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Steam in China - November 2008

by Derek Jenkins

Fushun, Dalian, Jixi, Baiyin, Yaojie, Sandaoling, Futuyu

Flew with Air France suffering the shambolic transfer arrangements at CDG. Even so was into Capital Airport well in advance of time and with a rapid passage through border control (and no longer having to deny I had psychosis) was soon venturing towards the Airport Express. Signs on the concourse point outside for this but when you get there - nothing. I guessed (correctly) that the completely unsigned single escalator leading down from the pavement was the way in. Clearly few others had found it as despite a wait of over 15 minutes for a train there were only a handful of punters. There seemed to be only 2 units in service. Oddly for an airport train there was no luggage space. The fare of 25Y is hardly reasonable when the fare for the whole of the rest of the Metro is only 2Y. The 25Y only covers the ride to Dongzhimen. It presumably shouldn't be difficult to have the 25Y ticket cover the whole system but at Dongzhimen I had to buy another ticket and traverse many passage ways to get to Line 2 and thence to Beijing Main Station.
Observations here, from the usual vantage point, produced a stream of diesel hauled trains with green and orange DF4s, DF4Ds and DF11s. Indeed in almost 2 hours observations I saw no electrically hauled train in or out of the station. Carriage pilots were DFH5 0368 and DF7 5011. I left on Train D11, for Shenyang, which was formed of 2 CRH5 units shackled together. I splashed out on a first class seat and found that the few first class passengers had the whole of the rear unit to themselves with the second class passengers in the first half. Even in first class there is no carpet on the floor and the regular floor mopping out took place. These units cannot have been in service long but the seals around all of the windows were already falling out. Observations of freight en route produced SS1s and green DF4s and it was not until Shanhaiguan that I saw an SS4.
Arrival at Shenyang Bei was dead on time. I had intended to take a train onward to Fushun but having been advised that Fushun station might be closed I opted for a taxi. In Fushun I discovered that the main station has indeed closed. It seems that all trains now use Fushuncheng. I stayed, as usual, in The Tian Bao Hotel opposite the now closed CNR station. This hotel is very convenient being only 5 minutes walk from Kuangwuju station on the Mining Railway.

Fushun, 7th - 9th November

Fushun Mining Railway
Passenger Service.
The rationalised passenger service now sees only nine trains west and nine trains east of Kuangwuju in each of the morning and evening peaks and several of the west bound trains run only to the nearby depot. All of the units except one have been rebuilt. I notice that Duncan Cotterill conjectured as to whether they are in fact new units but I think that they are rebuilds. The bogies and electrical equipment are certainly from the originals. The main rebuild seems to be to the fronts and the addition of electric sliding doors. The odd unit out is 802 (formerly 105) which, other than a repaint is in original condition. Other units seen were 801/5/6/7/9/10.

Mine Railway.
The big hole did not produce a lot of traffic. However, a tunnel has been dug from the east end of the hole through which the line passes under Donggang station and heads east in a deep cutting for some distance. Here there are many excavations and it appears that a new big hole is in the early stages of being dug. Trains from here travel to the washery / processing plant at the west end of the hole and never seem to leave the hole at all. There is also a regular run with spoil or shale from a point on the northernmost branch. All these trains pass through Donggang. The deep mine at the first station east of Donggang also produces a regular run of coal trains but generally these seem to run more in the afternoon. This mine has an extensive narrow gauge system worked by battery electrics, of which there were 13 present, although many were not in use. The above mentioned washery / processing plant is near the station Quail refers to as Xinshengqiao and there are 2 over bridges here from which to watch the regular traffic.
There has been a considerable rationalisation of locos too. All the previously stored EL1s have disappeared. Many of the old Japanese ED85s have disappeared too and quite a few have been renumbered. I saw only 2 with their original numbers. Skodas, ZG100s and 150s still see regular use although at least one ZG150 has certainly been renumbered. Probably all the ZG150's with 6xx numbers are renumbered.
I saw only one SY in steam but was never close enough to it to get its number.

Locos seen :-
ED85 - 601/2/6/7/9/11/21, 1205/13
ZG100 - 617/8/9
ZG150 - 105, 131/2/3 ,148, 627, 628 (previously 106), 630
Skodas - 1514/43/47/8/51. The latter has never been reported before and could just be a renumbering too.

