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Steam in China - August, September 2009

by Roger Blundell

Nanpiao, Tiefa, Jixi, Meihekou, Yuanbaoshan, Baiyin

Monday 24 August

BA039, 1640 to Beijing at £548. After A.T.C. delays at Heathrow depart at 1715. A shorter bash this year due to family holiday commitments.

Tuesday 25 August

Arrive Beijing 15 late at 0945. Shuttle bus direct from terminal 3 to Beijingzhan.
All three lunchtime high speed trains to Huludaobei/Jinzhounan are full, although standing tickets were being sold (one of the trains comes through from Taiyuan so some seats would probably have been available).
Book a seat on the first possible train, the 1730 to Jinzhounan, first class Y178.
Note that the specific foreigners only ticket window & the section of the booking office it was in, are now closed down so you must go to an ordinary window in the main office.
Off for some cheap refreshment at a restaurant in the Henderson centre across the road. Beef plate Y47, glass of aged Puer tea Y44 – I could have had a pot for a mere Y185. Luckily the glass was constantly refilled. Welcome to New China.
Jinzhounan arrive 5 late at 2034. Taken to bodged taxi hidden away amongst the shrubs by a block of flats nearby. I shared this into town then after a scenic tour of Jinzhou on at high speed into Old China & dropped off at the Nanpiao Hilton at 2148 for Y100. The Hilton was busy, no en suite rooms available so an ordinary room for Y60.

Wednesday 26 August

Despite my requested wake up call not materialising was up in time to be on the platform as a BJ appeared from Xiamiaozi on the set that formed the 0615 Huangjia - Linghe train. Caught this to Xiamiaozi where I was very pleased to see an SY at the head of the Sanjiazi train.

SY 0754   0625 Xiamiaozi – Sanjiazi 0720
SY 0754   0900 Sanjiazi – Xiamiaozi 0940
Train was only load 5, even so it still managed to slip to a stand on the bank out of Daguopu towards Sanjiazi. This is the second time I’ve had this with the first morning train. Less passengers on the trains that are still running and its very sad to see the loss, or perhaps more likely the abandonment, of the early morning school and commuter traffic into Nanpiao.
These trains were always very busy in the past. Good pancake breakfast down in the town market.
Return train leaves at 0858, good thrash up the bank out of Sanjiazi.

Up to 3 steam (SY 0366/0754/1299) in use at any one time plus 4 diesels. A freight left Xiamiaozi at 1000 with SY up front and diesel at rear. It returned in the same formation at 1400.

Transfer to Xinghe Hotel up the road from Xiamiaozi. Rooms on offer at usual prices, Y128 without window, Y168 with window. Request the cheaper option then say to receptionist will you discount the Y168 room. This she does to Y150 so I settle for that. Decent food available – lunchtime and evening.

Back to the railway for the 1414 to Sanjiazi. Not best pleased to find it diesel hauled but then what appears in the distance but an SY on the 1405 Huangjia – Linghe. Very pleased to see this, didn’t for one moment expect to get steam on this line but annoyed with myself for not checking it out.

SY 0754   1435 Xiamiaozi - Linghe 1515
SY 0754   1700 Linghe - Huangjia 1745
SY 0754   1752 Huangjia– Xiamiaozi 1800
After the usual long tedious wait at Linghe a good climb up the long bank from Qiupigou to Zhaojiatun. Good also to get steam in & out of Huangjia as the sun set.

Thursday 27 August

Sanjiazi turn comes up trumps again but the morning Linghe working was diesel.

SY 0754   0625 Xiamiaozi – Sanjiazi 0710
SY 0754   0900 Sanjiazi – Xiamiaozi 0940
A good noisy performance from the loco with no problems on the bank. Likewise on the return, a good climb out of Sanjiazi then we just trundled along. The outward working was much more crowded this day.

I make sure that I’m back at Xiamiaozi – just in case - for the 1352 down to Huangjia, and yes, sure enough it is again steam with the diesel on the Sanjiazi set.

