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Steam in China, May 2009

by Dave Fielding

Fuxin, Beipiao, Pingzhuang, Yuanbaoshan, Hongmiao

Having spent several days around Chongqing in Southern China, followed by a farewell look at the opencast mine at Jalainur, a visit to the Huanan narrow gauge line and a very brief look at Jixi, my guide Mike Ma and I were heading for coal mine systems in Liaoning province and around Chifeng.
After a night at Harbin, it was a journey on high speed train D28 departing 9:02 to Shenyang North arriving 13:05. My seat was on the right hand side for viewing Changchun depot. Unlike my journey in November 2008, there was no JS at the depot to distract me, but on this occasion I observed the SY (1215?) which I think has previously been reported here, although I can't remember where. Our connection to Fuxin was train K7358 departing 15:26 (compared with my planning, this was a change in train number and departure time in the new April timetable). For lunch, I again defaulted to "junk" food, on this occasion McDonald's who have a branch at the station. Again I chose the fish option, but found it inferior to KFC's. The temperature was over 30oC and the train, which reversed at Shenyang station where more passengers boarded, was well filled with shoppers who had spent the day in Shenyang. At 18:40 we arrived at Fuxin and Mike found us a hotel in the centre of the city on the corner next to the closed Guo Tai.

Fuxin, May 5th

Next morning we left the hotel before breakfast and set off for Wulong to see the morning shift change. Initially at 7:30 it seemed much reduced with 3 SYs and DF5D 0066, their original diesel from 2006. But then "lucky number" SY 1818 arrived on 6 tipper wagons and a van, followed by three further SYs. The diesel was first to leave at 8:30 and by 9:00 only SY 1378 was left, the others having left for the north east. Outside the workshops, an unrepainted SY without number was being steam tested. Mike had disappeared to check the bus station for transport on to Beipiao, but when he returned he asked the identity of the loco and was told SY 1460. I had seen this loco out stationed at Qinghemen Coal Mine in March 2007. Another loco out stationed in March 2007, at Aiyouying Coal Mine, was SY 1195, which was at the shift change. This would seem to support reports from staff that although the company now has 8 diesels, only 3 are based at Fuxin itself, with the remainder at outlying mines. So this could explain the return to Fuxin of SYs from these mines.

Several of the locos reappeared, having collected wagons from sidings to the north east. The diesel was first on 10 tippers to the south west, probably to the mine at Wangying. It was followed by SY 1320 propelling 12 main line wagons and 5 tippers. Opposite Wulong passenger platform on the other side of the level crossing, it reversed and headed along the curve that runs behind the workshops. Next was SY 1195 on a short train of 4 main line wagons and 5 tippers also stopping opposite Wulong passenger platform.
Then SY 0989, not present at the shift change, arrived tender first from the north east with a crew van and 2 flat wagons, the second with a frame supporting a crane comprising a grab that could be moved to and fro along a horizontal girder extending beyond both ends of the wagon. SY 1195, pushing its wagons, reversed down the same line taken by SY 1320. I have no information if there is more than one mine accessed from this line but Google Earth shows it running for 180o through an area of hutongs.
Now SY 0989 pushed its train onto a siding between the through tracks (where the shift change takes place) and the line giving access to the workshops. It then demonstrated the removal of a redundant track, panel by panel, each panel after lifting being transferred to the pair of flat wagons.
We then made our way through the modern housing on the opposite side of the main tracks to check the depot and coaling stage which is situated close to the China Railway line. As previously reported, locos at the shift change can simply return to the depot, on this occasion SYs 1378 and 1818 had done just that, but two additional SYs, 0770 and 0941, were present in steam. There were no longer any out of use locos in the depot area but 6 SYs and a JF were now dumped in the adjacent passenger coach compound. I didn't enter the compound to check numbers but these are listed by David Thomas in his April 2009 report. The two numbers of which he was unsure should be SYs 0540 and 0576 based on previous Fuxin sightings.
After a late breakfast (dumplings dipped in vinegar, one of my favourites), another taxi was hired. We had a look at the expansive forecourt of the mining museum where SY 1395 with tipping wagon and control trailer is plinthed on the right (picture on Google Earth) and 3 x four wheel bogie electric 028 with tipping wagon and control trailer on the left. We then continued to the Taipeng coaling stage where a dirty SY 0849 was in steam. Also nearby were derelicts SY 0541 and YJ 403.
This was only a brief visit to a system that would justify a full exploration of operations following the closure of the opencast mine. The inset of Fuxin in the latest Quail Atlas for some reason states "Closed 2006" which may be true of electric and opencast mine workings but several deep mines still operate. The mining railway is much closer to the China Railway line than shown by Quail. When passing on our train to Fuxin, a SY had been noted at work about half way between Xinqiu and Fuxin.

