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Steam in China, August, September 2011

by Dave Fielding

Part 2: Beitai

Beitai steelworks, August 31 - September 2

August 31
We had been joined the previous evening by Peter Semmelroch who had flown from Shanghai especially for a second visit to the steelworks. We left our hotel at 7:45 and headed for the bridge that spans China Railway and steelworks tracks. To the west was the single platform of the China Railway station and to the east was the steelworks locomotive depot. Our arrival was timed for a view of a packed CR train from the east of workers for the morning shift change hauled by an orange DF4. The train waited at the platform for workers finishing their shift before returning eastwards.

The steelworks offices are in the town. The name by the gate to the offices was Bei Ying Iron and Steel (Group) Co. Ltd. and according to the internet the company was merged with the Benxi steelworks in June 2010. Beitai Steel was quoted (by Interfax) as having an annual production capacity of 8 million tons of pig iron, 8.5 million tons of steel billet and 10 million tons of steel products. The company focuses mainly on steel wire, rod and coil production.

At the offices we collected a guide, then red hard hats were handed out to everyone. Returning to the overbridge, we crossed it, turned left and passed through a gate into the steelworks. After a short distance we turned right and left our bus. We then walked, following the tracks that served the south side of four blast furnaces that formed a line from east to west. The tracks directly serving the furnaces emerged at the west end and these tracks were exclusively served by steam locos. After studying the operation it was clear that molten iron was tapped on the north side of the furnaces and slag was tapped on the south side. The trains of molten iron varied in length from 2 to 6 ladle wagons whilst the slag trains invariably consisted of 8 wagons (2 wagons from each furnace?). All workings were chimney first from the furnaces and propelled on their return. The tracks from the furnaces merged into two, curving over a minor works level crossing with a third track to the south alongside. This track was used by diesel hauled trains bringing raw materials for the furnaces and branched from the centre track to the west of the crossing. The part of the steelworks for the subsequent processing of the molten iron into pig iron and steel products were some 2.5 to 3 km distant. By comparison, the slag trains worked about 1 km to the west and then reversed onto a "slag tipping" siding. The molten iron trains would always depart on the northern track. Sometimes their return would be on the same track but could also be on the centre track which was the out and return track used by the slag trains.

I never visited Xuanhua steelworks, but from a description I have read, the slag tipping at Beitai is handled in a similar fashion to Xuanhua. There are no slag tips as such but at the end of the "slag tipping" siding is a water filled pond at the right hand side of the track into which molten slag is tipped. Once the tipping starts, the scene is immediately hidden by a cloud of steam. However not all slag is emptied here as the train then moves forward along the siding, positions itself alongside a "dry pond" where the remaining slag is tipped. The slag when cooler is moved for crushing and storage in two large silos. It is taken away by road vehicles for use by the construction industry, for example when finely crushed it is used in the manufacture of certain types of cement.

We spent most of our time at these blast furnaces, but on our first day we also visited the part of the works where the molten iron was required. Here photography was more difficult. The ladle wagons had been hauled from the furnaces chimney first but here the locos were on the opposite end of their wagons and pushing them into production buildings before emerging light engine.

September 1
At the start of the day we visited the depot. We found Jinan built SY 2019 out of use in the yard, SY 1648 and 1560 in light steam on the coaling road and SY 0864 receiving attention inside the depot. There were also several diesels (GK1C and GKD1A) outside and inside the depot. The distance from the depot to the tracks serving the blast furnace group is about 2.25 km. Locomotives working the blast furnaces have coaling facilities on a siding from the southern track between the level crossing and the junction for slag tipping. A water crane was available from a short siding from the northern track just to the west of the furnaces. In the course of the day, both SY 1648 and later 1560 arrived light engine from the depot but continued on to the west to the production areas of the works.

September 2
We again visited the blast furnace group. But today there was a parting of the ways. After lunch, and before the Frankfurt section of the group departed for Shenyang Airport for a flight to Chengdu and a visit to Shibanxi, Stephen and I thanked Michael for his efforts in organising the trip in particular taking advantage of the possibility (at a price) of obtaining permission to visit the steelworks. The steelworks management deserves thanks for the lack of restrictions and freedom of access. Stephen, Peter and I returned to the works for the afternoon after which Stephen and I joined Peter in the transport he had arranged for the journey to Shenyang. Peter had decided to delay his return to Shanghai, as he wished to join Stephen and me with guide Mike Ma for an exploration of Sujiatun the following day.

