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Steam in China, September 2011

by Michael Reilly


I visited Baiyin from 15-18 September as part of a group of ten, organised by John Raby with the help of Mike Ma. We travelled to Lanzhou by train Z55 from Beijing on 14 September and our first sight of steam was an unidentified QJ in the China Rail yard to the north of the line on leaving Shijiazhuang.

Over the 3 days at Baiyin we saw 4 SYs in steam: nos 1047, 1470, 1583 and 2008. However, no more than 3 were in use on any one day - on 15th it was 1470, 1583 and 2008. On 16th 1047 was steamed and took over from 1470 the following day. On 18th (a Sunday) only two locos were in steam. 3 diesels were definitely in use, including one doing yard work in place of an SY on the Sunday, there may have been a fourth but there was an unresolved debate within the group about whether this was actually a new Baiyin diesel or a visiting one from China Rail.

All the daylight passenger services to Shenbutong remained steam hauled, in the hands of 2008 throughout our visit. The M-FO short passenger workings to/from Sanyelian were also steam hauled, as were at least two freight workings to/from Sanyelian. Sunday apart, all yard working remained in the hands of SYs and as well as the workings to/from Sanyelian, this included several extended runs into the works complexes to the east of the depot. These often extended to several wagons and the stiff climb into the yard from the east with a loaded train provided considerable photo opportunities. Apart from a quiet spell around lunchtime, yard activity was considerable, especially in the mornings. So Baiyin remains well worth visiting, especially as long as the regular passenger services to Shenbutong remain steam hauled. But when reading previous reports the decline in activity seems relentless - from six SYs in regular use in January, there are now only three, maybe even only two, so it may not last much longer. We made a number of 'excursions' to look for the slag tip working but saw no evidence of it, nor any signs that there might be a loco elsewhere dedicated to the operation. A number of slag gondolas were stationed in one of the tracks in the marshalling yard, that was all we could see. It would appear there was no smelting or refining being done during the visit.




Michael Reilly

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