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Steam in China - April, May 2014

by David Thomas

Beijing, Fuxin, Shenyang, Fushun, Tianjin, Lanzhou, Guangyuan (Rongshan), Mojiang/Caoba

This was a tourism trip with occasional railway interest. A copy of Duncan Peattie’s 2013 English Chinese timetable was useful for on the spot changes to plans, but the up to date web site "http:www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains", plus of course various SY Country trip reports, was used for advance planning.

Beijing. April 2014.
1. 798 Arts Centre. SY 0751 preserved with two coaches and a few waggons. Duncan Cotterill’s list says this might be re-numbered SY 0309.
2.In the western suburbs is the “No 2 Plant of the Beijing Shou Gang Co Ltd”, a steelworks, which is in use. Diesel locos GK1 0016 and GK0 1010 were stabled. To its north, connected by internal rail sidings, is a steelworks being demolished. Some rolling stock remains in the debris, but no locos. To its west, on Shijing Hill, a temple is being restored. At the foot of the hill, amid trees, is a plinthed NG 0-8-0, no flanges on middle two wheels, carrying over-large number 305. There was no sign of NG track in the works.

Beijing, 0-8-0 No.305 amid the trees below Shijing Hill. (24/05/2014).

Fuxin, 27-30 April, 2014.
Locos in use were SY 1195, 1210, 1320, 1359, 1397, 1460, 1818, plus diesels 0065, 0067 and 0080. Set aside in a siding next to the stabling point (SP) were SY 1395, 1396, both intact but not used for several weeks. Didn’t visit the works.

On 27 April 1460 was in steam spare at the SP with wheels scotched; diesel 0080 was also there. On 30th, diesels 0065 and 0080 were here and all SYs in use. 0065 was in the small shed building receiving attention. Initial gentle tapping by a hammer changed gradually into all-out walloping. By the way, access to the SP has changed. From Fuxin CNR station, turn R, cross the road that leads under the CNR line and take the far pedestrian/cycle section. When this regains level ground, turn back left onto a dirt track heading towards the CNR line. The SP coaling plant in the distance to the right where the former access was. This is now blocked by a high wire mesh gate. Continue towards the CNR. The track turns to run north, parallel to the CNR line. Pass a turning on the R which should lead to the SP, but is again blocked by a mesh gate. Having passed the coaling plant, there is a second turning on the R, also ending in a mesh gate. There is a gatekeepers building alongside. And a path skims around the back of it. On the two occasions I visited I was welcomed. This was unlike my experience at the level crossing at Lijing mine. Taking photos from the road (non railway) side of the sliding crossing gate, I was a bit fed up when the crossing staff kept getting into my photos. Then found out why – it would cost 100 yn for them to stand aside!

Fuxin Lijing mine. Pay 100 yn and this man will stop getting in photos! (29/04/2014).

The former carriage sidings compound contained dumped locos as previously reported, but the access door is now locked so it was not possible to check if any have been added or removed. No carriages here; at least some, if not all, are next to a building on the other (north) side of the line that gives access to the SP.

A search of places which had held dumped locos showed that the three SYs seen in the Per-way yard in 2012 have gone. SY ‘1395’ remains outside the mining museum. Two steam locos, probably SYs, together with at least two electrics, can just be glimpsed over the wall in a locked and very overgrown compound, now without access tracks, to the north east of the mine museum. The JFs have gone.

The line to Lijing mine and the spoil tip behind passes west of Pingan mine, a drift set-up with drams hauled by rope from the mine to an unloading gantry. This is being expanded. In 2012 new points and a signal had been installed on the remaining line into the former open cast mine. A siding, not yet in use, has now been laid from the points to the south east of Pingan mine, but stops just short of the mine area. At the end of this siding was electric loco 8424 plus a short bogie coach, as used for the electric railway’s passenger trains. On 30 April (but not on 28th) they had been joined by out of use SY 0988, its boiler stripped of external pipework. Meanwhile, electric loco 6599, also with a short passenger coach, was in a yard near Taiping, south east of the coal mining museum. In 2009 both electric locos were dumped at a reversing point on the former electric railway into the open cast mine.

Fuxin. SY 0988, short bogie coach and electric 8424. (29/04/2014).

