The International Steam Pages

Steam in China, February 2003

Ian Bowskill reports on his latest trip:

Feb 17th. Arrive Beijing 60 minutes late courtesy of Lufthansa LH720. Another 60 minutes getting through immigration. My party of three was collectively through in under 5 minutes but other nationals in front of us were subject to much scrutiny and delay. Finally met our guide Zhang Lantou - who was wondering where on earth we'd got to - and off to Beijing main station for train K265, soft sleeper to Yabuli. Feb 18th. Awoke beyond Harbin to clear skies and snow. Dumped QJ spotted between Harbin and Yabuli. Collected minibus at Yabuli and set off to Weihe. Excellent first day's photography on the section Weihe - Dongfeng but not all booked trains ran. No surprise there then. Met up with Rob Dickinson and Dave McLeod and had an impromptu beer session on the roadside in Zhenzu whilst watching trains pass in the loop. They joined us for an excellent meal back in Weihe. Staying in small private hotel. Rooms well lit but no hot water nor showers/bath - just a Chinese loo and a sink between the 4 of us.

Feb 19th. Another fabulous day but only one loaded train in daylight owing to number 33 being a virtual failure out on the line. Eventually arrived at Dongfeng with 53 as pilot. 33 was only running on one cylinder and the sound effects as the pair tackled the climb to Shuangfeng were incredible. Public bath house for a nice hot shower. Feb 20th. No water at all at the hotel. Two loaded trains in daylight today, including a late running night working. The second was running horrendously late and it finally staggered through Shuangfeng with no.33 on the front. Fitters had been busy as it was running on two cylinders again. Only just made it over the top of the climb. Never seen an ng loco thrashed so hard. Caught it again at Pinglin where the loco from an outbound empties was used to bank it up the climb out of the station. Minibus to Yabuli for train T2018, soft sleeper to Tieling. My first and likely to be last visit to Weihe. What a system? Air of total neglect and various reports that it will close for good in March or April.

One glimmer of hope is a report that if the Forestry Bureau can find RMB 1,000,000 to cover its running costs then Chinese government will not close it. Then again, pigs might fly.

Locos seen - all working - 033, 034, 035, 053, 054, 055.

Feb 21st. Arrived Tieling 10 mins late under grey skies which lasted into the afternoon. Plenty of action on the Tiefa system but not great photographing conditions. Hotel good with excellent showers but room wiring an electrican's nightmare.

Feb 22nd. After early morning rush at Diaobingshan one of our group falls victim to tummy bug. Returned him to hotel and then went to the tunnel on the Faku line for the mid morning train. Excellent view from the top and would like to explore this line more as it has definite scenic potential. Hectic session around the diamond junction then to Dalong mine for shunting, loaded trains and the afternoon passenger all in good light.

Feb 23rd. Sunrise sesion at Daqing depot then back to tunnel for the benefit of our now recovered patient. Pottered around the system until the afternoon rush hour and then by road to Fuxin. Locos seen - JS5029. Rods off but shunted from Daqing Works to Daqing Depot for coal and water! No obvious signs of it being a stationary boiler. SY's : 0393, 0435, 0665, 0860, 0979, 1183, 1255, 1389, 1393, 1412, 1683, 1712, 1749, 1751, 1754, 1764, 1769, 1770, 1772. Impressed by the level of activity at Tiefa but little of scenic merit apart from the obvious potential of the Faku line. I would consider another visit if only to concentrate on this part of the system. At no time were we asked to pay the photo permit fee. Feb 24th. Sunrise shot of morning passenger at Minxu before breakfast and then onto the south west stabling point. En route spotted an SY shunting a siding/connection between Fuxin CNR station at the coal system. Just as we arrived, a heavy coal train arrived on the line which comes in at an angle into the yard. The only decent load seen all day. Walked the line as far as the crossing by the power station. 2 SY's shunting the yard and one propelled a load into the power station. One west and one east bound passenger passed too. Stayed by the crossing for a while but no steam activity. Much more activity on the electric lines behind, including a steam pw train. Moved onto Taiping station and the nearby stabling point. One SY in steam. Other steam activity limited to two pw trains, one of which departed electric depot, some light engines and one very short rake of empties. Again the electric lines provided more activity. Went back to Minzu for the afternoon passenger and was rewarded by the bonus of an empty coal train to the mine and some subsequent shunting activity.

Steam locos seen : SY's - 0076, 0391, 0540, 0541 (dumped), 0911, 0941, 0989, 1359, 1379 (uncomfirmed - seen from a distance), 1391, 1395, 1460. YJ403 (dumped)

Not the most active steam site but interesting all the same and full bore sun all day.

Drove to Shenyang Bei for train T238 soft sleepers to Handan. Feb 25th. On time arrival but as gloomy as it gets. By road to steelworks for an official visit. Since the unauthorised visit of another group, severe restrictions have been placed on authorised groups. We were limited to just the crossing at the east end of the blast furnaces and the crossing in front of the loco depot (Note - This crossing is extra to the one shown by the footbridge on Dave Longman's map which needs a slight modification. The footbridge/crossing was one of the many locations declared out of bounds). A policeman accompanied us for the first half of the day and other works employees for the rest. SY2007 (1992 built) and SY2009 noted. The restrictions on movement were not helped by the dismal light which prevented any meaningful photography. Feb 26th. A sunny morning in the steelworks but still in a straight jacket regarding access. Head of Security in attendance this time. Requests to visit other locations were politely refused as "steam does not work there" or "that part of factory closed today". Particularly annoying when it was patently obvious that neither statement was true. One blast furnace under repair and 8 or so diesels working kept steam action to a quite low level. A smiles and handsakes on departure so maybe our good behaviour will make it easier for future groups. Locos seen - all SY. 0557, 0800, 1081, 1139, 1154, 1203, 1535, 1658, 2007, 2009.

Train 256 to Beijing Xi.

Feb 27th. Dull morning visit to Railway Museum. Steam locos on display as follows :-
0 British built 0-4-0ST of 1881.
JF1 304 1941
KF1 006 Vulcan Foundry 4-8-4 of 1936. Painted Blue.
KD7 534 Baldwin 2-8-0. 73263 of 1947.
PL9 146 Belgian 2-6-2 of 1922. Painted orange!!!!!!
PL1 51 1928
JF6 3022 1933
SL12 890 1942
SL 1601 1956
JF 2121 1952
RM 1001 1958
JF1 2101 1950
QJ 0001 1956
JS 5001 1951
GJ 1019 1959

Afternoon to Dahaichung limestone railway. No sign of the SY in the standard gauge part of the works. C2 nos. 03 and 04 working to the quarry. 01 in shed and 02 up on jacks with wheels out. Anyone venturing near the shed was gripped for RMB100. We stayed away and were left unmolested.

28th Feb.Depart Beijing on LH721. New Chinese scam at airport. All alcohol confiscated at security check as a new rule does not allow liquids to be carried on in hand luggage. Needless to say this rule does not apply to the Government owned duty free shop booze which you can buy after going through security.

Rob Dickinson