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Steam in China - February, March 2008

by Nelson Poots

Baotou, Baiyin, Yaojie, Sandaoling, Shibanxi, Jalainur, Jixi, Nanpiao

I'm not normally a report-sender or a number-grabber but, having often consulted QJ/SY Country in recent years, I thought I'd pass on such details of locos as emerged from my video during a visit with two friends this year. The list isn't comprehensive as, especially at Sandaoling & Jalainur, I tended to take the "big picture"; also my camcorder misbehaved and failed twice, disaster being averted by one of my companions lending me his spare. As a result there was some delay before I could actually view the results of my efforts. If nothing else, the following may help to update the Loco Lists, all locos shown were in steam/working unless otherwise stated. Especially at Sandaoling, the unexpectedly mild weather led to a disappointing reduction in volume of white exhaust!

Baotou, 24-26 Feb: SY 1431, 1517, 1696, 1723, 1731, 1743, 1748 (deflectors & s/box decoration). Although not positively identified, another SY with s/box decoration (1518?) was also in steam. We never saw either of the decorated locos outside the loco yard which, unlike a year ago, had 3 or 4 dead SYs parked. YJ 232 and JS 58001 are still in the same place, also on this line is a SY with left side of cab wrecked. We concentrated on the blast furnace area and lines leading to the slag tips; the liquid slag trains were all SY but the "non-runny" slag is now worked by diesels, although the "bomb-bursts" are still spectacular.

Baiyin, 27-29 Feb: SY 0819(dead in shed), 0965, 1013, 1470, 1561, 1583(dism for repair) & "2008". There was little freight traffic to Sanyelian where new gantries were being erected over the coal dump and new, rail-connected, buildings had been constructed. The yard at Baiyin contained a great number of acid tank wagons, many showing signs of not having moved recently. However, a massive shunt of the yard took place while we were there, the object of which was not clear. 2008 had not retained its "Olympic" standard of turnout witnessed last year!

Yaojie, 2-4 March: SY 0633, 0737, 1402, 3020. We found the walled loco shed area but were politely not allowed to penetrate.

Sandaoling, 5-8 March: SY 1304 & 1593. JS 6223, 8040 (washing-out), 8053 (repair in shed), 8076, 8173, 8194, 8195, 8197, 8221 (heavy repair), 8314 (standard front end i.e. no deflectors), 8384.
With two trains of up to 55 empties coming in from CNR each day, output seemed to be considerable from both deep mines, while how much was coming out of the open mine was less clear. The cosmetic appearance of locos here comes a poor second to their mechanical condition. Frustratingly for the photographer, many were able to run for long distances while showing little or no exhaust of any kind.

Shibanxi, 10-13 March: Nos. 9, 10 & 14 working. No.9 was the main passenger loco. No.10 handled the coal & goods, until stopped for washout, then No.14 took over these duties. No.14 although it did the job, was in the worst condition of the fleet. No.10 after washout & just before we left Shixi, took over from No.9 & worked the afternoon passenger. No.7 was in an advanced state of overhaul, while no work appeared to have been done on the two recent arrivals. No.9's offensive name plates are now on one of the half-dozen tourist coaches. Bagou has had part of its platform raised and a platform has been built where tourists will alight to take the "lake shot". It has a toilet block in the (very) approximate shape of a loco - with wheels painted on it! - while Huancunjing was like a building site, so doubtless further Disneyfication will follow. Oh well, if it helps to keep the line running ......... Apparently this area wasn't affected by the Sichuan earthquake, although the recent unusual heavy snow had had a bad effect on the banana and bamboo trees.

Jalainur, 15-19 March: SY 0358, 1041, 1193, 1303, 1374, 1376, 1654, 1678, 1690. Unfortunately, my misbehaving camcorder has denied me details of locos working on "surface" lines!
As reported elsewhere, a large number of spoil wagons were parked out of use in the big pit. There was also a large dump of locos in open country east of the mine; many were obviously long-term residents but several appeared to be recent arrivals. Fewer (and less vigourously worked) spoil trains went to the Nanzhan tips. Much spoil is being dumped in the western side of the mine, both by road vehicles and by a line which curves around the south end. Coal was being extracted at a considerable rate at the south end, some trains being combined when part-way to the conveyor, while the observed delivery of a drilling machine to this coal-bearing area suggested that there is more to come. On the east side blasting and spoil removal were taking place, with a new line going into the north-east corner. If development continues in this direction it seems that the line out of the pit towards Nanzhan will eventually be affected.

Jixi, 20-24 March: Hengshan, SY 0804; Lishu, 0951; Donghaikuang, 0639 (+ 1 unidentified); Didao, 0341, 0407, 1205 & 1213; Chengzihe, 0863, 1018, 1058, 1340, 1351, 1544 & 1545.
Predictably, the Chengzihe system saw the most action although this itself was rather unpredictable, presumably governed by availability of empties from CNR - some trains of 40+ went out to Zhengyang while other trips had only a few or were LE. Some quite large trains of empties were then taken over the hill to Xinghua. Some were banked, although this appeared to depend on the need for two locos at Xinghua rather than the weight of the train. Loaded trains from Xinghua were banked to the top of the climb, the banker usually dropping off to continue the frequent trips to the spoil tip at the top of the hill. An occasional spoil trip was worked there from Zhengyang. There did not appear to be any routine as regards which way locos would be facing. Lots of shiny diesels on Hengshan system - we were perhaps lucky to catch 0804 climbing to Zhongxin and propelling empties towards Lijing. At Lishu, it seems that we were among the last to get a working to Qikeng - given its output and the amount of coal being moved by road elsewhere it's perhaps surprising that movement by rail lasted so long. Didao was busy but we arrived rather late in the day and the weather deteriorated so we didn't go beyond the yard.

Nanpiao, 26-28 March: SY 0754, 1299 & 1478. I believe 1092 was also working but haven't got photo confirmation. 0754 turned up on our last train on our last day, looking ex-works and may have replaced 1092. Companions who visited the shed found 0366 (Nanpiao pet?) dead there, 0973 reported scrapped.

General: In the run-up to the Olympics China is at pains to show a good face to the world. On CCTV9 we were treated (some time after the event) to endless stuff about the Lhasa riots and how many obscure countries or bodies were queuing up to condemn the "Dalai clique" and congratulate the government on its sensitive handling of the situation, numerous reports of the ignition and progress of the Olympic flame, along with rather patronising documentaries about how well quaint ethnic minorities are treated. To be fair, however, although one got the impression that word had gone out to all concerned that nothing untoward should be allowed to happen, the only time we ran into any problems was on the road from Nanpiao to Linghe at the place where in recent years a subsiding village has been increasingly engulfed by water. We'd planned to take a shot over it with a freight passing but it ran late and eventually some Party officials from Nanpiao arrived. It was a choice of either pack up or stay and talk to the police so we smiled, shook hands and left!

Nelson Poots

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