The International Steam Pages


Steam in North China, January 2003

The ANZAC bunch's North China trip, Jan 2003; from Jeremy Wainwright, Tony Hurst, & John Agnew. Pictures are by Tony Hurst and John Agnew.

7 Jan; Group convened at Shenyang Airport and motored immediately to Changchun for what, at the best of times, was going to be a token look at the trams. Coming into town from south, we caught sight of one end of the new light rail line - Combino/Variotram-type low-floor cars (didn't manage to count sections). Saw the remaining trad. line for a short section from a right-angled corner north, I think, over a bridge over the railway. Nice variety of cars, ranging from old trad. Jap types to a modern one with forward-mounted r.v. mirrors. The section of track seen was all reserved. As light failed, we found that the LR line runs beside the railway under the tramway. That evening, took train to Weihe.

8-11 Jan: Weihe n.g. forestry line. Train running very erratic. Motorcading difficult on compacted snow. Weather variable, ranging from bright sun on snow to shooting in snowfall. Quite a lot of German fans competing for the spots (the pressure on the place seems to be building up as the closure in March? approaches). Spent a night at a Ludian in Chonghe at the Southern end of the line. This time saw plenty of double heading, and banking out of Shuangfeng station towards Weihe. We left by motorway to Haerbin, to catch the Jagdaqi express, overnight to Nenjiang.

12-15 Jan: Nenjiang-Heibaoshan local railway; High deflector JS.

At Nenjiang there is a Large 3 road Loco shed, where we saw JS 8247/8248 inside, one being in steam. The coal company has a superb large headquarters building nearby. Zhang Xin Sheng had pre-hired a 16 seater bus for us as we had been forewarned of the state of the (coal) road. We quickly found out that the Nelles map is incorrect (to say the least). We were told by our guide, one of the coalmine managers, that this line had been originally built by the Japanese, and then had been torn up and the formation used as a road by the Chinese. Then when the existing coal line was relaid on the same roadbed, a new road was built some considerable distance to the west of that shown on the Nelles map.

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The terrain from Nenjiang to Baigenli at km 40 was reasonably flat and accessible by road. However from here to km 145 the railway seemed inaccessible. While there was the appearance that a reasonable road might follow the line for some distance North of Baigenli, (e.g. large system map in Nenjiang station) we were told that trying to get through to Heibaoshan that way in January would be very difficult. (Of course, our ability to make sense of any advice at that time was very limited by lack of decent maps). We were told by the Baigenli railway staff there was a "very bad road northwards from Baigenli to Zhuohutan where there is a bridge and a grade", but were advised to retrace our route to the level crossing at km 30 and proceed north up the main (coal) road, which itself was "a mess". It takes the buses 4 hours to reach Heibaoshan from Nenjiang, the rail passenger service having ceased some years ago. And the goods trains don't use cabooses any more. So we did not get to the isolated stations at Zhuohutan km 80, and Hualongmen km 110. They are evidently now only reached by tractor over rough ground. Not far south of km 145, a snowy road was pointed out to us as going from the main road to Hualongmen. It would be worth someone with a 4WD vehicle investigating this.

The line at the northern end runs through hilly undulating country. On day 1 we snapped a double-header arriving at Nenjiang at 7 am, soon after daybreak, then headed off up the line to Baigenli, the limit of previously reported exploration, where eventually we got a crossing of JS8298 on a southbound goods with 2 Northbound light engines, presumably off the train seen arriving at Nenjiang. We then bumped and ground out to Heibaoshan on the main road with no sighting of the line until we got to the Xing Huo Power station level crossing at km 145. Then away from the line again until Heibaoshan level crossing at Km 155.

Here there is a nice sweeping curve on a high embankment that can be shot from above or below just before the station. After the large 3 story station/Office building, there is a fine straight skyline embankment leading to the main coal-loading area at km 158. Upgrade for loaded trains in both cases. There are some other pleasing shots in the area, but not many trains. The coal mine hotel was very comfortable (but no hot water) and the local bath house and restaurants were cheap and enjoyable. Coal is also loaded in the station yard using mobile front end loaders.

