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More Steam in China - November 2008

by Jeff Cartledge

Jixi and Jalainur

This is a report of a trip by myself, Colin Wreyford & Nelson Poots. Our intention was to give long visits to Jalainur (in case the stories of doom turn out to be correct), Jixi (to visit all systems, but making sure Chengzihe was well covered, with it's pending electrification) & to once more attempt the impossible, go to Huanan & find it working. In 6 visits/attempts, we had only found it working once & though it worked for a while, whilst we were in the country, it did so only to cock a snoop at us again. At the end of the trip we visited Nanpiao and I have already seperately reported our visit there.

JIXI, Nov 4th - 8th and 20th - 23rd

Jixi was visited twice during our visit to China, firstly 4th to 8th Nov as Huanan had not yet restarted, mid November we were told, then whilst we were at Jalainur, it briefly burst into life, only to have stopped again, when we returned to the area. Thus we had spare days to use up, that is not to say that we did not enjoy the extra time we had at Jixi, as you would have to have something seriously wrong with you, not to enjoy steam operations of the quantity & quality available here. Second visit was from 20th to 23rd Nov.

The first major difference to normal we observed, was upon entering the foyer of the Trade Hotel (sorry, The New Territory Resources Mansion), as that huge unheated entrance, now has a glazed screen across in front of the counter, so all those fashion conscious lovely young girls, were no longer wearing their oversized great coats. It also meant they could while away the evening hours playing patience on their computers, in heated luxury now.

For our past 4 visits here, we have used the same taxi, H4300, red Kia, Y400 a day for 10hrs, 7.00 to 17.00 (when it stays light that long), tolls included. There are two drivers & both of them now know all the places you are likely to want to visit, are always cheerful & never complain that they can't take their vehicle down this dirt road etc. I have their phone numbers if anyone wants them, but this taxi can always be found outside the hotel at night, at sometime or other. Just tell the driver, your time in the morning & he will organise his mate to be there for you in the morning.

We saw Duncan Cotterill & Peter Breeze at the hotel, also one misty morning at Didao & I can only echo his thoughts, where was everyone. The only others we saw were 3 Japanese at Nanpiao & part of Mike Ma's group, first night in Beijing.

Most of what I noted is also being reported by Duncan, but here goes, sorry if some of it is duplicated.

Locos 1st stay:- SY 0590 0863 1058 1351 1369 1437 1544 1545.
Second stay:- SY 0590 & 1545 had gone being replaced by 0341 (which on our 1st stay in Jixi was at Lishu) & 1340 (recently overhauled).

The spoil tips between Dongcheng & Zhengyang are no longer in use, but coal tipplers were seen, with many trains a day, going to a line that turns off before you get to the old spoil tip line, to discharge points, where the coal is loaded into trucks.
This line is shown on Bernd's 2008 Jixi Chengzihe updated map, it is not very picturesque, more like an industrial siding, but the engine works very hard up the climb of this line.
Spoil is now going down the other line to Jixi Xi, so if you see a spoil train leave Beicheng Washery, you can then get shots of it at the river bridge, certainly on the return, as they don't stay long before heading back, the trains going to the mines on the other side of the river, reversing up the other side of the Y. The engine will be propelling, tender first on the return, but they do tend to make at least a couple of trips, when they start, so you should be able to get into position, for the next one, for a smokebox first shot.

The mine's rail mounted crane was putting in concrete poles between Dongcheng & Zhengyang. If this is for the overhead wires, these were the only ones we saw & at the rate they are putting them in, we can look forward to many more years of steam action here. However I suspect masses of contractors will one day appear & it will all be done very quickly, for as anyone who has seen the major alterations they have made at the washery at Jalainur & the time scale they must have done it in, when they do start to do something, they obviously get stuck in & get it done.

At the spoil tips between Zhengyang & Xinghua mines(turn off the main road, shortly before KM302 post), a new siding with loading point for shovels to fill the wagons, coal coming from the surrounding local mines by truck, has been installed, along with a weighbridge.
During the day here, expect at least one spoil train from Zhengyang, normally this working is the first trip of the day, smokebox first, a nice long video from the top of the tip. Then spoil is brought from Xinghua mine, three or four trains on average, then another working from Zhengyang can also happen. If another engine is down at Xinghua, be on the lookout for a banked train of loaded wagons coming up the bank, between spoil trains. One day here we got this & were then very nearly caught out, as there was yet another engine down there & a second banked train came up, as soon as the banker, which had dropped of the train (one of the crew climbs over the tender or walks along the running boards & pulls on a rope tied to the coupler mechanism), had run back down to the mine.

Only seen in passing, enroute to or from Lishu. SY 1344 + another seen.

Mine not in use. SY 0898 was stored. However on the last occasion we passed, 21st Nov I think, although it could be seen in the morning, in the afternoon it had moved. Looking down from the road we then saw it & it was being shunted by a small diesel, similar to the one that pops up now & then at Baiyin, which I presume is owned by the mine. So if the mine starts to work again, I presume the diesel will be the motive power.

