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Steam in North East China, August – September 2009

by Wilson Lythgoe

Yuanbaoshan, Pingzhuang, Bajiaotai, Nanpiao, Huanan, Jixi, Tiefa

This report may seem to be more of a ‘how I did it’ than what the locos were doing. This is intentional as I have always been most appreciative of ‘how to’ information on others' reports and so have detailed anything I have not seen previously reported elsewhere that may be useful to others. I travelled from Beijing North to Chifeng on 2621: an old style train with no air conditioning and hot water from a coal fired boiler. A pleasant journey through attractive and scenic countryside.

As 2621 wasn’t due into Chifeng until 2019 (and I don’t like looking for a hotel after dark if possible) I had reserved a room at the Chifeng Hotel (322Y) over the internet using www.ctrip.com. On a previous trip I had used their website to buy internal flights finding it easy to use and prices very competitive.
The Chifeng Hotel was a four star pleasure with what could only be described as a Gourmet Breakfast Buffet Extravaganza!
The next morning a taxi to the small bus station the Yuanbaoshan buses leave from.

24-25 August

Bus to Yuanbaoshan cost 6Y. On arrival it dropped people off as it passed through Yuanbaoshan, then went out towards Gongye, before coming back to the Power Station district. By the time it reached the Power Station I was the only passenger left so reckoned it was time to get off. A taxi took me to a hotel on the outskirts of the Power Station district but at 280Y I thought I could do better elsewhere. Another taxi to Yuanbaoshan to find the hotel closed so back to the Power Station district and a third hotel – also closed. Defeated I went back to the first hotel!
Of a similar standard to the ‘famous’ Jalainur Binguan I found it quite suitable for an overnight stay although definitely overpriced. The price may have included all meals as I wasn’t charged any extra for the simple buffet lunch. Lunch and breakfast were quite good but I was elsewhere at dinner time, (Breakfast 7-8, Lunch 11.30 – noon, Dinner 5-6).
On leaving the hotel turn right, at the first intersection right again and at the next intersection turn left. This seemed to be the main shopping and restaurant street of the Power Station District with two internet cafes as well.
Two JS (8242, 8250) in use with 8250 being on the passenger service.
After the morning passenger on the 25th I took a bus from the Yuanbaoshan Bus station to Pingzhuang (8Y).

25-26 August

Stayed at the Pingzhuang Hotel for 120Y including breakfast.
From outside the hotel Bus 1 takes just under half an hour to reach its Xilutian terminus. You can see the Brewery level crossing about 200m further down the road.
3 SY (0400, 1052, 1425) in steam with almost nothing to do and no sign of the deflector SYs. One loco loaded a coal train all morning at the washery. It went down to Nan mid afternoon and returned around 1700 both days. That was it for two days – a most disappointing stop.

JS 8116
27 August

While travelling on K7384 from Pingzhuang to Jinzhou I saw JS 8116 in steam in Bajiaotai yard.

On previous trips I had found it difficult to purchase suitable train tickets in Jinzhou. This was no longer the case as there is now a Shenyang Railway Ticketing Bureau in a Post Office near the Railway station.
As you leave the Station Square there is a Post Office on the left. Ignore this one and carry on up the street another three or four buildings to a larger Post Office and the ticketing bureau is in the right hand corner, ground floor and well signed.
A ticket to Jiamusi was unavailable on the train I wanted but the helpful lady searched for a suitable alternative and found me a lower hard berth on K339 on the same date. After visiting Nanpiao I was also able to get a ticket on D6 from Shenyang to Beijing for the end of my trip. No queue and only 5Y a ticket extra…great value!
Buses to Nanpiao leave from the big bus station opposite the railway station as well as from the smaller bus station south of the train station. The bus I travelled on from the large bus station stopped by the Huangjia Hotel, the Nanpiao bus station and then headed towards Xiamiaozi. I had earlier shown John Raby’s picture (thanks) of the Xinghe Hotel to the bus driver, he knew it so I stayed on the bus until it turned to head in the direction of Zaojiatun. After that only a short walk.

