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Spring China Trip - 27 March to 4 May 2011

by David Thomas

Yanzhou, Zoucheng, Sishui, Zhengzhou, Pingdingshan, Mianchi, Yima, Luoyang, Xi'an, Xingyang, Shijiazhuang, Jixi, Tiefa (Diaobingshan), Meihekou, Shenyang, Beitai, Yuanbaoshan, Pingzhuang, Fuxin, Bajiaotai, Nanpiao, Huludao

A 40 day trip combining sightseeing, hill walking, checking some 'has been' locations and a dose of live steam. To Beijing with Aeroflot, arriving 00.45 on 27 March. Taxi to the central Youth Hostel opposite Beijing station. Booked ticket for train D31, 11.05 from Beijing Nan to Yanzhou before setting the alarm clock and dropping into bed at 03.00. Awoke at 11.30, having overslept and missed the train. Unable to change the ticket for an afternoon train to Jining (with connection forward to Yanzhou), so ended up travelling a day later. Good start!

YANZHOU  28 March 2011.
a). Accommodation.
Arrived 15.20 and booked into the Jin Jiang hotel. Seemed fine. But not for sleep – a dog in nearby premises spent much of the night alternating between barking and howling. Next night in the quieter Tao Ran Ju hotel (298yn, reduced to 200) on the north side of the station square. Breakfast from 06.30.

b). Coke Works. After booking into the hotel, caught No. 6 bus to the Coke Works entrance and walked back parallel to the main line, passing under it to the wall alongside the Works' yard. Climbing a few spars of a small electricity pylon, saw a line of 4 disused QJs. A diesel stood outside the shed. Steam has definitely finished.

ZOUCHENG  29 March 2011.
Although reports said steam finished earlier in the month, went along just in case. The works running shed held recently used QJs 7189, 7190 and 7191. Sidings contained disused 3461, 3538 and 6811 with cabs sealed up with metal sheets, as if to ensure they could be reactivated. Plus long disused 3595, 6284, 6782, 6812, 6848, 6866, 6933 and 7123. Went on to the servicing area at Dadongzhuang yard to see an excavator clearing the pile of locomotive coal into lorries. So that’s it!

Train K51, 07.10 Yanzhou to Sishui to see the QJ. There is a cement works near the station, but it is not rail served. So set off east on foot as near to the CNR line as possible, eventually seeing the Daewoo sign after about 5 km. Walked along the concrete private road, past the main entrance gate, to the smaller rear one where I showed the security man a photo of QJ 7129 and he allowed me in. 7129 was in light steam, alongside the diesel. The driver invited me into the cab and wandered off. But after 10 minutes the main gate security man arrived and asked me to leave. As I did, a manager appeared from nearby offices and said it was OK for me to stay. The works' boiler room man, who spoke limited English, joined me. After an hour he said the QJ wasn't going to do anything, but the driver would shunt it if paid. No, thanks. Walked the 3km private concrete road to a normal road. On to sightsee in Qufu before returning to Yanzhou and then to Zhengzhou for the night.

ZHENGZHOU  31 March 2011.
Back in 2004 what was then QJ Country mentioned a collection of steam locos destined for Century (not Central) Park. Out there by bus 59. Paid pensioner half rate 60yn admission at the ticket office in a converted coach. Nearby was paint-peeling JS 8091. But apart from a C2 with 2 rusty coaches doing an hourly circuit propelled by a diesel motor in the tender, and a second inactive C2, there were no more locos, only some coaches. What happened to the RM, QJ, JF and SY that were to go here?

PINGDINGSHAN  1 April 2011.
Arrived at the rail gate to the shed as diesels were moving off at 08.30. In the yard was rusting JS 8030, clearly long disused. No evidence of recent steam use. Through windows of a locked newish shed near the rail gate could see, in good external condition, SY 1687, JS 5644, 8031 and QJ 6690. Why? One of the access tracks has been removed and the other is rusty, so none have moved for months.
By No. 2 bus to Mine No. 8, where there were two diesels. The siding where locos (including QJs from Yanzhou) cleaned fires no longer had a pile of ash alongside it. So it seems steam really has finished.

