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STEAM IN CHINA, 18 March – 27 April 2010

by David Thomas

Buddha Valley, Sandaoling, Meijiaping, Yanzhou, Zoucheng, Dalian, Jixi, Shenyang, Hongmiao, Yuanbaoshan, Pingzhuang, Beipiao, Fuxin, Huludao, Qinhuangdao

One of those trips where things were often not quite as planned, but not actually disastrous. As previously, I relied heavily on others' SY-Country reports and maps, Duncan Peattie's English version of the Chinese railway timetable and the Rough Guide, plus the latest CNR timetable on sale at Beijing station.

Flew with Finnair, changing at Helsinki, with convenient Beijing arrival at 07.55 and departure at 10.55. The food was cooked until dry. In Beijing, to Xidan for the Jian Yhan Hotel. They had only twin rooms at 300 yn, with no negotiation. So to the Central YHA opposite Beijing station. 160 yn for a non-ensuite twin room, reduced to 140 for YHA members. Toilet, shower and hot water tap along the corridor – take your own tea bags and mug.

1.         GETTING TO SANDAOLING. Part 1.

The plan was to travel by air from Beijing to Ürümqi for a couple of days sightseeing, then by train to Hami. At Hami I would use the CITS office referred to in previous SY-Country reports to arrange a guide and permits and hotel for Sandaoling, sharing costs with Colin Martindale, who was to join me a day later.
The Internet showed cheap flights and I assumed they would be available at Beijing airport. Wrong. The cheapest at the ticket counter for the following few days was 2,160 yn, rather than the expected 960 yn. A quick Internet check confirmed this. So decided to skip Ürümqi and travel by train Z55 to Lanzhou and then go on to Hami. This now created a spare day which was used to visit the Buddha Valley line at Futuyu.

2.         BUDDHA VALLEY      20 March 2010.

Up early for the 06.20 slow train from Beijing Xi to Futuyu, arriving 11.47. To the Buddha Valley line. It was rusty and obviously disused. With over 4 hours before the return train to Beijing, walked to the terminus to find out of use SYs 0459 and 0878. No other rolling stock or the reported third SY. Decided to go by local bus to nearby Laiyuan to look around and eat before catching the train there. Except it was cancelled because of engineering work. The next train was overnight. The bus station, of course, had no bus to Beijing. A local chap came up with a possibility, drawing a triangle and indicating using two buses. So at 16.20 off I set into the, for me, unknown. 3.5 hours later we arrived at a dark and deserted bus station on the outskirts of Baoding. The sole ticket clerk issued a ticket for the one remaining bus and within 10 minutes away on another 3.5 hour journey, to be dropped off near hotels on the Beijing outer circular road. The bus went elsewhere. Taxi!

3.         GETTING TO SANDAOLING. Part 2.

Z55 arrived at Lanzhou an hour late at 08.30 on 22 March. Went to book forward to Hami, to find that there were no tickets except for standing on L296 (presumably an extra), due into Hami at about 20.00 on 23 March. To the long distance bus station, diagonally right outside the station. The next Hami bus was a sleeper at 16.30. OK. They took my money, then returned it and asked if I had insurance. Some readers may recall having to pay 20 yn insurance when travelling from Lanzhou Xi bus station to Liujiaxia. I needed personal Chinese bus accident insurance. Comprehensive UK – issued insurance cut no ice. So just tried to pay the extra. But this bus station did not sell insurance with the tickets. I needed that first. Eventually an official hailed a taxi and sent me to an insurance company office. Bemusement all round and lack of a common language. They did house insurance. Another taxi, another office. They did annual comprehensive insurance, not just travel for a single bus trip, but helpfully phoned a third company; also no use. Eventually got an annual accident-only document for 50 yn. Back to the bus station and a ticket was issued. Except it was not to Hami, but to Ürümqi, which I assumed was the destination.

The beat-up bus eventually left over an hour late, then called at a second bus station before heading off into the night, with comfort stops every 4 hours. At about midday we stopped at a junction of a road with street lights, so it presumably headed towards a town. A couple of people got off. I asked if this was Hami and was told no, that was further. An hour's lunch stop. Then we were back into an unpopulated desert landscape until rolling into a town at 22.30. Yes, this was Hami. Well, the journey had taken a lot longer than expected. Taxi to the Hami Hotel, where I asked about the CITS office. It was permanently closed. And the hotel didn't take foreigners. Staff eventually tracked down someone in another hotel who talked to me on the phone in English. And only then did I realise – this was in fact Ürümqi. The overnight train back to Hami left in 25 minutes. Taxi! Got to the station ticket office window 9 minutes before the train left but they would not sell a ticket as "the gate has closed". So a night in a hotel in Ürümqi and the morning train to Hami, arriving 16.25.

