the perimeter of the site in case there was anything to see. It was approaching dusk and as I was noting diesel GK1C 0007, I failed to be wary of a dog in the shadows on a long chain. Initially it growled, then jumped at me and bit my left leg. A minor accident but in China the likelihood of rabies can't be discounted. So not for the first time Mike came into his own as a guide for me, finding hospitals and clinics, ensuring my wound was cleaned and that I obtained treatment.

Chengdu, April 13th - 17th

The requirements for injections on three days and poor weather on the 17th meant I stayed 5 extra nights in Chengdu and I had of course to abandon my ambitious itinerary which had been to visit Sancha, Zunyi, Ganshui, Liupanshui and Panzihua (probably requiring unobtainable sleeper tickets for five overnight journeys).
During our stay here, Chengdu Glassworks was checked out. It was thought to have been worked by Seamless Pipe Works locos before the Pipe Works relocated. However at the point where a track entered the Glassworks, Mike discovered in conversion that, at the end of 2007, steam working had been replaced by their own second hand "DF" diesel. We hung around for some time but didn't see any traffic in or out.
We then went the short distance to the old site of the Seamless Pipe Works. Although the site had been flattened, some track remained either side of the entrance to the adjacent park, but where the CR connection to the north had crossed the main road that ran past, the only sign remaining was the patched up road surface where rails had been lifted and the smoke blackened concrete on the flyover above.
Returning to the city, Mike found the "Chengdu Industrial Civilization Museum", where the former Seamless Pipe Works SY 1110 (Tangshan 1980/06) is preserved in the grounds. Two retired CR loco men, accompanied by their wives, had cycled from their homes to see the loco, having only recently discovered there was a steam loco there. Although finally driving diesels and electrics, they had earlier worked on QJs and were very interested in Mike's postcards of QJs on the JiTong line.

Yongrong, April 18th, 19th

My original plan had been to spend a night somewhere near the Yongrong Coal Railway, check out the situation in a morning and continue on by overnight train to Yizhou for Sancha. With a couple of days to my next injection, it was decided to travel to Rongchang, which was close to the Yongrong Coal Railway and stay for two nights before returning to Chengdu. We caught a bus at 9:35, were on the Chongqing expressway by 10:15 and arrived at Rongchang at 13:40. We quickly checked into the Yu Xi Hotel near the bus station and in half an hour we were on a local bus for the half hour ride to Guangshunchuang, headquarters of the Yongrong Coal Railway. At the China Railway station, SY 1326 (Tangshan 1984/10) was busy transferring wagons from the station yard into the power plant. The situation here is that the China Railway yard and the power plant are to the south of the main line and the longer Coal Railway branch to Xujiagou leaves from the west end of the yard. The Coal Railway yard and depot are to the north of the main line at the east of the station. The shorter Coal Railway branch to Xiaochang leaves from the east end of this yard and crosses the road from Rongchang. At the depot is a long shed which was locked but the smokebox of SY 1492, looking in good condition, could be seen. It was understood that the third SY, 1661, was also in this shed. At the far end of the yard was an orange diesel in a blue roofed "pen". We returned to Rongchang and were confused by being returned to a completely different bus station from where we had started.

On the following day we were back at Guangshunchuang by 9:00. The diesel was revealed as GK1C 0656 (Ziyang, 2006), busily pushing several wagons into the China Railway yard. SY 1326, in steam, was stabled over a pit with its cab door locked. It seems that China Railway want to ban steam from the tracks in their yard and a second diesel could arrive in June or July to end steam operation. With little prospect of steam action we went into town and found an internet "cafe". However when we came out we heard steam whistling from the station and it seemed the SY had taken the branch to Xujiagou. Mike hired a small van bus and we set off in search of steam. We passed through the town of Shuanghe and found 1326 in the yard of the coal mine at the end of the branch, nothing happening with the staff just sitting around. However at 15:15 loading of 8 wagons started using cable haulage. At 15:40, 1326 was used to move the wagons to a track with a weighbridge. As departure seemed imminent, we returned to a spot where the line crossed water on a low viaduct, and the tender first train would be side on. We got shots of the train there but the weather was rather dismal. By the time we got back to the Coal Railway yard, the steam crew were already signed off and heading home.