SY 0754   1352 Xiamiaozi - Huangjia 1359
SY 0754   1405 Huangjia - Linghe 1515
A fierce storm with loads of lightning between Xiamiaozi and Zhaojiatun soon cleared the air and some good noise from the loco was to follow. Note low tech weedkilling operation on the CNR line at Huangjia – two blokes weeding the ballast by hand.

An ominous sign at Linghe was the immediate light departure of our loco and sure enough at 1630 a BJ arrived on a few wagons, placed them and then backed on to the passenger. So that was the end of steam for the day. I’ve had this loco swap before in the afternoon at Linghe but that was steam for steam. The SY had been sent to Zhaojiatun to work there.
Stay on overnight to see what the morning would bring.

Friday 28 August

My 0500 wake up call remembered by the staff, again. All to no avail though, both passengers diesel this morning with SY 0754 and SY 1299 active on freight trips on either line at 0600.
So all good things had come to an end and I decided to move on. I suspect that will be the last time I will ever see steam at Nanpiao, one of my favourite mine railways.

Take 0605 diesel to Huangjia, breakfast off stall then 0630 bus to Jinzhou which after long road works delays in the city terminates at its traditional bus station at 0814.
I would have just missed the 0735 (K7331) to Shenyang anyway but the delays meant that I also missed the 0806 (K7347) as well. The next “day” train would not have been until 1018. Note that trains are actually quicker than the buses for this section due to road traffic densities in the two city centres.
Shenyang buses no longer leave from the bus station where the Nanpiao services terminate. There is a new bus station just outside Jinzhou railway station at the end furthest from Beijing. From here I took the 0915 bus to Shenyang, Y64, very comfortable 3 abreast seating without armrests, arrives at the Shenyangbei bus station at 1250.

Walk away from bus station (and railway station) to the next main road where on a sign tied to a pole 8 foot/2.5 metres above ground is the name Diaobingshan. Here you wait for the bus on its way from another bus station in the city. An old boy gathers up all the waiting clientele when he gets a phone call saying the bus is just round the corner and takes you to the exact spot where they stop. We departed at 1315 and arrived at the new bus station in Diaobingshan at 1520 after horrendous traffic jams in Shenyang. So, despite leaving Xiamiaozi at 0605 I didn’t get to Diaobingshan railway station until 1535, well and truly missing all the mid afternoon steam turns.

To the Baoping Hotel opposite the station where I am told that the only rooms available are suites at Y358. I make the point that last time I only paid Y128. This rather pointless argument continued for some while but to no avail until I started to walk away and then a Y128 room suddenly became available.

The 1617 from Dongguantun arrived with diesel which then worked the 1820 to Daming – the first time I’ve ever seen a diesel on this line.
So for my evening bash it had to be:-

SY 1771   1832 Diaobingshan – Wangqian via Xiaonan 1933
SY 1771   1952 Wangqian - Diaobingshan 2025
Despite a load of only 3 enjoyed a reasonably lively run on the way out. Train not at all busy. As the sun sets temperature drops sharply. I turned down a dinner date with a sweet little 24 year old to cover these trains, I suppose it was just about worth it.

As the 1832 departed an SY was waiting to back down on to the 1843 to Daqing.
The 2120 to Dongguantun was diesel.

Saturday 29 August

SY 1770   0628 Diaobingshan – Wangqian via Xiaonan 0752
SY 1770   0802 Wangqian – Diaobingshan 0845
Two pleasant runs in the early morning sunlight. The return was very busy, in fact a crowd got on at Xiaonan on the way out and travelled via Wangqian to Diaobingshan.

SY 1770   0952 Diaobingshan – Daming 1037
SY 1770   1258 Daming - Diaobingshan 1344
These two trains also quite busy. Gentle trundling through the endless acres of sweetcorn.

