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Steam in China, August, September 2011

by Dave Fielding

Part 1: Yuanbaoshan, Pingzhuang, Fuxin

The aim of this trip was to visit Beitai Steelworks. Michael Bleckmann of Tanago Tours had successfully organised an official visit in March 2011. I decided to book a place on his second visit which offered three days at the Steelworks. The prelude to the visit was five days to be spent at Yuanbaoshan, Pingzhuang and Fuxin. I felt that the long flight to China justified more than eight days of "action" so contacted Mike Ma to check his availability prior to guiding John Raby and his group on their tour commencing mid September. My plan was to remain in the North East, visiting Sujiatun for the Overhaul Workshop and Museum, checking out the current situation at Jixi and Diaobingshan (Tiefa) and "exploring" the "newly discovered" locations at Fulaerji, as well as visiting Jilin and Da'an Bei.

When I discovered that Stephen Wolstenholme, who had been seeking advice on the Steam_in_China Group about a first time visit to China, had also booked on the Tanago Tour, I contacted him and asked if he would be interested in joining myself and Mike for my planned extension, although I stressed the amount of steam action he would see would be nowhere near as intensive as on the Tanago Tour. However he replied in the positive. I adapted an Information for First Time Visitors (thanks Roger, you know who you are) from Jing Peng in winter to a Mike Ma guided trip in autumn and e-mailed a copy to Stephen. I also prepared an intended itinerary of the extension (which subsequently required a major change to the order of places visited) and a guide to Diaobingshan (Tiefa), to sort out for myself what was the latest news from there, timetables, maps and likely steam operated trains. Copies of these were passed on to Stephen during the extension.

I prefer to fly from Birmingham and to enable me to join the Tanago group at Shenyang, the best offer was with China Southern via Amsterdam and Guangzhou (!). However, by the time of booking, the more convenient flights were no longer available and the only flight from Birmingham departed at 6:00 am. I live close to the airport, but rather than travelling there at an early hour, I decided on a 29 room at the Ibis Airport Hotel. Stephen also decided to use this flight offer, also with a night at the Ibis which was where we met.

As it happened, Michael Bleckmann and the German participants on the tour were using the same flights from Amsterdam. Somehow Stephen identified Michael during the flight to Guangzhou and made himself known. I was also then able to introduce myself.

This was the first time I had entered China other than at Beijing. All the immigration and passport stamping was done at Guangzhou. Baggage had to be collected as although we had boarding cards for our Shenyang flight, the baggage wasn't booked through. There was opportunity to purchase Chinese currency with the usual problem of how much (or how little) to buy. After our third security check of the trip it was a relief to be on the final leg to the start of the tour proper.

After arrival at Shenyang, we had time for a meal including an excellent dish of sweet and sour pork with large chunks of pineapple. Then followed a brief walk around the busy area outside the unmodernised Shenyang (formerly Shenyang Nan) station. We had soft sleepers on the overnight train to Chifeng, K7362, departing 19:05 from this station.

Yuanbaoshan, August 26 - 28

August 26
At 6:05 we alighted from train K7362 at Yuanbaoshan to be met by "Ricky", our jovial Chinese guide from Jilin, and two chauffeur driven cars. We immediately headed to Xizhan where JS 8418 headed 6 orange and white carriages waiting for its 7:00 departure. Coal company diesel DF12 0106 was in the yard.

We followed JS 8418 on its journey to the mine at Fengshuigou, capturing pictures of its departure, crossing the river bridge beyond Gongye and its arrival at Fengshuigou. At the mine there was a string of wagons, the loading of which was almost complete, and on the adjacent loop a string of empty wagons. JS 8418 coupled onto the empty wagons, headed down the yard and reversed onto the loop that ran under the loading hopper. The loco then ran to the other end of the loop and drew out the train of now loaded wagons. It finally pushed the loaded wagons onto the adjacent loop earlier occupied by the empty wagons. The movement of wagons under the loading hopper is controlled by cable. After all that work it was time for JS 8418 to take a rest.

We returned to our cars and crossed the nearby China Railway line which is straddled by the mine to seek out the electric overhead wire narrow gauge system which operates there. Several locomotives were seen including numbers 1, 4 and 5. It was said there were two more underground and two others not in use.

As it would be some time before JS 8418 departed with its train, we left for Pingzhuang. On the way we passed DF12 0106 passing Gongye with more empty wagons for the mine. At the level crossing at Yuanbaoshan CR we were held up by DF12 0107 shunting the coal company sidings there and DF4 2271 on a passenger train to Chifeng.

