The International Steam Pages
Steam in Northern China, November 1999
Ted Talbot visited northern China from 7th to 28th November 1999, his various destinations have seen few if any enthusiasts, it makes fascinating reading...
Owing to space limitations on my server, the images from this report have been removed (15th June 2004).
His companion Nicholas Pertwee has since revisited in early 2000 and has found SY 3024 is now at Hegang. This is a Changchung built locomotive and was shown under construction in July 1999 in a recent UK magazine article, so the 1998 plate may indicate that it was assembled from a pre-existing 'kit of parts'. Further information would be most welcome!
The main purpose of this trip was to visit the narrow-gauge lines at Alihe, and any other working lines nearby when they were working but before the temperature got down to 50. The second aim was to visit lines near Jiamusi, especially the Huanan narrow-gauge system and some little-known mining systems, and then, if time allowed, to go to certain lines and locations in the Mudanjiang area. In the event there was no time to cover the Jiamusi area fully and Mudanjiang was not visited.
The trip was carried out with Nicholas Pertwee, to whom many thanks for good company, good humour, concern for all matters cartographic, and linguistic knowledge extraordinary.
Many thanks also to Mike Ma of CITS, Mudanjiang, for excellent service, and for getting us into places we had no right to expect to get into and, more important, getting us out again.
6.11.99. Caught flight AirUK2046 from Birmingham to Amsterdam. Take-off delayed due to high winds delaying landings at Amsterdam. Caught KL897 from Amsterdam to Peking but baggage was not put on the plane. No compensation for delay offered at Peking because I would have to wait less than a day for baggage to arrive. This was an obvious lie (with hindsight) as the baggage was not put on the plane they said it would be, and they must have known this. Anyhow, it eventually arrived on 8th November, over a day later, on LH720 from Frankfurt. This was the second time KLM have done this to me the previous time was a flight to Johannesburg and as then no apology, no compensation, and a day wasted hanging about in a hotel.
Lesson: KLM exists for the convenience of KLM, not its passengers.
7.11.99. Met Nicholas off BA039 (to which he had been transferred by KLM because of the landing problems at Amsterdam). Then went to:
Dahuichang Limestone Railway
Got baggage at last, off LH720 from Frankfurt. Caught train K47 to Qiqihar pulled by
DF11 0128 (Qishuyan 1998) and DF11 0142 (Qishuyan 1999)
Breakfast in White Crane Hotel, then taxi to:
Ang Ang Xi shed
The shed, a ¼ roundhouse with about 16 roads, and the surrounding complex of buildings, was clearly built by the Russians many years ago but is now abandoned, though the shedmaster is still in situ. He said the shed closed in July.
Qiqihar Steel Works is located some 25km from Qiqihar station at Fu La Er Ji (which I believe is still in the Qiqihar city area). It is called the North Steel Works or probably a better translation is Northern Steel Works. Two engines seen (SYs 0763 and 1273) have North Manchuria Special Steel on the tender.
We tried to get permission to visit the shed but were refused and then drove round the site in an anti-clockwise direction. First we came to a level crossing where we found:
The driver of SY 1078 told us that there were eight engines in the shed, presumably meaning eight engines allocated to the steel works, not including YJ 115. We then drove on and found working:
Near this crossing there is a stabling point. The crossing leads to the main entrance of a power station belonging to Heilongjiang Asia Power Xinbao Heating & Power Co Ltd, a Singapore-China joint venture. After an hour or so the police arrived and we were taken into a nearby office. Our guide answered a few questions and we were allowed to go. Perhaps special steel has some military significance.
After an excellent meal at the White Crane Hotel, Qiqihar, caught train Y225 to Jiagedaqi, arrived about 3am.
Alihe Forestry Railway, 10-11.11.99
Alihe is situated 41km west of Jiagedaqi on the line to Yitulihe. The road is rough dirt at first through a hilly area but when the hill section has been crossed a new tar road extends all the way to Alihe. The forestry railway station, engine shed and other buildings are situated about ½ mile north of the CR standard-gauge line, to which they are connected by two large yards where logs are transhipped from narrow to standard gauge.