Other workings this day:-
0547 Daming – Diaobingshan   SY
0554 Daqing – Diaobingshan   DSL
0640 & 1406 Diaobingshan – Dongguantun   DSL
0640 Diaobingshan – Daming   SY
0616 Wangqian – Diaobingshan   DSL
0940 Diaobingshan – Xiaonan   SY
On my departure at 1400 there were 3 SY at Diaobingshan so all three mid afternoon short workings could have been steam.

Seat in taxi from outside the station to Tieling station, Y15. Depart 1406 arrive 1504, the station always seems to be the last drop off point in Tieling.

Despite a board in Tieling booking office window which lists available reservations for the current day saying that nothing was available on 2727 to Suifenhe I decided to try my luck. The helpful booking clerk issues me with a hard sleeper to Mudanjiang for Y181. Nearly missed the train as the board by the entrance gates was almost invisible.

This busy train is now formed of a long rake of double deckers. I was a bit apprehensive about this having heard that the soft sleepers at least were very cramped. In the event the opposite was the case in hard sleepers. They can’t fit in 3 tiers of berths so all hard sleeper compartments are 4 berth so you actually get more headroom in the top bunks. Moral is, on these trains soft sleepers are not worth the extra money.

Sunday 30 August

Arrive Mudanjiang 0424, 25 late. A bus to Jixi, outside the station, on the right, connects with this arrival. We departed at 0450 and after a run through some very pleasant scenery arrived outside the bus station at Jixi at 0735. Despite no traffic a slow journey with almost incessant road works on the new highway. It is becoming quite noticeable how these new roads in China are poorly constructed and surfaces are disintegrating despite few vehicles using them. I suppose the heavy weight on each axle of the lorries is the problem. As we left the expressway we stopped to set down passengers for Didao, a mile or so away.
Walk to Jixi Fandian and book in for 3 nights. I was just in time to benefit from the July 2009 price hike of a standard room to Y128, although this did include a reasonable breakfast. No discounts were forthcoming. Room smart and clean, just like Jixi itself. In the tray of sex goodies for sale was a battery assisted condom bearing the useful advice that “besides, you can DIY when your sex partner is absent”.

As it was a Sunday decided to go to Didao Hebei in the absence of the management there. Wait awhile for a bus then a slow journey of almost an hour. Taxi would have been a better option. Another route runs past Jixi station to Didao Hebei, the 217.
Helpful conductress puts me off by the yard throat where the first person I meet, a rather weird looking character, asks for money. Everyone else friendly though.

Just as I reached the yard there were uphill arrivals at 1130 & 1150 and all through day there was activity of some kind with at least four locos working. Trains make a fine sight thrashing round the hillsides above Hebei, not only when viewed from the washery but also from the foot of the bank in Didao. Train Crews very friendly and invite you up on the locos. Foreign coins and postcards go down well.
Was given two footplate rides, a run along the branch that serves Lijiing where we placed some wagons in a siding for loading from a heap on the ground then later on a trip down into Didao yard. This latter run gave me unexpected steam haulage on the CNR.

SY 1213   Hebei – Lijing branch trip   FOOTPLATE
SY 1018   Hebei Level Crossing – Didao CNR yard   FOOTPLATE

Three trains up the bank in the late afternoon at 1610, 1620 (SY 1018 from CNR), and SY 1018 again at 1750 – 2 minutes after sunset!

A much quicker journey back on the bus, although very crowded.

Monday 31 August

Off to Chengzihe. Number 3 bus from the north side of the building site in front of Jixi station. Depart 0635 arrive at the terminus in the centre of Chengzihe at 0700.
The most important change to report from here is that hyper inflation has taken hold of the pancake sector. Hot pancake breakfasts from the stall outside the Jixi Fandian are now Y2 but the news from the stall at Chengzihe crossroads is even worse, theirs are Y3.
Much of the day spent on the triangle. Busy but not exceptionally so and as others have said it’s easy to be in the wrong place. An afternoon spell on the lineside towards the CNR yard was a disappointment with several downhill trains but the locos returning light. One train going down was 45 wagons, must have been well over 3000 tons. The best sight of the day was SY 1351 climbing up to the washery with a load from Zhengyang about half an hour before sunset.

