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Steam in China, 20th April; 2018

by John Raby


We visited Wujiu on 20th - 21st April during a wider trip primarily to see Chinese narrow gauge lines. On 20th April, with only the works train running at Mengxi on the Hailaer limestone railway, we had decided the previous day to see the 08:00 works train departure (normally around 06:30 when ordinary trains are running) and then move to Wujiu. Having decided that, we were then told that all 3 SYs at Wujiu were dead on shed. So we amended the plan to also walk to see the works train (beyond Shiyi and over the bridge) and then walk through to the crossing near the quarry and move on to Wujiu after lunch. We arrived at Wujiu at 16:30 (a smooth 1 hour and a 2 hour boneshaker) to find that a 15 day holiday had just ended and SY 1134 had been steamed and was just about to leave the ash disposal area and go back to the shed for end of shift. It was due to work empties to the 'New Victory' mine in the morning (as long as China Rail delivered some empties). We were able to see all 3 SY on shed SY 1134, 1225 and 1546. SY 1546 looks the most likely second loco if they need to rotate the working loco. SY 1225 has some bits missing. We also checked out the narrow gauge overhead electric that used to connect No. 3 mine with the standard gauge at No. 2 mine. This was lifted around 2 years ago and the coal now goes out by conveyor - most likely to the new mine. We stayed overnight at Wu'erqihan in the cleanest hotel of the trip. No reason not to stay here rather than stay at Yakeshi or day trip from Hailar. The road from Yakeshi to Wujiu is bad, at least with our totally inappropriate 25 seater bus for 8 people. We believed that the steaming of SY 1134 for work the following day was totally 'real'. At least we hadn't been asked to pay for it yet!

21 April. Much like many visitors' experience at Wujiu, we turned up at the depot for 08:00 to find no empty wagons and that not only was there no work for the SY, there was no work for the diesel either. They moved the diesel out of the shed for us but wouldn't tow out the SY which was receiving some minor servicing. With some regret we left after hearing that the Mengxi Limestone Railway had resumed operation with 6 trains due today. We had seen the SY outside the shed, seen the loco move and got some very atmospheric shots of it on shed last night and this morning. Wujiu and its logging sister town of Wu'erqhihan will be really nice as spring comes on and I can imagine enjoying a stay in future. However, when steam ends here, the chance of that happening will be remote. We drove back to Hailar and to the crossing at the quarry end of the Mengxi line and saw 3 empty/full movements before 16:00 in perfect light although the sun angles are better in the morning. Back in Hailar, I confirmed from our guide Alan (Wang Feng) that although we paid a small sum for access inside the depot (twice) and for them to start and move out the diesel for a photo, the steaming of the loco on 20 April was not at our request, so a real working industrial SY is still normally in steam at Wujiu but rarely has any work. The full trip report with photos is on my Chinese narrow gauge trip site.

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2018 John Raby