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Steam in China, November 2011

by Chris Yapp

Sandaoling, Beitai

This is a record of a trip to Sandaoling (5 days starting 18th November) and a one day visit to Beitai Steelworks (24th November). I met a small group (Barry Buckfield, Norman Spalding, Ian Thompson and Bram Stelling) with Mike Ma as guide at Sandaoling. They had just arrived from Shibanxi. After a day of travelling across China from west to east, we paid a visit to Beitai Steelworks when we were again rewarded with sunny weather. The group continued to visit Fuxin and Pingzhuang while I flew to Shanghai and on to Bangkok a full report of their trip should appear soon.


The mine railway network at Sandaoling is relatively complex and is centred on an opencast mine with a length of about 8-10 kilometres. Spoil is brought out of the mine at the west exit where lines from the pit come together at Xibolizhan before fanning out to a number of tips. Coal is brought out of the mine at the east exit and taken several kilometres to be unloaded at a crushing and grading plant. After processing, this coal is transferred to wagons at one end of the main yard at Nanzhan ready to be transferred to the China Rail network. At the opposite end of the yard at Nanzhan, there are two single tracks one providing the connection to the China Rail line to Hami some distance away and the other serving two deep mines.

A fleet of four DF8B diesels replaced steam on the line to China Rail some time ago. It appears that only one is in use at any one time with three standing idle in the yard at Nanzhan possibly as a result of rising diesel oil prices. We saw a total of 20 steam locos in action 19 JS 2-8-2 and a solitary SY 2-8-2. We also saw one JS dismantled receiving a heavy overhaul, one receiving an intermediate overhaul and one in the depot for washout that we did not see working on the mine railway network. It is possible that there could be a couple of other active JS 2-8-2 working on a second tip line that we did not visit. There are also a number of locomotives, mainly JS, in store at two locations on the network.

It seems that the usual operating pattern is for a diesel to arrive at Nanzhan yard on empties around 11:00-12:30. Some of the wagons are left in Nanzhan yard to be filled with coal from the opencast mine at the crushing/grading plant with the remainder being tripped to the two deep mines around 30-60 minutes after the arrival of the diesel.

The late morning trip to Mines 1 and 2 - JS8053 at the front and JS8314 banking.

We saw empties being worked up the grade to the two deep mines in three different ways in three days firstly, a single train worked 'top and tail' by two JS; secondly, as two trains one hauled tender first and one propelled; and, thirdly, as a single train hauled by a JS. The locomotive or locomotives return to Nanzhan with loads whenever loading and weighing is complete this could be any time in the afternoon.

During our visit the routine was to deploy six JS propelling spoil out of the opencast mine at the west exit to Xibolizhan and the tips beyond with another JS standing at Xibolizhan coupled to a special wagon used to clear any spoil that had fallen on the track at the tips. Around 08:30 a JS worked a 'passenger' train to carry staff from the main depot at Dongbolizhan to Xibolizhan and back before being redeployed to other duties; 'passenger' because the stock is a couple of box vans and a brake van. Around 08:30-09:00 all eight JS would be at Xibolizhan for the morning crew change. Throughout the day, spoil loads would be propelled out of the pit about every 20 minutes.

JS8368 propelling spoil to one of the tips at Xibolizhan.

JS8078 leaving the coal loading point.

At the opposite end of the opencast mine, four JS were employed to move coal loads and empties from a loading area in the pit up the grade to the east exit and on to the coal crushing/grading plant. Three of the JS were usually smokebox first uphill with the fourth being tender-first. During the afternoons when we were photographing on the climb to the east exit, there seemed to be a loaded coal train about every 30 minutes.

SY8173 at the east exit with coal loads.

A number of locos, including the solitary working SY, were used on tracklaying / crane trains in the opencast mine. The SY came out of the opencast mine at the east exit at the end of every afternoon to go to the depot at Dongbolizhan for water and coal. We saw two other JS bringing their tracklaying / crane trains out of the pit one at each exit.

SY1304 on the climb to the east exit.


We spent about four hours around the blast furnaces where we saw eight SY 2-8-2 shunting. During our stay of about four hours, we saw SY0448 and SY1075 moving ladles of molten slag from the four blast furnaces to the nearby tipping location described in Dave Fielding's recent report whilst SY1684 spent some time shunting wagons at the opposite end of the blast furnaces. SY0946, SY1560 and SY1561 were seen working ladles of molten iron from the furnaces to the production area of the works where some members of the group saw SY1077 and SY1567 working. SY1191 was receiving attention in the depot and SY0864, SY1054, SY1577 and SY2019 were out of use and probably awaiting scrapping in a siding near the depot. Sun only penetrates the heart of the furnace area for a short time each day and a high hill next to the steelworks casts a shadow over much of the area where the steam works from mid-afternoon.

SY0448 molten slag being tipped at the disposal area by the furnaces.

Loco numbers

Sandaoling: Seen working JS6224, JS6261, JS8027, JS8040, JS8053, JS8076, JS8077, JS8078, JS8080, JS8081, JS8089, JS8173, JS8188, JS8194, JS8195, JS8225, JS8314, JS8368 plus SY1304. Receiving intermediate overhaul: JS8190. JS8358 in works receiving washout but not seen working. Receiving heavy overhaul: JS8167. Locomotives in the main compound were not recorded but JS6204 and SY1729 were in a compound near the level crossing on the line to the deep mines.

Beitai: Working: SY0448, SY0946, SY1075, SY1077, SY1560, SY1561, SY1567 and SY1684. SY1191 was receiving attention in the depot. SY0864, SY1054, SY1577 and SY2019 were stored in a siding near the depot.

Chris Yapp

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2011 Chris Yapp