The International Steam Pages

Steam in Sichuan, April 1999

CHINA TRIP REPORT (7 APRIL to 17 APRIL 1999) from Bruce Evans.

1. CHENGDU AREA (7, 8 and 17 April)

Time was spent at the northwestern end of Chengdu Station and on the line south from Chengdu. Other observations were made from trains when leaving and arriving in Chengdu.

Trains to the north were seen with original SS3 electrics as well as SS3Bs in the 4xxx series and in a new 5xxx series. The Chengdu administration appears to have been receiving large numbers of new 5xxx SS3Bs presumably mainly for its newly energised or soon to be energised sections. The 5xxx locos seen all had Zhuzhou builder's plates. It was interesting to note during the trip that the 4xxx locos appear to have been constructed by both Zhuzhou and Datong - it is more common practice with modern traction for factories producing a particular loco type for each factory to have its own seperate series.

The line to the south of Chengdu towards Kunming has recently been energised but it is not known how far south the energised section presently extends. The two SS3B electrics seen on freights on this line carried the Emeishan depot character indicating that the power has been turned on over at least this first section (Chengdu-Emeishan) south. Three hours of observation on the south line produced two heavy SS3B hauled freights, two DF1 hauled freights, presumably pick-up workings, and five DF4B hauled passenger trains.

Trains towards Chongqing were all SS3B hauled with a few 5xxx series locos also now in use.

'Old' DF1 1247 was again seen at Chengdu depot and is thought to be the depot pilot. A JS or SY was also noted - it appears that industrial steam from the surrounding areas is overhauled at Chengdu depot.

When arriving at Chengdu Station from Chongqing on the morning of 13 April orange liveried Ziyang-built DF4B 9469 was noted about to depart on a Chengdu-Daxian passenger train that had two soft-sleeper coaches in addition to hard-seat and hard-sleeper stock. This DF4B would be a loco owned by the recently completed Chengdu-Daxian local railway.

The railway line shown on the latest Quail map as skirting around the western side of Chengdu is not yet complete and through operation is not possible at this stage. Construction activity was noted.

2. CHENGDU to NEIJIANG (8 and 13 April)

At Ziyang a DF5 was noted on yard and station duties.

Further east, at the western end of Houjiaping Station, on the southern side of the line, a DF1 was noted parked within a large factory compound behind closed siding gates. The factory appeared to manufacture steel pipes as there were several stockpiles of these visible. It was assumed that the loco was an ex-national railways unit sold for industrial service.

At Maodianzhi Station, the first after Zhizhong Station, an SY was in steam on a spur at the northwestern end of the station. From general observations and comments made by locals in the area this spur serves a silica sand quarry or processing facility.

3. NEIJIANG to YIBIN (8 to 10 April)

Steam workings on this line appeared to be almost at an end. While several single and double-headed QJ freights were seen, about 70% of freight and all passenger workings were diesel. DF1s worked passenger trains and freights. DF4Bs were only seen hauling freights. In addition to the few line workings noted QJs were also in use as station pilots at Zigong and Yibin. The lines south of Yibin were not checked. On the Neijiang-Yibin section double-heading with DF4B+DF1 combinations was common. One DF4B+QJ combination was seen. While only 4 or 5 DF4Bs were regularly seen on trains, there were many additional members of this type parked at Neijiang depot, possibly indicating that driver training was still in progress. Two of the DF4Bs were locos seen last year on the Chongqing-Daxian line also recently energised. It is thought that most or all of the DF4Bs at Neijiang have been transferred from this line.

At Yibinbei Station, a yard in an industrial area, a green JMY 380B diesel-hydraulic was noted in use at a chemical plant (thought to be the Tianyuan Chemical Factory) to the east of the yard.

A short time was spent researching the industrial loco situation at Zigong, GK1 0062 was found in use at the Dongfeng Boiler Works in the western part of the city. DFH5 0111 was also reported to be here. Local workers indicated that SYs had previously been used.

