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Steam in China

by Peter Semmelroch & Wolfgang Klein

Jixi 26-29.11.09

– On the way to Donghai Mine –

After a week in Sandaoling we had some days left and we decided to go to Jixi. Intention was to visit the Chengzihe system before electrification.

25.11.2009 Flight from Beijing to Mudanjiang
(The Deer Air flight to Jixi was cancelled on this day, but we had booked the 18:00 Hainan Airlines flight to Mudanjiang anyway, as we were arriving from Urumqi on a CZ flight at 14:30 in Beijing. Although on this day there was big flight chaos in China due to heavy fog in Urumqi and snow in Helongjiang, our flights were all on time).
In Mudanjiang Airport bargained down a Taxi to Jixi to 400.- Yuan and in 2 hours over a heavily snow-covered, completely empty motorway directly from Mudanjiang airport to Jixi.
We booked into the “Mansion of Land and Resources” hotel, which could only offer suites for 413.- Yuan, as the standard rooms were fully booked. (We could change though after 1 night to the 160.- Yuan standard rooms).

26.11.09 Chengzihe
In the morning to the big bridge. Only a light engine movement to Chengzihe, then to the summit before Xinghua. The train of empties appeared on time around 10 a.m., but what a disappointment, only 12 empties on the train. The spoil train came 1 hour later. At that time the sun was gone and it started snowing, so we decided to call it a day and go back to the hotel. In the evening we went to Nancheng and Beicheng washery for some nightshots. 4 locos were in Beicheng washery with trains, subsequently 3 of them went to the stabling point in Nancheng. Still light snowfall.

27.11.09 Chengzihe + Donghaikuang
In the morning to the big bridge again. At 6:30 a loaded coal train appeared going to Jixi Xi, followed by a second one at 7:30. The first engine (or the second) returned again light engine at 7:45, while the second took a train of empties uphill to Chengzihe at 8:00. One train only ran to the small yard directly behind the big bridge, where the line to the new mine starts.
Then again to the summit between Zhengyang and Xinghua, where we met Mike Ma with a whole bunch of British gricers. The spoil train appeared first at 10:30 followed by the train of empties at 11:00, this time with a full load. The train was late, as it used the empties we saw earlier transferred from the state railway to the Chengzihe system.
And that was the big problem during the 4 days stay of our visit; due to the cold which hit China very early this year there is a huge lack of wagons for coal at the moment. This was obvious at Sandaoling already but far more so in Jixi!
After that we went to Donghaikuang where we found only one SY at 12:00. A quick question yielded the result that the loaded train had already left for Jidong and was expected back any time. On our way back the train appeared and we could get it at the village before Donghai Mine. After that to Donghai where both locos shunted the empties for almost two hours until sunset (at 15:25 already!).

28.11.2009 Chengzihe
In the morning again to the big bridge. At 7:30 a loaded train appeared in best morning light. On this day the weather had changed over a clear night to an icy morning of -24°C, and the downhill train produced a nice steam effect. Back again only a light engine movement – no empties available through China rail.

– -24°C yields nice steam effects on downhill trains, too –

We went to the summit again, where we again met Mike with his group. But today the train with empties didn't run at all, only the spoil train appeared around 11:00 again, and after that we went to Beicheng, where we stayed for two hours doing the well-known pony-shots (there were a handful) with the shunting SYs. Quite nice, as the weather was now excellently clear.
In the evening back to the big bridge, hoping for a train. But what appeared were only workings between the yard on the Jixi side of the bridge and the new mine. Anyway this could be photted not too badly from a distance until sunset.

Our last morning, to the bridge again, but again not even a downhill train, only a light engine movement uphill around 8:00. Then to Dongcheng, where 7 locos where stabled for the morning shift change in perfect morning light. Not even one empty wagon was there… Last year there had been at least two full rakes of empties.
At 8:45 we left for the Airport which is just 15 minutes drive from Dongcheng and took the 10:00 Deer Air flight back to Beijing.

After two days with cloudy and snowy weather with only little sun, the third day and the last morning were perfectly clear at below –20°C and yielded some results. Biggest problem was the scarce traffic due to a lack of empties, which seems to hit China at the moment again.

The new connection via Jixi airport to Beijing makes a visit easy nowadays, although the flights are cancelled and rescheduled quite often at the moment.

– Good bye Chengzihe: Xinkuang on the Jixi side, 28.11.2009 –

Peter Semmelroch & Wolfgang Klein

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© 2009 Peter Semmelroch & Wolfgang Klein