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Steam in China, January 2011

by Chris Yapp

Beipiao, Fuxin, Tiefa, Pingzhuang, Yuanbaoshan

Thursday 6th January

My starting point was Bangkok where I had spent Christmas and the New Year. In the evening I flew with Air China arriving in Beijing at 00:55 on the 7th.

Friday 7th January

After the late arrival I had a leisurely morning leaving the hotel at 11:00 by car for the transfer to Beijing South Station for Train D9 departing Beijing 13:12 and arriving at Jinzhou Nan at 16:03 where I met local guide Mr Gu for the drive to Beipiao, finally arriving at the hotel at about 18:30. The train journey was my first experience of high speed rail in China – two eight car sets coupled together and very comfortable with a really smooth ride. The speed was quite low for some way from Beijing and, for much of the distance, speed was around 160-170 km/hr – it was much faster further east at around 220-230 km/hr and touching 245 km/hr twice.

Saturday 8th January – Beipiao, Fuxin

The day at Beipiao started with a visit to the lineside between Yijing and Guanshan where we just missed a light engine heading towards Guanshan. We followed to Guanshan where we found SY1004 and SY1471 shunting at the western end of the washery. SY1471 quickly disappeared light engine towards Yijing where we found it standing by a level crossing. A little later DF5 1113 appeared on loaded wagons from Taiji – SY1471 was attached to the rear to bank the train to Guanshan.

Saturday proved to be the wrong day to try to visit the works as all of the gates were locked and we could find no way in – and there were plenty of dogs roaming the yard. We moved back to Guanshan at mid-day where we found SY1471 shunting and the DF5 doing nothing. Enquiries indicated that there would be no trains to or from Sanbao in the afternoon, so we made the decision to move on to Fuxin at 13:00.

The Beipiao visit was somewhat disappointing but, from reports by other visitors, there is a little more activity on weekdays.

We reached Fuxin in a little over an hour and paused at the level crossing at Wulong Mine where SY1378 was shunting and SY1397 set off propelling a train to the spoil tip. We followed SY1397 (in a car on the rough tracks!) intercepting it once on the climb and again as it reached the summit of the tip.

We moved on to the servicing point at Wulong where SY1195 and SY0988 were in steam – SY0988 was being used to provide access for repairs to the overhead gantry at the servicing point whilst SY1195 looked to be relatively recently ex-works. SY1378 appeared light engine from the east at about 15:45 to take water and quickly returned from whence it came. SY0941 was dead in the small shed at the servicing point.

We were able to access the compound near the servicing point where a number of locomotives are dumped out of use – JF508, SY0036, SY0076, SY0127, SY0391, SY0576, SY0770 and another unidentifiable SY presumed to be 0540.

SY1397 2-8-2 setting off on empties from the spoil tip above Wulong Mine, Fuxin (08/01/2011)

Sunday 9th January - Fuxin

The day started with a visit to the morning line up at the western end of Wulong Yard where six SY (941, 0988, 1210, 1319, 1378, 1460) and three DF5D were present. All of the engines had dispersed by about 09:15, two of the diesels being the last to leave. In the next 30 minutes there were three westbound SY departures (1378, 941, 1210) from Wulong Yard.

Once all of the steam had left Wulong Yard we headed for Wulong Mine where SY1397 was preparing for departure on a spoil train and SY941 was shunting. The staff at the level crossing do not welcome photographers. We headed for the tip again, this time in a four wheel drive – much more appropriate given the rough nature of the tracks. Then a close-run thing as we shot across a level crossing only yards from the front wagon of the train being propelled to the tip. We caught SY1397 again after it paused at the passing loop halfway up the climb to the tip. SY1210 followed very quickly propelling another spoil train, so that there were two trains at the summit of the tip.