Duncan Cotterill has previously mentioned developments between Majiawan and Yuanbaoshan CR. The power station or factory and and its rail connection appeared complete but not yet operating. A string of hopper wagons were present and there was a small shed with tracks leading in that may be for an industrial locomotive. There was also a new China Railway line under construction on a typical concrete viaduct. Two days later we noted a construction site for the line to the north of Yuanbaoshan CR with a green DF4 present.

The pattern of starting our day at Yuanbaoshan and then moving on to Pingzhuang was followed on the next two days.

August 27
We left the hotel in Pingzhuang at 6:00. We found it was again JS 8418 on the 7:00 train but on this day running as a mixed with 15 wagons behind the loco followed by the 6 carriages. I varied my pictures on this day by taking the departure from Xizhan from ground level rather than from the road overbridge. At the river bridge I took pictures head on coming off the bridge, rather than side on. The addition of wagons to its load found the loco having to work harder.

We waited at Fengshuigou for the return train, which consisted of just the 6 carriages. Back at Xizhan there was chance to picture JS 8418 being coaled and watered at the depot, but a day that had started with sun and blue sky had now clouded over. It would have been nice to have checked the other locos at the depot but both sheds were locked and being a Saturday nobody could be found with the keys. We were just able to glimpse the smokebox of JS 6245 behind the door of the right hand shed. After a noodle lunch in the town, on the way to Pingzhuang we noted DF12 0105 at the junction at Majiawan. So I had noted all three original diesels, but nothing new. My understanding was one new diesel had arrived and was probably locked in the depot. Since then, Joeri Vanvaerenbergh has noted DF12 0202 at Xizhan which, as it carries the name of China State Power, probably belongs to the adjacent power station.

August 28
It was JS 8418 again today and as on our first visit just hauling 6 carriages. As the train departed Xizhan I was able to get an autumn sunflower shot and at the river bridge was just in time to be in position for a side on shot. However I was less successful at the level crossing and halt before Fengshuigou.

We set off to Pingzhuang, and on our way made the brief detour to Hongmiao mine. Here SY 1418 was in light steam at the servicing point and we were told by staff the loco in the shed was SY 1565, so no changes here.

Sunflowers and steam, 7:00 am departure from Xizhan to Fengshuigou (28/08/2011).

Drifting across the river bridge between Gongye and Fengshuigou (28/08/2011).

At Xizhan after returning from Fengshuigou, JS 8418 is serviced from rather meagre looking coal stocks (27/08/2011).

Departure from Xizhan at 7:00 am, on this day running as a mixed, the coaches can just be seen behind the lighting pylon (27/8/2011).

Crossing the river bridge, harder work for JS 8418 with 15 wagons in tow as well as 6 carriages (27/8/2011).

On arrival at Fengshuigou, workers descend from the carriages onto the tracks well before the train has come to a halt (27/8/2011).

Time for oiling at Fengshuigou (27/8/2011).

Pingzhuang, August 26 - 28

August 26
We arrived around 11:00 and the cars were parked near the brewery level crossing. Walking towards the nearby washery, the first loco we found was SY 1441 on a long train of loaded CR wagons. It looked very smart and appeared to be ready to depart anytime. I was pleased to see this locomotive in action as on my last visit, in May 2009, I had seen it at the back of the running shed covered in dust, giving me the impression it was withdrawn from service. Nearer the washery, SY 0400 was shunting wagons and SY 1052 was at the servicing point. We had a look at the opencast mine. All working on the far side of the mine had been abandoned and landslips had destroyed sections of the terracing. But plenty of coal was being brought out with EL2 electrics heading trains of 9 side tipping wagons with a control wagon at the rear. At the unloading point for the washery, whilst a train was being unloaded on the track next to the washery, the two adjacent loops were both occupied by trains waiting for unloading. SY 1025, north facing, was in the yard below the track used by emptied departing opencast coal trains. It left with a train of overhauled side tipper wagons, which were bound for the deep mines side where it was later seen light engine reversing at the brewery level crossing before heading north.

