The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - Steam in China Part 8
The Coal Railway from Daliuta to Dongsheng and Baotou

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.

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Steam workings from Baotou did not cease with the end of CNR steam here in 2001. The mine railway passenger train to the Shenmu mines continued to be steam powered. In addition a new CNR express was introduced from Hohot to Dongsheng, also steam hauled from Baotou! This was probably the last new express to be steam hauled and its 14 coach set included a/c carriages. In 1997 traffic was limited and freights were single headers, by 2001 the mines were producing enough coal for some trains to require double heading and a banker on the section from Shenmu to Dongsheng.

In 1997 the miners’ train sometimes ran as a mixed seen approaching Guandiefang on 10th January 1997 

The mine railway train restarts from Guandiefang, the halt near “The Singing Sands”. The steam in the background was from a power station, 15th January 2001

The Hohot to Dongsheng express passes the coloured cliffs, 18th January 2001

Chasing trains in China led me to some impressive locations in this case on the edge of the Gobi Desert. Pity the poor peasant, scratching a meagre existence in this harsh environment. To reach a spot above the viaduct and tunnel a frozen river had to be negotiated. I puzzled how the water droplets froze in the act of falling creating this fast flowing, tumbling frozen water course, which was tricky to cross. 

A load of empties from Baotou required a sustained power output from this QJ, 10th January 1997 

Emerging from The Singing Sands tunnel this QJ was really working hard as it approached Shabazi, where some trains stopped for water, 10th January 1997 

A short session outside Dongsheng in the afternoon of 15th January 2001 would see both passenger trains depart for Baotou and movements from the shed, including blow down facilities in use. Recently overhauled QJ 3068 was seen backing off shed and departing on empties to Baotou. 

By 2001 double headed freights with bankers were to be seen. On the approach to Aobaogou trains from Shenmu crossed a bridge not far from the station. In this case on 17th January 2001, the lead engines’ exhaust was nearly vertical as they slogged towards the station.

On the first morning here the train arrived before sunrise and most of the day was overcast. Great to listen to QJ freights slogging upgrade, but not so good for photography. A second visit was much more rewarding. Watching two QJ dragging enormous trains towards Aobaogou was memorable! The bankers did not seem to be worked so hard, possibly they were used to keep the train moving if the lead engines slipped.

When the train re started from the station loop it was to a symphony of chime whistles signalling readiness and three exhausts thundered as the engines eased the long train underway. Fantastic action! A second train toiled upgrade, as it reached the end of the bridge the lead engines were eased, perhaps hoping to avoid being held at the station. Their luck was out and I had time to walk to the station, exchange greeting with the friendly staff and get to watch this mammoth train re start. Only 2 uphill trains had been seen on this very cold morning, but what a spectacle they made.

In the afternoon I made my way upgrade to check the 2 other bridges. After photographing a single header and banker I gave away more bridge shots in favour of some S curves and videoed another enormous train with its 3 engines plodding upgrade.

In 1997 a day was spent at the tall bridge outside Dongsheng, roads south of here were in poor condition and unlike 2001 the few coal trains were single headers. Two late afternoon trains, the passenger and a coal train made up for the scarcity of traffic and I was pleased with the action.

The morning started with a balmy minus 19 degrees. I was told the car would drive over the frozen Yellow River to reach a bridge not far from Dongsheng. Checking maps on my return home I thought it more likely to be a tributary that joined another river that in turn joined the Yellow River south of Shenmu, 11th January 1997 

The afternoon passenger train from Daliuta and Shenmu crosses the bridge near Dongsheng, 11th January 1997. Trucks and jeeps used the frozen river as a road it offered a smoother ride than the dirt road! 

The same bridge with a freight from Dongsheng catching the last of the winter sun, 17th January 2001

Rob Dickinson