Locos seen (in service unless noted, excluding dumped/derelicts):-

SY  0770, 0849, 0941, 0988, 0989, 1195, 1319, 1320, 1378, 1395 (plinthed at mine museum), 1396, 1460, 1818 

Smokey morning shift change at Wulong, late arrival SY 0988 in the foreground with SY 1319 ahead.

SY 0989 with permanent way track panel crane at Wulong...

... being used to remove a redundant siding.

By the middle of the afternoon the heat was again sweltering and we caught a bus for the 2 hour ride to Beipiao arriving just after 17:00. Beipiao didn't appear to have a bus station and we were dropped off on the road into town below the railway station. A taxi took us to the centre of town and up a hill, then after a level crossing over the mining railway and China Railway, turning right to the Beipiao Hotel which I recognised from my visit in March 2007.

Beipiao, May 6th

After breakfast, we took a taxi to the mining company offices next to Guangshan Mine, a short distance from Beipiao China Railway station. With a little reluctance, I handed over the 200 yuan fee for an accompanied visit to the workshop near Taiji. On the way, you pass under the Luotuoying - Zhuangjiagou local railway. I understand from Mike that the line is diesel operated and its depot is at Dongguanying (km 20).
We were first shown inside the wagon repair shop where JF 886 is stored. We then entered the loco repair shop where 2 locos were present. SY 1550 looked as if its driving wheels had been turned as each pair was numbered up and it probably had had other work done, in contrast SY 0387 looked rather neglected. Outside newly overhauled SY 1091 was in light steam and gleaming in a new coat of paint, a wonderful sight for 2009. Also outside was the tender of JS 6241. On the gated track at the side of the workshop was a tipper wagon and an out of use SY assumed to be 0183. We then returned to the company offices with our guide.
We walked to the foot bridge that spans the tracks between the mine and the China Railway yard. At 10:15 a DF4 arrived in the yard with empty wagons. SY 1451 emerged from the mine with some loaded wagons which were taken along a track close to the company offices. The wagons were then unloaded by an overhead crane. SY 1196 ran through the China Railway yard to collect wagons that had arrived and propelled them to the yard at the back of the mine. A third SY, 1004, then left the mine with a train of loaded wagons which it took down the track taken earlier by SY 1451. It was clear there was a weighbridge on the track and the overhead crane used its new supplies to adjust the load of each wagon. We then left the footbridge which had proved an excellent vantage point, although Mike mentioned that on a previous visit, someone had problems with a local and decided it best to grab his tripod and make a run for it.
We then went to explore the yard at the back of the mine and noted a large concreted area being laid with a track at a higher level, probably new facilities for road vehicles. I should perhaps mention that for internal use the mining railway uses a number of unusual hopper wagons that empty to the sides, not a type I have ever seen elsewhere in China. The only action was SY 1451 shunting loaded and empty tipper wagons until lunch time when both SYs 1004 and 1196 reappeared and stabled on adjacent tracks next to the walled coal yard.
Mike learnt from one of the staff that a loco was due to depart (sometime) for the mine at Sanbao. So we walked down from the China Railway station to the main road and at 13:05 caught a local bus route 3 to Sanbao, and by 13:35 we were there sheltering from the heat in the crossing keeper's "office". It was a long wait and it wasn't until 16:00 that SY 1451 arrived light engine. So we had plenty of time to watch the bicycle repair man next to the crossing, the children coming home from school etc., etc. When the loco appeared so did the local police and seeing us, wanted to know if we were staying in Sanbao! Well only until SY 1451 left 5 minutes later with a train of the internal hopper wagons. It was then back on the next route 3 and on to our hotel. On this particular day, all three working locos had been at Guangshan Mine, and I can't say if any of them might have later worked on the longer south west branch to Taiji and Sanjing.