Taxi to the (real) Hami Hotel. I had now arrived after Colin, rather than before him. The fall-back plan was that if one of us was late, the other would leave a message at the hotel. Although he was staying there, staff did not recognise his name when written down and denied there being a CITS office. There is a sign for an airline office on a detached part of the hotel, so I went there. Closed and chained. A helpful cleaner found a young lady, who said there was no CITS in Hami. Umm.... Showed a photo of a SY and suddenly she came to life. Oh, Sandaoling. She made some phone calls to two guides in town. Mrs GouLi (pronounced goolie; mobile phone number 13899336477) arrived from home 20 minutes later, and I also talked to Mrs NuEr. It seems that both live in Hami and are used as guides by CITS, but there is definitely no CITS office in the town.

Things now fell into place. Travelled by bus to Sandaoling at 18.40 that evening and stayed 2 nights in the Jin Hun hotel, with Mrs GouLi coming by taxi early the following morning. Her costs were: 200 yn a day x 2 days, plus 50 yn for her food; 200 yn a day x 2 days for a Sandaoling permit; 350 yn x 2 days for a taxi, including return to Hami on day 2; 150 yn for one night in the hotel; and 100 yn for her to travel by taxi from Hami to Sandaoling on day 1. A total of 1,800 yn, or about 1,500 yn more than doing this solo without a permit. After arrival in Sandaoling I checked if Colin was in a hotel there, but he had opted to travel daily from Hami. We eventually met at Hami station at 23.00 on 26 March as we waited for respective night trains. I never saw anything that looked like a permit and did not see the railway's Mr Fu. Given a hard hat at the workshop; otherwise, I did not have (or need) one. Mrs GouLi knew her way around and cleared access to the works and ensured that people knew when I was walking by myself around the open pit and spoil tips. She also quickly sorted a potentially awkward situation when the hotel accused me of taking two of their towels.

4.         SANDAOLING      25 & 26 March 2010.

Locos seen, all in traffic or on shed: JS: 6204, 6224, 6261, 6436, 8027, 8040, 8053, 8076, 8078, 8081, 8167, 8173, 8188, 8189, 8190, 8193, 8194, 8195, 8221, 8222, 8225 (dismantled in works), 8314, 8358, 8366
SY: 1304, 1593, and 1729. Did not explore the separate dump compound. Outside the works were cabs with numbers 6224, 8167 (both locos seen in traffic) and 6213 (no sign of the rest of the loco).

A few notes from the two days:
a. 25/3. SY 1729 came into Nanzhan from Liushuquan with about 20 empties at about 08.15 and then worked 16 of then to Beiquan 2nd mine. Mrs GouLi said she thought all trains from Liushuquan were now diesel.
b. 25/3 lunch time. Running shed in light steam/repairs: 8040, 8358, 8193, with 8222 outside.
c. Diesels. On 25/3 all 4 at Nanzhan yard at 09.30. On 26/3, 3 here at 08.30, as the fourth arrived on empties from Liushuquan.
d. 25/3. SY 1593 worked the 08.20 'passenger', a few vans with about 20-25 passengers, from Dongbolizhan to Xibolizhan. Mrs GouLi said it cost 50 yn to travel on it! (I asked her to write it down to make sure there was no misunderstanding).
e. 26/3. A fully loaded bendy-bus arrives at Xibolizhan at about 09.40 and left again at 09.50.
f. Coal from the pit is loaded either at the loading hopper or at one of two nearby sidings by front-loaders.
g. Spoil was being removed only from the south side of the open pit. From the lowest level, loaded trains ran forward (east), then reversed in a large arc, uphill, around the west side to reverse again on the opposite side of the pit (not far from the coal loading hopper) before propelling uphill through Xibolizhan. From higher levels, trains were loaded on two or three lines that led straight to Xibolizhan.
h. The northmost spoil tip line is some distance from the rest and has its own alignment from Xibolizhan yard, crossing a small bridge (broadside photo possible).

