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Steam in China, March  2016

by Harada Keisuke

Jiutai, Diaobingshan, Fushun, Tianjin, Fuxin, Pingzhuang

This is an abbreviated translation of the full report which is in Japanese, in two parts and includes several photographs. The first part covers Jiutai, Diaobingshan, Fushun, Tianjin and Pingzhuang and the second part Fuxin M.R

This was a two week trip to take in the last of remaining steam in North East China. I flew into Shenyang on 29 February, transferring from there to Changchun by high speed train from Shenyang North. I took a taxi from Changchun to Jiutai, in order to arrive there before 6am. The taxi driver had to ask for directions to the mine in the town but we managed to get there in time for sunrise. Unfortunately however there were no wagons to move and the loco only moved to take water. In addition, it is facing north [making morning photography difficult]. I had been planning to continue to Wujiu from Jiutai but by chance met the editor of SY Country here. He told me that services at Wujiu were presently suspended so I changed my plans, going to Diaobingshan instead. Working steam here is now limited to a few special occasions each year but several locomotives, mainly SYs, are on display in the museum here. Although I was told that the KD6 and YJ in the museum are both in working order, neither participated in the 2016 festival which gives rise to concern about their future use. I continued from Diaobingshan to Fushun by bus. To my surprise, the bus actually displayed safety instructions such as ‘fasten seat belt’ although I was the only passenger to do so. I arrived in Fushun in the evening only to have an argument at the hotel which claimed it did not have my booking. Feeling better the next morning, I went to Piao’ertun where I found 2 SYs in steam on the depot. All work was being handled by two diesels, however. Another speciality of Fushun is the electric locomotives at the open air mine, including a number of Japanese manufacture. From Fushun I continued to Tianjin by hard class sleeper and went by taxi straight to [the Heavy Machinery depot] at Nancang. But I did not see any working steam. Furthermore, the line between the depot and Nancang appears to be a rubbish dump. SY 1007 appeared to be dumped but SY1524 was in light steam. From Tianjin I continued to Fuxin by afternoon train on 4 March. I arrived at 23.00 and checked into the hotel by the station. To my surprise and delight, overnight snow meant I was able to photograph working steam in the snow. However, maybe because of reduced power generation, the number of working locos was lower than in the summer. While I was there, a derailment at Pingan meant services to Wulong tip were suspended with spoil trains running to and from the big pit instead. Although I was told that steam may last another 5 years at Fuxin, coal output is depleted so the future is uncertain. After a day and a half in Fuxin I continued to Pingzhuang, arriving at night. First thing the next morning I took a taxi to the railway. I asked a level crossing keeper whether steam was working. In my muddy and dishevelled state he didn’t seem to believe I was Japanese, saying Japanese are rich, so why were my trousers full of holes? But steam was working, in the form of SY1487. This was working together with a red painted DF4 but while the DF4 worked the full length of the line, the SY seemed confined to short workings. The following day I returned to Shenyang, then by plane to Japan the day after, 9 March. Including the museum at Diaobingshan, over 10 days I had seen steam in 6 locations but only at Fuxin and Pingzhuang was it working. It seems China steam is entering its final demise.

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© 2016 Harada Keisuke