Saturday morning at Guangshunchuang SY 1326's cab door padlocked, so no action today...

...wrong, early afternoon at Xujiagou mine, SY 1326 prepares to move loaded coal wagons to be weighed on the adjacent track...

...before returning to Guangshunchuang.

There is now little traffic on the second branch as the Mining Company, operator of the railway, no longer owns the mine served by the branch.

The following morning we returned to Chengdu in time for me to have another injection. On my original plan, the last place I intended to visit was Panzihua Steel Works. Unfortunately Mike's contacts there were very busy and unable to arrange to meet us. The alternative was to make a four night visit to Shibanxi staying with the doctor and his family at Mifengyan.

Shibanxi, April 21st - 25th

The next day was bright and sunny after a pre-breakfast rain shower. Our 9:00 bus to Leshan was full by 8:50 so departed early. A quick change at Leshan to a bus for Qianwei where we arrived at 12:25, then by taxi to Shibanxi. On this stretch of the river, two new bridges were under construction, one of which was probably for a new expressway. At 13:25 No. 09 with ex-Pengzhou "slope back" tender came off the depot for the 14:00 train. Five of the six coaches were packed but we were given preferential treatment for boarding the other coach with our luggage after which we were joined by 6 locals, 3 female staff and a policeman. At 14:35 we arrived at the reversing station of Mifengyan where No. 14 was waiting on a short works train to pass and return downhill. It was very relaxing sitting outside the doctor's, watching the remaining passenger trains with No. 09 and, along with two Japanese photographers who had arrived earlier in the day, being served a home cooked evening meal.

On our first full day here, we could look out of our bedroom window at 6:30 to see No. 09 arriving and then departing on the first passenger train of the day. In fact this loco worked the regular passenger trains throughout our stay. The next action was at 7:40 when No. 14 arrived from down the valley hauling a few wagons and a coach. It picked up some empty wagons from the siding at Mifengyan and shunted to get the coach at the rear of its train. At 8:00 the downhill passenger train arrived and No. 14 departed uphill, leaving the loop free for No. 09 to run round and depart.
At 9:20 No. 14 returned with 9 wagons loaded with coal and two coaches. It shunted the two coaches to the rear of the wagons and at 9:30 continued downhill. At 10:10 the next uphill passenger arrived. The light was good (for Shibanxi) and it was pictured departing where some of the rape crop was already ripe enough to be cut for drying. We walked on to the well known tunnel where the downhill passenger passed at 11:30. We waited here for the next uphill train which was the next passenger at 15:00. The weather was improving with intermittent sunshine which unfortunately did not coincide with the appearance of the train. On our return to Mifengyan, I was very interested in photographs of No. 07 taken by one of the Japanese earlier in the day at Yuejin. I knew this loco had been undergoing a lengthy overhaul, and I thought this might have been one of its first reappearances at work. I suggested to Mike that we travel to Shibanxi to investigate so we caught the 16:00 train running over 30 minutes late. A quick "bunk" of the depot revealed No. 14 in steam and, on the same track, No. 07 also in steam with its fire being banked up. We were assured it would be out on the line the following day. Like No. 09 it was working with an ex-Pengzhou "slope back" tender. We returned to Mifengyan on the 17:30 train for our evening meal.