5.         MEIJIAPING      29 & 30 March 2010.

a. Accommodation in Xi'an. Arrived quite late, so opted for the nearest hotel, the Xi'an Xi'an Ju. When leaving the station, through the city wall and diagonally to the left. Decided against a single room next to the lift shaft (168 yn) and took a rather grand twin (298, reduced to 250). Second night was in the YHA, only a few minutes walk from the station, 120 yn en suite for a twin room. Both no breakfast.
b. Getting to Meijiaping. No buses to Yaoxain (for Meijiaping) from the bus station near the railway station (when leaving the station, through the city wall and it is to the north/right). Directed to a No. 39 bus, which runs from a stand to the north of the pedestrian area outside the station, between the station and the city wall, to terminate at a bus station. Journey time 25 minutes. From here buses run on a when full basis, about every half hour, to Yaoxian bus station. About 20 yn. A taxi took me to Meijiaping railway station. I showed locals a photo of a steam engine to get directions and was sent the wrong way, to the former Meijiaping works. The main buildings are a concrete sleepers casting shop. Only the works diesel shunter was present. Incidentally, it is impossible to get onto the CNR track anywhere around Meijiaping station due to very secure fencing. A 7 coach passenger train, heading north, called here at about 15.50.
c. Meijiaping coke plant. Back at the station, took the road heading approximately north, parallel to the railway, past the coke plant and then under a bridge on my right and up a slope that gives road access to the works. At the top of the slope a path on my right led to the loco shed and a diesel (5765) standing in exactly the place where JS 5098 was photographed in February 2008. Another diesel (5781) was nearby. JS 5098, disused for between 2 and 6 months was dumped in a siding by the CNR access gate. The SY was not seen, but not all sidings were explored. I was stopped from leaving via the rail access gate to get onto the CNR line.
d. Meijiaping cement works. With no way onto the CNR track, it was a long way round by road for the kilometre or so by rail to the cement works. As I did, heard a whistle and saw steam in the distance. QJ 2698 shunting. By 16.30, when I got to a level crossing at the south end of the works, the loco was at its stabling point. The (rail) gate security staff kindly let me have a close look. The loco was locked up and appeared to have finished work for the day. There are only two sidings within the works. Outside are a few loops and the line to the CNR yard, running parallel to a CNR line. From here you can walk alongside the tracks, to the photo position shown in Bernd's 27/2/2009 photo. Hailed a passing taxi to return to the bus station for Xi'an.
Well, a working non-deflector QJ is worth a second shot, so back the next day. There is no need to go all the way to Yaoxian bus station. Approaching the town, the bus passes road viaducts and slip roads. Then from the right hand (door) side of the bus you can see a tall sign on a circular metal post with white characters on a blue background; 4 main characters and 12 below. Get off and walk along the road running past the sign at an angle from the bus route. This goes under a road viaduct then a railway bridge and then south alongside the cement works to the level crossing next to the rail access gate and security office. The loco's tender can be seen through the gate. When I arrived at 11.00 it appeared to be unmoved since the previous evening. At 13.00 the driver came along on a moped and said the loco would move at 14.00. By 14.40, when I had to leave to get back to Xi'an for my train, nothing had happened, though smoke indicated coal had been put on the fire, so presumably it was going to move soon. On these two days the trains to/from CNR were mid afternoon; two weeks earlier Isao Kanda saw them in the morning. Well, at least they seem to be daily!

6.         YANZHOU      31 March 2010.

a. Coke Works. Travelled on train 1162, 17.46 from Xi'an, which arrived on time at Yanzhou at 08.16, having passed the Coke Works on the west side of the line some 10 minutes previously. Taxi (23 yn) to the entrance, then up to and alongside the CNR line, north of Yanzhou Xi yard, and walked north. Soon passed the line (security gate closed) into the Coke Works. After this, there is a path through trees between the works' wall and CNR line. After 25 minutes (now 09.30) came to the mound of earth alongside the loco shed at the far (north) end of the yard, where QJ 7191 was just about to start work. 7126 was inside. Young trees prevent good photos from here. Rubbish piled against the wall some 400 metres to the south gave better views.
Bus 6 from outside Yanzhou station runs about every 10 minutes past the Coke Works entrance and on to close to where the Ji-Bei locos are stored (see below).
The CNR line is busy and it can only be a matter of time before fencing is put up, preventing the above route. However, a field access track runs under both the CNR and the north end of the Coke Works yard, passing the earth mound. It probably comes out at a few houses about 250 metres away on the main road, although was not obvious from a passing bus.
b. Ji-Bei stored locos. Bus 6 to the Coke Works entrance continues parallel to the railway towards Jinin, passing Yanzhou Xi yard. The Ji-Bei line starts from the south end of the yard, but runs alongside the CNR line for some time before curving off to the west. This is near where the 6 reaches some buildings, just after a petrol station with a 3-pyramid metal roof, at a place where some local No. 35 buses from the Jining direction terminate. West of the No. 6 bus stop is a line of upright concrete sleepers, blocking what was once a road level crossing over the CNR, still used by pedestrians. Took it and then reached the now separate Ji-Bei line, just outside the loco stabling/works area. Maybe because it was lunch time, no-one stopped me walking along the track to see stored QJs 7121, 7124, 7127, 7130 and, on an adjacent isolated bit of track, 7132. All face north. Also 2 diesels. (Potential visitors arriving at the road gate have been refused access). No. 6 bus back to Yanzhou.