Loco status with works plate data where noted:-

LocoBuilders PlateOverhaul Date
(tender frame, left hand side)
JF 886  Stored in wagon repair shop
JS 6241  Tender only outside loco workshop
SY 0183  Number assumed, SY out of use beside loco workshop
SY 0387Tangshan 1971/6 Inside loco workshop
SY 1004Tangshan 1975/62008 7Working
SY 1091Tangshan 1976/62009 4In steam outside loco workshop
SY 1196Tangshan 1982/112007 6Working
SY 1451Tangshan 1986/42006 11Working
SY 1550Tangshan 1987/6 Inside loco workshop

A gleaming newly repainted SY 1091 outside the loco workshop.

SY 1196 propels wagons from China Railway to the rear of the mine.

SY 1004 with wagons loaded at the mine ...

... takes the line leading to the weighbridge.

Pingzhuang, May 7th - 9th

May 7th: We left the hotel at Beipiao by taxi for the 40 km journey to Chaoyang where we could catch a bus to Pingzhuang. Due to heavy traffic in the centre of Chaoyang we only just made it, the bus was leaving the bus station as we arrived at 9:15. Fortunately the bus pulled over, our taxi blocked the bus's departure whilst we transferred our luggage and boarded, meanwhile another car pulled up with a late arriving passenger. At our first stop, at a village outside Chaoyang, another car stopped ahead of us from which more passengers boarded, presumably the car had been chasing us, a bit like something out of a silent movie.
By 12:45 we were checked into our hotel room at Pingzhuang and after another dumpling lunch caught a taxi to the mining railway depot and workshop near Wufeng. As at Beipiao, Mike was familiar with a member of the depot staff, who showed us through a side door into the depot. But my eyes were immediately drawn to tracks outside the depot where side by side facing the depot were the two SYs fitted with smoke deflectors and skyline casing, 1083 and 1084. Both were in steam, SY 1083 in traffic and SY 1084 newly repainted after overhaul and final adjustments being made for return to traffic in a few days. On my visit in March 2007, both locos had been stored. A note for photographers, both now face towards the deep mines to the north of Pingzhuang. (Well that's how it was then, but SY 1084 was back in traffic in July facing south, see John Raby's report.) Inside the depot were SY 1441, covered in dust and likely to be cut up, SY 1425 in steam and SY 1764 (overhaul date from tender frame, 2008 7 15). In the workshop was SY 1487 with wheels removed and pistons out. One pair of drivers was on a lathe being reprofiled. The overhaul date from its tender frame was 2008 2 28.
Outside, the 5 JS from Yuanbaoshan, 8218, 6246, 8246, 6544 and 8216 were still stored alongside the workshop. Next to them was SY 0798 which appeared intact but out of use. An old cab from SY 1487 was on a flat wagon. In the long grass on the opposite side of the tracks to the depot was another out of use SY, 0463 with its cabside number plates removed. Other SY "bits" were a boiler and cab on a frame without wheels, again cabside number plates removed, a boiler but no cab on a wheeled frame and 2 tenders, one unnumbered and one numbered 0766, a number I had also seen on a smokebox door in the workshop.

