The International Steam Pages

More Steam in China, November 2002

John Middleton was in the country from 31 October - 10 November on a mining business trip to a gold mine in Shaanxi Province which involved CNR train journeys Xian - Lue Yang (365 km SW on Chengdu line) - Xian

I travelled to China from the US, inbound via Washington - Hong Kong - Xian and return Xian - Beijing - Washington.

A previously unreported steam loco is thought to exist in Lue Yang (Shaanxi Province).

Xian - Lue Yang (lines 24/27)

I travelled down to Lue Yang on train K165 (loco: SS7C-0016) which runs overnight and returned on the very smart T8 (Chengdu-Beijing) service (loco: SS6-1012) which runs through the late evening on this section. The line is single track electrified south of Baoji and spectacular with many tunnels. Freights seen were hauled by SS4 and SS3.

Lue Yang Steel Works (line 27, 215 km south of Baoji)

A non-enthusiast Australian ex-pat working at the gold mine (no rail operations) we were visiting said that they had seen a steam loco shunting at Lue Yang CNR station in October 2002, I did not see this but surmised it may have come from the steelworks here - the only obvious heavy industry although the town does also have a small (one cooling tower) power station. The only observation from driving past the steelworks was a standard gauge red/cream Bo-BoD (full width body, double cab) of unknown design. Running from the steelworks, several kilometres up a very scenic river valley to the east is a narrow gauge electrified line to iron ore mines. No trains were seen but at the mine, two 4WWE mining locos were seen running from an adit to a tipping dock where presumably the ore is transhipped to the line down to the steelworks.

Tongchaun Coal Mining Administration (8 Nov 2002)

A one day visit was made by taxi from Xian (450 Yuan including chasing up and down the full length of the line to Dong Po). The actual drive from the outskirts of Xian is only about 1 hour but it can take up to another hour through the appalling Xian traffic jams, depending on where your hotel is (I was in the Shangri-La - a business expense!).

Had brilliant South African like clear blue skies - 3 degrees to + 19 degrees, and the Tongchaun smog only worked its way up the valley from around lunchtime onwards.

This line is very underrated, but it takes hard work and you have to be careful to find out where the locos are and understand the traffic patterns but there is some excellent photographic potential in some quite dramatic scenery. I saw three JF hauled uphill trains in daylight on the day I was there and only one diesel.

Arrived at Tongchaun Nan at around 09.30, JF 2369 was waiting in the station for empties, spare in steam was JF 2182 (4.1956 worksplate) with JF 2365 stored out of use. All three facing chimney first up the valley.

JF 2369 was in ex-works condition, newly repainted and with a 14.10.2002 date on the boiler certification plate, so steam still has some future here. DF7-3065 was CNR pilot. DF4-1457 and 9187 were noted on coal train workings to the south.

The driver indicated that there were 4 serviceable JF - 2113, 2182, 2368 and 2369.

JF hauled trains to Wangshiwa are chimney first and to Hongtou/Dong Po tender first from Tongchaun Nan.

JF 2369 departed around 10.10 on 11 empties and ran through to Wangshiwa Colliery arriving there about 11.15 after shunting it ran back tender first with a load but then sat at Tongchaun Nan until right on sunset at 17.15 when it left with another load of empties for Wangshiwa. JF 2113 left Tongchuan Nan about 12.30 and did a return trip to Wangshiwa (however, this was nowhere to be seen at 09.30 and I could not work out where it had been hiding).

The line leaves Tongchaun Nan due north and runs for about 3 km through Tongchaun Town, a difficult section hemmed in by buildings although there is a river bridge and a level crossing which may offer potential. However, the line swings east and heads up a valley which becomes progressively deeper (may be 200 feet deep by the summit). After about 2 km the line leaves the town and enters open (wire and pole free) country. I managed one good shot in Tongchaun town (where the valley road is close to the line) and then chased on to above the passing loop of Shijiahe (4.5 km) where the train stopped briefly. Before Shijiahe the road is generally below the line level but beyond here the road winds up the opposite side of the valley to about 150 feet above the line and a couple of good panaoramic shots are possible if visibility is good (its was crystal clear - a very rare phononenom in China!). Shijiahe station is hidden from the road although a dirt track runs up to it (station staff were friendly and phoned operating to find out what was happening). The line runs through cuttings on this section and there is excellent potential for closer-in shots either side of Shijiahe but you would have to walk in and thus only get one shot. The line turns at Shijiahe and above Shijiahe is better in the morning (too backlit in afternoon) whereas below Shijiahe is better in the afternoon. At the top of the valley the line enters a long 780 m tunnel before taking the short branch to Wangshiwa Colliery, there is another tunnel on the branch just before the colliery. After having got three shots in the valley, it was easy to get to the colliery before the train arrived. The colliery itself was very photogenic and the sun side on at 11.00, everyone seemed friendly and there was no objection to photography in the colliery yard. The loco runs round then shunts the loads out from the screens before placing the empties there. Movement of wagons through the screens is by capstan. Colliery has a very 1950's NCB feel to it - well OK the NCB didn't have 2-8-2's - but you know what I mean!!