No train to Zoucheng for some hours, so by bus, On leaving Yanzhou railway station, go diagonally right and the bus station is on the other side of the main road. The journey took an hour to drop me off outside Zoucheng station. The bus station is in the town centre, some distance away.

7.         ZOUCHENG         1 to 3 April 2010.

a. Accommodation. The HengGang hotel, used in 2009, was closed for renovation. I don't know how I had previously missed an excellent hotel facing the station square, the Zoucheng WangYuan, 138 yn reduced to 130, incl breakfast. Woken by a cock crowing – rooms are at the rear, so no train or traffic noise.
b. Getting to and from Dadongzhang yard. On the first morning did the same as 2009 – No. 16 bus from near the HengGang hotel and walked along the railway from the level crossing just beyond the bus terminus. This adds a few kilometres and 45 minutes to the day.
Infrequent un-numbered local buses from Zoucheng go over the level crossing just west of the triangle near Dadongzhang. On the second day, got a No. 13 from outside the station to its terminus on the road towards the crossing. Within 10 minutes, at 08.30, was travelling forward on a local bus, to be dropped off at the crossing, so at the stabling point before 09.00.
On the third day, decided to try visiting the loco shed/works area, so took a No. 16 and got off at a road that passed the eastern boundary wall of the works.
Returning, it seems the last bus from the level crossing is now at about 17.30 (in 2009 it was 17.45). On the first day I missed it by 5 minutes, ending up on the back of a 3 wheel pick-up. Caught the bus the second day and an earlier one at about 15.00 on the third day.
c. Locos working. QJs 3461, 7189. Change-over and servicing was 08.45 to 09.45 each day. Over the three days both hauled trains and ran light engine, but with absolutely no pattern, to/from Xiagongchang (over long viaduct), Dongtan, Baodian, Nantun (mine and power station) and Dianchang power station.
d. Depot/works. Visited on 2 April (Saturday) by walking in through the open rail access gates. Dumped QJs: 3538, 3595, 6284, 6782, 6812, 6848, 6866, 6933 and 7123. Locked in a shed were the two serviceable locos, 6811, 7190. A separate shed held diesel loco 1022 (unable to see if more locos behind it) and another a main line coach in white, blue and red. Also here were a disused steam crane and two YZ passenger coaches.


a. Qingdao. Two trolleybus routes share a common section. The terminus is one street away from the southeast corner of Qingdao station.
b. Yantai. A massive new station has landscaped surrounds including, in the SW corner, plinthed JS 0819. This is a spurious number for a JS and could be a painting error. Can anyone passing check if there is another number anywhere on the loco?
c. Yantai - Dalian ferry. These take about 6.5 hours; 2 daytime, 2 night. 135 yn for plastic seat. Completely enclosed, so it is not possible to see if there is the (faint) chance of steam shunting in respective docks.
d. Dalian trams. These now operate as two routes. 201 has mostly older single cars, plus some articulated, and runs across the station square to interchange with 202 in the town centre. 202 runs from the centre past a now closed depot and on segregated tracks to a new depot alongside the road to Lushun. Only articulated cars.
e. Lushun. The picturesque wooden station still has just two trains a day, the best option being the non-stop 15.00 from Dalian, taking an hour. Rather than return on the 'stopper' (2 hours), it is possible to take a taxi to Lushun bus station, then frequent bus towards Dalian. This terminates at a suburban shopping centre. It passes the new tram depot at the end of route 202, so you can get off there to continue by tram.
f. Dalian trolleybus. A single route, 101, from Dalian station. It crosses tram route 202.
g. Dalian light rail line. Operated by 4 car trains, this runs on viaduct from its own terminus station to the southwest of Dalian's train station. Take the pedestrian subway from outside the main entrance.