28-31 August

3 SY (0366, 0754, 1299) in daily use. The Sanjiazi passenger was steam four times out of six. The other two times steam was used on the Linghe passenger with the connecting trips into Nanpiao also steam.
Twice I travelled on the morning passenger to Daguopu. Both mornings the SY returned from Sanjiazi with a coal train and another SY arrived from Xiamiaozi with a train. Some good photo opportunities in excellent morning light before the morning passenger train returned me to Xiamiaozi.

Leaving Daguopu


1-9 September

I arrived at the loco area at 3pm on 1 Sept to find four engines (004, 011, 044 & 168) in the shed with two in steam and two being worked on. After shunting the coal siding a train left at 5pm and by the following morning two engines were out on the line with the other two now in steam.
For the rest of my stay a three engine service was operating with the fourth engine replacing a train engine once or twice a day.
I found the railway staff to be quite friendly and even helpful at times. 026 has been tarted up and placed on display at the entrance to the loco compound.
Two good photo opportunities at Huanan, not previously mentioned, were shunting the wagons to and from the coal unloading sidings and the coal scavengers getting stuck into the empties on their return from the unloading sidings.
To get to the ng station unnumbered small white buses start from the stop just to the south of the Huanan Hotel. They have a small multicoloured patch (red, blue, brown?) underneath their windscreen.
I spent three nights staying with a family in Tuoyaozi. The Ganger's house, previously used by some, was a definite no but the local butcher arranged a place near the railway and a motorbike. (You can find the butcher in the ‘blue tin’ shop by the main bus stop in Tuoyaozi). The home stay meals would have to have been some of the best food I have ever had in China: fresh vegetables from the family garden and prime cuts of pork. On two of the three mornings I was there, a pig was killed, (not the best of entertainment at 0430), so I assume the family got the pick of the meat before the rest of the carcass went elsewhere.
Buses to Tuoyaozi leave from the main bus station by the next set of traffic lights south of the Huanan Hotel. The first bus leaves at 0930 and four more after that. Leaving Tuoyaozi there are a couple of early buses, then 1100 and 1300 with possibly a late afternoon one as well.

Leaving the coal siding

The scavengers getting ready

10-13 September

I only visited the Didao and Chengzihe systems and both appeared to be operating as previously reported.
In steam at Chengzihe: 0590, 0863, 1058, 1351, 1369, 1437, 1544, 1545.
In steam at Didao: 0407, 0950, 1205, 1213, 1446.
Prior to buying my ticket for K7076 (the overnight express to Harbin) I saw a sign on the booking office wall that seemed to be listing possible connections at Harbin. At the same time I gave the ticket office my K7076 request I also passed over a request for a ticket on T184 and for a 5Y fee was rewarded with a middle hard sleeper onwards to Tieling. This allowed for an easy connection at Harbin without having to tackle their overly long ticket queues.

Tiefa (Diaobingshan)
15-18 September

As you leave Tieling station the bus station, with buses to Diaobingshan, is the large building on the left. From the railway station it doesn’t look like a bus station and the entrance is around the corner on the main road.
SY 1770, 1771 and 1772 in use on 15 September. 1772 was on the Daqing trains but was replaced by a diesel for train 304 and was not seen again during my stay.
For the next two days 1770 and 1771 were used on most, but not all, Daming and Wangqian passenger trains. Diesel could appear on the first and last run of the day but there didn’t seem to be an obvious pattern. On the morning of the 18th steam was back on the Daqing train but those to Wangqian were diesel.

Cleaning Brigade at Daming

Traditional work

After the morning rush on the 18th it was bus to Shenyang, D6 on to Beijing and the end of another most enjoyable trip. This trip I flew Melbourne - Beijing - Melbourne with Cathay Pacific for $890 (Australian): certainly the cheapest airfare I have found in six years of travelling to China. Hopefully a similar fare next year…………….

Wilson Lythgoe

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© 2009 Wilson Lythgoe