The next morning it was a question of if when and where No. 07 would put in an appearance. After the first passenger at 6:30, No. 14 arrived at Mifengyan at 7:45 with a train of building materials, probably loaded at Yuejin, one wagon of gravel, three wagons of bricks and one wagon of cement. The downhill passenger arrived at 8:00 enabling No. 14 to continue uphill. It must have continued to the end of the line at Huangcunjin as it returned at 9:50 with 9 wagons loaded with coal. It passed the second uphill passenger, which we photographed at the curve on the embankment beyond Mifengyan. The weather was getting brighter. We walked along the line and had our lunch beyond the tunnel. No trains other than the downhill passenger appeared so at 12:30 we continued walking at a leisurely pace and reached the curve with the lake below and new tourist platform and toilet block at 14:10. By this time there was scarcely a cloud in the sky. However after we had waited over an hour, a cloud appeared over the ridge behind us and 3 minutes before the appearance of the next passenger the curve was in shadow. We consoled ourselves that we hadn't missed the perfect sunlit shot there as the train included a tourist coach behind the loco, one of only two times we noted tourist coaches in use.
We walked on to the nearby station of Jiaoba. Mike alerted me to the point being changed and flags being set for a train to arrive in the loop from the Mifengyan direction. No. 14 pulled in on a light weight train of a single non-tourist coach that was in fact a tourist special. The train had to wait to pass the returning downhill passenger which we boarded and were ushered onto the tourist coach. I have to admit it was a much smoother ride than the usual four wheeler. (I haven't experienced the bogie passenger/goods/livestock vehicle which is part of the standard train makeup.) At 16:30 we left the train at Mifengyan to find No. 07 was out on the line with a loaded train of two bogie and one four wheeler wagons. It had to move out onto the uphill line towards Bagou to clear the loop and allow No. 09 to run round the passenger train. Then No. 07 and wagons returned to the loop line, a chance for several pictures in the sunshine. At 16:55 No. 14 and its coach of tourists returned, leaving the track free for No. 07 and its train to depart uphill. This in turn freed the loop for No. 14 to run round and continue back to Yuejin and Shibanxi. It was only half an hour later that No. 07 returned light engine and collected two low sided wagons from the siding at Mifengyan before continuing downhill. From the position of wagons next day, I think No. 07 had only taken its previous train as far as Xianrenjiao. With all the afternoon traffic, it was 18:15 (30 minutes late) when the last train of the day for Huangcunjin departedMifengyan.

No. 14 enters the loop at Jiaoba on a tourist special of one "non-tourist" coach.

No. 07 pauses at Mifengyan on a short freight awaiting the return of No. 14.

After No. 07 departs,
No. 14 runs round its single coach with the doctor's amaryllis making a colourful foreground.

The evening sun catches No. 09 and train leaving Mifengyan for Huangcunjin.

On our third and final full day, Mike suggested we should rise at 6:00 for the 6:35 to Bagou and have a look around the market. After this we followed the track to the end of the line at Huangcunjin. Here various activities were proceeding connected with the construction of the new museum. There were several wagons of materials, such as cement and bricks, here whose contents were being transferred to pack horses. There was also a temporary track laid to the deep mine replica pit head gear that had been erected. Above this scene there was real mining activity with coal being brought out of the drift mine served by 600 mm gauge tubs. The contents of the tubs were tipped onto a pile of coal. Several blackened ladies assisted gravity in transferring coal into wagons for the journey to Shibanxi.
An incline was used to carry tubs of waste from the mine to a tip at a higher level. This incline had been continued down to ground level and appeared to be used to bring concrete blocks to the level of the drift mine. The blocks had been transferred to a 300 mm gauge wagon and moved along the 300 mm gauge track towards another drift mine which appeared out of use. Part way along the 300 mm track the blocks had been unloaded down to a lower level. Here a "dummy" drift mine was being built using the blocks, no doubt to form part of the future visitor experience. According to a notice board about the planned museum, the deep mine was opened as a joint British-Chinese venture in December 1938 and closed in March 1988.
After observing the arrival and departure of a passenger train at Huangcunjin, we walked back to Bagou and at 11:50 just missed the departure of a special of two tourist coaches. We carried on walking to the well known phot spot just after Jiaoba looking down on the curve and the lake. Around 14:05 No. 07 appeared on a mixed freight of coal empties and construction materials followed at 15:05 by the passenger from Shibanxi. Trains must have passed at Jiaoba as 5 minutes later No. 07 returned on a loaded coal train of no less than 15 wagons. We walked back towards Bagou and waited at Jiaoba for the next passenger to return to Mifengyan, arriving at 16:00. No sign of the sun today but the light had been good.