On 29 April walked the main line. This ends at a shunt back to a coal unloading yard at, I think, Ajin station, after km post 10. Diesel 0080 brought some 18 loaded waggons here at about 14.00 and SY 1359 removed the empties at 16.30, propelling them to the next station to run round.

From the train to Shenyang, 30 April, noticed two SYs apparently dumped in coal yards to the west of the line, one at Dongfuxin and the other opposite the south-most end of the platforms at Ajin. Incidentally, although Xinqui is no longer served by the coal railway, two CNR diesels were in the sidings there.

Accommodation. Stayed in three different places over three nights at Fuxin – the formerly separate, now a ‘cheaper wing’ just beyond the Hua Mei (125 yn, no breakfast), the Hua Mei itself (188 yn with breakfast); for both turn right from station) and the Railway Hotel. Previously they’d only shown their more expensive rooms facing the station; this time I got one at the rear for 108yn, with breakfast. It was the quietest of the three.

Shenyang. Accommodation and trams
On 30 April 2014 followed the crowd to the new west exit and soon found the newish Royal Fortune hotel about 6 minutes’ walk away, where a rather luxurious room plus breakfast for 459 yn was rapidly reduced to 359. From the station exit, bear right and go right along the road, turn left at junction onto main road, cross the next road and turn left to reach the hotel.

Shenyang has three tram lines opened in 2013. They run from a turning loop a short distance east of Metro line 2 Aoti Zhongxin station. Initially they have no overhead, except for short bits at stops. Both three and five section trams seen.

Fushun Old Steel Works. 1 May 2014.
Two of the three trains that serve Piaoertun station are convenient for a day trip from Shenyang - out on train 4293 at 08.30 and arriving back on 4298 at Shenyang North at 16.46 (it was later in 2012) - in time to see the trams, mentioned above, as daylight faded. Michael Reilly visited Fushun two days after me and his Report 662 has already appeared. Just to add a bit about the loco depot. A previous report mentions an unfriendly reception. Having walked down the tracks to where there is a level crossing keeper, I indicated I was going to the depot via the office of the 'security policeman' (which is what I was told to do in 2012). It’s up outside stairs to the first floor of a small box-like building. He agreed to a visit and photos.

In the period 10.30 – 12.00, SYs 1050, 1634 and diesel GKD1A were shunting. After that 1634 and the diesel went on shed, joining 1050 and in steam 1632. 1630 was dead. The two locked shed buildings were not checked for further locos. After a lull from 12.00 to 13.30, the diesel and 1634 came off shed for more shunting. There was one train on the electric railway between 10.00 and 15.00, hauled by electric blue painted 619, passing loaded at 14.20, the loco returning light engine.

Fushun. SY 1634. (1/05/2014).

Tianjin Nancang Heavy Machinery. 3 May 2014.
The ‘high speed’ frequent service from Beijing South whisked me to Tianjin. Using John Athersuch's January 2014 map, a free map of Tianjin and the Metro map, getting there was relatively straightforward. Metro line 3 to Tiedong Lu, then taxi north and west, across the railway bridge to Nancang Road. As soon as this comes down to ground level, there is a service road along the north side. Taxi to here was 20yn. It is a short back-track to turn left into Chao Yang Road (no name sign) and along it to the level crossing and left along the line to a closed gate at the loco shed area. The gatekeeper waved me away – I initially thought this was ‘get lost’, but in fact he was saying that the working loco was out somewhere down the track. The length of the longest line is about 4 km.

At 11.30 found SY 1007 plus six C64 wagons in a siding, shown as disused on the map, off the longest (westmost) line. The crew were just going off for lunch and 10 minutes later a man locked the gate across the siding entrance, reluctantly unlocking it to allow my exit. Guessing nothing would happen for about 2 hours, walked both lines, coming across dumped SY 1524 at buffer stops near ‘car unloading ramp’ on the eastmost line. At 13.45 SY 1007 brought its train to the weighbridge, ran round and hauled it a short distance before propelling it down the CNR interchange siding. Didn't see how far it went or if wagons are left in 'no man's land'.

Chao Yang Road continues below the bridge carrying Nancang Road and a couple of taxis were lurking here. One took me wrong-way a short distance along the south side service road and back to the Metro. At Tianjin station at 14.45 things did not go according to plan. With a 'walk up and go' train every 10 – 15 minutes, expected, as on a previous occasion, to simply buy a ticket for the next train to Beijing. No way, the next one with seats was after 20.00 and no, they would not sell a standing ticket. An English speaker was brought to the ticket window to make sure I understood. So for anyone else – make darned sure you have a return ticket!

