The International Steam Pages

Steam in China, 2004

David Hunthbatch reports on his visit to China between 14th February to 5th March 2004

A group of 5 Brits joined by 1 Canadian in Beijing and again ably lead by Li Weishu throughout. Messrs David Huntbatch, Peter Ellis, Peter Borkus, Cyril Lofthus and Mike Nichols plus John Day from Canada.

14th February BA039 to Beijing

15th February early into Beijing and met by Li Weishu and John Day. 13-00 hours flight to Harbin arrive 14-35 where we repaired to an Hotel by the Railway station for a much needed clean-up and to prepare for train K491 Harbin 19-57 to Jalainur arrive 09-13 on 16th February.
Jalainur is not what we remembered from 1998 when 30 odd engines were working before the days of the conveyor. Now we saw around 12 engines at both the pit bottom and on the surface with little work up through the levels, most activity was from the 3 working diggers to the conveyor hall. It looked very nice with a fresh snow covering with temperatures quite warm for here at only minus 12C. The wind was a problem and indeed a problem which recurred throughout our 3 weeks in China. Overnight at the infamous hotel in Manzhouli as usual filled with Russians, but at least a chance to sleep in a bed.

17th February

An early start at 6-00am to drive to Hailar for flight CA1122 11-00am Hailar to Hohot and the subsequent drive to Zhungeer where we stayed for 3 nights. The road from Hohot to Zhungeer is as bad as any I have seen in China for accidents caused in part by the coal lorries which saturate this otherwise good road. We saw at least 3 fatal accidents within an hour on one stretch near to the Yellow River. The early evening we spent at the shed watching engines move on and off. It looked like a busy period of traffic.

18th February

Off to Fuxingcheng where we saw 6 uphill loaded trains between 08-30 and 17-30 with downhill empties and light engines to balance these workings. The line seemed to be working to capacity. Temperatures started at minus 5 but rose by mid afternoon to +15 deg C which killed the exhausts.

19th February

Fuxingcheng again by 08-30 and again 6 uphill trains were seen. The problem was that temperatures rose to +20 deg C which caused a dust storm to blow up in the afternoon which killed photography for the day.

20th February

Pre-dawn visit to Zhungeer depot where all 14 locos were on shed with no work so it was off to Baiqi by mini-bus which took the rest of the day. On shed at Baiqi the following locomotives were observed. 
Out of use:-
6790, 6846, 6353,6564, 6354,6214 with tender from 6997, 6642, 6302, 6855, 6483,6838 (no front bogie - deflectorless) 6835, 6568 - no tender, 6579 (no deflectors - decorated) 6854.
In steam were 6912, 6850, 7043 (deflectorless yard shunter) and 6965. 6633 decorated was in the maintenance hall.

21st February

Baiqi area where we linesided several freights climbing eastwards and saw 2 doubleheaded westbounds reaching the summit at Km 222. In the afternoon we left for Xillinhot. On the way at Sanggendelai Junction (Xillinhot branch) we saw an eastbound freight in the most glorious late sunlight - the glint was just stupendous and the exhaust immense. It's moments like these when you know why you made the effort to go to China.

22nd to 26th February 

Drove to Jingpeng which was freshly snow covered. Eventually we stayed 5 nights at the new Hotel in Reshui where we did all the usual shots. The problem as at Baiqi was the wind which ruined exhausts particularly in the morning as it blew from the north. Traffic levels were high with large numbers of coal trains heading east and a notable number of oil tanker trains heading west. No sign of diesels or anything like that. On the 25th John Day went to Chifeng and overnight to Beijing to return to Canada.
On the 26th we drove as far as Daban walking the last 4 Km into Daban from the road bridge to film 2 freights in this curving section amongst low hills. The wind was a problem here too. 

27th February

Drove to Chifeng and made an afternoon visit to Pingzhuang coal mine system. Very quiet here with not much traffic just 2 coal trains in the afternoon before we stayed overnight back in Chifeng.

28th February

An early start to Yuanbaoshan for the 7-00am passenger which we saw at the River Bridge and again further on. This was a quiet day at Yuanbaoshan with not much work. We saw 1 train climb the Cement Works branch and one on the transfer freight working from the CNR exchange sidings, plus the afternoon passenger. Everyone very friendly here. Very windy with temperatures around 0 degC. Overnight train K2560 22-00 Chifeng to 06-00 Beijing Nan. Here Mike Nichols left us for a return to the UK leaving 4 of us plus Li Weishu to catch train K117 on 29th February at 11-10 from Beijing Xi (a beautiful station) to Handan 16-20. Overnight in Handan.

1st March
Handan Steelworks where we had full access to the steelworks, the shed, maintenance areas and slag tipping with a safety officer provided. A fascinating visit where 14 SY's work on molten iron trains and slag tipping duties. In the afternoon we drove to Pingdingshan where we stayed for 2 nights.

2nd and 3rd March

Pingdingshan. Wow! What a busy system with trains shooting off all over the place. This really is the place to be if you want continuous action. SY's on shunting at Tianzhuang Yard, JS's on line work to the various mines and add a couple of QJ's one with and one without deflectors for good measure. Shenxi yard was a good place to position yourself as freights through here were continuous. One piece of local advice was that the Mine management have found that loading costs for electricity are cheaper at night which has changed the traffic pattern. Certainly we saw few loaded trains in the morning but plenty of empties which of course are chimney first. An unfortunate accident one morning saw a woman killed by a hard running JS8122 on the steep line up to Mine 1. The branches up to Mine 1, Mine 4 and mine 6 are all steep and offer alternative photo opportunities in almost semi-rural settings. We chased the afternoon passenger to it's western terminus at Hangshuang getting some good industrial waste backgrounds in the process. Temperatures were warm here up to +10 deg C but the exhausts remained good. Again very windy at times. Finally drove to Zhengzhou for the night at the Red Coral Hotel a very nice 4 star affair with a nice massage facility.

4th March

Train T58 07-20 to Beijing Xi at 14-13. Visited the Bachmann shop buried in the Railway Institute complex where we bought 4 QJ's at 1400 Yuan each

5th March

BA038 home. A very enjoyable and successful trip, but warm for China in winter which resulted in the windy conditions which prevailed. Warm thanks to Li Weishu for his excellent organisation.

Rob Dickinson