Loco servicing is done (in the open) back at km 152, which is not on the main road to Heibaoshan but off on the side road to Jagdaqi and Heihe which heads NE from Xing Huo town (See map). Log loading occurs here too. This depot which is actually at Xing Huo Xiang, is known as "km 152". There is a direct road from here eastwards to Heibaoshan but its only suitable for large 4 wheel drive vehicles in winter. We were unable to use it. The coalmine owns a large fleet of Mitsubishi Pajero's etc. and these would have been a better choice had we known.

We had a mixture of sun and gloom (and plenty of snow on the ground) and got down to a daytime ambient temperature of -33C one day. But seeing the JS being serviced here with frozen rods etc in these temperatures was a revelation. The tripod froze up but fortunately the video camera with its detached breast pocket batteries kept going. Biggest problem was ensuring the battery leads did not snap as they blast froze very quickly.

A JS appears to be based here to shunt the line from the loading point to the depot at Km 152, and then makes up trains and hands over loads to the train engine(s) from Nenjiang. Traffic is pretty erratic, and the unpassable direct road to the depot hindered chasing trains from Heibaoshan. It was either get them at Km 152, or at the Power Station at Km 145, but not both. Locos seen here at various times were 6547, 8113 and 8298. JS 8153 eluded us this trip, and we did not see 8247/8 on trains. Derelict at Km 152 were 5741 and 6012.

On our last day, we got what we could at Heibaoshan by 1100, then parallelled the train south but had to give up waiting for it at the Km 30 crossing, as light failed and our departure time for the Tongliao overnight train approached. This was an enjoyable experience.

Heibaoshan, JS6547 on shunt leaving main coal loading area, passing brickworks

JS6547 with loaded train on embankment past Heibaoshan town , just after leaving Heibaoshan station.

JS6547 between railway crossing and Power Station at km 145.

JS6547 heads south from railway crossing at km 145.

Jan 16- 23 Jan. Jitong as normal!.

23 Jan: Yuanbaoshan coal line is awkward for the light (at least at this time of the year) and the road/rail interface is not very accommodating, and train running is very erratic (except for the 2 daily passenger runs), as well documented on the web. Furthermore, at this time of the year, the 0700 pass. is too early for anything like decent light.

One pleasant surprise was JS 8246, a high-deflectored one (to save one going to Heibaoshan?), which is very smartly turned out. (The turn-out of the others is good average, with blue 'headboards'.) However, yesterday, when we found it, 8246 did not turn a wheel and today, when we returned from Pingzhuang, we could not find it (but the light was ratshit, anyway). locos seen were JS 6544, 8246(HD) 8249 8250 and 6066 derelict.

Reasonable morning shots (before 1100) of trains of empties (loco leading, f.f.) going up to the mines on the branch from Majiawan can be got up from the cement works. Soon after passing that point, the loco changes ends (in all cases?) and pushes to the mines. The Power Station Hotel (recommended to us) has a glitzy exterior and lobby but the 4-bed room w/o facilities that we were allotted was of less than Youth Hostel standard.

24 Jan: Pingzhuang coal lines are also rather bewildering. It is possible to get a few shunting and starting-out shots in the area of the brewery and to get both steam and electrics at the edge of, and in, the hole (although weather defeated us re the hole). Turn-out of locos is better than the web led us to expect. The steam loco depot is not where it is represented to be on the website map, which is only a minor servicing point. However, we did not succeed in finding where it actually is.

Nor did we have any real success with the JS-operated lines to the deep mines (tho' we did follow a portion of one skirting the city to the NW). One amazing find (previously reported?) was SY 1084 at the 'Workshops' of the web map (looked to us more like a holding yard), which was fitted with a JS boiler and full deflectors, very smartly turned out (but was lacking its piston rods). The plates it carried appeared to be its original 1984 SY plates, not some latter-day rebuild plates. The Baoshan hotel in Pinzhuang is very smart but also very comfortable and has a good on-site restaurant. Locos seen were: JS 5702, 5758, SY 0210, 1084, 1007, 0403, 0271, 0304, 0742.