Tianjin. SY 1007. (3/05/2014).

Lanzhou. 22 May 2014.
There is a steelworks some 20 km east of Lanzhou, north of the line and over several years a dead un-numbered SY has been seen here. It’s still there, but has been moved. Yellow diesels do the shunting.

Lanzhou. Un-numbered SY in steelworks. (22/05/14).

Rongshan. 23-25 May 2014.
Stayed in Guanyuan. Intended, and failed, to find the Lizhou hotel, mentioned by Michael Reilly in his August 2013 report (china653), and, after plodding round in the rain, followed signs to the more expensive Guanyuan hotel, 238 yn incl breakfast. From the station square, bear right and walk up the approach road to, then across, the river bridge and turn right at the first road junction on the far bank. Hotel is just round the first corner on the right. About 15 minutes’ walk.

Travelled by No 8 bus to Rongshan. This initially runs south alongside the river. From hotel, turn right, bear slightly right and the stop is across the road. It took about an hour. The last bus back is notionally 18.30, but the three caught in the period 18.00 - 18.20 all turfed passengers out in the outer suburbs, fortunately where route 2 overlapped. Route 2, which runs much later, and goes to the railway station, conveniently stops outside a Steak restaurant and then a Dico’s. It goes on to stop just across the road from the hotel.

23 May. Waited for rain to ease, and didn't get to Rongshan until 14,00. Loco 211 was attached to a loaded coal train which it was occasionally pushing forward for wagon discharge, two at a time, above an underground conveyor, via a mesh to catch unwanted items. So coal trains had definitely restarted, though some the wagons from Yujiabian mine included bits of broken timber and lengths of wire rope. Japanese enthusiasts said a second loco had been in steam earlier in the day, but on the next two days it was simply 211 in steam. Nothing much happened until 17.15, when the loco set off light engine down the line; it had not returned by 18.00.

Investigation of the shed produced locos 210, 218 and 219 plus two of the smartly painted ‘electric’ locos, without pantograph or number. The building is full, so the working loco is 'stabled' outside, behind a lockable gate. A hose pipe provides water. SY 1305 was dumped in the open and 1434 locked in a shed. A further shed had one of the passenger coaches, with new windows being fitted, though the body had not been repainted. Behind it was a third ‘electric’ loco. A second passenger coach, also with multiple rust patches, but with new longitudinal wooden seats, was nearby. A siding between a derelict foundry and abandoned large workshop had a flat-sided coach in green with a yellow waist band, new glazed windows and new wooden seats. Behind it were two very rusty disused coaches. Another rail connected shed held a few coal drams.

The train that 211 was pushing included brake van No. 2, which appeared on the morning coal trains from Yujiabian. Another, un-numbered, van was in the sidings, presumably used occasionally. There was no passenger service, though the van on trains was a bit full.

Rongshan shed. 218 and 219. (23/05/14).

24 May. Arrived Rongshan station 09.40. No loco or van No 2, so walked the line, meeting 211 and its train of 9 wagons and van about 1 km south of Shanziba. Expecting it to pick up more wagons there, followed it and got some pleasant photos of loco and train on the river bridge immediately north of the mine entrance. That was the only train of the day. After shunting wagons for unloading the loco was locked in the shed yard and still there at 17.55.

211 leaving Shanziba mine. (24/05/14).

25 May. Again arrived 09.40 and walked along the line, meeting the train, with van, not far out of Rongshan. Continued to Yujiabian, taking to the parallel road near the mine, which is across a river from the road, with only footbridge access. A village of flats is spread out on the steep hill above the mine. Over 100 parked motorbikes showed how miners who travel from elsewhere get to work. Along the road, 8-seater vans every 20 minutes or so cater for anyone without their own transport. Today two more trains ran. 211 arrived at Shanziba with 9 empties (no van) at 11.15 and left with 16 loaded at 11.55. It set off again from Rongshan at 17.30 with 6 empties, again without a van.