About one and a half hours drive west of Zigong a short (7.5km) steam-worked 762mm coal mine line was found. This serves the Weiyuan Coal Mine some distance north of the town with the same name. The coal mine is at the village of Huangjiagou (see Nelles map) and coal in hand-braked four-wheel hoppers (there is a team of brakemen on the train) is worked downhill tender-first to an off-loading point at the village of Nihe. The off-loading point is on the hill overlooking the valley along which an industrial spur from the end of the national railways' Zizhong-Gaoshi branch extends.

The mine appears to have three standard Shijiazhuang-built three-axle tendered 0-8-0s, only one of which is in use at any time. The one in steam at the time of the visit was numbered 31. The other two, which were in the shed, were said to have been numbered 32 and 34 (they carried Shijiazhuang builders plates dated 1982 and 1981/10). Traffic is generally light and variable depending on production at the mine. Three trains were operated during the day on the first day the line was visited but only one on the second day.

The line passes through attractive countryside with deep well-wooded valleys and sandstone cliffs. There are several good locations to photograph the empty uphill workings, the most impressive spot featuring an attractive high curved viaduct. A road parallels the line for most of its length. The weather pattern during the few days in the Neijiang and Yibin areas generally produced overcast conditions in the morning with some clearing occuring during the day. When it was clear the sun was relatively weak due to the generally misty and polluted conditions.

Locos seen:

QJ: 3152(NJ), 3153(dead), 3169(NJ), 3175(dead), 3221(dead), 3233(NJ), 3234(NJ), 3235(dead), 3288(dead), 3462(NJ), 3463(dead), 3464(NJ), 3466(NJ).

Depots: Neijiang-NJ.

4. CHONGQING (11 and 12 April)

The main purpose of this visit was to see the GJ 0-6-0 tanks at the main steelworks at Dadukou (Pritchard, "Industrial Locomotives of the People's Republic of China", page 85). Li Nan, the excellent Chongqing CITS tour manager and our guide, is able to take visitors to this part of the works. (The depot and workshops is some distance from the main steelworks plant areas).

The steelworks appears to still have 11 GJs (with only 3 or 4 in use) although not all were seen. GJ 1019 was workshop pilot, 1010 was in the process of being cannibalised for 1047, 1030 was dead inside the depot workshop, 1027, 1063, 1065 were stored together with YJ 235 in a covered area adjacent to the diesel repair facility and 1075 was noted running through the main steelworks yard. One other GJ was reported to be in use in the steelworks and two further class members were reported stored somewhere within the works.

Also seen at the steelworks were 9 DFH5Bs, a DFH5 and several SYs. The works does not appear to have received any new locos in recent years, the DFH5Bs which arrived about a decade ago being the newest.

The steelworks performs its own steam loco overhauls and also takes in such work for other non-national railways users of steam in this area. JF 2464 from the Wansheng-Nanchuan Local Railway apparently received a comprehensive overhaul here in October, 1998.

Chongqing Number 3 Steelworks near the main railway station was also briefly visited. This small works which is in the process of closing down (the land has been taken for new highway construction) has a diesel worked narrow-gauge system of approximately 600mm gauge. Only one Changzhou-built JM80R loco was in operation while the remains of several other locos could be seen in the stockpile of scrap that was accumulating due to the demolition works. Of great interest was the view given by older workers that before the arrival of the diesels the works had Shijiazhuang-built steam locomotives. Another mystery worth researching!

At the national railways depot between Dadukou and Chongqing main station 6 or 7 DF1s were noted staged on a spur at the back of the shed.

Locos seen:

GJ: 1010, 1019, 1027, 1030, 1047, 1063, 1065, 1075.
YJ: 235
SY: 0357(Ts-71/5), 0467, 1253, 1271(Ts-84/1).

All industrial locos recorded were at Chongqing Number 1 Steelworks at Dadukou.


Pengzhou, the starting point of the Pengzhou-Baishuihe narrow gauge provincial local railway, was used as a base fro this period. Three days were spent on the narrow gauge line and two days at Mianzhu and Hanwang, researching railway activity at these towns.

