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Steam in China, April 23 – May 6 2009

by Ameling Algra

Jixi, Tiefa

After a busy period at work and another busy period coming soon, I felt I needed a break. And what better place for a short holiday than Jixi? When I found out that KLM offered tickets Brussels-Amsterdam-Beijing-Harbin and Shenyang-Beijing-Amsterdam-Antwerp for € 486, the decision was quickly made & I set off for my 29th China trip.

Onward journey April 23-25
The onward trip involved a train journey to Brussels (air tickets from/to Amsterdam cost € 300 more!), then a short flight to Amsterdam and a very comfortable flight to Beijing (business class seating). Procedures in Beijing were quick as usual, so after landing in Beijing at 9.40 AM, I was in the China Southern lounge at 10:00 AM waiting for the 12.00 flight to Harbin, leaving and arriving on time. Airport bus to the city centre, where I checked into the four star Kunlun Hotel (Y216). Then on to the bus station for a bus ticket to Jixi the next day (141 yuan) and a train ticket for the high speed train to Tieling (and Shenyang) on May 3. Next day a comfortable bus ride to Jixi, and checked in at my favourite Jixi Fandian near the railway station.

Jixi April 26 – May 1
Spent 6 days in Jixi, enjoying it again.
Hengshan: one morning I went there (take bus 1 to Jixi University, then an unnumbered bus going further on). Though I was there from before 8.00 AM, no activity at all, just one loco sitting in Hengshan.
Other days divided between Chengzihe and Didao. In Didao there are no trains uphill to the spoil trip. Instead, spoil train tippers go to the other side of the yard and unload their spoil there. Then trucks come and take it away. There is a ‘’new’’ service to the power station, consisting of six hoppers. Loaded trains run from the new mine on the upper line at the (former) spoil tip side, with loco chimney first. In Didao, the loco runs round and then pulls its train tender first to the power station. The return is after about 30 minutes, the loco pulls its train chimney first. In Didao, the loco does not run round but pushes its train to the mine. Irritating in Didao were some railway workers asking for money, though most were friendly as usual.

the new spoil "tip" in Didao

Chengzihe: no progress seen of the electrification, though a rail crane regularly left in the morning in the direction of the CNR connection. Operations as usual. In February, some spoil trains ran two sides of the triangle while now all took the direct route from Dongshan. To Zhengyang traffic in the morning was variable. Some mornings a train of empties around 8.30 and then a spoil train at 9.00 AM. Other mornings the train with empties ran before the shift change (before 7.00 am) and/or the spoil train was loco only from Chengzihe to Zhengyang but loco plus train onward.
For public transport in Jixi see my Feb report.

The last two nights I stayed at the National Territory Resources Mansion, hoping for a slightly softer bed. The bed was just as hard, the room was fine at RMB 140, though the hotel is a bit more run down than the recently renovated Jixi Fandian. One unexpected surprise was meeting Dave Fielding and Mike Ma. They told me Huanan was running. Wish I had known that!

engine prepared for May 1

To Tiefa May 2/3
I intended to go from Jixi to Tiefa in one day, taking an early morning bus from Jixi and then the high speed train to Tieling. It proved to be difficult to buy bus tickets in advance though, because of the end of the May holiday. So I decided not to take any risk & left Jixi on May 2, spent a night in Harbin (Kunlun again), had a morning off in Harbin and then by high speed train to Tieling. The train was filled to the last seat, and where people got off (Changchun and Siping) there were immediately others. Quick journey from Tieling to Tiefa, seeing the first SY on passenger.

Tiefa May 3-5
For gricing, Tiefa is very comfortable with an excellent hotel (Baoping) right across from the railway station (RMB128 a night), and with predictable passenger workings. The one-and-a-half day of my visit saw SY1770/71/72 in use on all Daqing and Wangqian passengers and most Daming workings. The coaling crane in Diaobingshan station is steam again, and the halt in Diaobingshan that was reported closed, was definitely in use. Trains stopped and passengers got on and off, though the canopy has gone.
Roger Blundell reported some time ago hearing a steam whistle on departure or arrival of the overnight service to Faku. Might have been nice for night photography this time of the year, but the 21.20 working was definitely diesel now.

and back home
After that, an uneventful and comfortable journey back home: bus Tiefa-Shenyang, airport bus to Shenyang AP, flight to Beijing & on to Amsterdam. I "forgot"the last leg, Amsterdam-Antwerp by train.

I enjoyed travelling through China as always – after 29 trips, it felt like coming back home, everything went well & the weather was good though much warmer than expected (28 Deg Celsius in Tiefa, giving a feel like the old days when I made summer trips to Portugal or Turkey). Jixi and Tiefa are both relaxing locations, Jixi of course as long as it lasts. I just hope the Chengzihe system will see one more season without the electrics.

Ameling Algra

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© 2009 Ameling Algra