9.         JIXI      12 - 15 April 2010.

Unable to get sleeper berth in advance at Dalian or at Harbin or when on train K7075 Harbin – Jixi, so an aisle seat in the double deck stock, though got one for the return K7076 a few days later. As in 2009, got hit by Jixi tum, so had a day in bed and will in future use water purification tablets here.
a. Didao SYs. Only 4 locos present, 0407, 0590, 0950, and 1205. At 14.50 on 12/4 0950 and 0590 double-headed empties from CNR.
b. Didao former NG electric line. As in 2009, followed the route from 'upstairs' at the washery alongside the road – some poles, no track – about 400 metres to the former depot where the gate was open. Electric locos 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 are dumped outside. Inside, a couple of men were working on two mine battery locos.
c. Chengzihe electrification poles. There are now two piles of poles stored alongside the line to Xinghua.

10.         SHENYANG       16 April 2010.

a. Power station. With time to spare and a street map showing bus routes, set off to find SY 1232. Bus 208 runs from a stop 400 metres to the north of Shenyang station, on the opposite side of the road. It heads under the CNR, then later goes under the CNR line to the west and runs parallel to that line, but a block to the north. Alighted when it again turned north and walked back southwards along the east-side pavement towards, and under, the CNR line, with the high speed line on a viaduct above. Then up steps to a road, seeing three blue and white power station cooling towers ahead to the left. The bridge carrying the CNR line also carries the short link from DaCheng yard to the power station. Turning left (east), it was only about 100 metres to a level crossing with the loco shed adjacent to the road, but inside a security gate. SY 1232 stood outside, facing the power station. The security man would not allow entry via the road gate to photograph 1232, but indicated I could hop over the separate railway barrier. A hot water/steam pipe ran from 1232 into the empty shed.
Photographic possibilities are limited to the road crossing, the bridge over the road and the east end of DaCheng yard, where, behind 4 blocks of flats a corner in the high mesh fence has a lens-size gap.
b. Plinthed QJ 1316. Instead of climbing the steps mentioned above, continue ahead as the road and pavement gradually return to ground level, roughly opposite the power station cooling towers. Across the road, QJ 1316 is plinthed at the entrance to the Cast Museum, open 09.00 – 16.00. This has some photographs and small machines (e.g. lathes) to do with metal casting and fabrication in part of 3 large engineering sheds. I was unable to explore the whole site, but doubt if there is any further railway interest.
c. Private line from DaCheng yard. The map has several lines in the area around QJ 1316, linked to the CNR via a line at the west of DaCheng yard. From the top of the steps (see above), walked west to reach that line at a road crossing, then followed it to DaCheng yard. There was what appeared to be a private diesel loco, but I was asked to leave before getting close enough to check. Back at the crossing, one line goes into a wire works, where two rail-mounted diesel cranes shunted; no locos. The main route heads south into the distance. After about 2 km there was a siding to the left with a diesel. A coke or gas works was to the right. The main line is then blocked by newer buildings, as were former sidings passed en route. By now it was dark and raining. The security man to the coke/gas works said there is a SY on site. I did not see or hear one, and very much doubt this, but it is just possible. Has anyone seen a SY that is NOT 1232 at the west end of DaCheng yard?
d. Shenyang metro. Web sites say part is open, but accesses outside Shenyang station were still closed.

11.         HONGMIAO       17 April 2010.

Got to Pingzhuang at 08.10 on K7354, taxi the short distance to Pingzhuang hotel and back for train 6327 at 09.02. This daily stopping train arrived at Malin at 09.50. Quickly found the line to Hongmiao mine, curving away to the south east from interchange sidings and within 20 minutes was at the mine. No wagons at either location. SY 1418 was in steam with a friendly fireman present. His mobile phone had a package that translates text messages from Chinese to English and vice versa. Unable to see if the second loco was in the locked shed. With no likelihood of action, left and went to the road that parallels the railway to Yuanbaoshan station and started walking. There are no buses. It took about 70 minutes to reach the Pingzhuang to Yuanbaoshan road. After 20 minutes a taxi on that road took me to Yuanbaoshan town for just 5 yn.