No. 09 and train on the curve approaching Jiaoba.

Our final morning, and from the direction of the Bagou line, the rising sun could be seen, heralding the start of a very sunny day. Even the the first passenger train of the day was sunlit. Following the passenger, at 7:55 No. 07 arrived on a train of building materials and awaited the arrival of the returning passenger at 8:00 before continuing on up the line. We had taken pictures of these two trains at the curve above Mifengyan and then continued to the tunnel. Having arrived there it was very clear that an uphill train emerging from the tunnel was definitely not a morning shot on a sunny day so we wandered back to the curve where we had taken our previous shots. At 10:20 the next passenger climbed round in bright light, but my attempts at lower level shots were failures. We walked back down to Mifengyan where, at 11:10, No. 07 arrived with 9 wagons of loaded coal. After running round, No.07 posed briefly in the sun before departing to Shibanxi. We said goodbye to the doctor and his wife and boarded the next downhill passenger, alighting at Yuejin as Mike said it would be more convenient to find a taxi there. The passenger was held here awaiting the arrival of electric loco 01 on a long train of empty wagons for Yuejin mine and eventually departed 35 minutes late at 12:20.

No. 07 on an early morning freight on the curve above Mifengyan.

No. 07 on a loaded coal train in the loop at Mifengyan.

Final steam shot of the trip, No. 09 and train depart Yuejin for Shibanxi.

Our taxi reached Qianwei and, ever alert, Mike saw a Chengdu bound bus heading towards us on the main street. So it was a quick u-turn, overhaul the bus and unload our luggage. We had just made it for the last through bus of the day. The disadvantage was that we ended up at a bus station on the edge of Chengdu, and our taxi took 30 minutes around one of the ring roads to reach our hotel, talk about taken for a ride.

This visit to Shibanxi was unplanned, but worked out very well. We had by far the most sunshine on the trip. Staying at Mifengyan is recommended, if you have a bedroom at the front you don't even need to venture out to check the first passenger of the day. The daily four return passenger trains form a basic structure for operations. Added to this are freight trains for Huangcunjinto serve both the coal mine and the construction of the museum. In addition, modernisation and extension of several homes along the line provides additional building materials traffic for the railway. A new house was being built close to the line at Caiziba. I know the tourist traffic has had a mixed reception from enthusiasts, but, if it results in more trains, I can't help but feel positive. There will still be some days that remain unaffected by this traffic.


Saturday, April 26th, and I returned to the clinic in Chengdu for my fourth vaccination (just one more required which would have to be arranged back in the UK). Before departing on an Air China internal flight to Beijing, Mike gave me written instructions (English and Chinese) on requesting directions for the free shuttle bus between Terminals 1/2 and 3 (even though the bus stops seemed well sign posted). However on landing I again recognised I was already at the new Terminal 3 building.
My return flight departed just before midnight, and I had problems finding somewhere to change back yuan in the evening. So perhaps I should mention the ICBC exchange bureau on the international departures level (next to the Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlour) which for a 50 yuan fee would change back up to 3,000 (in my case 3538) yuan.
Note that China is becoming more expensive as both the pound and US dollar have weakened against the yuan, on this trip a pound bought 13.37 and a dollar bought 6.94. Prices in China are climbing, the consumer price index has hit over 8%.
Finally, last but not least, many thanks to Mike Ma for looking after me and for his companionship on the trip.

Dave Fielding

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© 2008 Dave Fielding