Tuesday 1 September

Off to Chengzihe again. The change over line up at Dongsheng produced a maximum of 5 locos at one time, 6 in all were seen. Level of activity around the triangle similar to the previous morning.

Although Chengzihe is very poor, scruffy and dirty there are certain signs of wealth and high income. Several Range Rovers were seen on the streets and in the cheap grotty café where I lunched a woman put her takeaway into a Waitrose bag!

After lunch decide to have a look at Zhengyang. Go to bus stop one block down from centre and wait for the blue bus to Zhengyang. Long gap in the service, when one finally turns up conductress tells me not to get on. Another wait and a small white bus (route 4) signed Zhengyang comes along. I get on this one and am charged what seems a very expensive (for the distance) Y3. I query the fare & am told it is correct. Then I see the girl has 3 yuan printed on her top! So I assume I was not the first to complain. Bus goes along the wide concrete road for a while then forks left onto a narrower mostly paved road and soon runs along the south side of the railway into Zhengyang.
Only light engines were seen coming up the bank from Chengzihe. SY 1437 arrived with tipplers from Xinghua at 1453 then departed again with tipplers to Xinghua at 1530.
SY 1058? arrived light from Chengzihe at 1620, reversed & on to Xinghua, returning with loads at 1640.
Take bus back into Chengzihe eventually – another long wait.

Wednesday 2 September

Up late due to very bad cold then breakfast in hotel. Back to Didao again. Hebei busy with much shunting and also wagons being loaded with coal from the dump by the siding at the south end of the yard.
The branch to the mines was busy but no traffic seemed to be going up to the higher levels for dumping. Also there were no trains up or down the bank to or from Didao from 0900 – 1045. Spent quite a lot of time riding around the yard on SY 1205.

SY 1205   Hebei yard shunting   FOOTPLATE

Back down into Jixi by bus then hard seat on the busy K7078, (0720 Dongfanghong) 1207 Jixi – Mudanjiang 1520. This train uses the stock off the overnight from Harbin which arrives D’hong at 0700.

Even though nowadays my main emphasis is on travel behind steam rather than photography I did enjoy my visit to the Jixi area. As others have said it’s a pleasant place for being surrounded by hard working steam locos. The attractive semi rural backgrounds and the traditional housing are real plus points. Of the two centres I think I preferred Didao, certainly the crews here seem more openly friendly.
The locos are complete masters of the job in summer on dry rails. They have to work hard to get a heavy load on the move and up the steepest grades, but generally its plain sailing.
No sign of any electrification work yet although I did see two piles of concrete poles dumped by the lineside west of Nancheng.

I had decided to look in at Meihekou to check out steam activity – a long shot but I was more or less going past anyway. My preferred route was to take 2168, 1629 Mudanjiang – Changchun to Jilin then go forward on 4236, the day train to Shenyang.

Mudanjiang booking office very busy with long queues (as was the case in many other places).
I requested a sleeper on 2168 at the window but was refused (berths shown as available on the electronic display) with considerable discussion amongst the girls in the office and proffering of notes in Chinese through the window. When this failed to resolve the situation and I continued to block the window an English speaking bloke, the chief clerk perhaps, was brought over to explain that Jilin station was closed for rebuilding and the train would instead make a different stop in the Jilin area.
As this would not be an ideal situation for changing trains I decided to go via Shenyang and the chief clerk obtained for me a hard sleeper to Shenyang on 2728 for Y194. My berth was in a single deck section at the end of a coach, still only 4 berths in the compartment and masses of room.
Of note was that 2168 and 2728 were the only trains out of Mudanjiang that evening with berths available.