Our next stop was at the level crossing next to the new Mining Museum. After a brief interlude photographing SY1395 (almost certainly not really SY1395 as there is an active SY with that number) and the electric loco in front of the museum, a long wait for activity preceded a short burst of action – SY1460 tender-first on a long eastbound coal train and SY1320 firstly westbound and then eastbound propelling short trains.

We moved to Taiping where SY1359 was sitting on a short siding to the east of the station. There was no activity during the lunchtime period – next pair of trains came close together around 14:00. The first was SY1320 (again) heading for Wulong on a short train. It was followed by SY1319 on a westbound passenger train formed of six carriages with a DF5D at the rear – the SY was working hard and the diesel was idling. We waited for another hour, but the only action was to the west where one SY was in steam at the Taiping servicing point and another appeared from the west to take water before returning whence it came.

We decided to pay a second visit to the shed at Wulong after learning from the Taiping crossing keeper that he was not expecting any more activity in daylight – it was a Sunday. We found five SY (988, 1195, 1319, 1378, 1396) in steam at the servicing point plus a single DF5D. The shed was now occupied by dead SY0770 – not the same engine as the one bearing the same number that was seen in the dump on Saturday afternoon.

SY1319 2-8-2 leaving Taiping Station on a westbound passenger service with a DF5D at the rear, Fuxin (09/01/2011)

SY1378 2-8-2, SY988 2-8-2 and SY1319 2-8-2 at the stabling point at Wulong, Fuxin (09/01/2011)

Monday 10th January - Fuxin

Another day at Fuxin starting with the morning line-up at the south west end of Wulong Yard – the last of the diesels left shortly after I arrived. There were seven SY present (941, 988, 1210, 1319, 1320, 1378, 1396). There were four westbound boiler-first departures from Wulong Yard before 10:00 with two propelling back up the line to Wulong Mine – the first remains unidentified as I was preoccupied with a camcorder that thought it was too cold to work; we then had almost simultaneous departures by SY1396 and SY1210 followed by another with SY1320.

Twin departures - SY1396 2-8-2 (left) and SY1210 2-8-2 leaving Wulong Yard, Fuxin (10/01/2011)

I then moved to Taiping where SY1359 was in the siding east of Taiping Station and SY1395 was at Taiping stabling point where it remained all day. SY1359 did disappear towards Wulong for about an hour and then returned to Taiping.

I spent the rest of the morning and the early part of the afternoon at the lineside near Taiping stabling point where I saw five steam movements - SY1210 propelling loaded wagons eastbound; SY1378 propelling empties westbound; SY0941 tender-first on a long eastbound train; SY1210 crawled by on westbound empties; and, finally SY0941 passed on westbound empties. Unfortunately, the afternoon passenger service was worked by a DF5D.

The Fuxin system is not the most photogenic of places – plenty of poles, masts, pylons and bland housing and industrial buildings. We left Fuxin mid-afternoon for the drive to Diaobingshan (Tiefa).

Tuesday 11th January – Diaobingshan (Tiefa)

The local guide (Mr Ding) provided information on the trains that are normally steam worked and was able to keep in contact with control to keep track of changes during the day:

        Train 211: 05:32 Diaobingshan to Wangqian
        Train 202 06:16 Wangqian to Diaobingshan
        Train 101: 06:40 Diaobingshan to Daming
        Train 301: 07:16 Diaobingshan to Daqing
        Train 104: 07:50 Daming to Diaobingshan
        Train 308: 08:35 Daqing to Diaobingshan
        Train 203: 09:40 Diaobingshan to Wangqian
        Train 206: 12:54 Wangqian to Diaobingshan
        Train 105: 14:39 Diaobingshan to Daming
        Train 108: 17:00 Daming to Diaobingshan

In practice, there is considerable deviation from this arrangement when diesel traction is available. It seems that Train 309 – 14:26 Diaobingshan to Daqing and the return working, Train 304 leaving Daqing at 16:53 are often steam-worked if Trains 105 and 106 are diesel operated.