25 Jan: A restful direct overnight train from Chifeng to Dalian:

26 Jan; Jeremy chased the Dalian trams: Rte 203 (eastward from rly stn) was running with 3000-series cars, the 'tween-Wars Japanese-style bogies, on a very frequent service, which was running only as far as Min Zhu Guang Chang (where the little depot that serves the line is located). Cars were shunting on the X-over just beyond MZGC.

Rte 201, which theoretically buts onto 203 at the station, but shunts on a X-over about 500m from that used by the 203 line, is currently physically disconnected from it for about 5m. A pretty intensive, but more erratic, service on 201 was provided by 2000 and 7000-series cars, both bogies in the same general configuration as the 3000s - end entrances (fare box, 1 Y cash) and centre exit, the 2000s being the 'streamlined snails' and the 7000's rather boxy modern cars in the same tradition as the Melbourne A and B types (or some Calcutta numbers). The 201 meets, and has operating physical connection with, the 202, but the nearest they come together is about 100m. The 202 was a turn-up (at the end of my available time): it is operated by 8000-series cars ( a 'rounded' version of the 7000s, rather like the little German railcars in Bolivia) and 9000s, low-floor articulated cars on the modern European pattern. While I plodded all operating trackage of 203, most of 201, and a short, congested section of 202, the other guys did a touristy trip to Port Arthur, in the course of which they saw what seems to be a recent light-rail-type extension of 202, operated at the outer end exclusively by the 9000s.

Lushan (Port Arthur): Meantime Tony and John drove out to the end of the old Chinese Eastern Railway, the old Russian then Japanese line at Lushan - formerly the Russian naval base of Port Arthur on the south end of the Dalian peninsular. Here we photographed the delightful Russian built wooden station complete with its "onion" dome. its right alongside the Chinese Naval base so cameras were kept out of sight. Here we saw one of the GE U boat diesels (Chinese class N?) that run in the Shenyang bureaux.

27 Jan: Dashiqiao Mineral Railway: This definitely has possibilities but is hard work. Two JS were working, 6214 & 6308 sometimes with one of them banking. 8117 was cold in the depot yard. Lots of snow and sunshine today. It is not a coal line. The mineral in question is magnesium and loaded coal trains are taken out to the smelters. Oil wagons are worked between CNR and oil sidings between there and the depot area. The first section of the line from the CNR, loops up and over the CNR around the north end of the town (as shown in the Cerny map), through the tunnel, past the Oil facility, and back down to the suburban HQ depot at Baizhai which is just an extension of Dashiqiao, while the direct roads goes straight to it, on the flat - a strange arrangement. Don't know why the railway does the big detour?

The depot area is a closed area and is a dead-end between the first section from CNR and the lines out to the mines. Although a connecting curve exists (making it a triangle and thus possible to run direct and to turn locos), today's operations involved no turning of locos and a reversal of trains (effectively, since none was really a through train, anyway). Locos were thus oriented to run FF to the mines and up to the tunnel on the way to CNR. We observed one train in each of these directions that was banked. The locos are pretty scungy. The administration is decidedly unhelpful - no running information and no welcome mat at the depot. However you can shoot trains from right outside the compound as they leave the yard for town or the mines. See the update to the Cerny map, which is remarkably good but needed embellishing now that we have the extra information. There is a rough road to the mines from the north end of the walled depot compound but it was hard to find, so we went the long way through Guantun (Cerny's map) but came back the short route as it was easier to find from out by the mines. But it's now on my map . Coal is dumped at lineside bins out on the longer branch line, and trucked into the 2 smelters.