Thursday 3 September

Shenyang arrive right time at 0610.
Attempt to get hard sleeper for the following night to Yuanbaoshan. After navigating a long queue to the ticket window the ticket lady will not or cannot issue ticket but walks off for advice and eventually comes back to tell me to go to window 13. I was not best pleased but no sooner had I joined my new queue than a CNR bloke appears to help me. I’m taken to the front of the queue and issued my Yuanbaoshan sleeper (Y95) and ticket to Meihekou on the day Jilin train.

4235 to Meihekou, now retimed to leave at 0743. This was one of the many green trains seen in the north east. From the platform excess into a comfortable and almost empty soft seat coach, all very traditional. From Fushun the line is scenic, must have been good in steam days. Arrives Meihekou 1234, as does the corresponding working from Jilin, 4236.

Taxi to Sijing, 30 yuan. Arrive 1310, no sign of the passenger train, just a diesel forming up a coal train which it took away at 1400. At 1520 give up and take 3 wheeler to Yijing (Y5).
At Yijing SY 1564 works a coal train to the CNR at 1550, arriving back at 1650.
Unfortunately the passenger turn was diesel. Approx timings of passenger trains seen:- 1550 Sanjing – Sijing, 1810 Sijing – Sanjing.
The rake is now down to 4 vehicles with far fewer passengers than in the days when hundreds would get on & off at Yijing.

SY 1564 was doing the lion's share of the work. At 1700 it ran light to Sijing and at 1730 it was back at Yijing with a loaded train. It then left again for the CNR with another train at 1800. A total of 3 diesels were in use.

Book into a hotel down the road beyond the square. From the bridge walk straight on across the top of the square and the hotel is a short distance further on the left. It does not look like a hotel. The ground floor has a reception/bar but this for a restaurant (series of individual rooms). The hotel is on the next floor up and in accessed by a flight of stairs just to the left of the restaurant. At the top of the stairs is the hotel reception, just a big window really. A friendly lady running the place gave me a clean & smart room with toilet and wash basin for Y60, including breakfast. All very low key, no deposit asked for.
Note that buses to Meihekou finish early, none were around at 1800.

Friday 4 September

To station at 0600. Again a diesel on passenger stock, facing towards Sanjing. – Oh dear. Back for the 0630 breakfast – quite adequate. The passenger departed at 07XX and had not returned by 1000 when I left for Meihekou by bus (Y4).
SY 1564 departed southbound on freight at 0615, returned by 0800.

Soft seat ticket booked at Meihekou to Shenyang on 4236 at 1246 (Y33). Train much busier than on my journey out, full & standing in hard seats. Shenyang arrive 4 late at 1728.

Onward with K7362, the overnight Shenyang – Chifeng express. My hard sleeper was in coach No.1. It all looked a bit dodgy as I walked down the platform past the low numbered coaches, all of which were hard seats and heaving full. Sure enough coach number 1 was hard seat, panic sets in and I rush to the far end of the train to try and upgrade to soft sleeper. No berths available, attendant sees my ticket and points me further along the platform, where what do I find between coaches 7 and 8? Yes another coach number 1, a hard sleeper where I am reserved. What a game!

Saturday 5 September

Yuanbaoshan arrive right time at 0512. Bus in station forecourt connects to town (station is right out in the country), drops me off at the top of the mine railway station approach road. This bus, fleet/registration No.28609, seems to be used solely on the town – CNR link. On the front windscreen it is lettered “Yuanbaoshan Railway Station”. I assume it connects with all the main trains.
En route from town to station fall into large hole at roadside concealed by polythene sheeting, both legs very painful & start to swell up badly.

Perk up a bit at the station though where a very smart deflectored JS is at the head of the passenger and another JS is in steam at the depot.

JS 8242   0700 Yuanbaoshan – Fenshuigou 0740

The train loaded to 6 YZ22 and I was treated to the usual Yuanbaoshan low speed shuffle. A nice setting for photos at the tree lined Fenshuigou station though.