So, the line is operating, one loco in steam, without a passenger service. Lineside growth means that in places it is a 'green funnel', with foliage spoiling broadside photos. Railway personel are obviously used to enthusiast visitors and I was able to wander. No-one asked about a permit. Visiting the shed was by permission, immediately given, though most of the time it was locked up. The short length means the line is easily walked. The parallel (ish) road, often at a higher level, would be good for telephotos for anyone 'chasing' the infrequent trains. Refurbishment of passenger coaches is interesting and might support rumours of an intended 'tourist operation'. Possible future use of the 'electric' locos remains a mystery (They ARE electric, not battery?).

Emei Shan. 28 May 2014.
Included for oddity value. Emei is a holy mountain with a peak at 3099 metres. That is no longer accessible to visitors, who have to be content with reaching 3077metres, either on foot or by cable car. The two peaks were connected by a monorail. The abandoned train remains in the lower station.

Emei Shan. Abandoned monorail. (28/05/14).

Mojiang Power Station Company Narrow Gauge Railway (Caoba Railway). 30 & 31 May 2014.
Although not steam, seeing this quirky NG electric railway with its basic passenger 'coaches' was an enjoyable experience.
30 May. Stayed in Baoguo village, the starting point for Emei Shan mountain. This is about 10 km from Emei station; a new one, just 3 km away on a high speed line from Chengdu, is due to open later this year. A bus every 20-30 minutes runs from Emei town, past Baoguo, then passing several cement works on the way to Shawan bus station, taking about 45 minutes. Outside a motorcyclist providing a 'taxi' saw me and made train-like signs. 10 yn and less than 10 minutes later, dismounting at Caoba station, I was approached and very clearly told 'no photos'. Knowing that this was likely, I responded with fingers 'walking' and that seemed to be acceptable. The station area had about 8 empty passenger coaches in the platform and some 15 loaded coal waggons, but no locos. So off, through the railway tunnel, which has a lit side walkway and electric signs to warn not to enter when a train is due. Passenger train times below are from Bernd Seiler's report of September 2003 which also includes Bernd's map of the line.

First walked the short line to Laokuang. The 10.30 train ex Caoba was a single coach and the 12.10, leaving at about 12.00, just 4 coaches. The 13.10 didn’t run, though the 17.00 did. Approaching Xinjing mine, a man stopped me and said no photos – a pity, as it is a photogenic location. There is no housing here, the mining village being flats and some single floor short terraces around Laokuang station. There are also mine offices. Next to the station is a former coal loading point.

After returning to the junction, walked the line to Xiangyang, about 90 minutes each way. Rust on sidings at the completely silent mine suggested no coal traffic for at least 6 months. Beyond the station, the trackbed onward to Hongxin is, at least initially, a new concrete road. A siding, not electrified, leads to a rope-worked incline, with a siding part way up that gives access to the level of the top of the screens. A couple of flat wagons were here. Crushed grass on the incline showed they had arrived in the past few days. The incline continues, out of use, to a short flat area at the foot of a second, completely disused, incline to a former coal tip. There are a couple of blocks of flats directly above the mine. A typed notice at the station included a date, 6-10, which I took to be 10 June. Whether it was notice of passenger train cessation, closure of the shop or reopening of the mine, I don’t know. The parallel road has a bus about every half hour, going to Shawan, not just Caoba, and passenger trains from Caoba at 10.30, 14.00 and 17.00 did not run. Caught bus from the road leading up to Caoba station to Shawan bus station and got what was probably the last bus of the day, 17.40, back to Baoguo.

31 May. Same journey, same motorcycle taxi, but an hour earlier, and thus in time to see the one coach 09.00 (ish) one coach arrival in Caoba from Xiangyang, with just 4 passengers. Today stayed on the Laokuang line. The 09.35 arrival at Caoba didn’t run, the 10.30 from Caoba was one coach and the 12.00 was two, as was the 15.50; again the 13.10 did not run. There were three 31 waggon coal trains. Both loading at Xinjing and unloading at Caoba took about half an hour. Two trains had some wagons containing just rock.

Decided to return from Shawan station to Emei on the daily stopping train, departing 17.40. Shawan station is up an obscure side road and I’d never have found it, or got there in time, without a motorised 3-wheeler cycle taxi. The train was as many were some 15 years ago. Open windows dispersed smoke from cigarettes smoked by men stripped to the waist and engaged in several card games. Children seemed communal property, as did food. It felt so much better than the various high speed and T trains used to get around on this holiday


Caoba. Passenger train. (31/05/14).

David Thomas

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