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Steam in China, 8th - 15th December 2018

by John Athersuch


John Raby and I were in Sandaoling between 8th and 15th December 2018. Temperatures ranged between -7 and -20 C. I travelled by train from/to Beijing but John R flew in and took the train out. To avoid unnecessary duplication of recent reports this is a brief synopsis of activity while we were there.


Shift change was at Kengkongzhan before sunrise. Loco servicing was at Dongbolizhan at day break. The ďpassengerĒ loco made its trip to the pit as usual.

Two locos were in more or less continuous use bringing coal out from the blue loader to the washery. Very occasional trips were made to the coal yard south of the washery. A third loco was on standby at Dongbolizhan and did some occasional shunting. It appears that the spare loco is rotates every other day and one loco is taken for servicing each Thursday and replaced. Locos on this roster during our visit were JS8073, 8167, 8173, 8195, 8197. 

There was intermittent activity at Nanzhan with three locos in use although because of restricted access we didnít see this at close quarters. We managed to catch one loco (JS8089) as it took a rake of empties from Nanzhan via Erjing (where it ran round the train) to Yijing where it was loaded from the loader and returned to Nanzhan later.

We paid a visit to the workshop to see final repairs being made to JS8167 before it was out shopped just before dusk. Other locos in the workshop were JS8190 (overhaul), 8089 (service) and 8225 (stored as spare?).

Was the trip worth it? If you havenít been before and like real working steam this is a must before it all finishes (slated for September 2020). If you have been before you may be disappointed although there was enough activity to keep us busy each day.


Lots has been written about this. Gricers have nothing to fear. Just treat it as routine, make sure you have arranged your accommodation in advance, have some Chinese phrases handy showing why you are going to SDL and present a photo of a loco and you will be OK. If you travel by train expect a grilling from the police en route. You will get checked again at Hami railway station or airport and again when entering SDL. You can go out of SDL at the Nanzhan crossing and if you have smart driver he will be able to return via Erjing and Yijing the back way where there are no security checks. Donít take photos in the street and ask first in restaurants. The security at the Sanhe Hotel is, to say the least, relaxed!

Other tips. 

The Sunyard red wine for Y38 in the shop next but one to the Sanhe Hotel is a good buy! The restaurant opposite the Sanhe serves a delicious leg of lamb!

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