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Steam in China - 27th February to 15th March 2011

by Roger Croston

Baiyin, Sandaoling, Yamansu, Shibanxi, Fuxin

"The show ain't over until the Fat Lady sings".

Fortunately for steam lovers, there are very few fat ladies in the whole of China and so it seems probable that standard gauge Chinese steam is set to continue in Baiyin, Sandaoling and Fuxin for at least three years, according to local managements.

Comments in addition to reports by others for 2011.

BAIYIN February 27th to March 2nd.
Passenger trains still steam hauled, probably due to the fact that the carriages are steam heated and unsuited to diesel operation. Three diesels seen on the system. Molten slag trains are also all still steam hauled. Some freight seen steam hauled on the mountain line towards Sanyelian and Shenbutong.

SY 1583 catches the morning sun on the passenger to Shenbutong

Baiyin icicles

SANDAOLING March 3rd to March 6th.
As in earlier reports, due to a British photographer reportedly standing in the tracks in January 2011 causing a driver to make an emergency stop, a full mine management meeting was convened and restrictions have been introduced as to where and what steam tourists might do.
Fortunately steam tourists have not been banned outright (it had been discussed). The open pit was all steam operated as was traffic from the deep mine of Beiquan Erjing.

JS 8173 climbs out of the opencast mine with load of coal...

... having unloaded, JS 8173 propels its train back into the mine, clearing the single track section enabling JS 8081 to restart its loaded train

Sunset on the western overburden tips

YAMANSU March 7th.
One return working was seen during the day which was lucky as nothing had reportedly run for 9 days due to track maintenance and most trains are reported to run at night. Informed that train crews will stop en-route more than once to allow photographers to catch up and take pictures in 2 or 3 locations - for a negotiated fee - as had been done for other visitors not so long ago. (On this occasion no request for such additional stops was made). Loco 8028 (built 1987) seen running; 8423 (built 1987) in shed and reported serviceable. Two other locos - including 6495 (built 1986) and 8152 not in running condition.
Reported that diesels will arrive in 2012 to replace steam. The railway signalman was most helpful.

JS 8020 with train makes its way across the desert

SHIBANXI narrow gauge March 9th to 11th.
Four locos in service. As reported, a new road is being built but it is doubtful if this will threaten the existence of the, as advertised, "World famous 'out-of-print' railway". (Correct translation is probably 'exceptional'). The new road, cut into the steep hillsides, seems suitable for only motorbikes, motor cars and light trucks. The railway is being very heavily promoted for domestic Chinese tourism and the future would seem secure.

Tunnel number 5 at Old Eagle Mouth between Mifengyan and Caiziba, 9/3/2011 (Photo: Peter Haynes)

An empty coal train near Mifengyan, 10/3/2011 (Photo: Peter Haynes)

The passenger climbs the valley near Mifengyan, 12/3/2011 (Photo: Peter Haynes)

FUXIN March 12th to March 15th.
Three diesels seen on the mining system. One of the three main workshop halls has been completely emptied and a new floor with new pits has just been completed. This hall will be used for diesel maintenance. Assured by management that steam will continue in Fuxin for 3 and maybe even 5 years. In addition to the earlier 2011 reports, 1396 and 1460 were seen in the workshops, with a very dead 1088 in the yard. Loco 1395 (number only to be seen on her tender), was sporting a large portrait of Chu De [Zhu Teh], Mao Tse Tung's military leader, on her smoke-box door, with golden Chinese characters adorning the cab sides and headboard which were presumably Chu De's name.

SY 1210 on the lower spoil tip

SY 1818 on the upper spoil tip

SY 1319 with a train of empties for one of the mines

SY 1320 climbs to Wangying mine with a train of empties
Trains to Wangying are diesel worked normally, but steam seen there each day

Roger Croston

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2011 Roger Croston