Breakfast in Fenshuigou street market, soya pasty thing and tomatoes for 2 yuan then a long wait for the return train.

JS 8242   1035 Fenshuigou - Yuanbaoshan 1115. 14 loaded coal wagons + 6 passenger bogies, 1300 tons gross

The booked departure time is 1030. Again it was a bit of slow speed run but this time the loco had an excuse, nice views of the tender first loco from the back of the train. Even from there the loco could be heard working hard at times.

Lunch at the smart restaurant just up on the main road (on corner of station approach) then back to station to see if the afternoon passenger would run. A previous visitor had reported that back in 2004 it did not run on Saturday afternoons. Well the good news was that it was running, then of course came the bad news, yes, it was diesel.

So on with plan B, off to Chifeng to get my knees checked out for breakages. Taxi to Chifeng, haggled down to Y80. Even so I think this was over the odds. On my previous visit I seem to remember paying Y60. En route pass a JS thrashing up from the CNR with a freight.
On to Chifeng City Centre Hospital, armed with a translation describing my misfortune where I was wheeled around on a trolley to the X Ray Department (Y132). No broken bones but was told I needed an MRI scan to check for “broken muscles”. This could not be done until the unit reopened on Monday morning so off I went to the nearest decent hotel, The Zhaojun Hotel for a 2½ day stay at Y110 per 24 hours including breakfast. A very smart new hotel and excellent value, although of course I would much rather not have been there.

Sunday 6 September

At the hotel is a Business Centre. Prevail upon the English speaking manager to get me a sleeper on 2560 to Beijing the following night. This he does (a service they don’t normally provide) and charges me Y123 for the hard sleeper plus Y20 commission.

Monday 7 September

Back to the hospital by 0800 for my MRI scan. Arrive just before the rush luckily. All done by 0845 then an hour to wait for the results (usual wait is 24 hours but benefit from special foreigner service – yet again). Cost Y525 (£47) – a bit different to the £600 it would cost to have it done privately in Orpington. Scan shows there is no ligament damage but doctor tells me that although I can walk I must rest as much as possible. Staff all very friendly and helpful, out of hospital by 1000 then back to hotel for more rest.

2560 at 2108 to Beijingbei. Fight breaks out in compartment, an argument about berth allocation I think.

Tuesday 8 September

Arrive at 0556, right time, at the smart new Beijingbei station . A bit different to the old one!

Taxi to the airport, terminal 3 (Y89). To the Air China desk to check availability of tickets to & from Lanzhou. The good news was that a seat was available on a flight leaving at 0810. The bad news was the cost of the ticket, Y1390. The Friday return was not that cheap either, Y880. Never mind, at least it did the business.

Flight arrives Lanzhou about half an hour late. Bus into town, taxi to bus station. Boarding of bus to Baiyin outside the bus station now discouraged so go to booking office for ticket. At 1242 issued with ticket for 1250 departure. We leave on time but bus drones along at little more than walking pace looking for customers and waits for 10 minutes at the final pick up point under the flyover just before the toll gates and the Yellow River. Arrives Baiyin town centre bus station at 1435, having made a short detour to a new bus station on the south western edge of town to set down passengers.

Taxi to station for the 1515 departure. First person I meet on the platform is a company policeman who refuses to let me travel on the train. Argue with him for 10 minutes but to no avail. He says I must go to travel agent and a written note is handed to me. Take this to the company HQ and they pass me on to another building where the department that deals with foreigners is located. The man I need to see is of course absent and a young English speaking bloke suggests I stay at the company binguan and come back at 0900 the following. The guest house is a traditional place, reasonably clean and smart but lacking hot water (other than the kettle). For this I am charged Y140 per night. This price included breakfast at a nearby building.