In the meantime, I had checked what I could see through the cracks in the door of the long shed next to the permanent way depot. There was nothing immediately behind the door, but further down the shed was smoke deflector fitted SY 1084. In the compound next to the electric depot, JS 1001 was still present with the tender of another JS (assumed 5758) visible behind it. I would like to know if there are still any SYs in this compound but the gate was locked, and it didn't seem possible to reach the rear gate to the compound as I think a new wall has been built since my last visit, in fact the track into the compound may now be isolated by the wall. Just after 13:00, SY 1079 arrived at the washery with a long train of empties from the CR exchange yard at Pingzhuang Nan. Hereabouts, I lost touch with the rest of the party who had set off to visit one of the deep mines. Around 15:30, there was finally movement from SY 1441 which backed its train a few wagon lengths towards the washery before finally departing just before 16:00 with 31 loaded wagons for Pingzhuang Nan. Some visitors report a lack of action at Pingzhuang, and the time SY 1441 just stood around supports this, but it did enable sun lit portraits of the loco from both sides!

Fortunately I hadn't been forgotten, and the group was reunited for the journey to our hotel for the next two nights which was not in Chifeng as in the itinerary but in Pingzhuang.

August 27
Arrival today was later around 14:00 and as at Yuanbaoshan the sky was overcast. At 14:50 SY 1441 arrived from the south with empty wagons from CR, after which SY 1052 set off light engine towards the south. SY 0400 and SY 1079 were at the servicing point but soon left, which was the start of 60 minutes of near continuous action. If you were taking video, it was challenging to anticipate what would be happening next. Firstly, SY 0400, light engine, departed northwards towards the deep mines and SY 1079 started shunting empty CR wagons at the north end of the washery, whilst north facing SY 1025 arrived from the north light engine. A second north facing loco, SY 1487, was shunting side tipper wagons to be loaded with washed coal. Despite the poor light, I wanted a picture of the loco because one of the crew had his bicycle perched above the front buffer beam. After much toing and froing, SY 1079 finally assembled a train of 11 empty CR wagons and positioned them for loading coal from the washery. During this time SY 1487's 8 tipper wagons were loaded, but only for a very short journey. They were hauled forward then reversed back, halting with a very nice slide for the video camera before moving forward again onto a dead end siding above a coal yard. Here most of the coal was unloaded for further transport by road. Whilst this was happening, SY 1052 returned from the south with a train of empty CR wagons. After leaving its siding, SY 1487 backed its tipper wagons towards the servicing point, probably to top up the coal supply there.

To end the day, we had another look at the opencast side and the electrics before returning to our hotel.

August 28
We arrived around 10:30. The sun had burnt off any morning mist and the sky was cloudless. SY 1052 and SY 0400 were at the Zhuangmei washery servicing point but everything was quiet so we went for another look at the opencast side of the washery. SY 1487 was shunting side tipping wagons of what I assumed was waste, as it disappeared towards the north, possibly to a tip. There were two EL2 hauled trains at the washery unloading point. We noted a single EL2 at the electric stabling point and a train climbing out of the opencast workings. We returned to the deep mine side but there was still no activity there.

It seemed a good time to check the deep mines and on this occasion I was with the rest of the group. The first mine we looked at was the one with the concrete panda after the level crossing on the approach to the mine, I believe this is called Gushan Yijing (or in English Gushan Mine 1, although it is the second mine you come to, confusing or what?). Almost as we arrived, SY 1441 was departing from the mine towards the washery with a train of loaded tipping wagons. After a "grab" shot, it was back in the cars and a hasty drive to the mine between us and the washery.

We were in time for the arrival of SY 1441 and train here at Erjing (Mine 2). Because there is a washery here, and I think Mine 1 and maybe Mine 3 do not have there own washeries, unwashed coal is brought here for washing and loading into CR wagons. So SY 1441 ran round its train, from which it split 7 wagons and shunted for unloading. On completion of the unloading, the 7 wagons were left in the "platform" loop. These wagons had contained quite fine coal, presumably collected from Erjing, but the remaining 8 contained quite good sized lumps. SY 1441 was shunting the unloading of these wagons, when SY 1079 passed through from a mine further up the branch with 8 CR wagons of coal. This ended an hour and a half of chances for an excellent sequence of shots.

It was now time to set off for Chifeng and catch an overnight train, K7356, to Dalian departing 18:16, but only as far as Fuxin where it was due to arrive at 02:02! With the Chinese system of exchanging soft sleeper tickets for tokens, there is no chance of sleeping through your stop as there is a knock on the compartment door before your arrival to retrieve the token and return your ticket. Mind you we had to sleep on empty stomachs as we hadn't had a meal before boarding the train, which just happened to be without the expected restaurant car.