12.         YUANBAOSHAN       17 April 2010.

Arrived at 13.15, to see JS 8242 in steam outside the shed. A keyhole squint showed 6418 in one of the sheds, but I was unable to see if there were other locos. At 13.30 8242 moved off, hooked up to about 20 empties and backed onto the coaches to form the 14.00 passenger. As I hurried along the road to find a photo spot a passing motorist gave a lift to the viaduct in time to get a reasonable photo of the train. It was a dull day and, having been told only one JS was working, I did not hang around. Taxi to Yuanbaoshan bus station and by 16.00 was back in Pingzhuang.

13.        PINGZHUANG      18, 19 & 20 April 2010.


Refused entry to the works complex, but able to walk freely around the sidings in and adjacent to the electric loco shed, per way yard and wagon repair shops. The steam running shed was empty. Although the immediate washery area seemed busy, in reality not much happened.
a. Working SYs. Open pit and spoil: 1025, 1764. Deep mines: 0400, 1017, 1083, plus, 20/4 only, 1425, facing north (all others faced south). Apart from dumped JS 1001, there were no other locos here, though I could not see into one of the large plant maintenance sheds. Intriguingly, no-one else has reported seeing 3 of the 4 locos seen stored in April 2009 (0517, 0942, 1085).
b. Deep pit. The track is much simplified and only half of the remaining 12 or so electric locos are needed. The double track line from the unloading screen (west of the washery) to the pit has 3 reversals before ending in a single siding on an area of flattened spoil at the north end of the pit. Coal is brought here by lorry and front-loaders move it to the train. There is thus no track in the working pit area. Spoil is being removed by lorry.
c. Other electric lines. The map in SY country dated 2003 shows a line running northwest from alongside the pit to spoil tips. This is lifted. The map also shows arrows to 'unexplored electric lines'. One drops down into the pit, as described above. A second branches off this and runs along, but outside, the pit, climbing to a junction with a separate line which runs south then west from the electric depot, itself with a further link from the 'deep pit' steam loco stabling point. From loops at the junction loops the 'main line' continues west, disused, although still with wires intact, for 2 – 3 km to further sidings and a signal box but is then lifted. Did it serve a separate deep mine or just spoil tips? Also from the junction, a reversal leads to two lengthy electrified lines running south then west to spoil tips. The electric wires on these lines are alongside the track, hung from poles cantilevered out from, and attached to, the sleepers. The poles are easily dismantled/reassembled if the track is repositioned. Locos have cabside extendable pantographs. On the afternoon of 18 April SY 1025 hauled a train of spoil flats from the line that runs alongside the pit and reversed a considerable distance along one of the spoil lines. Soon after it had returned, SY 1764 came with a similar train along the link line from the stabling point, also reversing to the tip. I have no idea how often these trains run, where they come from and why they were steam, not electric.

d. Electric NG lines. On 19 April walked from the washery past the deep mines, noting electric NG lines:

       GushanYijng. Walked in off the railway via a roadway to the north. Short line just used to move stores, etc. It used to take spoil drams to the tip, but there is now a separate tip skip.

       GushanSanjing. Access via a hole in the wall alongside the former passenger platform. Quite busy, with spoil drams worked to the foot of the tip before being taken up one at a time on a wire rope.

       GushanLijing. Unable to get access to see if there is any electric line.

       Bushan No 1 mine (end of the line). No access to the mine, but south of the mine sidings there are railings and it is possible to look through them down onto the NG line where spoil drams taken through a tunnel to the south of the mine sidings to unload onto a separate tip skip.

e. Passenger trains. Definitely no longer passenger trains at 08.00 from the platform near the open pit SY stabling point. Did not see any passenger coaches or converted vans.
f. Permanent way cranes. With no need to reposition track in the pit, and only two spoil lines in use, just one diesel crane was in use, with a second available.