Wednesday 9 September

I was taken to meet a Mr Feng Zhian at the Foreign Affairs Office of the Baiyin Non Ferrous Group. He confirmed to me that it is the policy of the company not to allow foreigners to travel on the trains and showed me a letter (in Chinese) which he said confirmed this. I assume this has always been the case but only now is the policy being implemented – or was it just my bad luck to run into the police on the platform?
After more argument I am left only with the option of hiring a vehicle + driver and Mr Feng for the remainder of my stay. I couldn’t have gone anywhere else in the time available and with a flight back to Beijing already booked.
So it was a pay up job for two days photography. Total charges came out at Y1800, although this did include being taken to the airport on Friday morning.

First port of call was the shed & works area where SY 1581 was under repair, SY 1583 was ex works and being steam tested & SY 1013 was in steam. Mr Feng unable to ascertain when the empty tipplers to Shenbutong will run.
After lunch up to the top end of the line. At Sanyelian Mr Feng and the driver busily shouting at each other failed to notice SY 1470 forming up a freight. Stop for a while to phot the departure. Mr Feng tells me I am lucky. Park up at Dongchanggou, after a few minutes SY 2008 comes up with empty tipplers. A surprised Mr Feng tells me I am again lucky. Walk down to big curve and phot the 1515 passenger coming up. Then down to Liugongli for the ECS to Sanyelian (SY 1470 t/f), SY 2008 on loaded tipplers, SY 1470 c/f on the 1650 passenger ex Sanyelian and finally SY 0819 t/f on the 1705 passenger from Shenbutong.

Thursday 10 September

Up to the top end of the line to fot SY 1583 going up on the 0750 and then returning t/f. Mr Feng again unable to find out when the empty tipplers will run. What a useless clown, unable/unwilling to ascertain when his own company's train will run. All this man is interested in is relieving you of as much money as possible and doing the least he can once he has the cash in his pocket. The only time you could guarantee his attendance and attention was when a free meal was in the offing. I would recommend other visitors to try and find other ways of accessing the top end of the line rather than dealing with him.

Back down into town for some food then up above Sanyelian again for the 1515 passenger. En route we pass the Sanyelian freight, and inevitably the loaded tipplers coming down – so the empties must have gone up at about 1300.

Fot the 1515 on the sweeping curve below Dongchanggou again with SY 0819. The loco was thrashing well, on most other occasions the locos on the passengers did not seem to be worked as hard as on my previous visits. The Shenbutong passenger now loads to 6 and the Sanyelian train to 7. Down to Liugongli immediately but missed the ECS to Sanyelian by a few minutes. It must have left Gongshi earlier than usual, about 1605. Phot the 1650 ex Sanyelian and the 1705 from Shenbutong in very bad light – in fact light was very poor throughout my stay in Baiyin.

Friday 11 September

Phot the morning departures leaving Baiyin, the 0735 Sanyelian with SY 1470 t/f & the 0750 to Shenbutong with SY 0819.

7 seater to the airport then afternoon flight to Beijing. Overnight at the Central Beijing Youth Hostel, just across the road from Beijing station. Very clean room without facilities Y160.

Saturday 12 September

Bus to airport from International Hotel, just down the road, still Y16.
BA038 to Heathrow. Departs an hour late after the authorities had shut down the airport for over an hour with giving any reason. Not the first time this has happened to me in China.

And so ended yet another Chinese trip. The first two weeks went as well as could be expected for 2009 steam but the final week was best forgotten.

I doubt I will ever go back again unless some new steam lines are discovered. For the “basher”, as opposed to the “photter” there is not much to look forward to in 2010. The gradual run down of steam at Nanpiao and Yuanbaoshan, the transformation of Shibanxi into a tourist railway, the end of Jalainuer opencast mine, the hassle at Baiyin if you want to travel on the trains and the suspicion that Sandaoling is now on the slippery slope to full dieselisation all mean that a further bash will not really be worthwhile.
I shall miss the friendliness and helpfulness of the Chinese people, especially the railway staff.
One silver lining though, at least I will no longer have to give my money to one of the world's most vile and evil governments.

Roger Blundell

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© 2009 Roger Blundell