May 8th: Today I decided to start at the bridge between Wufeng and Pingzhuang Nan, where the mining railway connects with China Railway. I had been here before but never obtained any satisfactory pictures. Again I was out of luck. At 9:00 SY 1017 left Pingzhuang Nan light engine and 25 minutes later SY 1425 (slogan above the front buffer beam "Harmony and Peace") arrived light engine to collect empty wagons from Pingzhuang Nan passing over the bridge with the wagons at 10:00. It was a warm morning and the bridge wasn't a very pleasant place with the wind blowing dust from the nearby coal yard. So we walked down to the tracks at Wufeng, the junction for Wujia mine. Nothing happened so we gave up at mid day and carried on to the main road, catching a bus back to the centre of Pingzhuang for beer and dumplings.
Refreshed, we caught a taxi to the brewery level crossing near the washery. SY 1079 arrived light engine from the direction of Wufeng, SY 1017 was at the servicing point and SY 1425 arrived on empty wagons. At 14:35 SY 1079 departed with a train of loaded wagons for Pingzhuang Nan and at 14:55 deflector fitted SY 1083 passed through light engine towards the deep mines north of Pingzhuang. As usual I checked the two sheds in the yard next to the deep mines line where permanent way vehicles are kept. There was no loco in the small two road shed, but squinting through cracks in the wooden door of the long shed, I could see the smokebox of SY 0400 right behind the door.
Moving over towards the opencast mine, the compound containing JS 1001 is now fitted with a decorative iron work gate through which it is possible to take a picture of the loco in its now sorry state. I wanted to see the opposite end of the compound as on my visit in March 2007 Pingzhuang's final working JS, 5758, could be viewed dumped. As I was walking there a "jobsworth" appeared from a hut and called me back. Mike was able to explain what I was doing, and, with reluctance, I was permitted to carry on. The gate at the rear where track enters the compound was solid but there was space around the locked bolt to see the rear of a clean tender numbered SY 0943. Later viewing from the deep mines tracks between buildings, I could make out the fronts of two SYs coupled chimney to chimney within the compound. Three weeks earlier, David Thomas had been here and reported SYs 0517, 0942, 0943 and 1085 stored intact in reasonable exterior condition outside the compound. The "jobsworth" told Mike there are now only one or two SYs used on the opencast side and we saw SY 1025 working. Like David Thomas we didn't check the open pit but did see 2 electrically hauled trains of coal being unloaded at the washery.
Before returning to our hotel, we noted a loaded train waiting to depart from the washery and a train of empties arriving. Both locos had been seen earlier in the day.

May 9th: There had been a change in the weather overnight with rain and thunder. The heat wave had finally ended, it was much cooler and the sky was grey and overcast. We returned to the brewery level crossing near the washery. We saw two of the locos from the day before being serviced but there wasn't much activity so we took shelter with the crossing keeper. At 9:40 one of the locos departed with a loaded train, returning light engine 40 minutes later. It seemed that for each train to or from Pingzhuang Nan, there was usually a corresponding light engine move.
We returned to the hotel for a lunch of instant noodles and to collect our luggage, departing in a micro bus for Chifeng at 12:35, intending to call in at Yuanbaoshan and Malin on the way.

Locos seen:-

JS 1001Dumped in compound near brewery level crossing
JS 6246Ex Yuanbaoshan, stored alongside workshop
JS 6544Ex Yuanbaoshan, stored alongside workshop
JS 8216Ex Yuanbaoshan, stored alongside workshop
JS 8218Ex Yuanbaoshan, stored alongside workshop
JS 8246Ex Yuanbaoshan, stored alongside workshop
SY 0400Stored in long shed, permanent way yard near washery
SY 0463Outside depot/workshop, out of use, cabside number plates removed
SY 0798Outside depot/workshop, intact but out of use
SY 0943
Tender identified in compound near brewery level crossing,
at least 2 x SY here (at opposite end to JS 1001)
SY 1017Working (deep mines traffic)
SY 1025Working (opencast mine traffic)
SY 1079Working (deep mines traffic)
SY 1083Working (deep mines traffic)
SY 1084In steam at depot, repainted, being prepared to reenter traffic
SY 1425Working (deep mines traffic)
SY 1441Dead inside depot (withdrawn?)
SY 1487Workshop
SY 1764Dead inside depot
SY ????
Outside depot/workshop, remains of 2 x SY,
(1) boiler on frame, cabside number plates removed
(2) boiler on wheeled frame, no cab
2 x SY tenders (1) numbered SY 0766, (2) unnumbered
EL2 6787Working (bringing coal from opencast mine)
EL2 7326Working (bringing coal from opencast mine)