The Baishuihe line is already well-reported and activity was found to be much as reported before. 0-8-0 number 71 was in use on the pair of daily return mixed trains, while two TH52 diesel-hydraulic locomotives were being used on the stone trains, up to four of which seem to operate during daylight hours. Two 0-8-0s and a third diesel were under repair in the depot, while a fourth TH52 was possibly the standby loco. Although the mixed train was generally well used railway staff indicated that its continued operation was to be reviewed at the end of the year.

The spur off the Baishuihe line shown on the Nelles and Quaill maps diverging east of Tongji is no longer in use - it apparently served a coal mine up the valley.

The mainline track standard on the Baishuihe line is high for a narrow gauge line with what appeared to be 43kg/m rail in use on the through track. There can be few narrow gauge railways in China where standard (or near standard!) 0-8-0s are treated to the luxury of such good track and it was a pleasure to see the little loco hauling the mixed being worked. The condition of the track did not seem to be a limiting factor as is the case on many other lines. Rails of considerably lighter section are used in the loops and yard tracks.

The weather at Pengzhou was generally overcast with reasonably sunny conditions being experienced only for part of one day. On two of the overcast days visits were made to the towns of Mianzhu and Hanwang to the north of Pengzhou to see if another coal mine narrow gauge line that various people had thought still existed was in fact still in use. The various snippets of 'information' indicated that this line served the Tianshi or Tianzhi Coal Mine.

At Mianzhu railway staff at the station did not appear to know of the existence of a narrow gauge line in the vicinity. At the Hanwang end of the station SY0045 (Ts-67/4) was found in steam at a small ore or limestone loading facility.

At Hanwang grimy JF4040 (Dl-57/4) previously reported here was found in steam at an ore loading bunker at the northwestern end of the station. Several hundred metres further west there are a number of coal transhipment bunkers and these receive coal brought down the valley to the northwest on an electrified (thought to be 550V DC) 762mm gauge railway. This line extends approximately 6km up this attractive valley and serves two coal-loading areas, the one at the end of the line being fed by a cableway. Three electric locomotives were found on the line. Two were four-axle articulated units with each section on a rigid two-axle frame. These had plates carrying the designation ZK14G, were numbered 832 and 833 and appear to have been constructed in 1983. The third loco was Changzhou-built and had a two-axle rigid frame and a steeple cab layout. It carried a plate with the designation ZL14-7 and a date of 3/86.

There are at least two further industries at Hanwang with locomotives. SY1194 was seen shunting at the eastern end of the station while opposite the bunkers at which the JF was stabled there was a large factory with two diesels, a pale blue JMY380B and an orange TH9. The TH9 appeared to be a diesel-hydraulic intermediate in size between a JMY380 and a DFH5.


Other lines and operations worth investigating in the Chengdu/Chongqing areas:

1. Longchang to Luzhou local railway

This provincial line east of Neijiang is reported to have five QJs. The line belongs to the same authority responsible for the Pengzhou-Baishuihe local railway. With the demise of the Neijiang QJs this line may be the last place in Sichuan Province where it is possible to see QJs in operation.

2. Jiayang coal mine narrow gauge

During the trip many local people indicated that there is still a steam worked 762mm gauge coal mine line near the town of Jiayang near Emeishan and Leshan about 140km south of Chengdu. Although it was understood that this line was remote from the national railway line it may well be the system mentioned as being at Jiajiang on page 86 of Pritchard's IRS China Book. Several people indicated that a passenger service was operated over the line as it passed through an area poorly served by roads.

3. Guangyuan

Several people indicated that there may be a narrow-gauge coal mine line in this area too. Anyone who considers investigating this line should note that the people who provided this information felt that security may be a problem as there were or had been prison labour camps in the area.

4. Steelworks at Jiangyou and Daxian

These are medium sized works that could produce something of interest. For example Daxian has been reported by a number of Chengdu and Chongqing steelworks workers as having a Polish tank locomotive.

Rob Dickinson