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Steam in China, March 2012

by Michael Reilly


As foreshadowed by Andrew Benton (see News), electric working started on the Chengzihe system at Jixi on 25 February, so I visited on 10-11 March to see what this means in practical terms. The good news - steam lives on; the bad news - it's not likely to be around for much longer. I spent Saturday (10 March) at Chengzihe, where SYs 1369 and 1437 were working, primarily in the Nanchang-Beichang-Dongchang triangle. 2 electric locos - 6399 and 6400 - were also working and 1437 was alternating on Dongchang-Beichang shuttle workings with one of these, while also working the washery at Beichang. 1369 was on shunting turns around Nanchang in the morning and also did a trip working on spoil wagons to Gangzhu and back in the afternoon. One of the SY drivers said there were 4 SYs working - two at Xinghua in addition to the two at Chengzihe.

There was overnight snow which may have affected plans, or maybe because it was Sunday the roster was different but on 11th only one electric, 6400, was working, joined however by 2 DF4 diesels - nos 7119 and 7333. 6400 was working the Dongchang-Beichang shuttles unassisted, 7333 was handling trip working to/from the CR interchange and after taking a rake of empties to Xinghua around 0930, 7119 spent most of the day there waiting for a load to take back. SY 1340 was in action on Xinghua spoil tip trains and with 6400 was the most active loco all day, working a trip to the tip and back roughly every hour. Apart from 7119 awaiting its return load, there was no other activity at Xinghua and certainly no sign of a 4th SY. 1369 was on washery duty (only) and 1470 although in steam seemed to spend most of the day idle at Beichang. Although poles are up into Xinghua yard, the yard itself is not completed and one of the spoil sidings (in use on Sunday) has no poles. Wiring does not extend beyond the junction to Gangzhu. This suggests that the Xinghua spoil workings are likely to be the last surviving steam operation at Jixi.

While the current operations are clearly only a shadow of previous activity, the morning shift change at Dongchang is still impressive - on 11th March it boasted 3 types of motive power, all in action (electric, steam,diesel), surely unique and with steam outnumbering the other two types for good measure. And operations continue around the clock - I stayed in a hotel in Chengzihe close enough to hear the loco whistles during the night - if not unique, certainly very rare these days!

Locos seen:
SY 1340, 1369, 1437 (all working)
EL2 6399, 6400 (working), 7349 in store plus two more unidentified
Diesels DF4 7119, 7333 working, 7142 in store

SY 1369 on a return spoil trip working from Gangzhu near Dongchang colliery, 10 March 2012.

Morning shift change at Dongchang, 11 March 2012.

The eastern end of Xinghua yard was still pole-free, but even here, poles were steadily encroaching.
SY 1340 waits to propel a spoil train through the yard and to the tip, 11 March 2012.

Michael Reilly

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2012 Michael Reilly