The International Steam Pages
Weihe and Shanhetun, February 2002
Arrived Beijing Nan on 5/02 on the overnight train from Chifeng at the end of two weeks with Mike Tyack and a group of 6 (Chabuga-Lindong-Reshui). Saw rest of the group off at the airport. Then proceeded with Jun (Liu Xue Jun) to China Rail Publishing House (CRPH). Address 8 You an men xi jie. The CRPH is at the end of bus route #59, then continue on ahead (west)100 meters. Telephone 010 6354 9496. CRPH is open from 8 to 16.30 on Monday to Friday.
Departed Beijing 14.10 hard sleeper on train K265 arriving Harbin 05.34 on 06/02. Hired a taxi outside the station to drive to Shanhetun, initially Y 250 was quoted but as soon as they saw that one of the passengers was a foreigner, heated discussions ensued. The result was a new plan which was to take the taxi to the bus station and then to catch a bus to Shanhetun. However arriving at the bus station the place was deserted. More negotiations and it was finally agreed a price of Y300 and we would pay the road tolls outbound. The driver's wife accompanied us.
Frosted trees along the road and a cloud less sky gave high hopes of an excellent day's photography. Arrived in Shanhetun approx 8.30. Crossed ng level crossing with two tracks. 300 m to the south, narrow gauge shed, wood yard and forestry offices while immediately to the north is the station yard. 5 minutes walk from the level crossing on the road running parallel to the line is the forestry hotel. Most expensive rooms are Y260 but considerably cheaper rooms without ensuite bathrooms are also available. We put our bags into the hotel storeroom and walked down the street and in the main gate of the forestry offices. This gate leads directly to the shed yard.
Outside the two road running shed in steam were
06 Chrzanow 3848 /1959 8 wheel tender
One boiler with frames on its side in the shed yard
Three derelict 6 wheel tenders minus wheels lying on their side near the shed. One of these tenders was labeled 05.
Later 05 with 6-wheel tender was shunting the wood yard and station. The station contained a number of complete loaded trains and a siding with boxcars and a tank wagon.
At almost exactly 10.00 am train loco arrived in the yard coupled up to waiting train of empty log flat wagons and almost immediately set off. As the train started to roll we were welcomed aboard the caboose by the guard and two other passengers. The stove was going full blast and we had a very comfortable trip in total contrast to the conditions we experienced returning in that evening in an unheated rail bus.
Crossed an inbound rail bus at the first station out Liujiatun. Straight through the next station, Wujiaqiao. This first section of the line is as previously described, flat or tending downhill with some sections where the line is running through an avenue of trees. At 11.02 approaching Xiangyang the line climbs tightly round the corner of a hill and then along the edge of the hill into Xiangyang station. Loco took water and cleaned fire here. We got a leaving shot by arrangement before clambering back onto the caboose as it rumbled past. Between Xiangyang and the next station Changsheng the loco stopped in mid section for a 5-minute blow up.
Between Changsheng and Halahe the line runs along side another hill with some good possible locations.
Just before Shahezi which we reached at 12.52 is a concrete bride over the river. A large hill complete with abandoned lookout tower overlooks this bridge and Shahezi.
I had hoped to continue in the caboose until we crossed an inbound train but the guard wanted us to get off at Shahezi. The loco coaled, watered and headed off towards Sanrenban. A number of derelict coaches or coaches converted to stores were in sidings or on the ground at Shahezi.
At 15.00, we were alerted that a loaded train would be soon arriving from Sanrenban and we walked out towards Sanrenban. It is certainly well worth walking 2-3 km out towards Sanrenban if you know an inbound train is coming - we just did not get enough fore warning. Following immediately behind the log train was a combination of rail car, wagon and rail bus. While the loco watered and cleaned fire we retraced our steps to the river bridge. As the light deteriorated, checked out silhouette possibilities, note the river was only partially frozen over. (The best option is probably to photograph from the road bridge). After waiting an hour the light had gone and we walked back to the track just in time to flag down and climb aboard the rail car/rail bus combination. In contrast to the very pleasant trip out in the caboose with roaring fire the unheated rail bus was very cold but well patronized.
Crossed an outbound empties at Laujiatun. Arrived back in Shanhetun shed yard at approx 18.00 and dropped into a restaurant between the level crossing and the forestry hotel before succumbing to a Y260 room for the night.
Day 2 07/02
Down at the shed for 06.30 in order to be there for sun up, since by the time we arrived at the shed the day before the sun was almost straight down the track.
Outside the shed were
Electric operated turntable located immediately behind the shed.