MIANCHI AND YIMA  2 April 2011.
a). Mianchi.
On the off-chance that there might be stored steam, walked the line running south then west from Mianchi yard to Gengchun Mine and then the line to Yangchun Mine. Definitely no stored steam. Diesel DF10D 0048 was on a coal train. (I’d seen next-numbered diesel, 0049, on the line to mines north of Mianchi in 2008).
b). Yima. Bus from outside Yangchun Mine to Yima town and taxi to the disused depot and sidings for the one-time open coal pit. SY 1419 and JS 8276, recently painted, are displayed under a canopy to the north of the CNR line, east of Yima station and visible from passing trains. No time to explore fully, but a squint through the door of a locked shed showed tenders of JS 8092 and 8275. Presumably their locos and some or all of the 5 others once used here are inside. A new road cuts the line to the partly refilled pit. What happened to the once-mooted tourist line?

Local bus 55 from just west of Luoyang station for about 40 minutes to its terminus at Guanlin temple. Onward in a 3 wheeler motorbike cab - north to the end of the temple grounds, then east, to a level crossing. Here, well outside the steel works, SY 2014 shunted a few wagons for 20 minutes. 0866 and 1316 were in steam nearby. Surprising (or sad) how much camera time you can give to a rusty SY shuffling around in nondescript surrounds after not seeing one in action for 10 months!

Recent photos by Pocahontas show three SYs in the area, but I didn’t have any luck in finding any active.

a). Xi'an West. A line runs from the north east end of the CNR yard to serve some 8 private sidings. The only loco I saw was a diesel with a train to the CNR. Walked the line, checking out most of the sidings. No sign of steam, which must have ceased at least a year ago.

b). Sanmincun. (4km west of Xi'an West.) The CNR line to Yuxia runs from the south west of the CNR yard, and a separate line off this serves several private sidings. What might have once been a coke works is now a new industrial plant with its own small red and white diesel. Going through an adjacent gateway where the gate is temporarily being repaired, I came across SY 1072 dumped in a siding. Xi'an west power station, site of one of Pocahontas' SY photographs, is currently disused and railway sidings cleared. Other sidings are in use and again there were some piles of ash, but not recent. DF7 0252 worked some sidings. I did not see any loco servicing point, so it might be at Sanmincun yard itself or behind the gates at location (c), below.

c). Sanmincun. A line from the south east of the CNR yard serves several private sidings. Ones to the east are protected by metal gates, preventing exploration. DF7 0252 shunted here also. Sidings to the west had some old piles of ash, showing locos had stood near points to these sidings, but nothing recent.

d). Xi'an North station. Here by taxi for a fast train to Zhengzhou. Pocahontas shows SY 1141 (previously recorded at Yuxia) in steam in a siding alongside a pile of coal close to the CNR high speed line, presumably to the west of the station, but I did not see it.

The line was working. I arrived just as the loco headed off to the servicing point. Followed it, camera at the ready. I looked in disbelief as a group of 15 cyclists appeared, jumped off their bikes and started clambering over (and even under) the loco, photographing each other until it moved off. Bang went my photos. Walked the line to the loading point. A vehicle track leads up behind the brick buildings to a minor road with occasional buses. Got one at 17.20 to Xingyang bus station, then crossed the road for a bus on to Zhengzhou. Decided to return the next day (Monday), to find the loco dead on shed and nothing happening.

SHIJIAZHUANG  11 April 2011.
Colin Martindale confirmed in March 2010 that dumped QJs 6391 and 6887 were at Daguocun shed with industrial diesel 001 between them. Caught bus 76 from outside Shijiahuang station to where it crosses the local railway west of Daguocun yard. Walked back about 2 km, to the security gate to the shed (number 112 on gatepost) and got permission to photograph the QJs. They clearly have not moved for a long time. The shed contained 3 diesels. Afterwards, a long rail trek to Jixi.

