The International Steam Pages


New Steam  Discoveries in China - August 2003

Louis Cerny has made two major and two minor steam operation discoveries:

NANPIAO MINING RAILWAY

This 100% steam powered system, located northwest of Jinzhou in Liaoning province, is a Tiefa-type operation which heads three directions out of Xiamiaozi (where the engine shed and interchange yard with CNR are located) through mountainous territory with steep grades and much curvature. The three lines head generally south-west to Sanjiazi (22 km), north-east to Linghe (18 km), and south to Hungjia (4 km), plus there are at least three spurs over one km long.

The Sanjiazi and Linghe lines have four passenger round trips a day, while the Hungjia line has eight round trips. The Hungjia line is paralleled by the CNR line from the interchange yard, and the CNR and NMR use the same minimal (platform and canopy only) station at Hungjia, but use separate tracks. The NMR uses the name Hungjia (the name of the township) for Nanpiao (the name of the district). There are at least two simultaneous, side-by-side, smokestack forward departures from Xiamiaozi each day, one being witnessed at 1500. (Not strictly true, the morning departures are staggered. RD)

Freight traffic is heavy, with a freight usually on both the Sanjiazi and Linghe lines at any one time. The first station east of Xiamiaozi is a valley mining town and as many as three engines were seen shunting here at one time from the pedestrian bridge. Freights get down to slow speeds on the two summits on the Sanjiazi line and one major summit on the Linghe line. All locomotives seen were SY's, with smokestack on the end away from Hungjia and Xiamiaozi. There is no wye where the Sanjiazi and Linghe lines divide.

There are paved roads close to most sections of the line, and the frequent passenger stops allow some chasing. There are nearly endless possibilities for photographs with mountainous and/or industrial backgrounds. I believe that if this system and Tiefa system had both been discovered at the same time, the Nanpiao Mining Railway would have been considered the more important find of the two.

Despite the recent penetration of the eastern fringe of the area by the Chaoyang - Jinzhou expressway, the area the NMR runs in is real "back country," and remains in many ways like China in the 1980's. There are no hotels in Hungjia that I could recommend by the standards of Tongliao, Chabuga, or Reshui. (Probably it would be best to stay in Jinzhou.) Though I have come to expect surprised looks during my "new discoveries" explorations, here many local people stared at me incredulously with mouths agape as if they were seeing a space alien (no snickering out there, I'm not THAT ugly). I found out later I was not only the first person ever seen here photographing trains, but also the first non-oriental person ever seen in most of the towns.

The person that told me this (through my translator) was a local police official who, though polite and courteous, insisted I give him my exposed film. Though I explained that what I was doing was common elsewhere in China, being the first rail photographer here I felt it best not to be too confrontational. I think the police official was simply reacting to what to him was an unprecedented situation. (The thought of an Arab railfan dressed in traditional robes and headgear taking pictures on an obscure coal mine branch in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the U.S. came to mind.) Hopefully the officials will see that the photos are not objectionable and will find after checking that this type of activity is common on other steam lines in China, and this will allow all future rail photographers here not to face the same situation.

YANGJIAZHANGZI - HULUDAO (JINXI) RAILWAY

This line operates from inside the city of Huludao (which was previously known as Jinxi) up through rural, hilly countryside into the mountains at Yangjiazhangzi, where its major customer, the Bohai Cement Company, is located. My understanding is that it has 4 JS and two SY, and I saw two JS (6307 and 8207) and one SY (0513) in operation. The SYs seem to be confined to shunting duties in Huludao, while the JS handle traffic up into the mountains on a 40-km line that is separate, but confusingly intertwined with, Chinese National Railways (CNR) lines in the area. In some places the two lines appear almost like one double-track railroad, while in others the alignments are completely separate, and only the Yang-Jin goes to Yangjiazhangzi. The line has turning facilities at both ends, so that the locomotives operate smokestack forward in both directions.

Two summits cause the heavy trains to drop below 10 kph, but in other places they run as fast as 75 kph. Paved highways and roads give good access to the last 15 km into Yangjiazhangzi, which is the stretch of line where the steep grades and curvature are located. At one place the railroad is immediately next to the edge of the highway pavement, this being at a point of maximum demand on the locomotive as it approaches a summit. An important public street crosses the east end of the Y-J yard in Huludao, and the engine shed is just west of this crossing. This yard is the interchange point with the CNR.

The Huludao Hotel, located across from the main CNR station, is an excellent value with a luxury appearance and clean, well-maintained rooms from 50 to 120 Yuan. The prices are posted over the reception desk. Credit for discovery of the Y-J goes to Fu Jie of Sun Xiaolan's organization, who visited the line before my trip.

HULUDAO ZINC SMELTER

The third steam discovery is at the Huludao Zinc smelter, which is located on the northern seacoast of the peninsula east of Huludao (Jinxi). This huge facility stretches over 2 km along the coast. I did not attempt to go inside the security perimeter, but an SY was switching a lead along the seacoast beyond the east end of the plant. This discovery was also made by Fu Jie.

TONGLIAO POWER PLANT

The Tongliao Power Plant, which can be seen if one looks north from the Ji-Tong a few kilometers west of Zhelimu, does its internal shunting with SY's, including 1343. (At least one other could be heard in action while I was looking at 1343.) The transfer runs to the CNR at Shuangpaozhi (two stations north of Zhelimu), however, are with diesels. Security is tight here and I don't think it would be worth the effort to photograph, especially with the alternative of QJ activity at Zhelimu.

NEWS OF LINE LOSING STEAM

The local line from Chaoyang into the mountains at Mashan (Quail map 6B) was said by a train crew at Mashan to have gone to diesels in March of this year (2003).


Rob Dickinson

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