The driver then advised us that JF 2368 was at Dong Po (the furthest extent of the line) but we couldn't find it. Its about a one-hour drive and until you reach Gaoyang (about half way) the line is nowhere near the road. DF7-3135 was seen at Gaoyang heading for Dong-Po with 4 empties at around 12.00 and it returned with a load from Dong Po at about 13.15. The section from the summit tunnel through to Gaoyang probably offers considerable potential but appears to be largely inaccessible although there is a road to Hongtou (which we didn't use). Between Gaoyang and Dong Po it is not possible to chase a train as the road is running through a succession of mining villages with numerous people, animals, bicycles, minibuses etc. It isn't very scenic anyway although the JF's will be chimney first with loads up the grade from Dong Po.

JF 2113 then left Tongchaun Nan at around 12.30 and arrived Wangshiwa at 13.30, this was rather grubby but possibly the oldest JF still working in China?. The light is excellent for a train at this time but from previous reports, this appears to be an unusual time for a train. JF 2113 shunted and ran back to Tongchuan around 15.30. It then disappeared again as it was not in Tongchuan at 17.15 when JF 2369 went up again with another train of empties for Wangshiwa.

The only other activity in the afternoon DF7-3135 with the load from Dong Po. Don't ignore the down hill trains, if theres nothing else to do, there are possibilities for these such as embankment broadsides, people shots, etc. Interestingly DF7-3135 was the only diesel seen on the line during the day.

Beijing (Saturday 9 Nov 2002)

I flew back from Xian to Beijing and had an afternoon looking for steam

Dahuichang Lime Works.

On the standard gauge SY 0251 was in steam in appalling external condition but with staff lazing around doing nothing. The derelict YJ has disappeared from the shed, presumed scrapped. On the narrow gauge, all was quiet with the 4 locos locked in the shed, although it appeared to have been working the previous day as the rails were very shiny. One of the locos (not identifiable) was ex-works in new paint. The hulk of the old 01 previously dumped outside had gone, presumed also scrapped.

February 7th Rolling Stock Works - Crane Yard

In steam were two very clean SY - 0732 (plate 10.1973 also numbered 491.9) and 0891 (9.1974 plate also numbered 491.10). There was no sign of the JF's previously here or of any other loco, gate staff said there were no other locos. Although the locos were in steam with seemingly lots of staff around, work was only due to start again Sunday midnight.

Beijing Metro

The red line is now open through to Sihui East (on station signs, Sihui Dong on train maps), the last two stations being above ground. The latest stock is from the "Beijing Subway Rolling Stock Plant" - sets S423, S425 and S426 noted with such plates.

Hong Kong

A one day visit allowed a ride into Hong Kong on the Airport Express and a trip on the Kowloon-Canton Railway plus a visit to the Railway Museum at Tai Po Market. An "Octopus" Smartcard ticket worked out good value as it covers everything including KCR, MTRC, Trams, Buses, Ferries and Airport Express (you pay a HKD50 deposit but this plus any unused value is refunded when you have finished using it).

Hong Kong Railway Museum

Nicely preserved in green livery under an awning is 2'0" gauge 0-4-4T WB 2227 of 1924, there is also a standard gauge Wickham trolley, five KCR coaches and a KCR Metro-Cammell car mock up as well as a small exhibits section in the old Tai Po market station. The museum entrance is still free and it was quite busy. On the downside the museum shop has little of railway interest and the museum is hidden from the KCR tracks by screens thus preventing any photography of passing trains.


A ride on the KCR out to the Chinese border at Lo Wu found three of the KCR diesels (54, 56 and 60) in the yards at Lo Wu, 60 was marshalling cattle wagons at an adjacent market/abattoir. Most trains seen were 12-car EMU mostly by Metro Cammell. A new series of 12 car sets was delivered by Kinki Sharyo in 2001 upwards in a complicated numbering system eg: D201 + P 201 + M201 + H 201 + C202 + H 202 + M 204 + H 204 + F 203 + M 203 + P203 + D 203. The D cars are the only driving vehicles and D 201 and D203 carry set numbers E 201 and E203 respectively, so the 12 car set has different set numbers on each end, the P cars are power cars. Sets up to E221/223 were noted.

The older Metro-Cammell 12-car sets also only have two driving vehicles and as these are made up of 3-car sets, half of these sets - the inner 6 coaches (in a seemingly random manner) have no driving position (the original series was E01-E118). It is assumed that half the sets were rebuilt like this.

Also noted were a pair of the Lok2000 electric locos on a train of double deck stock and Chinese DF11 on two through trains as well as an X2000 EMU.

MTRC (Mass Transit Rail Corporation)

Operates the Airport Express and Tung Chung lines as well as the HK Metro lines. The Airport Express stock is built by CAF/ADTRANZ and runs in 6-car sets. Photography is difficult as all the stations have platform edge screens. On the HK Metro lines, all trains seen were 8-car, the stock has mostly been refurbished by Goninan over the 1998-2001 period according to plates in the cars. There is a programme to install platform edge screens at all stations.

Hong Kong Tramways

Two new cars of the "modern" design were seen in service - 169 and 170 along with the traditional cars. The system celebrates its centenary in 2004.

Rob Dickinson