The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - Steam in China Part 6
Shenyang Part 2 and Dunhua

Terry Case writes about his travels for steam. Further tales will follow from time to time covering more of Australia, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Click here for the Case Notes Index.

For other tales in this series see:

Shenyang - 2

The Sujiatun museum was opened in 1984 and the SL pacific was in steam for Australian and Japanese tour groups. By the time we visited the engines had deteriorated from over a decade in the open. Heavy snow and steam from underground pipes helped disguise the fact the engines were all cold. The snow also disguised an open man-hole cover and I fell straight in, up to my thighs, grazing myself and feeling really shaken; several steps later and I fell through another: I could quite easily have broken a leg!

Now the engines are housed in a new museum, Japanese groups have abandoned their dreams of seeing the Japanese built SL class being restored to running order.

The Museum Manager escorted us to the CNR yard where several QJ and JS were being serviced by steam coal grabs, they were not allowed inside the precincts of the new diesel depot, 16th January 1996.

2 ex-works SY class are being steamed up, the GJ pilot is in the background.

We were not allowed inside the main workshops that overhauled industrial steam from all over northern China, though we were free to photograph freshly overhauled locos of class SY and JS and those waiting overhaul. No YJ class was to be seen and this was the next class to become extinct as more ex CNR first generation diesels and JS class became surplus and spilled over to industrial use. The works pilot, a large 0-6-0T GJ 1018 may have been the last active survivor of this CNR class; it was to be the first and only member of the class I was to see in steam.

Another overnight journey took us north to Dunhua where an aggressive ticket checker thought we were “Big Nose” criminals because we were travelling on normal tickets. Being in a backwater she did not know that foreigners no longer had to buy more expensive tickets than locals; she shouted at us and tried hitting Mr Kwon! 

We headed out to the Tumen line and called in at Dashitou station (I kid you not!). The station was of Russian design as the line was built and operated by Russia until Japan invaded and took over the line as far as Shenyang. QJ 2040 was busy shunting loaded log trucks; to add to its pick-up to Dunhua. Despite visiting this location a few times in the following days we saw no signs of activity on the narrow gauge system; it closed shortly after our visit.

QJs depart Dashshitou heading for Dunhua, 15th January 1996. During the night a car had missed the tight curve over the bridge and was now dangling precariously upside down; the occupants still dithering as to what was to be done to rescue their car. If it made the final drop it would bullseye the tracks on which trains continued to pass!

I am standing on the platform of the small station at Haerbeling, which seemed to have Japanese origins. We were heading for the spiral located between here and Antu. The track leading to the line was covered by pristine deep snow, we were the only wheeled vehicle to use it; peasants used buffalo drawn sleds.

We scrambled up a steep embankment to reach the line. Mr Kwon urging us to be quick as the passenger to Dunhua was due, instead we had to stand clear as a downhill freight to Tumen rushed past, ice shedding from the engine and wagons showering me as it thundered past.

Shortly after train 480 was heard re starting from Antu, the exhaust beat changing as the driver rapidly accelerated and then it was bearing down on us maintaining speed through as it prepared to tackle the grades of the spiral, leaving its steam trail in its wake. The middle section of the spiral was obscured by forest, so my next shot was three minutes later as the train climbed past us on the other side of the valley; climbing towards Haerbeling. 

Passenger train 480 starts the spiral climb, 13th January 1996

A freight enters the spiral, 13th January 1996

A gap in traffic gave us time to find a position overlooking the line, the surrounding forest restricted our choices. This was not an easy location for stills and I mostly used video, including a QJ with a “squeaky” exhaust, possibly caused by the valve rings blowing, or lack of lubrication to the front end. The same engine was seen in action two days later with the same squeaking exhaust noise, whatever the cause it was not a temporary setback. 

A JS steam banker gives a freight from Antu a push up the spiral, 15th January 1996.

Whilst cold it was a beautiful still winter day with a clear sky and dazzling sun it was a pleasure to be outdoors. My final shot was from a road bridge of passenger 95, an express from Dunhua which caught the last bit of glint before passing into the shadows. 

We had three days at Dunhua, one was spent on the Jilin side of town and though we saw steam passenger workings and banked freights, it was a write off weather wise. 

Rob Dickinson