14.        BEIPIAO             20 to 22 April 2010.

Arrived at the new-built Beipiaonan on train 4210 from Pingzhuang at 14.15, quickly moving on to a new No. 5 bus to Beipiao new town and again stayed at the Beipiao Hotel. Locos in use: SYs 1004, 1550, and 1196.
a. Servicing point activity. After arrival on 20 April, walked the line southwest from the town towards the stabling point. At 16.30 SY 1004, which had been shunting near the depot, arrived there, took water and had a fire-clean for half an hour. At 17.00 SY 1550 descended from the washery with a loaded train of spoil flats, unhooked and also went to the servicing point for half an hour.
On 22 April did the same walk in the morning, to see a loco at the stabling point at 08.30, which then ran LE to the washery, to be replaced by SY 1196, which arrived LE from the washery at 09.00.
b. CNR line that crosses the coal railway at the servicing point.(or is this a local railway? D.F.) From the bridge over the steam railway this line heads towards what appears to be another coal mine some 3 km to the east. Decided to check it out. In fact it is a cement works, mostly disused, which is at the junction of three lines, all leading into a 12 road freight yard, with the line to Beipiaonan continuing from the far end. This is Luotuoying. QJ 6671, previously reported dumped at the cement works, was not seen, but the whole site was not investigated. Has it gone? A resident CNR shunt loco has its own siding and fuel point. As well as the line I was walking on, one comes from Beipiao itself, and, surprisingly, the other is a direct link to Yijing and the steam loco depot area (not shown on Bernd's map). A 4 wheel rail car used it on 22 April. Do SYs use it for CNR transfer traffic?
c. Sanbao mine. On 21 April walked out to Sanbao and waited for 'action'. Bus 3 runs here from Beipiao old town. The mine has just two dead end sidings under the screen in use (one for coal, one for odd spoil) and a line which runs past and uphill to spoil tips to the northeast (not shown on Bernd's map). Locos run round wagons at the former station just to the south. At 13.00 SY 1550 arrived at the station with 7 loaded spoil wagons, ran round and propelled them vigorously to the tips. On return, these empties were coupled to 5 loaded wagons to return to the washery. Two spoil wagons, one part loaded, under the screens were not moved. (Presumably these are only for spoil that is separated at the screens, as most spoil goes directly to the mine tip, see below).
d. Sanbo mine electric NG line. There is a busy electric NG line here. Unofficial access was not easy. From the road level crossing, went past the mine road entrance, then north on the main road, passing the (disused) concrete winding gear for a vertical shaft. Then through a yard to the base of the main coal tip, following a route used by others, and across the tip skip line to get into the surface area. Drams are rope hauled from the mine and then taken by electric loco to the screens for loading into standard gauge wagons. Spoil drams are taken to a tippler and loaded into the spoil tip skip.
e. Loco works. Although without a permit, on 21 April wandered into the works area, where all buildings were closed, with almost nothing happening. There were useful door cracks and windows to see inside. SY 1451's tender was outside, being emptied of coal, so I assume the loco was inside. Also inside were tenders, with locos attached, for SYs 0387 and 1091. A further loco, presumably JF 886, was in a separate shed. JS tender 6241 was here, but not the loco.

15.        FUXIN      23 April 2010.

a. Accommodation. In 2009 the Guo Tai hotel was closed. Now it seems that the Hai Zhou, once recommended by Rob Dickinson, has also closed as several taxi drivers did not recognise the name. So to the fine but slightly remote Zhing Lin International (258 yn reduced to 218, incl breakfast). On the evening of 23 April I made the mistake of eating here. Perhaps no-one ever does, as it took some 40 minutes for the kitchen to produce the food, which I consumed in solitude.
b. Passenger trains. Surprised to see SY 1195 in charge. Plans for the day were altered to ride on trains 114, 117 and 102. The on-train ticket collector asked for 10 yn, then 5 and settled for 2.
c. Diesels in use. 0066, 0067, 0068. Between them, these turned up a bit too often, especially as one was not on the passenger train.
d. Locos in steam. 0770, 0941, 0988, 1195, 1210, 1319, 1359 (which simply remained all day at the service point near Taiping station, as in 2009), 1397, 1460, 1818. Total 10.
e. Locos in dump at carriage sidings. JF 508, SYs 0036, 0076 (tender from 1818, but that loco was working), 0127, 0391, 0576, 0770 and (probably) 0540. So, as in 2009, two locos numbered 0770, one dumped, one in steam. Has anyone else come across this anomaly?
f. Dumped at service point near Taiping station. SY 0541, YJ 403.
g. Outside museum (closed). Plinthed SY 1395, paint now beginning to weather.
h. Stored in Per-way yard. On same side of line as museum, but a bit further north. SYs 0849, 0911 and 0989.
i. Dump in separate compound east of the Per-way yard. In 2009 I assumed that this and the next location were cleared when the museum was built. Both remain, with very overgrown rail access from the north. To get to it, walk north alongside the Per-way yard and at the end take a footpath between two walls. At the end of this path you can see the top of a loco beyond the wall. The rail access gate shows SY tender number 0112 (presumably the loco attached is 0112). Following the wall round along a minor road, there is a manned gate and at least 2 other locos visible. BUT the gate-keeper demanded money for access. I refused, and that was that! From some nearby steps, the tender of the nearest loco is JF 2345. (In 2004 JF 2345 was here, with SYs 939 and 0912 and JF 624; SY 0112 has been added later).
j. Second dump to the east of the above. Rail access gates to the north show part-dismantled SY 0002, a JF (presumably JF 2195) and at least one SY, but there was no entry past a locked gate opposite the one to item 'i'. (In 2004 locos here were SYs 0002, 0035, 0205 and 1089 and JF 2195).
k. Locos summary. s = in steam, d = dumped, t = stored, ? = probable number, p = plinthed at museum.
SYs: 0002d, 0036d, 0076d, ?0112d, 0127d, 0391d, ?0540d, 0541d, 0576d, 0770s or d!, 0849t, 0911t, 0941s, 0988s, 0989t, 1195s, 1210s, 1319s, 1359s, 1395p, 1397s, 1460s, 1818s. (Plus a number for one 0770).
JFs: 508d, ?2195d, 2345d.       YJ: 403d.       Plus at least 2 more dumped locos, not identified.