Locos:- 1st stay, SY 0341, 0951.
2nd stay SY 0951, 1118. The other loco we were told was away for overhaul & there was nothing in the shed at Pinggang.

3 visits made over the 2 trips we made to Jixi. The best day saw 2 single loco trips of empties, one after the other. When the empties arrived at Xifeng from CNR, the other loco was there at the stabling point, but they chose not to take the whole train up to Pinggang, but to divide it.
One of the other visits here we only got a two wagon train coming down, a light engine going up, then two wagons going up, which I think contained spoil, which they used on ballasting the track they were repairing. Not an empty wagon in sight.
The other visit, there was even less action, just one train of tipplers that was filled with what I presume was spoil or it was a very poor quality coal at the bins at Xifeng, these were then taken to Pinggang & unloaded there. After hiding away here for hours, the crew were summoned back to Xifeng, so we got an empty tippler train working, but all they did there was to park up the tipplers & go onto the stabling point. No more trains they said, we checked CNR yard, but there were no empties, only a private orange diesel from ?.

Locos:- SY 0407, 0950, 1205, 1213, 1446.
Spoil trains WERE working, through both reverses to the top of the tips. (I'm sure I read a report saying that trucks were taking the spoil up there).
As well as all the normal working here, empty tippler wagons were also going up onto the tip, around the corner from the first reverse, were they are loaded with spoil by shovels, they go off down the line towards CNR. Maybe these trains go to the line where the other mine & power station are, no doubt the contents are somewhere transferred to trucks, maybe for use as hardcore. There is some major construction going on alongside the bumpy road, near to the expressway, this could be using it.

My next trip Feb/March will be Baiyin, Yaojie, Sandaoling, Shibanxi, so it will be Nov/Dec time next year before I can return to Jixi, but I shall be back, for even if Chengzihe is lost & I cannot see them being able or want to electrify all the lines, the other systems will still provide enough genuine working steam to keep me happy.

JALAINUR, Nov 10th - 18th

The major change as others have recently reported, is at the washery, the first thing you notice as you drive in off the road opposite the open pit offices, is that the road no longer goes through the tunnel, as it & whatever it was it used to pass through, have gone, the ground is now totally flat.
There are now 8 sidings at Dongfanghong yard, between the loading bins & the CNR line, the ground that these sidings sit on, has been raised, so it is now, at least the height of an engine higher than it used to be. The sidings have also been greatly lengthened, so they now stretch nearly to the end of the pond or to where the local houses begin.
The outcome of all this, for trains of empties leaving the yard, is that no assistance from another engine is required. We saw one train of 42 empties, easily taken out, with a single SY. They do still have to work hard, as it still climbs from the end of the yard, through Daqiao station.
Having lost the need for trains of empties to be banked out of the yard, the new layout has created one major replacement for that action, as the line from the loading bins, needs to climb up sharply into a headshunt, to allow the loaded wagons to then gain access to the yard. Although we saw a couple of trains split, after they had been loaded, so a single loco could manage the job on it's own, 7 wagons on it's first run, 11 wagons on it's second. This happens as the loco cannot get under the bins, it has to pull the train out far enough, so what will be the first wagon of the second run, is far enough out to be coupled to later. So on the first run, there is far less of a run at the climb, hence the lighter load.
Most times it was a double headed spectacular. As they reach the top of the climb, they are barely keeping the train on the move, much to the delight of the people who live in the nearby houses, who like a pack of Indians in the old wild west films, engulf the train, to lighten its load of coal. We quickly realised that we had mistaken for what seemed like a brazen attempt to steal coal for their fires, was not so, for what they were really doing, was in fact helping the railway to keep functioning, by lightening the load, in order that the struggling train, could then make it over the summit. Oh how the railway should be glad of this unpaid function so many were undertaking on their behalf.
This happens when the coal comes from the bin nearest the open pit, as it must be sized inside the washery & all the big lumps of coal come from it. From the other bin, you get your normal coal, no better than dust, which is destined for a power station.
The lines under the loading bins are dead ends, so they cannot be accessed from the other side & a new line which sweeps around on an embankment, now goes out of the yard at the other (eastern) end, around to the line which comes out at the junction above the S curve out of the open pit.
It's probably hard to believe, with all that is available in the open pit, but we were so enthralled with all the action that we now got at the washery, that on our first two full days at Jalainur we never got closer to the open pit, than looking down from the offices, as we waited for our taxi to come for us, at the end of the day.
Although a lot of loaded wagons were arriving at the yard, from the deep mines, without doubt, the majority of the coal that was being loaded at Jalainur, was coming from the open pit.

