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I made a day trip to Zoucheng on 4 September, travelling overnight from Beijing to Yanzhou on train no K51. Every other passenger in the carriage alighted at Taishan, the stop before Yanzhou. As I had limited time, I had pre-arranged a driver to meet me and take me round - Mr Zhun Peng, who is well known to Mike Ma, or Chinese speakers can contact him direct on his mobile phone - +86 1356 2725 699. He is well worth using as not only does he know the best locations for photography but also the loco crews, especially the one rostered to QJ 7189, with whom he was in regular phone contact to get updates on movements.
I had asked to visit Yanzhou Coke Works, however Mr Zhun insisted that steam was no longer active there. He did say though that 3 QJs were in use at Zoucheng, one of them transferred from the coke works. On arrival at Dadongzhang at around 0800, this proved not to be the case, however, QJ 7191, previously recorded at the Coke Works in March, was one of the locos in steam, along with 7189, seen on duty on a previous visit in May. The day's activity followed the pattern recorded by previous visitors, with the locos being serviced until approximately 1000, when they moved off the service lines into the yard. But compared to May, traffic generally seemed very much quieter. After some shunting of Dadongzhang yard, at around 1100 7191 moved off with a train of empties which had just been brought in from the Nantun direction by a DF4DD, to Xinglongzhou. 7189 left light engine about the same time, to Beijian, from where it returned, again light engine, around noon having presumably shunted the CNR exchange sidings. From a phone call to the driver, it appeared that it was going to spend the rest of the day idle in Dadongzhang yard. He also said that 7191 was not expected to leave Xinglongzhou until around 1700, so I first visited the depot, where 3461 was stored in a locked shed and 6811 was stored (or dumped) outside. There appeared to be no change in the other locos dumped there (though I admit I did not take a full record).
On arrival at Xinglongzhou, the security guards proved to be very friendly and not only did not object to my presence, but explained the operations and anticipated movements to help position myself for photos. 7191 had brought in a train of 40 empty hoppers. These were then split into 2 rakes of 20, to be worked by winch through the loading hopper. The first rake was loaded by about 1330, then once the winch was cleared, 7191 shunted the second empty rake onto the loading siding, then worked to the other end of the yard to remove the now loaded rake, then set it back onto another siding. Departure of the fully loaded train would have offered some good shots, especially from the level crossing to the south of the yard, but I had to leave to return to Beijing by high speed train D32 at 1630.
Although I did not visit the coke works, I pressed Mr Zhun on the presence of steam there but he was insistent that it had finished 'one or two months ago'. The presence of 7191, previously at the coke works, appears to support this. While Zoucheng may lack the activity of some other Chinese sites, its proximity to both Beijing and Shanghai makes it an attractive destination for those with only a limited amount of time to spend. The expansion of the high speed rail network will make it easier still to reach - although whether steam operations will continue long enough for this is another matter.
QJ 7189 leading 7191 off the service area.
QJ 7191 at Xinglongzhou.
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© 2010 Michael Reilly