At 07.30 what appeared to be a junior official coming to work told us that we should leave. This was unfortunate as the loco crews and shed staff had been exceedingly friendly. We complied going round the block to the station yard where we photographed shunting of the loaded trains in the station yard. We found out from the station staff that the outbound train would be a little delayed but as soon as the empty train was marshalled we retraced our steps to the level crossing where we organized the hire of a green twin cab 4 by 4 for the day with the potential to extend.
The road out of town runs well away from the railway. When we crossed the railway to the west of Xiangyang we turned onto the road running beside the line and retraced our steps to a small bridge just before Liujiatun. Photographed the train here and went ahead to Xiangyang since our driver was taking extreme care on the road which looked to be in excellent condition and would not exceed 40 km an hour. At 40 km an hour we struggled to get ahead of the train and would have done better to have just gone to Xiangyang and walked down the line into position. Later in the day we passed a loaded log truck that had ploughed straight into a roadside tree so although road conditions were good maybe he had good reason to be cautious.
Realizing the limitations of our vehicle we went straight from Xiangyang to Shahezi and then out to the east. A lengthy detour was required around the market in the main street. The road out to the east is initially some distance away from the line but comes close to the line as the line closes with a range of wooded hills and swings into a cutting. The road continues besides the line to the next station Shenjiaying. Fortunately the train had to wait to cross a rail car here so we walked 3 km further up the valley. By the time we got back to the station it was 16.00. We decided to press onto Sanrenban. The driver found a route, which took us from Shenjiaying back onto the main road to Sanrenban without having to re trace our steps.
After crossing the branch line to Shugho - there is a river bridge here - we took a track beside the branch line along the banks of the river towards Sanchahe station. The track was snowy and inevitably we got bogged down. By now it was dark, the driver walked the short distance to Sanchahe station and came back with 5 or 6 helpers with whose help we managed to turn round and push the vehicle out. Rear wheel drive vehicles with no adhesion weight and poor tyres are definitely not recommended.
We continued on the road to Sanrenban. A loaded train was in the yard at Sanrenban. Our first attempt to get accommodation opposite the station failed. However we were successful at a second rest house. This rest house is one of very few two storey buildings in Sanrenban village. Amazingly this had an inside flush toilet. We ate in the restaurant below and slept in the rooms above.
Day 3 08/02
At 07.00 we were at a deserted Sanrenban station. Our diesel vehicle failed to start due to the cold, so we walked the short distance to the station. The station staff told us that a train would be arriving at 08.00 from Shanhetun and then going down the branch to Qianjin to pick up a load returning approx 12.00. Walking out along the track towards Shahezi the very strong wind was causing drifting and blowing into the sun, a pity since the line is unobstructed by vegetation on this section. There is a bridge on this section just before the line starts to wind through the hills. It was an approx 3 km walk to the hills where we finally got some protection from the wind.
An hour late at 08.52 loco 004 and brake van arrived. We were somewhat disappointed when we were not able to persuade the crew to stop and pick us up. Not to worry the loco was still coaling and watering when we trudged back into Sanrenban. The plan then changed. The loco was to return to Sanchahe to pick up a load from Hansum. Loco and caboose then turned on the triangle and waited 30-40 minutes outside the station until an inbound rail trolley arrived. The station yard at Sanrenban forms the main street of the village. Right next to the station the market was in full swing. Having started with a virtually cloudless sky at sunrise by this time it had almost completely clouded over.
We headed back towards Shanhetun to intercept the regular approx 10.00 outbound empties from Shanhetun. The plan to shoot off the flanks of the hill between Halahe and Changsheng was a none starter due to the snow storm so we had to settle for a shot in a gap in the avenue of trees beside the hill that provided some protection. A track leads into and parallels this section but after the previous night's experience we decided it was safer to walk which is what the locals were doing.
The train was significantly delayed. We repeated the previous days actions going round the market in Shahezi while the loco watered in order to be in position where the line entered the cutting to the east of Shahezi. After photographing the train we checked at Shenjiaying, they had no information as to when the loaded train would appear so we headed back to Shanhetun to pick up our bags from the hotel store. Loaded the bags picked up the driver's brother (he was required due to it not being safe on the road so I was told) and at 6pm we were heading out on the road to intercept the Weihe system at Qingshan.
Other general information :-
Bernd Seiler's map of the Shanhetun system: was invaluable.
We received conflicting information on the ground as to whether the Dongshang line is or is not only used by rail buses. On Day 2 we saw track maintenance being carried out near Liujiatun. Information from Jun was that the planned reservoir project will cut off the southern line but the northern line to Dongshang may stay open.
A bus leaves Shanhetun for Weihe early each morning - may be as early as 06.30.
After a 3-hour night journey from Shanhetun we arrived in Qingshan to find both rest houses in this village full. Proceeded to Conghe where we were successful getting rooms after waking up the proprietor. Then rustled up a meal at 09.30 in a nearby restaurant.