JIXI  14 to 18 April 2011.
a). Hengshan. Arrived at 08.45 on 15 April as 3 diesels were moving off from the yard; another remained at the diesel servicing area. The nearby steam servicing inspection pit was being filled in with ash, implying that it is no longer needed. So has steam here definitely finished, or is a loco still used, out-stationed elsewhere?

b). Didao. Compared to seeing 4 steam locos busy in 2010, on 15 April the place was very quiet. SY 1446 in steam but not doing anything and two diesels. BUT a gang of fitters was all over 0950 on the loco servicing siding, clearly making it ready for use. One set of coupling rods was off, piston valves out on the other side, someone was hammering away in the cab and two more were re-fitting the dome. Of the other locos, 1205 was stored in the per-way yard, leaving 0407 and 1213 stored in the wire cage.

c). Chengzihe, etc. SYs active included 0951, 1058, 1340, 1369, 1437, 1545. On 18 April the two daylight trains of empties to Xinghua were diesel.

TIEFA (DIAOBINGSHAN)  20 & 21 April 2011.
On 20 April walked from Shenyang North station around the south of the local bus station, crossed the road via the underpass, crossed a main road at the next junction (a roundabout) and turned left (north). After about 200 metres, a small kiosk has signs in Chinese for Diaobingshan propped against it and a chain-smoking chap sitting in a chair. I'd arrived at the bus stop and after 15 minutes one turned up. A pink minibus from outside Diaobingshan long distance bus station terminated just short of the station, with the Baoping hotel close by on the right. A notice taped to the reception counter showed the room rate as 128 yn.
To the station where SY 1770 was standing next to the in-steam crane and worked train 309, 14.20 to Daqing. The return train, 304, had 1771, which continued with trains 303 and 306.

On 21 April train 308, arrival 09.04, had 1771, which went to shunt the power station. The other morning arriving trains were diesel, including the low-profile red and white GCY-450. Well, I’d seen enough not to want to stay, so caught a local No. 2 bus to the long distance bus station. But buses to Tieling do NOT start here. I was led to one of the pink minibuses to go back to town. Dropped off opposite a bus with a paper sticker advertising it was going to Tieling at 12.10, though actual departure was 12.30. By train via Siping to Meihekou.

MEIHEKOU  22 April 2011.
Stayed in the Zhanqian Binguan on the west corner of the station square, 100yn, and not fussed about seeing a passport. I'd copied out Chinese characters for Hong Mei Zhen (=Yijing) and went there by minibus. Raining. Sploshed my way to the shed. Disused SY 1564 was outside, with part of the motion dismantled and tied up, ready for a journey. Perhaps its last ever? The shed had 2 diesels and I was told there was no other steam. Did a round trip on the diesel hauled passenger then back to Meihekou and on to Shenyang.

SHENYANG  23 April 2011.
In 2010 SY 1232 was in steam at the power station. Now there’s a red and white diesel shunter. No SY in the shed. Another location gone..
In 2010 the light had been poor when I’d photographed QJ 1316 outside the nearby Cast Museum in 2010, so went there to try again. The museum was closed. I could see the QJ but not get near it.
Also in 2010 I’d been told that there might be a SY at the gas works at the end of a line from the east end of Da Cheng yard. Went there, to find the whole site cleared and new housing being built.

BEITAI  24 April 2011.
Stayed at the Benxi Ming Zhu hotel and after a quick breakfast caught the 07.29 train to Beitai. From the station crossed the road bridge and then turned right down the loco shed access road. SYs 0946 and 1191 were in steam and 1567 dead inside. No stored locos. Told no photographs as soon as I took my camera out.
As in 2009, went back across the road bridge then west through a police post and kept walking on the road that serves parts of the steelworks. Gates to the quenching area were closed, so continued to the road bridge between parts of the works that crosses the internal railway and went up steps to it. After about 20 minutes I'd seen SYs 1561, 1560 and 2019 and taken my first photo.