I was not particularly lucky as a film company had hired SY1771 and a train for the day so there was less action to see. We started at Sanjiazi with the aim of seeing Train 308 (08:35 Daqing to Diaobingshan). Minutes after we arrived SY1771 passed through non-stop heading for Daqing with empty stock for the filming – I just managed to snatch a shot as it passed through. I then had enough time to get into a sensible position for Train 308 leaving the station behind SY1770.

We moved back to Diaobingshan to see SY1770 take water at the servicing point at the station and leave tender-first on Train 203 to Wangqian. A relatively leisurely drive followed to intercept SY1770 again at Qiaonan on the Wangqian branch. After that there was a long gap in activity enabling a visit to be made to the diesel workshop and the Steam Locomotive Exhibition Hall where a number of SY were displayed on two tracks in a long shed together with KD487 2-8-0, YJ269 2-6-2 and JS5029 2-8-2. We then returned to the hotel for a while before heading out for the afternoon trains.

The first shot was of SY1770 near a level crossing west of Sanjiazi on Train 206 (12:54 Wangqian to Diaobingshan). We then waited for SY1770 tender-first on Train 309 (14:26 Diaobingshan to Daqing) at Yuejingou Crossing. As the next working by SY1770 was not until after sunset, we headed for the footbridge at Daqing Station to see if there was any opportunity of a photograph of SY1771 during filming. We were lucky – an arrival sequence was filmed just after we arrived and it was possible to take some telephoto shots. Then it was back to the hotel for the evening.

SY1770 2-8-2 leaving Sanjiazi Station on Train 308 08:35 Daqing to Diaobingshan, Tiefa (11/01/2011)

Wednesday 12th January – Diaobingshan (Tiefa)

A much less windy morning with both SY available to work the passenger service. I went back to the level crossing between Sanjiazi and Shifengdi for the three SY-worked passenger trains between 08:00 and 10:00. I walked towards Sanjiazi for SY1770 on Train 104 07:50 Daming to Diaobingshan and SY1771 on Train 308 08:35 Daqing to Diaobingshan. I then headed in the opposite direction towards Shifengdi for SY1771 on Train 203 09:40 Diaobingshan to Wangqian. Fortunately, only one of the trains was tender-first.

SY1771 2-8-2 near Shifangdi on Train 203 09:40 Diaobingshan to Wangqian, Tiefa (12/01/2011)

We left Diaobingshan at 11:00 for the drive to Shenyang Airport for the Tianjin Airlines flight to Chifeng where arrival was due at 4:30pm. This was followed by a drive of more than an hour to the hotel in Pingzhuang – my driver was Mr Liu who I remembered as the coach driver on my first trip to the Jitong Line with TEFS in 2000.

Thursday 13th January - Pingzhuang

The day started with a visit to the stabling point at Zhuangmei Washery on the ‘deep mines’ line of the Pingzhuang Mining Railway where SY1079 and SY1441 were being prepared for their day’s work. Shortly after we arrived SY1017 departed on loads for the exchange sidings at Pingzhuang Nan. It was followed southwards a few minutes later by SY1764 on a spoil train heading into the opencast area – I didn’t see that engine again during the day. At about 09:45 SY1017 passed the Washery heading north on loads and was followed about ten minutes later by SY1425 propelling two wagons destined for the stabling point.

We made our way around to the level crossing near to the repair shops on the ‘opencast mine side of the operation’ where activity was at a low level with the electric trains running down into the pit every 40-45 minutes. After a while SY1025 emerged from some activity to the north of the site and proceeded to shunt some wagons at the repair shops before the crew disappeared for lunch. JS1001 was derelict in the compound by the level crossing.

I decided to spend the afternoon around three of the mines on the north eastern part of the ‘deep mines’ line where I found more activity than I expected:

We reached the third mine (Gushan Sanjing) just as SY1017 set off with loads – fortunately, we just managed to get back to the second mine (Gushan Yijing) just in time for a photo. We moved to the first mine (Gushan Erjing) where we found SY1425 shunting – unloading coal from tipper wagons. Once that operation was complete it headed up the line dropping half the wagons at the second mine and taking the remainder to the third mine where it waited until loading was complete.

