The International Steam Pages
Steam in North China December 2000 - January 2001
Adrian Freeman gives this summary of a two and a half week trip to north-east China which I made with Gordon Edgar. Thanks to him for his good humour and ceaseless enthusiasm (except when all of his camera gear failed). Visits were made to Shuangyashan, Huanan, Weihe and Hunjiang.
Shuangyashan, 29th December 2000 - 2nd January 2001
Arrived at Shuangyashan on morning of 29th December having taken the night train from Harbin. Extended our stay from four to five days here. Refer to Ted Talbot's excellent report for map, passenger timetable (unaltered) and locomotives. This is a fine system, which looks and feels like a China State Railways line rather than an industrial system, with its nine and eleven coach QJ hauled passenger trains, QJ hauled freights (mostly, some SY), and stations with sidings for receiving wagonloads of coal. We found that a mixture of town and landscape photographs are possible and there are a number of steep gradients, and we didn't stray more than 5km from Shuangyashan! The engines are not turned, so the eastbound trains are more photogenic as they are worked smokebox first.
Freight levels seemed to fluctuate somewhat, the number of trains of empties departing Shuangyashan exchange yard (i.e. smokebox first) on a morning varying between none and four. On an afternoon, it seemed normal for freights to follow the 12.40 and 13.40 passenger workings from Shuangyashan Central. Ted Talbot reported the main line having an average of four to five trains an hour in November 1999. It was more like one to two during our visit.
The first two days were diesel-free, but on 31st December, DF7 3046 appeared on the 12.40 passenger to Shuangxing. It was seen on freights the following two days.
QJ7020 appeared on 1st January facing the opposite way to all the other engines, and appeared to be fresh from overhaul - it was still smelling of paint.
Engines seen (all in use)
Huanan narrow gauge, 3rd January
21043 was in steam in the morning. After the railcar had been pushed by hand out of the shed (with passengers already on board), and turned on the turntable, it was bump started by 21043 and scuttled off at approx. 08.30 on the one return passenger working. As there appeared to be little other activity, we moved on.
Weihe narrow gauge 4th - 7th January
This excellent operation has been extensively reported. No significant changes, but late arrival of the passenger at Weihe on two days resulted in the 0800 departure being cancelled. 053 was involved in a skirmish with a lorry between the terminus and the yard at Weihe on the morning of 5th January, which derailed it completely and caused some damage to its cab. This appeared to disrupt activities that day, but 053 was back in service the following day with straightened cab and freshly welded patches.
Engines seen in use: 030, 033, 034, 035, 053, 054, 055
Hunjiang 8th - 12th January
Our journey to Hunjiang involved changing trains at Changchun, where an unidentified QJ was an unexpected but pleasing sight simmering in one of the station's centre roads. We also changed at Tonghua where a further unexpected pleasure in the form of high deflector JS6238 took the 0757 to Linjiang as far as Hunjiang (it was noted diesel the following day). We didn't cross any steam between these two cities, and although our activities at Hunjiang were mainly confined to workings in and out of the north end of the station, we got the impression that the number of steam workings to/from the south was very low. North out of Hunjiang however, most freight was JS. As Florian Menius and Thorge Bockholt reported in October 2000, various high deflector JS are now operating here, most that we saw had 1987 dated builders plates. Refer to their report for useful detailed information on this area. The daylight levels of freight approximated that of their report. The only steam passenger (in daylight hours) remains the afternoon working to Songshuzhen, which may be mixed. It was seen five times and was steam four. The morning mixed from Songshuzhen was invariably DF4. A day was spent at Songshuzhen, which is beautifully located in the mountains. Not all freight to/from Hunjiang gets this far north, but JS work in from the Quanyang direction, which we never saw at Hunjiang. Songshuzhen has a small servicing area and turntable.
Engines seen in use (all JS):
Our return to Beijing on Saturday 13th January involved travelling through Meihekou during daylight, but the only steam seen was a QJ covered in snow on the depot.
It proved impossible to get a ticket from Shenyang Bei to Beijing that night, so we enjoyed/endured the hopefully unique experience of the unheated 'sleeper' bus. Much could be said about that journey, but most is unprintable. At least the bus station in Beijing was relatively close to the airport and got us there in good time for flight BA038 back to Heathrow.