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Steam in China, May 2011

by Trevor Maxted

Shibanxi, Baiyin

Just back from another China trip, 01-14/05.
The original intention of the trip was Huanan only with perhaps an odd run down to Jixi but this was scuppered by events at Huanan. As flights were already paid for an alternative needed to be found so it was decided to go to Shibanxi and Baiyin. BA fights to/from Beijing, Air China Beijing-Chengdu & Lanzhou-Beijing with Sichuan Airlines Chengdu-Lanzhou.

Shibanxi 03/05-10/05. Very busy with four return coal trains running most days (see Bernd's report). A problem at the mine reduced operations to just two afternoon coal runs on 09/05 but all was back to the four train running the following day. Locos in use were mainly no.9 (passenger) & no.10 (freight), running with each others tenders, plus the odd appearance of no.14 for any loco problems.

C2 no.10 with an empty coal train from Shixi to Huangcunjin mine seen just before the Caiziba horseshoe curve (04/05/2011)

C2 no.10 sweeps round the curve near Jiaoba with Huancunjin mine bound coal empties plus a couple of wagons of bricks (05/05/2011)

C2 no.10 approaching its Huangcunjin destination with coal empties (05/05/2011)

C2 no.09 at Jiaoba with the 14:00 Shixi to Huangcunjin passenger train (05/05/2011)

C2 no.10 approaching the tunnel on the climb above Mifeng with coal empties from Shixi to Huangcunjin mine (03/05/2011)

A bit of glamour at Yuejin as C2 no.14 waits for the road down to Shixi with loaded coal from Huangcunjin (10/05/2011)

Baiyin 11-14/05. Seemed quiet at times with less shunting/tripping than previously though there were always 'lull' periods during my two other visits. The Sanyelian 'short' passenger trains were blue diesel GKD1A 0206 on the three days they ran (perhaps available due to less traffic?), the Shenbutong passenger turns were newly overhauled SY 1470 on all four days. Another unwelcome happening was diesel DF7G 5183 doing a couple of trip workings/shunts as well as the Shenbutong freights. Baiyin SYs: 0612 very dumped, 0819 in for overhaul, 0965 light repairs, 1013 in use mainly on slag trips, 1047 yard pilot, 1470 passenger loco and some shunts, 1581 out of use/dumped behind depot, 1583 boiler washout/repair, 2008 trip/shunt loco. No talk of any more diesels as yet and with 0819 being overhauled we may have a couple more years of steam at Baiyin, who knows! The company 'flying wheel' type logo was painted out, or had not been re-applied, to SYs 1470 & 2008.

SY 1470 in the gorge above Sanyelian with the 07:50 Baiyin Shi to Shenbutong, train 357 (12/05/2011)

SY 1470 rounds the curve to Dongchanggou station with train 359, 15:15 Baiyin Shi to Shenbutong (12/05/2011)

SY 1470 seen nearing the road crossing south of Liugongli with the evening 18:15 Baiyin Shi to Shenbutong, train 351 (12/05/2011)

SY 1470 rounding a nice curve in the gorge section above Sanyelian with the 15:15 Baiyin Shi to Shenbutong (14/05/2011)

SY 1013 on the slag tip duty at Baiyin which runs at roughly 90-120 minute intervals (14/05/2011)

I doubted I'd ever return to Shibanxi after my previous visit but events at Huanan meant a change of mind. I always thought that May/June would give a better chance of some sunshine/brightness in Sichuan province and it proved to be the case with two-three reasonably sunny days though with temperatures at times approaching a very uncomfortable and humid 35c. The road between Qianwei/Shixi/Yuejin is as good as closed for repairs until at least September so the easiest way to reach the railway is via the ferry at Shixi and then train. There is an electric hauled evening shuttle train between Shixi and Yuejin to help with this, often the trains were heaving with humanity! This road work meant tourists were less easily able to reach Shixi and no 'all tourist' trains were seen. A shock to the system was arriving at Lanzhou in rain which later felt cold enough to snow! The following three days were pleasant at around 22c during the day though with some cloud and pollution. Of course, no winter type clag but I was quite happy with the pictures we achieved, a nice change from winter grey/brown.

Trevor Maxted

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2011 Trevor Maxted