The International Steam Pages

Steam in China, February/March 2003

Derek Jenkins reports on another Steam and Safaris trip.

16th February

Arrived Beijing by BA 2 hours late and set off on the long road journey to Chifeng which is now possible due to the improvement in the roads.

17th February

Pingzhuang Colliery. Action here was much as previously reported. No one, however, has mentioned a works or maintenance facility but as ever Mr. Li, our driver, knew where it was - on the line out to CNR, by Wufeng yard. It is surrounded by a high brick wall which contained the obligatory hole and here were Yuanbaoshan's JS 6245 under repair as well as JS1001 in steam and JS 6401, SY's 0271, 0304, 0766, 0798 all OOU. Besides a host of electrics seen on the system here were :- All in steam unless indicated JS 5702, 5758, SY 0210, 0400 (OOU), 0463, 0517, 0916, 0943, 1007 (OOU), 1025, 1052, 1083, 1084 (OOU).

We stayed overnight in Pingzhuang where there is a perfectly acceptable hotel.

18th February

Yuanbaoshan. Up early for the 07:00 passenger which had JS 8249 and, for once, was being driven with some purpose. My third visit here and still no discernible traffic pattern. Very much it happens when it happens. For instance this time no loaded trains at all from Yuanbaoshan CNR which was a feature only a few weeks ago. The afternoon passenger had high deflectored JS 8246, the first time I had seen this out on the line. No changes to previously reported locos here.

On the way back in to Chifeng we called at Hongmiao. SY 1418 was dead in the shed here with the other loco nowhere to be seen but once more Mr Li found it (SY1565) at Malin CNR where the exchange sidings are.

19th February

Set off on the obligatory visit to Daban then Jing Peng and found more gricers here than I can ever remember. Usual erratic train service and erratic weather.

24th February

By road to Chifeng then train to Anshan. Curious to be in Anshan and not visiting the Steelworks

25th February

By road to Gongchangling. Although shown as two different places on Nelles map Anping and Gongchangling appear to be one and the same. We found the loco shed on the main road from Anshan and immediately opposite Anping CNR station. Unfortunately the station is the gathering point for local labourers looking for work and as we piled off the bus they swarmed across the road to observe us. Inevitably the local constabulary appeared but they decided that we were harmless and made off only for the sinister Mine Police to roll up.These people are thoroughly unpleasant and after a long stand off they had to accept that we had a right to stand on the public highway from where the locos could easily be photographed. Unfortunately they soon grasped that there was nothing to stop them standing in the way. We decided to move off but they followed and a staring match ensued.We stared them out and they went away. We went to the yard by the station where there was no action save from another and yet more obnoxious crowd of Mine Police zealots. With no action on the railway we decided to explore the line. There is a steep section to Gongchangling Mine, which is the limit of steam activity but electrics carry on from here to a quarry in the hills reached through a tunnel and beyond that for some further distance. We returned to the yard as it began to snow. This kept the grippers indoors but it was 16:00 before there was any steam action at all when a JS left in a snowstorm with empties for the mine.

This system seems to be overburdened with steam and electrics not to mention grippers. The former are all JS :- 5250 (OOU), 8044, 8046, 8159 (OOU), 8239, 8245, 8252. The electrics are all Bo-Bo-Bo double units of Chinese manufacture and of classes ZG 150, ZG 200 and EG 150 We identified 13 electrics but there are about twice this many.

A footnote to our visit is that the Head Gripper has written to our guides office demanding that no more Western spies go to Gongchangling!

26th February

Beitai Steelworks and with some trepidation as permission to visit had been firmly refused. As it turned out a great deal of the action is visible from the CNR side of the line. The loco crews were very friendly as were the staff at the shed but there are grippers here too if you wander up to the rather tame slag tipping area. Fortunately they did not appear until mid afternoon.
Locos seen here (all in steam) :- SY's 0322, 0448, 0792, 0864, 0930, 1005, 1054, 1077, 1131, 1114, 1514, 1560, 1561, 1567, 1577, 1648, 1684, 2019.

27th February
Set out early for Tiefa. The new double track section out from Daqing is still not in use otherwise things are much as before here

28th February

We were invited, by the railway, to attend the ceremony for the visit of the "Steam Railway" tour. The day was cold, grey and violently windy which caused the wires holding down the ceremonial inflatables to almost decapitate the masses. Mortars let off, pigeons released but the inhospitable weather kept decent photography to a minimum. JS 5029 was in use on a special passenger but it made little effort on that its best effort being reserved for a late afternoon heavy coal train off the Faku line.

1st March

A thick fog appeared as we were on our way to the shed at Daqing and, of course, it dispersed as soon as all locos were off shed. We eventually left on the Shenyang local train 6688 from Daqing and then headed South to Handan

2nd March

Another grey misty day and the crud around Handan Steelworks made it worse. Given decent weather this is a good venue with SY's emerging from the blast furnaces side by side. There are some diesels here but the bulk of the meaningful work is steam. Locos seen :-SY 0118 (Dumped), 0293 (stationary boiler), 0557, 0702, 0800, 1081, 1139, 1154, 1203, 1208, 1393, 1535, 1658, 2007, 2009. YJ 106 (dumped), 311 (stationary boiler), 1520 (dumped - this number appears on the tender only and is clearly a local number. It was impossible to find a correct number anywhere on the loco)