Fushun New Steelworks
I took the EMU to the terminus at Jixiu. About 300 yards beyond this there is a level crossing over CNR Piaoertun yard. The steelworks branch comes in here. I went over the level crossing and took the next left which then dog legs right. I then took the next main road left and was walking along here when I heard a reassuring chime whistle. The level crossing across the throat of the steelworks yard is on this road. SYs are still in charge of all the ladle trains with diesels doing the wagon shunting. I spent some time here watching the comings and goings. When the SYs had all the duties they charged in and out but the diesels creep along and it may be that the tight curves and regular reversing are not to their liking. Interestingly none of the diesels I saw are ones previously reported here.
SY - 1202, 1495 plus another in steam that I could not get the number of
GKD1A - 0073, 0122/3

SY 1202 at Fushun New Steelworks

Fushun Old Steelworks
Reaching the loco shed is not easy. The shed is situated on the mine railway's now freight only branch to Tiantun. The road that runs alongside the line at its divergence from the Jixiu line now has a gate and gatehouse. However I approached things from the other direction. From the above mentioned Jixiu terminus I walked further west and turned left down a track near a petrol station. The branch is at the end of this track and requires quite a long walk back trackside.
At the shed were 6 SYs, 5 in steam
SY - 0725, 0839, 1050 (OOU), 1632/3/4.
Walking further on from here there is a petro chemical plant with GK1B 0066 as its loco. I was able to walk up a bank from here to avoid the gatehouse.

From Fushun I headed back to Shenyang and took Train T556 to Dalian. This was made up of a motley collection of single and double coaches no two placed together so must have looked very curious when on the move. I was in the last coach, a double decker which rode abominably. In Dalian I met up with Lennox MacEwan.

Dalian, 10th November

Dalian Big Hole
The main purpose of being here (although Lennox would say it was the trams) was to explore the big hole that Lennox had seen on a previous visit whilst riding the rapid transit. Not reported before, as far as I am aware, this hole is clearly visible on Google Earth. We took the rapid transit to Quanshui and then walked back to the North Eastern corner of the hole which seemed to be furthest away from the unloading area. This was a good move because access at this point was no problem but almost everywhere else it is. The hole is substantial. It is possibly an ironstone mine and may be part of the Angang empire although it is operated by an organisation called DLM. Our first surprise was to find it to be narrow gauge. An examination, without a tape measure, suggested it was 900mm but it could just be metre gauge. In the hole there was no sign of any action and we hung around for some time until a diesel hauled train emerged from the shadows. The loco was of a class I had never previously seen in China - ND-135 a 4w-4w. This was No. 7. The class configuration suggests a diesel electric. This loco is very similar to Class GKD5C the only picture of which I can find is on Robin Gibbon's website. My own picture is less than wonderful but does illustrate the loco. On Google Earth a number of similar locos can be seen but although we waited for some time nothing else appeared.

ND135 7 at DLM mine

Dalian Docks
The area by the passenger terminal used to see a lot of train movement but we found almost all the tracks either lifted or out of use and the many buildings that used to be rail served demolished. There was an unidentified DFH5 lurking but it didn't move whilst we were there.


From Dalian we made the long trek to Jixi by 3 trains. We began with T261 to Harbin with SS9 0009 up front. In Harbin we met our old friend Lu Yong who had fixed our onward tickets and organised guides for some of the later parts of the trip. He appeared with a big bag of breakfast for us and we were then straight on to N1 to Mudanjiang. The first time I rode this train it was a DMU. The second time it was a DF4D with 5 coaches doing a DMU replacement. Now it was DF4D 3033 on a decidedly down at heel set of double deckers. There were not many takers for this train. All freight Harbin - MDJ continues to be green DF4 or DF8 or combinations thereof save that 2 DF4's don't seem to double head. The only other noteworthy observation en route was at Acheng where a diesel serves an industrial plant to the west of the station. The loco appears to be a JMY or TH type numbered 095. At MDJ we swapped to Train 4043 with DF4D 0483. This train is a fill in turn for the stock from the overnight Harbin - Mishan service. The train was about half full. There were a number of observations on this part of the run. About 5 minutes out of MDJ there is sleeper depot. Here was a wonderful old railcar. A single unit double ended with curved fronts and large headlights much like the oldest units that used to run at Fushun. It bears the number 120. At MDJ Coal and Coke was a DFH5. When I previously saw it I thought it was 0269 but now we both thought it was 0289. At MDJ Power Station no sign of steam with GK1 or DFH5's 0082/4 present. In Jixi we stayed at the ridiculously named National Territory Resources Mansion, which used to be both The International Trade Hotel and before that The Xingkai Lake Hotel.
Having travelled up to Jixi in perfect weather we awoke the next day to fog and grey skies with more than a hint of snow in the air. The sun put in a brief appearance that day but then we had snow and gloom.