Locos seen:-

JS 1001Dumped in compound near brewery level crossing
SY 0400Working (facing south, deep mines traffic)
SY 1025Working (facing north, opencast mine traffic but also noted working on deep mines track)
SY 1052Working (facing south, deep mines traffic)
SY 1079Working (facing south, deep mines traffic)
SY 1084Stored in long shed, permanent way yard near washery
SY 1441Working (facing south, deep mines traffic)
SY 1487Working (facing north, opencast mine traffic but also noted shunting north end of Zhuangmei washery)

Electric Locos (class EL2), all working
6707, 6787, 7324, 7326, 7328, 7330, 7362, 7370

SY 1441 waits to depart with loaded wagons for Pingzhuang Nan (26/08/2011).

At the servicing point at Zhuangmei washery, SY 1052 looks very smart ... (26/08/2011)

... in contrast SY 0400 looks rather tired (26/08/2011).

SY 1487 shunts loaded tipper wagons of washed coal at the northern end of the washery.
Note the bicycle on the loco's buffer beam. (27/08/2011).

SY 1441 arrives at Erjing (Mine 2) from further along the deep mine branch with fifteen side tipping wagons of coal for washing and grading (28/08/2011).

SY 1441 pushes eight of the wagons forward for unloading at Erjing ...

... the wagon next to SY 1441 being tipped (28/08/2011).

Whilst the unloading continued, SY 1079 heads past Erjing with a train load of coal in main line wagons.
On the left, main line wagons of washed coal and on the right, seven of the tipping wagons brought by SY 1441 already unloaded (28/08/2011).

Fuxin, August 29 - 30

August 29
Arrival at Fuxin was 2:15, but our "white van" size bus was waiting for us and we were soon in our hotel and between the sheets for the rest of the night.

We left the hotel at 6:20 for the level crossing near the power station. The weather was very gloomy. The first action was SY 1195 backing a train of coal towards the power plant. We were here to check the passenger train from Xinqiu due to arrive at Pingan at 7:04. It appeared at 7:00 with SY 0988 hauling 2 carriages. We then moved on to the level crossing near Pingan station to observe action during the morning shift change, unfortunately there was no sign of the light improving. SY 1396 was waiting on a track with side tipping wagons attached to a crew wagon. Having run round, SY 0988 backed over the crossing trailing its two carriages. SY 1460 arrived on the branch from the right hauling a train of loaded CR wagons, probably from Wulong Mine. At 7:35 it was followed from the same branch by SY 1397 light engine. The only diesel to appear for the shift change was DF5D 0067 from the south. SY 1396 departed light engine down the branch to Wulong Mine and, having left its wagons behind, SY 1460 returned light engine over the crossing. We wandered down the tracks to identify the other locos lined up for the shift change which were SY 1195 on the left hand track with SY 1378 and SY 1818 on the right hand track later joined by SY 0988 from the passenger train. When we first approached the lined up locos, we were made quite unwelcome by someone, who gave up when he felt outnumbered. This area used to be virtually a public right of way for locals, but since the construction of the underpass and with blocks of flats on both sides of the tracks, the area is now fenced off to keep the public away. However I could see a locomotive outside the workshops and carried on to identify it as SY 1319 (facing north). On the other track, inside the workshop, was a diesel I couldn't identify. Around 8:30 the remaining shift change locos began to disperse, with SY 1378 taking the track towards Wulong Mine and SY 1460 collecting the empty spoil train of side tipping wagons and crew wagon.

At 9:15 after a noodle snack, we saw SY 1397 arriving light engine from the south. We then boarded our bus which took us to Wulong Mine. Here Michael wanted to further explore the narrow gauge electric system which he had seen in March, but only from the "back door" of the mine. By now the light had much improved. We were escorted through the mine buildings to the site of the system. Here were electric locos of various types in various conditions. The tracks, which I estimated to be 762mm gauge, had overhead wires and there were several 4 wheel OHW locos but also 4 wheel battery electric locos to work underground. Two of the OHW locos (one of which was unnumbered) were of similar build to a battery electric but with a pantograph fitted on a tower where batteries would be. There were stacks of rack rail which I assume were for use underground, however a track left the mine and headed straight across the flat ground towards the nearby waste tip, and then climbed steeply up it, so also could have been rack fitted. At the top of the climb was more track with overhead wiring. We were able to ride up and down the yard in the cab of one of the overhead wire locos.