Smoke deflectors and skyline casing fitted twins, SYs 1084 and 1083 at the depot.

With both SYs 1083 and 1084 inside the depot, SY 1425 receives attention outside.

SY 1425 heads for Pingzhuang Nan to collect empty wagons from China Railway,
below the bridge a three wheeler truck loaded with sand from the dried up river bed.

Yuanbaoshan, May 9th

Approaching Yuanbaoshan, we were held at the level crossing at China Railway Yuanbaoshan station for the mining railway's DF12 0106 to complete a shunting manoeuvre. Proceeding to the yard and loco depot at Xizhan, we found two smartly turned out JS in steam, 8242 at the depot and 8250 standing in the yard next to 6 passenger coaches. A few passengers were beginning to board the coaches so the question was which loco would work the early afternoon passenger train to Anqinggou (or does it only go as far as Fengshuigou, should have asked). A crew climbed into the cab of JS 8242 at the depot, blew down the boiler and moved off, but then disappeared into the yard. It reappeared with 15 wagons and then reversed, attaching the wagons to the passenger coaches. It was about 14:00, Mike indicated we should get back in our transport as departure was imminent. We headed for the well known river bridge beyond Gongye, being delayed getting to the far side of the bridge as the parallel road bridge had been completely demolished for rebuilding. We had to bump along a very rough track over the river bed, just as well there was minimal water flow. O.K., the light was poor but the train made a fine sight crossing the bridge, there can't be many mixed trains left in China and where else can you see deflector fitted JS at work. What a pity Bachmann didn't choose to select a Yuanbaoshan JS as one of the variations of their latest HO loco model.

Locos seen:-

JS 8242In steam outside depot, then worked mixed train
JS 8250In steam in yard

JS 8242 on afternoon mixed crosses the river bridge beyond Gongye.

Hongmiao Coal Mine, Malin, May 9th

As the roads out of Yuanbaoshan towards Chifeng had been reconstructed since my last visit, I became a bit disorientated trying to locate this mine, but our driver knew how to find Malin and from there I managed to find the mine. There appeared to be no activity with no wagons in the mine sidings. The outline of a SY could be seen through the windows of the loco shed but the track into the shed did not appear to have been used for some time. We made our way back towards Malin to check the China Railway station when we had to pull over and grab shots as SY 1565 stormed up the branch to the mine with a massive train of empties, the driver giving us a cheery wave.

Locos seen:-

SY 1418(Number assumed), dead in loco shed
SY 1565Working

Shortly after 16:00, we arrived at Chifeng and Mike found us a room for a wash and brush up and a chance for me to change into my "flying home" clothes. After an evening meal it was soft class sleeper on train 2560 departing 21:08 to Beijing Bei. On arrival next morning just before 6:00, I discovered the old station had been swept away and replaced since my last visit. Mike then escorted me to the airport by metro and the Airport Express from Dongzhimen. Our Airport Express first went to Terminal 3 in just over 15 minutes, and then reversed taking a further 10 minutes to arrive at Terminal 2. Here Mike left me as he was travelling home to Mudanjiang by train and I was soon checked in for my KLM flights to Amsterdam and on to Birmingham.

So another trip over, it was most encouraging in the final days to see steam newly overhauled or being overhauled at three locations. Long may the opportunities continue to find working steam in China. Many thanks to Mike Ma for his company and for all the varied arrangements for transport and accommodation he made to ensure the success of the trip.

Dave Fielding

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2009 Dave Fielding