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28 Jan: Beitai Steelworks: On a bitterly cold and grey day we caught some action in the CNR yard area by the steelworks SYs, very nicely turned out, as previously reported. Not much scope for getting them doing line work because they seem always to attach loads at the smokebox end and, at the Liaoyang end of the yard, where they do a long haul on works property, they are obscured by a wall. Locos seen here were: SY 1577, 0322, 1648, 1054, 0930, 0448, 1560, 1567, 0792, 2019.

29 Jan: Gongchangling / Anping: a very large and interesting system, the top end being unreported (we think?).

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We were told the whole area is known as Gongchangling, only the CNR interchange station being called Anping. Several idle JS (perhaps the impending holiday affected their employment, but we saw them making what appeared to be pointless l.e. movements much of the time). They do traverse the section mentioned in reports as 'street running' but better described as roadside running, but, again, we saw no decent action there. That section is electrified but has many unwired sidings and seems also to be where the workshop facilities are. While we were at Anping, JS8044 turned up as part of the load of a CNR train, apparently returning from an overhaul, and adding to what appeared to be a bloated roster. Other JS seen were 8046, 8159, 8239 and 8252.

The 50 plus electrics (Bo-Bo-Bo articulated units, like those spotted later at Anshan steelworks) were also in what appeared to be gross oversupply but, despite the approach of the holiday, were busy hauling ore and overburden (perhaps not as busy as they are at other times, who knows?) and running a 7-car workers train from down in Anping (over from the CNR station) up through Gongchangling which is a large mine and yard complex several kms NE of Anping. It also has a narrow gauge electric line which emerges from the hillside mines right above the station and out onto unloading bins, then circles back inside the hillside again by another entry tunnel. We didn't have time to pursue this operation.

The electric line proceeds further to the NE and negotiates a long tunnel which emerges right into the western sector of the East Gongchangling Mine. A second parallel line and tunnel did not seem to be used while we were there. We saw the evening departure from this part of the mine at 1650 and photted the 0730 passenger arrival, the latter being well illuminated. The road to the "East mine" is a simple extension of the road up through Gongchangling, up over a high pass then down into the mining valley. Here nobody said boo to us, even tho' the phot spot for the arrival of the pass. out of the tunnel is at a point where ore is dumped from Huge dump trucks for loading by draglines into trains. Many electrics were stabled here in this large yard.

From here the line switchbacks up onto the mountain sides above the mine valley and runs around further mountain tops to various loading points in the area (unexplored). The passenger train upon arrival at the mine, has another electric attached to the rear and then heads further up into the mountains out of sight, as a push-pull, no doubt to the eastern end of the complex. Some 30 minutes later it returned downhill to the western end, before entering the tunnel and setting off downhill to Gonchangling and the Anping Miners station tucked away in a back street. This complex area needs much further exploration.

30 Jan: Dengta-Huazi was dead for the holiday when we reached there on 30/1. Saw a nicely maintained SY at 'North Huazi' and SY 0903 at 'South' Huazi, (Dong San Xian - #3 East mine) but decidedly no action. 'North' Huazi is actually the limestone pick-up point. Also saw this area clearly from the air when we left Shenyang next day.

31 Jan: We flew home via Korea while Jeremy did the Anshan trams: He says: "Having not done my homework well, I relied on the Quail map and struck out east from the station looking for the line that is shown as extending both north and south a bit to the east. After walking a few blocks, with some local help I eventually found the remaining line, rte 501, just to the north of the station right beside the railway (relocated, I think, possibly as a result of freeway construction in the area). The line should have a reasonably secure future, since it is wholly reserved track, all laid with heavy rail on concrete sleepers. The ride takes about half an hour; the line is a 4-hour plod. I saw only one kind of car, the bullet-nosed bogie cars that are associated with Anshan. Service was frequent. There are places where, with a lot of patience, one could get the trams running parallel with CNR trains (I didn't manage it). I had a nice, sunny day but managed to lose an exposed film."


Rob Dickinson

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