The International Steam Pages

Steam in China Dec 2003/Jan 2004

Ameling Algra reports on his four week trip to Dahuichang, Pingdinshan, Xingyang, Zhungeer, the JiTong line, Fuxin and Nanpiao. No exciting news, just confirming other reports. We (Hans Duyfjes, Roger van Duinhoven & me) used only day trains & buses on this trip, so no repetition of last year's ''snoring in hard sleeper''-experience. We did not use any guides, and George Bush helped us financially as the Yuan is linked to the US dollar, so the trip worked out very cheap - 600 Euros for four weeks, staying in single hotel rooms every night.

Dec 6 arrival Beijing on Finnair at 08.30. Straight to Beijing Zhan, got tickets (soft seat) on train for Zhengzhou next morning, went to Beijing Xi. There is dormitory-like accommodation in the station itself (not really acceptable after a night on the plane) and an upmarket hotel on the right side of the entrance (if you stand before the station), which charges Y300 for a perfect room. Then off to Dahuichang. Bus 385 does no longer run from Gonchenglu subway station (road construction). Go west from the bus stop, first street to the left (south). There are plenty of minibuses waiting to bring you to a level crossing (CNR and steelworks). At the other side of the level crossing is a halt for the numberless bus 385. Cost is twice Y1, instead of the Y2 bus fare previously. Dahuichang was operating normally, in exceptionally clear weather.

Dec 7 soft seat on train T79 to Zhengzhou, dep 08.10 arr 14.59. To bus station right in front of railway station, where we got a bus to Pingdinshan at 16.00 . Journey time to PDS is about two hours but the bus took about an hour circling around petrol stations. Despite this, I find buses quicker & more comfortable than hard seat train travel. Bus stations are well organised, drivers drive safely (I know some reports state the opposite. Part of the fairy tale business, like ''it is impossible to buy train tickets at the ticket window''). Went to our familiar JinXiu hotel, overheated & Y140 a night.

Dec 8, 9, 10 Pingdinshan. No sign of any diesels. Most traffic JS, some big deflectored as well as deflectorless QJ, and SY on the passenger (and once on freight). More traffic than last year, and better though not very good weather. Locos noted:
JS 8065, 6235, 8062, 8122, 6429, 8054, 6225, 8031, 8057, 8068
QJ2035, 7186 without deflectors, and 6813, 6690(?) with deflectors
SY 1687, 1002, 0758

Dec 10 Pingdinshan-Zhengzhou by local train, train 2222 dep 13.48. Was almost an hour late on arrival in Zhengzhou. Zhengzhou hotels: from the station exit to the right is the Tian Shan hotel, advertised room rate Y300. On the street from the railway station the JinXing hotel, Y 168 not recommended. In the bus station, Tian E Binguan, Y 100 for very good rooms.

Dec 11: taxi to Xingyang, along the toll road. At Xingyang, you first cross CNR and then the narrow gauge. Taxi rate (meter) was Y150. Beautiful weather, nice line, a loaded train was waiting (without loco) but nothing running. Took a bus back to Zhengzhou, as fast as the taxi for Y 3 a person.

Dec 12: train to Beijing Xi in the morning. Half an hour at Beijing Xi was ample time to get tickets for the afternoon train to Datong where we went into a good hotel at the station square.

Dec 13: train to Hohhot in the morning, then to bus station. Bus station staff asks: Beijing or Zhoujiawang? Arrival in Zhungeer mid-afternoon. Went to a hotel, I think the name is Hongxing hotel, it is to the left of the coal mine hotel. Very good value at Y120 a room. Got Ronald Olsen's taxi driver for next day.

Dec 14: To Fu Xin Cheng. We can confirm everything Ronald Olsen wrote, including the empty stomach and fuel tank of the taxi driver: Kong Li Juin.
Blue taxi KY3171. Tel # 13150884542. But excellent spot & excellent driver, much traffic. Both Hans & me got trapped in a rabbit trap.

Dec 15: same taxi driver, doing some linesiding - always trains from the wrong direction……

Dec 16: morning to railway station & shed, afternoon bus to Hohhot. Wang Fu hotel in Hohhot near bus station, good value at Y 140.

Dec 17 - 26th Jitong

Dec 26: Chabuga dep 06.39 for Tongliao, after temperature check. In Tongliao, we intended to take the 13.56 train to Fuxin which is permanently cancelled - it is still mentioned in the 2003 timetable. Instead, there is an 8.00 dep to Fuxin (arr 12.10) and an early afternoon return train Fuxin-Tongliao. The lady at the ticket window suggested the 12.10 dep to Jinzhou with a change at Xinlitun, which was confirmed by the very sophisticated computers in the ticket hall - type train number or city name in pinyin. The 16.38 train from Xinlitun to Fuxin was the first overcrowded hard class train I had since Nancha-Harbin in Dec 1995. But standing in a train for just over an hour is really not too bad. Fuxin: Hai Zhou Binguan at Y 190

Dec 27: in the morning Fuxin, more steam than previous year, including test runs of a loco presumably from/for Nanpiao. Afternoon pass to Jinzhou at 13.32 (we already knew that the 18.43 pass did not run). We did not end up in the wrong Jinzhou. Then on by taxi to Nanpiao. Taxi driver made various stops to tell everyone that we were going to Nanpiao - something unbelievable. Went to ''the'' nanpiao hotel to find room 207 occupied by someone else, so got three rooms without hot water at Y62 each.

Dec 28, 29, 30, 31: Nanpiao. Nothing to add to previous reports, excellent atmosphere. We met David Longman at the station outside the hotel - he was in room 207. In exchange for a cup of coffee we could use his hot shower. Interesting that the hotel staff got me & David mixed up. Of course we are both teachers but I did not know that results in any resemblance. Pretty insulting for at least one of us. The locals don't seem to know the concept of foreign languages so they keep telling whole stories in Chinese. They also don't know the concept of overcharging foreigners.
My Tiefa - Nanpiao list:
(1) Nanpiao with room 207 (2.) Tiefa (3) Nanpiao, any other room
Nanpiao might be even better in autumn or spring - more traffic in daylight (early morning & late afternoon pass)

Dec 31 afternoon train to Jinzhou, went into JinCheng hotel (acceptable at Y150), and bought train tickets for the following day: Hans & me to Beijing on the day train, Roger on an overnight train to Nanjing.

Jan 1: day train to Beijing. Talked to a young Chinese in the station waiting room. He asked what we were doing here. ''Filming steam trains''. He does not understand. Then I show him a bit of my Nanpiao video. ''Is that China??''. Hademen hotel in Beijing, bargained down to Y350.

Jan 2: went to Dahuichang for our first steam in 2004. No steam, but instead there was a camel. Sadly enough, it just walked around & did not pull the stone lorrys.

Jan 3: flight to Helsinki & onwards to Amsterdam. On Beijing airport, there were several westerners evacuating their cats.

Rob Dickinson