3rd March

After overnighting at Luohe we travelled by road to the Local Railway depot at Zhoukou. The road was clogged with manic tractor drivers and it was annoying to find that we were parallelling a motor road which was almost empty of traffic.In the station at Zhoukou was QJ 7011 which made off to a yard after a while to do some shunting. On shed were QJ's 6548 (OOU), 6901 (OOU), 7000, 7161 (stationary boiler) as well as 2 DF4's and 2 BJ's. This place has an air of dereliction and nothing moved on the line all morning. We journeyed back to Luohe on the motor road and decided to look for the mythical Luohe Xi station and its afternoon passenger train. The local guide was insistent that no such station existed and no amount of asking locals and excursions down back alleys some with dead dogs hanging up for sale brought any result until that is we crossed a level crossing and saw steam in the distance. A hurried about turn and a trip on an unopened road brought us to a station and ...nothing. This was, however, the no longer mythical Luohe Xi. The steam was from QJ 7006 which had made off to shunt some sidings. We watched it return and eventually head off with a fairly long rake of wagons. The Xi station staff were adamant that no passenger train operates from here. The station name board shows Luohe Dong one way and Dalu the other. Dong is on the local railway but it was clear from the state of the track towards Dalu that this line sees only very occasional use.

4th March

Pindingshan. We stayed bizarrely at the Army Hospital Hotel but even this did not stop the phone calls. Catch it and be treated immediately? My first visit here and very well worthwhile. The shed is a hive of activity from 07:45 for about an hour with QJ, JS and SY standing alongside each other. Empties traffic out of both yards to the various mines is chimney first, frequent and eminently photographable. The lines to Mines 1.2 and 6 are seriously steep as trains leave town and locos could be heard struggling for 10 minutes after they passed us. Unfortunately it began to snow heavily at lunch time on our first day. We drove out to Baofeng to explore but this is fairly much a waste of time unless you like green DF4's which abound on CNR here.

On the 5th the snow began early and reached almost blizzard proportions. All hands were called out to clear the points and traffic was again heavy. This place is top of my list for a further and longer visit. Locos seen :-
SY 0758, 1002, 1010 (OOU), 1209, 1687 + tenders from 0367 and 0854
JS 5644, 6225, 6252 (OOU), 6253, 6429, 8031, 8054, 8057, 8062, 8065, 8068, 8120, 8122
QJ 6450, 6786, 6813, 7186.

6th March

Shijiazhuang after an overnight train journey from Luohe.

Our local guide announced that he had secured an official visit to the Local Railway for 14:00 which knowing their antipathy to visitors seemed pretty good. We had a morning for exploration. From the local guide denying Shijiazhuang had a Steelworks to our sitting outside its coking plant took 20 minutes. A diesel lurked in the mist and more knowledgeable locals confirmed there was no steam here. However, one local suggested we visit the Fertiliser Plant then go out to Jingxing Mine. Polite enquiries at the Fertiliser Plant gate brought forth a delightful Mr. Liu from the management and he was keen we should see his SY's 0233 and 1250. We then set off for Jingxing. This line is shown on Quail and runs, confusingly, from Jingxing to Xinjing. After getting lost many times (local guide deciding he knew better than us and everyone else) we found SY's 0996, 1093 (OOU), 1178 at No1 Mine at Xinjing Station. It was then hurriedly back for the Local Railway. We should have guessed by now that the local guide was not on top of his game . At Xi station he produced the man who had organised things. In truth this man would have been incapable of organising the proverbial event in a brewery. He had nothing to do with the Local railway but was some CNR official. Not only did he not want us to photograph anything but he had also he had alerted the Local Railway people to our presence. Our main guide Lu Yong ditched him skillfully but we were on the outside looking in. While we were so doing a policeman appeared. This man flew into an apoplectic rage screaming and seriously threatening violence. We effected a strategic withdrawal and most of us missed QJ's 6794, 6918 departing with a long coal train. Also here were QJ's 6245, 6391, 6887, 6962 all OOU. Not exactly top of my list for another visit unless I aim to damage Anglo Sino relations.

7th March

To Tongchuan via overnight train to Xian. On arrival at Nan station a JF was backing onto a train so we hot footed it up the line and had a spectacular view beyond Shijiaohe of 2369 clambering up the hill. We followed it to Wangshiwa mine where there are some good mine backdrops and an aeriel view of the mine from the main road in. While we were there 2368 appeared with more empties. We went back to Shijiaohe and saw 2369 come down but then a procession of diesels followed. 8th March augered well with 2368, 2113, and 2182 all in steam in Nan yard. 2369 was a little to the South as we heard it whistling. Dead here was 2365. We set up in a scenic location and absolutely nothing happened. Probably another case of mine railways not running on Saturdays any more. We headed back to Xian calling in at Meijiaping on the way. This is easily found . It is just off the Xian - Tongchuan motor road by Yaoxian viaduct and up the valley to the East. At Meijiaping CNR look for the tall chimney and the works are there. Although previously referred to as CNR this belongs to the Diantou Local Railway. Being Saturday the place was locked up but a man who appeared to be a shepherd was in fact the gateman and he was happy to let us in. Here were QJ's 2239, 2479, 3357 (tender only) , 3424, 6550, 6532, 6694, 6717, 7021, 7160 and JF's 2151 and 4027. None were in steam but 6532 and 7160 were in works and 3424 looked to be ready for works.

From here it was back to Xian and an overnight train to Beijing and thence to Heathrow.

Rob Dickinson