Chengzihe, 12th and 14th November
Driving out to here we passed a shop that had mine railway equipment for sale with a battery electric, man riders and tubs laid out on the pavement. Nothing new here to report save that the older SY seem to have gone to be replaced by one loco from Donghaikuang and 2 displaced by diesels at Hengshan. It still remains an excellent place to visit for steam but for how long? 8 electric locos are here stored at Nanchang having arrived from Pingzhuang. We saw no sign of work on erection of poles or electrical equipment but come next spring it will probably begin. Regular runs with the side tippers from Zhengyang were about every 2 hours. Some coal from the washery was being tipped in a coal yard at Nanchang directly from the curve from the washery which provided some interesting action when the loco tried to get the train away. I hadn't noticed the narrow gauge at Dongchang mine before. Operating it was 4W WE KO-1.
SY in steam here :- 0863, 1058, 1340, 1351, 1369, 1437, 1544/5.

Didao, 13th November
A day of snow heavy at times which began to melt turning everywhere into a sea of mud. Again plenty of action. Coal from the stock pile by the yard entrance was being loaded into 10 wagon trains and happened about every 2 hours. The sharp climb out of here and the icy track required a double headed effort to get the trains out with much spinning of wheels and clouds of exhaust. We saw no traffic up the hill to the open cast loading area but there were trains to the lower mine.
SY in steam here, all the usual suspects :- 0407, 0950 (ex works), 1205, 1213, 1446.

From Jixi it was back to MDJ and then on to Beijing. In Jixi station we saw DFH5 0230. As all the Jixi CNR shunters are DF5 - 2055/65/6 and this loco was in an awful external condition, it may come from some previously unreported industrial plant. N72 from Jixi with DF4D 3248, the stock being from the overnight Harbin service which arrives only a few minutes before and performs a quick turn round. Perhaps because it was Saturday the train was busy and at Linkou half the world wanted to get on causing complete chaos which the train crew eventually resolved by putting them into the hard sleepers. At MDJ station the SY and C2 are still plinthed but the former is now in a rusty state. From MDJ Train K266 with DF4D 3239. Saw both the QJ and SY on MDJ shed which Duncan Cotterill recently identified. The run was pedestrian to say the least. During a long station stop at Acheng we were overtaken by a fast moving DMU but there is nothing in the timetable to suggest what it might have been. At Harbin we changed engines and bizarrely departed Northward then passed through Harbin Dong eventually regaining the main line after an age. Even several dead stands and half an hour of crawling along brought us into Beijing 10 minutes early. Carriage pilot seen here DFH5 0370 as well as Double BJ 2008 on the shed with several Henschels.
In Beijing met up with Adrian Bagnall who having vowed never to fly KLM again after last year's fiasco found he was flying with them due to an Air France pilots' strike. In true KLM style the plane had gone technical and had been late arriving. Adrian reports on The Beijing Railway Museum. (No not that one!). The original Beijing Railway Station which recently was a McDonalds now confusingly rejoices in this name too. It isn't open yet but is about to be. Adrian looked in the back door and says it contains a number of photographs and artefacts but he couldn't see if there was anything more substantial inside.
From Beijing Xi to Lanzhou on Train T151 with SS8 0089. Carriage pilot at Xi DFH5 0373 and hosts of locos of all kinds on shed. Engine changes at Zhengzhou and Xian.
Observations en route :- Cement works at Yuanyangzhen has a small diesel shunter. A steelworks about 25Km outside Lanzhou has an SY standing outside which seems to have no numbers on at all. This works also has an orange diesel that looks like a GK type. Power Station close by Lanzhou station had a blue GK type diesel inside the premises.