To summarise the steam locomotives working, we saw 7 on day one and 8 on days three and four, in all 9 different locomotives. SY 1567 was in the best condition with an overhaul date of 2010 6, but the Chinese characters with the date differed from those used by Daqing (Diaobingshan/Tiefa). We did not see Beitai's SY 1114 here but did see it later on our tour, with an overhaul date of 2009 9, in the "Steam Locomotive Exhibition Hall" at Daqing. It would appear that Beitai are now having their steam locomotives overhauled elsewhere than Daqing, my guess would be at Sujiatun. But the questions remain, why didn't SY 1114 return to Beitai and why is it now in an "Exhibition Hall"?

Of course the steelworks uses many diesels and I noted 10 x GK1C, 3 x GKD1A and 3 x DF10D.

Steam locos seen (working unless noted):-

SY 04482007 
SY 0864 Depot, light repairs
SY 09462007 11 
SY 1077  
SY 11912008 3 
SY 15602010 4 
SY 1561  
SY 15672010 6 
SY 1648  
SY 1684  
SY 20192009 4Depot, out of use (?)

The molten iron (north) side of the furnaces

SY 1191 alongside molten iron tapping (2/9/2011).

SY 1561 alongside molten iron tapping (31/8/2011).

SY 1191 in a reflective mood (2/9/2011).

SY 1561 on the left with empty wagons waits for SY 0448 to move two loaded wagons...

... and then positions two of its wagons for the molten iron tapping to restart (2/9/2011).

The slag tapping (south) side of the furnaces

Slag being tapped at the westernmost furnace (2/9/2011).

Two furnaces being tapped in view (2/9/2011).

Glint of molten slag on SY 1191 (31/8/2011).

SY 0946 stabled by the westernmost furnace (2/9/2011).

SY 1560 positions train of empty slag ladle wagons to leave two wagons at westernmost furnace (2/9/2011).

Arrivals and departures at the furnaces

SY 1684 returns 6 empty molten iron ladle wagons to the north side of the furnaces.
On the right, a side tipping wagon is being loaded with some type of waste (31/8/2011).

SY 1567 departs with 4 ladle wagons of molten iron (1/9/2011).

SY 0448 returns on 5 empty ladles (31/8/2011).

On the right, SY 1567 has returned with empty ladles on the centre track, and pauses...

... as SY 1077 departs with 3 loaded ladle wagons (1/9/2011).

On the left SY 0448 has arrived on the centre track with empty ladle wagons, the track now being free for... (1/9/2011).

... SY 1191 to depart with the usual molten slag train of 8 wagons.
The water crane for locomotives working at the furnaces can be seen on the left. (1/9/2011).

A parallel departure, SY 1561 with 6 ladles of molten iron on the left leads SY 1191 on train of molten slag (31/8/2011).

SY 0448 with 4 ladles of molten iron on the way for processing (31/8/2011).

Passing the coaling siding, SY 1191 reverses back to the furnaces with its emptied slag train (31/8/2011).

Depot, light engines, coal and water

Jinan built SY 2019 out of use at the depot (1/9/2011).

SY 1560 in light steam at the depot coaling point (1/9/2011).

SY 1648 arrived from the depot and is about to have its firebox ashpan raked out.
The building in the background is for the storage of crushed slag (1/9/2011).

On the day after, SY 1684 probably arrived from the depot...

... and departs for the production section of the works.
Note the shunter with his yellow hard hat scrambling back on to the tender (2/9/2011).

In the production area, SY 1684 has just pushed wagons of molten iron into one of the buildings (31/8/2011).

SY 1077 at the coaling siding (2/9/2011).

SY 0946 taking water (31/8/2011).

Slag tipping line

SY 0946 and train pauses blocking the dirt track level crossing used by road vehicles taking away crushed slag (1/9/2011).

SY 1560 slowly reverses towards the tipping pond.
The line in the foreground connects to tracks to the depot and is also where firebox ashpans are raked out (2/9/2011).

SY 1560 continues reversing, passing the "dry pond" (2/9/2011).

After slag has been tipped in the water filled pond, there is plenty remaining to be tipped into the "dry pond" (2/9/2011).

Dave Fielding

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2011 Dave Fielding