Although I have previously visited Fuxin on several occasions, I have never been to the waste tips before. Having recently seen pictures of trains on the tips, I was looking forward to visiting them for the first time. Our bus driver took his nearly new vehicle on the rough tracks to various points on the tip from where we made our way to two passing places on the line to the top of the tip. Both loops had pointsmen who used flags to control the passage of trains although we didn't see trains passing at either loop. I found taking decent pictures at either loop "challenging". About 11:00 SY 1396 backed 5 wagons of rock-like waste to the higher of the two tipping lines. Here, the tipping was spoilt photographically as it was onto level ground which required the intervention of a bright yellow front loader to clear the waste away from the train. Around 12:00, by which time the sun had appeared to remain with us until dusk, SY 1396 headed the emptied wagons down from the tip.

With no other trains appearing, we left the tip for the level crossing near the power station. First we saw SY 1397 with a train of CR wagons and loaded tipper wagons being propelled north, then light engine SY 1395, "Zhu De", from the north towards the depot. We then visited the depot and saw SY 0988, the passenger train loco and SY 1320 with a red star decorating the smokebox. Shortly after SY 1460 arrived, first taking water and then being coaled. Also present was SY 0770, out of use, but with some oil on the motion.

Moving on to Pingan level crossing, DF5D 0067 passed on loaded tipper wagons. Next SY 1396 propelled a train of CR wagons over the crossing, then stopped and set off down the branch to Wulong Mine. At the workshop, SY 1319 could be seen getting up steam. Finally SY 1818 appeared from the Wulong Mine branch with a train of tipping wagons and a crew wagon. We then set off for a meal and a full night's sleep (although next day we would be up in time for the early morning passenger again).

August 30
Again it was a very gloomy start to the day. We met the early morning passenger train at Taiping halt and as the day before it was SY 0988 with 2 carriages. We checked the stabling point at Taiping and found SY 1395, "Zhu De". I have no idea what it was used for and why a loco was kept there. We then moved to Pingan level crossing for breakfast and the shift change. I noted as well as SY 1309 outside the workshop there was a second SY standing outside. In order to identify it, I set off towards the workshop, walking through tall grass and not along the tracks to make my presence less obvious. However this failed and I was intercepted by two men who didn't want me there and escorted me back to the level crossing so the loco's identity remained unknown. The locos observed at shift change were SYs 1195, 1378, 1397, 1460, 1818 and DF5D 0067.

With the light much improved, we then set off to the tips above Wulong mine. At 10:40 at the higher of the two loops we had seen the previous day, SY 1396 propelled 5 tipper wagons of rocky waste to the upper tip, returning empty 30 minutes later. At 12:00, SY 1397 backed 5 wagons of much finer waste with a crew wagon onto the lower tip. We were able to be on hand to picture the tipping, which was very dramatic as the emptying of each wagon of fine waste created a huge cloud of dust to rise into the air. I have to admit those of the group brave enough to stand ahead of the train on the edge of the tip to capture the descending waste obtained the best pictures. After this spectacle, a suitable finale for our Fuxin visit, we were reminded of the long road journey in our bus to Beitai. We left the tips at 13:30 and arrived at our hotel in Beitai at 18:00.

Locos seen (in service unless noted, excluding dumped/derelicts) :-

SY  0770 (out of use at depot), 0988, 1195, 1319, 1320, 1378, 1395 ("Zhu De"), 1396, 1397, 1460, 1818 

Selection of narrow gauge electric locos seen at Wulong mine :-

OHWout of use
OHWlow cab, similar to BE
BEin shed, no batteries
BEwith batteries marked 5
BEvery rusty (yes, another 9)
10 BEno batteries
16 BEvery rusty
 OHWlow cab, similar to BE


On a very gloomy morning around 7:00 am, SY 0988 heads the early passenger train from Xinqiu to Pingan (29/08/2011).

On another gloomy morning, the shift change from Pingan level crossing (30/08/2011).

SY 1395, "Zhu De", runs light engine to the main depot, probably from Taiping stabling point (29/08/2011).

SY 1460 taking water at the main depot (29/08/2011).

SY 1396 on the upper tip above Wulong mine (29/08/2011).

SY 1397 backs onto the lower tip above Wulong mine ...

... slowly positions the wagons of fine waste ...

... which when tipped, create spectacular clouds of dust (30/08/2011).

(to be continued .)

Dave Fielding

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2011 Dave Fielding