The new tarmac road starts just along from the open pit offices, not far along it, you have good views into the open pit, further along it passes close to the stored line & the S curve, making it far easier to get to both these places. It continues on passing close to Nanzhan, eventually going around to the roads around Shiyijing Mine on the surface system.
The line from here up to power station is worth staking out, maximum load propelled up the hill appears to be five wagons, the engine working really hard, to get the train up to speed, away from the junction off the mainline.
A new power station can be seen being built nearby, we passed by a new line on an embankment, with a flyover, over the road, that is being built for it.
At Daqiao one afternoon, at the Christmas carol level crossing, we saw a loaded coal train, with around 10 wagons on, with an SY on both ends. We presumed this must have been heading off to the power station, as it had a banker, if only we could have got around to there in time.
There is a summit between Shierjing & Shiyijing that has decent climbs on both sides of it, but owing to the dreaded poles that follow the line, the sun is only on the right side during the afternoon, when it seemed to go quiet along here for us.

The passenger workings seem to have changed again. The only passenger runs down the open pit & returns to Nanzhan afterwards, but it propels the coach.
The passenger train that went from the control office to Nanzhan & return NEVER RAN, so I presume that any staff who need transporting there, are probably now taken there by bus, along the new road.
There was a passenger coach parked up at the coal unloading station, which was probably the one they used when a train started from there, but this NEVER moved while we were there.

Spoil trains as has been previously reported, now very rarely venture past Nanzhan, mainly going there for coal & water, although we did see one up on the tips beyond there, also they normally only seemed to use one tip beyond the S curve, most of the spoil being tipped back into the pit itself, at the southern end or western side.

A coaling hopper was being constructed at the station where the spoil trains do their final reverse, before heading off up the final climb towards the S curve or around to the western side tips, I think some call this the control office station. Is this being done as an additional service point or is it going to signal the end of trains needing to go out to Nanzhan for servicing? The question I ask myself though about this new coaling/water point, by where it is being erected, would it only be used by spoil trains, so why would they bother doing this, if they are about to shut up shop. Also they are carrying on removing yet more overburden to get to the coal underneath, along with many cranes & work gangs, repositioning tracks, more than I've ever noticed before. I know that some places in China have carried on as normal until the day comes, when they are told, today we close, but I cannot see the management here being that stupid. I hope I am correct in what I am seeing there to think they will carry on & only the price of coal will be the deciding factor to call a halt to it.

The trucks observed were transporting spoil being removed to uncover coal on the western side, were they then just tipped it further along, as it is a convenient place to do so, or are they using it to make a road, as it is heading towards the coal unloading station at the bottom of the conveyor. I hope this is not the plan, but the coal they are uncovering on this side of the pit, could not be directly loaded into trains, as it would be almost impossible to run rails to it, so it would need to be moved by truck to a point were a shovel could load it into tipplers, which I have seen being done before, but if they have a road to the unloading station, they could then do it that way. I hope not though.

Dumped Locos, SY 0613, 0614, 0682, 0795, 0957, 1192, 1234, 1258, 1374, 1496, 1586, 1617, 1619, which if you compare this list to Bernd's last visit, 0957 has joined what was there then.

Surface Locos, SY 0924, 1126, 1416, 1424, 1448, 1450, 1601 washery pilot never saw any line work, 1618, 1690.

Coal train Locos, SY 0867, 1193, 1256, 1257, 1371, 1449, 1650, 1689.

Spoil train Locos, SY 0958, 0959, 1041, 1119, 1240, 1285, 1303, 1375, 1376, 1401, 1449, 1600, 1654, 1663, 1664, 3005.

SY 1371 was working with a crane, as were another 3 or 4, I never recorded. Could also be more spoil train engines I never got as well. Dementia, coupled with a dread of cold fingers.

We stayed as we have always done before in Manzhouli, but the visiting Russians are not driving as hard a bargain as they should be, as the hotel was Y30 a night up on last March. The restaurant we have always used, so we are remembered there, was a good Y20/30 a night dearer, but the biggest increase in costs this time, was the taxi. We used the same one as on the last couple of trips, when we paid Y40 an hour if we had it all day, or Y60 from Manzhouli to the open pit or return. However it, along with all the others, has now been fitted with a meter, that makes this trip Y70/75 & hiring it all day out of the question. We used it for the first half a day when we arrived, to get our bearings on what had altered & visited the washery, down the new road, stopping to look into the open pit, visit the stored lines & Nanzhan, then on to see where the new road comes out. We waited for the deflectored SY to bring a train out of the mine at the end there, then back to Manzhouli, four & a quarter hours, Y325. We tried using it without the meter but the demands for the fare were always more than what I had recorded from what the meter had said on our first day. The Russians are obviously paying too freely & so I end up fighting those who think I'm a walking bank. If there is a next time & I do hope there will be, as there is no other sight left anywhere else in the world to compare with it, the hotel a Zhalainuer Xi will be used, along with local taxis.

Jeff Cartledge

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2008 Jeff Cartledge