SY1017 2-8-2 passing Gushan Yijing Mine on loads, Pingzhuang Mining Railway (13/01/2011)

Meanwhile SY1017 appeared at the third mine with a short train of empties from the washery – I later found that it had dropped off quite a lot of wagons at the second mine. I followed SY1425 back to the second mine for a departure shot after it had picked up the wagons it had dropped off earlier. I then headed back to a footbridge between the second and third mines where I saw SY1425 on empties and SY1017 on loads – SY1017 picked up more loaded wagons from the second mine at about 16:30 by which time the light was fading.

Friday 14th January – Pingzhuang, Yuanbaoshan

I started the day with another visit to the stabling point and washery on the deep mines line at Pingzhuang where SY1079, SY1425 and SY1441 were in steam. SY1425 did some shunting and then returned to the stabling point. SY1017 took the morning loads from the washery towards Pingzhuang Nan at about 10:00. SY1764 arrived light engine from the opencast lines, did some shunting and disappeared about 45 minutes later with a spoil train. SY1052 arrived light engine from the Pingzhuang Nan direction followed by SY1025 on empties – SY1025 did some shunting at the northern end of the washery.

I went around to the opencast side to see if anything was happening and found SY1764 shunting at the wagon repair shops. It assembled a complete spoil train and disappeared southwards – presumably to hand its train over to one of the electric locos. I went back to the washery in time to see SY1079 disappearing light engine towards the deep mines.

SY1017 2-8-2 leaving Zhuangmei Washery with loads for Pingzhuang Nan, Pingzhuang Mining Railway (14/01/2011)

Train crew told us that there were four SY working on the deep mines line (SY1017, SY1079, SY1425, SY1441) with one in the workshop and another in store. The preference for locos on the deep mines line is to face downhill towards Pingzhuang Nan. SY1025 and SY1764 clearly work on the open cast side of the operation with occasional forays to the washery on the deep mines line to collect spoil. SY 1052 was only seen at the washery servicing point on the second day so it is not possible to be conclusive about its duties. Locos on the opencast lines can face in either direction. JS1001 was seen in its usual place, dumped in a locked compound.

At mid-day, in the absence of any more activity on both the deep mines and opencast lines, I decided to head for Yuanbaoshan where I found JS6245 and JS8250 in steam in different parts of the depot area at Xizhan. JS8250 did some shunting in the yard for about 30 minutes before returning to the depot. JS6245 assembled its mixed train and set off a little after 14:00 passing a diesel on loads at Gongyi. I photographed it leaving Xizhan, crossing the bridge at Gongyi and close to Fengshuigou. The bridge at Gongyi is not easy – trees have grown since my last visit and there is a badly placed overhead cable.

I travelled back to Beijing on Train 2650 leaving Chifeng at 21:07 and arriving at Beijing North at 05:56 the next morning.

Saturday 15th January

A transfer by car to a hotel near the airport for a shower and breakfast was followed by flights to Amsterdam and Leeds Bradford with China Southern and KLM respectively, giving an arrival home at about 22:30.

Summary of active steam locos:

Beipiao: SY1004, SY1471.

Fuxin: SY0941, SY0988, SY1195, SY1210, SY1319, SY1320, SY1359, SY1378, SY1395, SY1396, SY1397, SY1460 - looking at other people’s observations, there are at least two other active SY.

Diaobingshan (Tiefa): SY1770, SY1771.

Pingzhuang deep mines line: SY1017, SY1079, SY1425, SY1441.

Pingzhuang opencast mine lines: SY1025, SY1052, SY1764.

Yuanbaoshan: JS6245, JS8250.

Chris Yapp

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© 2011 Chris Yapp