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Steam in China, June 2012

by Michael Reilly


Bajiaotai is 18 km north of Jinzhou, on both the Jinzhou-Fuxin railway line and the original main road between the two cities. The village is dominated by Jinzhou power station, which is served by its own short branch (in reality nothing more than an extended siding) which curves south-east away from exchange sidings at CNR Bajiaotai station for about 400 metres before crossing the main road on a level crossing and immediately entering the power station yard. This has seven principal sidings for coal trains plus ancillary sidings on the north and south sides. The two road loco shed and servicing bay is on the north side of the complex, just by the main road level crossing, from which there is direct access. It is home to 3 JS - numbers 6211, 6244, and 8116, all three of which have undergone major overhaul at Sujiatun in recent years: 6211 in February 2011, 6244 in September 2009 and 8116 in November 2011. Operations are simple: loaded coal trains are delivered into the exchange sidings by CNR locos, from where they are collected by one of the JS and hauled into the power station yard. The loaded rakes are split into two for unloading. Once empty, the operation is reversed. Although the yard sidings are more than long enough to hold a full length standard CNR rake of 40 gondolas, the location of the points at the throat of the yard means that splitting and joining the rakes requires shunting movements to occupy the level crossing. The number of daily deliveries, and therefore activity, varies according to activity but appears to involve at least one daily movement, sometimes as many as three. Bajiaotai CNR still has a limited number of passenger trains - according to the August 2012 timetable, only one train daily from Jinzhou to Bajiaotai but four in the other direction - but the no 202 bus provides a frequent, if slow, direct service from Jinzhou. Alternatively, a taxi from Jinzhou South station on the Beijing-Shenyang high speed line costs about RMB 75 one way (August 2012) and takes about one hour. The high speed service makes a day trip from Beijing perfectly feasible although the train timings are somewhat irregular, so on a day trip one has to trust to luck in respect of the likelihood of any activity. A visit can also easily be combined to other steam operations in the province, notably Fuxin.

A visit to Bajiaotai on 30 June found JS 6244 and 8116 in steam, with no. 6211 in the shed with its left hand motion partially dismantled; all appeared in good condition. All 3 locos currently face east, meaning loaded trains are chimney first into the yard, however loaded trains also enter on a falling gradient. Activity however was very light. The yard was empty apart from two half-rakes of gondolas under the unloading point at the east of the yard. I arrived during the lunchbreak. Once that was over, no. 8116 moved to marshal the two half-rakes into a single train which it then worked to the otherwise empty CNR exchange sidings, returning light engine. Its work for the shift, if not the day, over, it moved into the servicing area to join 6244. The day's work was over by 13.30, leaving me plenty of time to catch train K7384 back to Jinzhou at 14.30. It was 30 minutes late but I still had plenty of time to make my connection at Jinzhou South back to Beijing. By the time I got to Bajiaotai station, around 1415, however, the empty rake had already been removed from the exchange sidings which were once again empty. As they must have gone northwards, a reasonable assumption is that coal is delivered to the site from Fuxin. (Although otherwise empty, the exchange sidings are at least as extensive as those in the power station and boast some interesting pointwork, including two adjacent sets of double slips, immediately on leaving the power station siding). Although activity was limited, I was made welcome, being invited onto the footplate for the journey to the exchange sidings, and having the best spots for photos pointed out.
According to staff, activity is currently lower than normal (this is consistent with wider reports which show energy demand in China static or even falling and coal stockpiles at their highest level in nearly two years) but on busier days, three deliveries and empty returns are not unusual, which is probably why 2 JS are steamed.



Michael Reilly

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