Baiyin, 17th 19th November

Then we were picked up and taken on to Baiyin. En route it started to snow heavily but just outside Baiyin the clouds went away and we had sunshine for our entire visit there. Not wishing to sound serious but it is essential to have a guide for Baiyin and pre arrange the visit. There is fairly strict security and they know who should and who should not be about. I say this because when we arrived there was a small group there who had made no arrangements and were promptly gripped. Briefly, because we were nearby, the grippers wanted to rope us in too but that was soon solved with smiles and handshakes. The others had more problems and very annoyingly tried (and failed) to engage our guide to sort it out for them without even asking us.
The passenger service still nominally has the same timetable as ever but the afternoon Sanyelian train can run early by as much as 30 minutes (it did on 2 of the 3 days). Also the morning Shenbutong train was over 15 minutes up on the last day we were there. How the passengers know it is going to set off early I know not. This must be the best steam hauled standard gauge passenger train left in China and must also be the hardest an SY is worked anywhere.
The daily ore empties seem to have fairly erratic timings, setting off at c11:00 one day and c10:00 on another. Again this train's climb to the mine is a spectacular one. The smelter at Sanyelian is back in business and there were several runs to and fro. The usual vigorous shunting in the yard is worth watching too.
In the works SY 0819 ,which has long been out of use, was beginning a full overhaul. 1583 had just come in presumably for a boiler wash out and 1013 was receiving minor attention. 1470 was one of 3 stored locos the other 2 of which we did not identify. The staff said that the same locos are still stored / dumped. JS 8021 certainly still is.
Line locos were SY 0612, 0965, 1047, 2008 (really 0701).
Military Factory 805 produced 2 diesels in the Baiyin yard DFH5 0117 and GK1C 0427. The crew of the latter wanted to take us back for a ride into the plant. I hate to think of the consequences had we agreed.
One other thing here was that the school train does not run any more.
In short Baiyin continues to be well worth a visit.

Yaojie, 20th 22nd November

Our next target was Yaojie from which there have been no reports for some time. Our enquiries brought forth the information that North of Yaojie was still all steam and so it proved. Getting there and finding this out, however, was not easy. The initial plan was to get to Haishiwan by train but no trains currently stop there. The reason is that the line beyond Hekounan is in the latter stages of realignment, doubling and being electrified. The track rearrangement at Haishiwan means that the track and the island platform do not currently coincide. Instead we had to take a bus from Lanzhou West Bus Station which stopped several times in the middle of the motorway to let passengers off.. En route we passed a large new Chalco (China Aluminium) plant at Zhangjiasi where DF7G 5165 emblazoned with a large Chalco logo is the shunter. Arriving in Haishiwan we tried to check in at the hotel opposite the bus station where I had stayed before. Our arrival caused consternation and we were told that if we didn't leave the police would pitch up. This sounded like real old China. Apparently Western Devils had been banned from this hotel because of The Olympics. Telling them that The Olympics might be over or enquiring just what Olympic event took place in Haishiwan would have done little good. We were then told that The Fangda Hotel would be happy to take us. This is on an Eastern extension of the road on which the station stands. From the outside this place looked like a wreck. On the inside it was like The Ritz with prices to suit the latter. Being fair the staff were very friendly and they somehow cooked up very good Western breakfasts for us. It is the only hotel I have ever stayed in in China where no deposit was requested and we paid only when we left. I am not sure what business this place will do in somewhere like Haishiwan but it may be linked to Fangda Carbon of which more later. Finding a way of getting from Haishiwan to Yaojie is easy. There are a host of buses of all sizes running from opposite the bus station. The bus operators will smell you out a mile off. Fare is 3Y. The road to Yaojie is still dangerous. At one point it was down to a single track where one carriageway had crumbled into the gorge hundreds of feet below and at another point there had been a rockfall. None of this stopped the usual 3 abreast overtaking even on blind bends. Things were compounded in Yaojie where the entire main street had been dug up for some pipe laying exercise. A horribly rutted sea of mud littered with the usual hopelessly overloaded blue lorries stranded at crazy angles was causing huge traffic jams.

Yaojie - Nanlingcheng (Liancheng)
On arrival we found SY 3020 sitting in Yaojie yard. No sooner had we got into a half decent photo position than it started off. The climb out of the yard is steep and a real slog. Next 3020 and 1402 came down light engine together and then double headed a long train which we got at the river bridge. Finally 1402 returned and came back up with a lighter train. Encouraged we returned the next day looking for the same action. Sadly we were deflated as only one short train with 3020 ran. Despite this disappointment this is certainly still worth a visit.
Incidentally both of the locos we saw were stored ex works last time I visited in 2005.