Day 4. 09/02
At Conghe station at 07.00 inspection of the log revealed
Drove to Qingshan, on a previous visit our BJC got stuck at the level crossing but this time road conditions were good. Qingshan is a large village and again we had to find an alternative route round the market in the main street. Retraced our steps to the petrol station on the road to Conghe and then went over the hill to Dongfeng this taking 20 minutes. At Dongfeng we found that train 152 was already at Pinglin however a repair train was expected in Dongfeng at 08.00 and after repairing bogies of some loads in the station would continue to Conghe.
Repair train arrived and after taking water the crane was marshaled to lift a loaded wagon to replace the bogie. A replacement bogie was being lifted when the crane failed and the jib crashed down onto the wagon carrying spare bogies. Loco was turned and two loads added to the train. Met Till Mosler and a companion here, the only enthusiasts we saw all day.
As soon as the passenger (running late) arrived the repair train departed back to Weihe.
After photographing the departing repair train we headed over the hill to Conghe where the passenger had already arrived. We avoided the log jamb of Conghe village and continued straight out of town along the road to Yulin and Liushan. Visibility was excellent with snow-covered peaks visible in the far distance, a stiff breeze meant we had to select locations carefully. The line changes direction a lot between Conghe and Liushan and with the parallel road it is easy to find locations. However the passenger being late was really motoring and we only managed two shots on this section. The train ran right through to Liushan where the loco ran round and the train immediately returned to Yulin where repairs were executed.
As soon as repairs were completed the passenger headed back to Conghe. We managed one shot between Liushan and Conghe, another just after the crossing to the north of Conghe and then just made it to the level crossing on the road to Qinshan.
Back over the hill to Dongfeng I got into position for the departing passenger while Jun checked at the station. A loaded train was expected from between Qinshan and Dongfeng at 15.00. However an inbound empty train crossed the passenger at Dongfeng so in light of the excellent scenery south of Conghe we headed back over the hill to Conghe where we photographed the train arriving and then out along the line to Liushan. At Liushan the train was shunted and the loco disappeared down a branch to collect loads as the sun set.
We headed back to Dongfeng where we arranged accommodation for the night in a wing of the large forestry building to the south west of the station.
Day 5 10/02
Woke to hear a train climbing out of Dongfeng towards Weihe. At the station at 06.50 confirming that the train was not yet at Shuangfeng we headed off to Pinglin. One large group of Japanese traveling by bus and several other Japanese groups traveling by car were set up at Pinglin summit for the loaded train, which arrived 15 minutes later.
Leaving Pinglin we encouraged maximum pace from the driver but only arrived at the level crossing at Xinli seconds before the train. A beautiful still morning with long stream trails hanging in the sky. We should have stayed here to photograph the passenger however we headed to Zhengzhu. This was a mistake as this part of the valley was smoggy, the log train was held for the passenger at Zhengzhu. Met Til and his companion again at the rock cutting.
We then proceeded none stop back through Dongfeng over the hill and down the road towards Qinshan and walked in to a spot from the level crossing near Qinshan. Initially although it was very misty and hazy a breeze sprung up and the visibility improved by the time the passenger arrived. By the time we got to the other side of Conghe we were back to finding locations, which were wind safe. In contrast to the previous day, the passenger was on time, ambling along and depositing large numbers of passengers at each stop of which there are several between Conghe and Liushan in addition to the two stations. We managed to set up in 3 good locations even with our 40km max speed limitation. Loco ran around at Liushan and turned at Yulin.
On the return trip we set up at a shot on one of the bridges to the south of Yulin where the day before we observed the loco was working although the general trend is all downhill from Yulin to Conghe. Then a final shot on the Conghe - Qinshan section before heading back over the hill to Dongfeng again. We finished off photographing the passenger leaving Dongfeng, arriving Shuangfeng and as the clouds filled the sky at Pinglin. We had been almost constantly on the go from 07.00 to 15.00.
Continued to Weihe where we joined the expressway to Harbin. At a constant speed of 80kmh we ended up in Harbin at 18.30 where we bade farewell to our driver and his brother.
Time for a hair cut in the hotel opposite the station and then hard sleeper on train T18 20.32 to Beijing. Surprisingly on the eve of Chinese New Year many hard sleeper berths on this train were empty. According to Jun ticket prices on some routes are significantly increased in the run up to Chinese New Year so this may have been the reason. Excellent meal in the beautiful but deserted dining car.
09.01 arrival into Beijing. 47 minutes later was at the airport waiting for SAS check in to open home.
Many thanks to Jun for accompanying me on this trip and organizing all the ground arrangements as we went along.