Then approached by a tall well-built man who indicated no photographs. I put my camera away. Too late. Two carloads of security men arrived and took me to their base, near Beitai station. A manager came out and indicated he wanted to see my photographs. I 'explained' I had film, not digital, and after a while he gave up. I was taken to the bus terminal and after handshakes all round got on a Benxi bus. A few minutes later the security men returned and took me back to their base. Waited while a (civilian) policeman drove over from Benxi. Questioned for over an hour, using a computer translation package. This started with a demand for me to hand over all film I had taken in China and was distinctly heavy going. Eventually I pointed out that I was a tourist and did not expect this sort of treatment. This seemed to work. My passport was copied and I was told to go. Other recent reports also mention being 'picked up' by security guards. It is clear that anyone seen taking photographs without permission can expect an unpleasant time and be required to delete images or could have film confiscated.

YUANBAOSHAN  25 April 2011.
Train K7351/4/5 22.42 Shenyang – 08.08 Pingzhuang on 25 April, then to nearby Pingzhuang Hotel before setting off by bus for the one hour journey to Yuanbaoshan. The shed doors were open. JS 8418 was outside in steam, having arrived on the passenger and 6245 arrived with an engineer’s crane that it pushed into the shed. 8250 was dead, but recently used. 8249 was under repair. 8242 has not been used for some months.
Walked out to the bridge and found a good spot for broadside photographs, albeit with the sun in the wrong place. About 250m to the south east some pipes run across the river with a concrete path between them accessible only from the east bank. At 13.30 one of the JS came along with 30 empties. The second JS had just the passenger coaches, so drifted by with little exhaust. 30 minutes later a diesel passed with loaded internal wagons for the power station. After 2 hours gave up waiting for a JS on return freight. Local bus (infrequent) back to Yuanbaoshan and on to Pingzhuang.

PINGZHUANG  26 to 28 April 2011.
On three mornings to the washery at 08.00 and then round the back to the open pit loco servicing area. Each day the deep mines locos were SYs 0400, 1052 and 1084, and the pit locos 1487 and 1764. Could just see a white painted front hand rail on a SY in the locked compound behind dumped JS 1001. Climbing steps on a nearby building confirmed it is a loco and tender, facing south.

In sidings alongside the open pit loco siding were two very derelict coaches, D502, 503, presumably from the one time open pit train. I'd searched everywhere for these in 2010 so was surprised to see them.

One of the pit locos spent a lot of time at the north end of the washery attached to flat wagons. Once loaded, it pulled them some 250m to unload and have the contents scooped up by dumper trucks. Much dust!. The second made occasional trips with spoil flats to the tip. As already reported, the long line out to the tipping area has been de-electrified.

On 26 April walked the branch to Wujia. Light rail wear indicated infrequent short trains. The line runs alongside a road below the spoil tips until 1 km or so before the terminus. This had just three tracks alongside the one-time passenger station. One track below a loading hopper, a run round loop and a disused siding. No wagons present. Bus 5 from Pingzhuang, about every 10 minutes, terminates in the main street some 5 minutes walk from the mine.

Checked electric locos at work and in the depot, noting 7324, 7326, 7328, 7330, 7342, 7344, 7349(?, reported to be at Jixi, D.F.), 7359, 7362, 7364, 7366 and 6789. There might have been one more not recorded. Still far more than needed.

On 27 April concentrated on the deep mines. It was one of the system's quiet days. At 08.30 SY 0400 took 7 empties from the washery to Erjing mine for loading. They were picked up by 1084 at 13.55. Meanwhile, 0400 had picked up 15 empty flats and taken them onward to Sanjing mine where loading took some 2 hours. It returned to Erjing, split the train and they were offloaded to below-rail screens. The train was reformed and went back for a second load, departing again as darkness fell. Beats me why coal was taken from one mine to another. Nothing ran during the day to the furthest mine, Lijing.

FUXIN  28 to 30 April 2011.
After a final visit to Pingzhuang washery, train 4210/07 to Fuxin, arriving 16.14, so 90 minutes for photography before sunset. Ate before heading to the Zhonglin International Hotel. It was almost fully occupied for a meeting the next day, except for a suite at 580yn. Staff kindly phoned other hotels but could not find cheaper rooms, so offered the suite for 350yn and a move to a 218yn room the following night. Done!