16.        HULUDAO      24 April 2010.

a. Getting there. Train 4256 Fuxin to Jinzhou, arrive 10.00. Leaving the station, the main bus station is diagonally to the left. Frequent buses to Huludao (and some other nearby towns) leave from an annexe a bit further on, in the next street on the right. At the bus terminus outside Huludao station at 11.40, left my bag and walked across town to the level crossing close to the Limestone railway loco shed.
b. Limestone railway. Knowing from other reports that staff at the level crossing near the shed are vigilant, walked past very quickly and was more or less out of earshot by the time they had spotted me. The shed was locked, but there was new coal alongside. I did not think it wise to be seen to poke around, so continued to the next road level crossing. At which point the gates came down and SY 1415 whistled past with half a dozen wagons. Hailed a 3-wheeler taxi 'follow that SY!' Off we chugged. The train had run to the CNR interchange sidings and before long SY 1415 returned light engine to sit outside the shed. Added here, for completeness, is what I did 4 hours later. Maps of Huludao show a second connection between the limestone railway and the CNR, northwest of the town. In fact it is completely disused. Followed it from the CNR and eventually arrived back at the loco shed at 17.15. Still just SY 1415. There was the horn of a diesel coming from the northwest, so I waited for it to pass – and noticed steam! It was a CNR diesel, which ran straight through to the CNR interchange, followed by JS 6243 light engine, which then reversed and went on shed. All sidings near the loco depot are disused, including the turning triangle.
c. Lines to the west of town. Having read reports of steam being heard here, went to investigate. Using the street map on SY-Country, got a taxi across town to a level crossing on the a line from the CNR to the industrial area. Walked north and soon came to a spur with a loco shed containing 4 diesels. No sign of steam usage. However, a chap here indicated that there was steam at the far end of the industrial area, so off I went, now within the security gates of a very large chemicals complex. Two lines soon went off to the left/west, but one of the diesels went and shunted those. Continued for several kilometres to the far end of the furthest siding and there was clearly no steam anywhere here and no disused stabling point/water column. The 4 diesels seen earlier must shunt the whole complex. So is there in fact a steam loco, possibly disused, on one of the two sidings I had ignored?
d. Line that crosses the river to north west of Huludao. Leaving the complex via an un-staffed foot-only exit, walked around to the north to a line shown as reaching the same area via a river bridge and starting from the same CNR interchange sidings as the disused link to the limestone railway. This is a completely separate factory with just few sidings and had its own diesel loco in residence. Definitely no steam here.

17.        QINHUANGDAO      6 April 2010.

Although I knew that the part of the local railway running through the city is diesel, wanted to check out the line running into the hills, just in case. The town map shows bus 16 terminating north of town, next to the railway. The driver insisted passengers alighted at the last stop before he ran forward to park and return to town. A few metres after the stop a side road led to a gate giving access to railway sidings with, at the end, a substantial new loco and wagon works. Alongside, there were several SYs and two diesels. The gate security men were friendly and made phone calls. An official came and in turn took me to his office where we communicated using a translation package on his desk PC. This started with him asking me to return the following day (Monday) so he could ask a director if I could see the locos and ended with his agreeing that we could walk to them and back in only 5 minutes. Locos, intact but clearly out of use for at least 6 months: SYs 0284, 1585, 1290, 1291, all facing south and 2022, facing north.

David Thomas

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