Yaojie - Haishiwan
Now appears to be all diesel. 3 DF7G are in use of which we identified 5163.

Haishiwan Cement Works
We found no evidence that this is actually a cement works. Chinese cement works are always attended by inch deep dust but there was none. Signs locally point to Fangda Carbon so this is maybe what it is. Whatever steam has gone and been replaced by 2 DF5's. One is 1x71. The other digit unreadable.
We retraced our bus journey to Lanzhou. An NJZ double deck diesel DMU was in the platform on Train T209 to Xining as were a pair of DF4D on the Beijing - Lhasa train. We took T295 to Hami coincidentally meeting Mike Ma's group at the station. SS7E 0008 was the train engine.

Sandaoling, 23rd - 26th November

Another place that requires pre arranged permission to visit. I say this only because we were told a small group (possibly the people we encountered at Baiyin) had been here without permission and had been gripped.
Sandaoling continues to be one of the world's best steam venues offering a host of photo opportunities. Traffic was heavy for both coal and spoil trains. Our 4 days here were all dawn to dusk exercises with Xibolizhan and Dongbolizhan being excellent at sunrise and after failing on the last visit here we managed to get a train on Tip 1 at Xibolizhan at the optimum time as the sun set. The banked train from Liushuquan ran every day. Usually the 2 locos went down separately with loaded coal wagons. Although this is an as and when operation the banked train ran between about 12:00 and 13:00. In the works JS 6205 and 8027 were in for overhaul with very heavy repairs being done on the former. JS 8221, which we had seen working, was in for a boiler wash out and SY 1593, which had worked the workman's train on the first day, was also in for attention. The store / dump produced 14 locos some of which are clearly runners and others (particularly JS 5455, 6213 and SY 0092) which are not. JS 5455 is now shorn of its Qishuyan plates but as it also has its number on its headlamp glass in the old China Rail style I guess that this is the real 5455 and not the one at Liuzhou Works which I have also seen.

Locos here in steam :-SY 1304 (ex works), 1593, 1720, 1729, JS 6204/6/8/23/4/61, 6430/6, 8040/76/81, 8167/73/88/89/90/3/4/5/7, 8221/2, 8314/66/8.
Store / Dump SY 0092, 1718. SY 5455, 6203/9/10/13/59, 8077/8/80/9, 8225, 8384.

JS 8221, boiler washout

Sunrise at Dongbolizhan

From Hami we took Train N881 to Urumqi, train loco DF11 0226. This train consists entirely of double deck stock. The first time we had seen double deck sleepers. Even the soft sleepers had little room and the hard sleepers looked like mobile battery hen cages. And the staff at Urumqi station treated the passengers like animals too unpleasantly herding them out of the station and woe betides if you stopped for a few seconds. Much waving of arms and shouting. From Urumqi we flew back to Beijing on a Hainan Airlines flight.

Futuyu, 28th November

Next morning it was on to Train 6095 to Futuyu. We were more than surprised to have DF10F 2001 double unit as motive power. This train departs eastwards from Beijing Xi and takes an hour to get to Dahuichang. Here we crossed another DF10F 2003 on Train K602 . When we then crossed Train 1163 with another DF10F 001 it became clear that all the passenger trains on this line have double units as motive power. Further on we crossed Train 6438 with double BJ 2002.
Freight is in the hands of DF4's in a 50xx number series and DF4D in a 40XX number series. From a distance these blue and cream units are indistinguishable. The whole line to Futuyu is single track and heavily engineered with many tunnels and viaducts. All points at the many loops are hand operated.

Shenbang Mineral Railway
This turned out to be a long journey for not a lot. The line was not operating despite many wagons in Futuyu yard and large mounds of pelleted iron ore at the works. SY 0459 was in steam and SY 0878 dead. The former is ex works, probably only a few weeks.

Back to Beijing on Train 6096. Futuyu station has no computer and tickets have to be handwritten. The first time behind a double BJ 2005 which occasionally exerted itself to 40mph and at least interesting motive power for our last train in China.

Double BJ 2005 at Futuyu

Derek Jenkins

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