On all three days diesel 0066 was on passenger trains, 0068 on other trains and 0067 under repair at the works. Locos seen working were SYs 0988, 1210, 1319, 1320, 1378, 1395, 1397, 1818. Outside the works was 1396, dead. At the loco shed 0770 was dead with wheels scotched, not used for at least a week.

On 29 April rail doors to the works were open, so I looked in. Dismantled SYs 0941 and 1460 were being overhauled. 1195 was in steam in a separate 3 road shed round the back. A further SY was stored among other vehicles in a siding. The road entrance gate's security staff asked me to leave before being able to check it out.

At 09.00 on 30 April 1359 was in steam at Taiping servicing point (along with the 2 dumped locos). A second loco then arrived, so coaling still takes place here. This loco had a portrait on the smokebox door and raised brass lettering on a plate where the side number should be, so was identified only by the tender number, 1395. I had not seen it the previous day. 1395 is also the number of the loco plinthed outside the museum – is it a locally ‘lucky’ number? No change to the 8 locos dumped in the carriage sidings and, as in 2010, the per way yard held stored SYs 0849, 0911 and 0989.

On 30 April got train 111 to Xinqui, following SY 0988 on a train of 20 empties. 0988 had left the wagons on two sidings alongside the passenger station and returned light engine. They were being loaded with black stones, not coal, possibly recycled for construction work and later collected by diesel 0066. The CNR connection was disused. The siding from Xibu to a loading point on the rim of the former open pit was partly dismantled. Walked back along the line towards Wulong.

Just before Changnan station a line goes off to the south east, soon splitting into two separate branches, one straight ahead, one curving right to go south. The one straight ahead runs for about 3 km past two unloading points for the black stones, to terminate past an open gate at a third among some mostly derelict buildings. Immediately after the buffers is a narrow gauge siding, lightly used, probably 60 cm. It goes to other buildings and sidings, all without any wagons, behind an electric fence. Presumably worked by a small battery or diesel loco – no sign of horse or human footprints.

The line curving to the right runs for about 1 km to what I initially thought was a power station. It goes below a hopper where 5 flat wagons were being loaded with a warm dark brown/black earthy substance with the oily texture of used moulding sand. And then heavy rain began to fall from the dark, brown coloured, sky. Bus 4 along the main road near Changnan to the roundabout with the Mao statue in the town centre.

07.57 train from Fuxin to Jinzhou and booked into the Jonzhongzi Mansion Hotel, diagonally to the right on leaving the station. Then bus 202 for the 45 minute journey to Bajiaotai. The power station is east of the road and the CNR connection runs from an unloading siding to the north. Got off at the level crossing, next to the shed. 6211 and 6244 in steam with 8116 dead inside. After 2 hours of nothing happening I gave up and returned to Jinzhou to catch the 15.09 train to ..
Absolutely dead with the shed locked up and three battered old diesels, 3132, 3248, 3290, stabled at Xiamiaozi station.

HULUDAO  2 May 2011.
A quick visit. Taxi to the road crossing near the loco shed, but unable to get closer to the locked buildings. A blue and white diesel stood outside. Continued to the next road crossing towards the limestone quarry, to find housing being built over the railway formation. If the quarry is still open, traffic must transfer to the CNR somewhere else. Locos will need to travel over CNR metals to get from the shed to the rest of the line. This tends to confirm reports that steam is no longer used.

Trolleybuses continue in use in Beijing and Luoyang. Systems have closed in Xi'an, Harbin and Zhengzhou.
Station rebuilds.
Shenyang. Until escalators are installed access to trains involves going down and up 45 stairs, then down and up another 72 – with the same in reverse to exit. Shenyang Bei is also being rebuilt, but the station hotel remains in use. Take a room on the station side and be woken by pile-driving!
Changchung, Jinzhou and Benxi stations have ad-hoc entrances and exits.
Qinhuangdao station has been demolished and trains do not stop.
Shenyang lines 1 and 2 are open. Bei station will be served by a future line.
Beijing Xi metro station is not yet open, even though maps at the station itself show it at the end of Line 9.
Xi'an metro's first line is under construction with station entrances being finished off.

David Thomas

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