At one time the line must have been much busier in view of the extensive sidings and facilities but on the two days of our visit only two trains ran in each direction daily, a passenger train, strictly a mixed, and a freight. The passenger left Alihe at 8.00, reached the terminus, Yi Shan, about 12.00, left again at 13.00 and arrived back at Alihe at 16.30. Clearly journey time varies depending on how much shunting is necessary on route. The freight consisting of empty timber bogies and wagons, left Alihe about 13.00 and crossed the incoming passenger at Hong Xing. Presumably, it returned at night. On both days the passenger was hauled by 045and consisted of a passenger brake van, three carriages and some 15-20 empty timber bogies, several other wagons and a goods brake van. The wagons were shunted at various points both out and back and loaded wagons collected for the return journey. At Alihe the wagons and bogies for the freight were brought from the tranship yards by the diesel, 044, which then made up the train in the station while steam 044 was taking coal and water and being prepared.
From Alihe there are stations at: Xing A, Hong Sheng, Hong Xing (Red Star) 36km, Ke Zhong, an unnamed place where there is an extensive timber camp, A Yuan and Yi Shan, the terminus of the passenger train, 72km from Alihe. The line continues from Yi Shan straight on into the distance but where or how far away it ends is not known. In addition, there are several branches which seem to be still in use, several others which seem disused and others where the tack has been lifted. We were told the line was built about 40 years ago and that it will no longer operate after March 2000.
Motive power consists of four standard steam 0-8-0s and one diesel:
Inside the shed was a spare tender numbered 044 and 20044. Steam engine 044 had tender No. 044 also.
Ganhe Forestry Railway, 12.11.99
Ganhe is 96km west of Jagedaqi. The road west of Alihe again becomes difficult and the journey to Ganhe takes at least three hours. As at Alihe the forestry railway station, engine shed, carriage and wagon works and other buildings are about ½ mile north of the CR line and connected to it by two extemsvive transhipment yards. Because Ganhe is in a closed area (as is Alihe), it was unfortunately not possible to ask many questions about the system for fear of attracting too much attention. The line, however, runs to the north east, and the terminus of the passenger service is Wulite, 72m from Ganhe. No information was obtained as to whether the line continues further for logging purposes and what branches there are.
The passenger service does not run every day and at a guess there are two freight trains a day, perhaps only one when the passenger service runs. There are six or seven sidings in the station, so traffic must have been considerably greater at one time. The stock for the passenger train was in the platform four coaches and other coaches were on sidings nearby. Two coaches were painted in red, white and blue, like CR tourist train stock. The foreman said there are four steam engines, two built in Poland and two in China, and no diesels:
Tender 04 on shed no engine and another tender abandoned.
At Jiwen we went to the CR station but found no sign of the narrow-gauge line shown on page 1 of the Quail atlas and on page 74 of the IRS book. We were told by a timber inspector, who had worked at Ganhe for 16 years, that there had never been a forestry line at Jiwen.
Xinlongzhen Forestry Railway, 14.11.99
Details of this system are as shown in the Quail atlas and in the IRS book, except that it is fully operational throughout its 188km and is believed to be the longest narrow-gauge line in China. The narrow-gauge station, engine shed, works and other extensive installations are about ¼ mile from the CR station on the east side of the line. A spur goes down through the houses to a siding parallel to the CR station but the tranship yard with its connection to the standard gauge is more to the south and is an extension from the main narrow-gauge station.
The line is now all-diesel. According to the shedmaster, there are 12 locomotives: 41-9, built by Mudanjiang Forest Machinery Factory in the 1970s, and 51-3, built by Changsha (Forest Machinery Factory?). Locomotives seen:
Large railbus lettered HARBIN on side.
In addition, there are a number of crane locomotives, classified SQ.
Shuangyashan Mine Railway, 15-16/19-20.11.99
This is a large and busy system, which effectively acts as an extension of the CR branch to Shuangyashan and serves at least eight major coal mines, a power station, a steel works and a sugar factory. Its main line has several long branches and numerous spurs to smaller mines and factories. As well as freight trains, it also operates a regular passenger service with 11- coach trains hauled by QJs. Despite its industrial nature, it is rural and scenic in places and offers good potential for action photography. The main line has steep gradients which require coal trains to be double-headed (usually tender-first) but there are also good opportunities in the other direction, and an SY-QJ double-header is not impossible.
CR passenger trains stop in the single platform Shuangyashan station and the diesel runs round and works out again. The sidings beyond are used for interchange between CR and the mine railway. There is a hump at the south end of this yard but although trains are pushed over it, there seems to be no hump shunting in the proper sense. On the far side of the yard from the CR platform is the main mine railway running shed, though there is no shed building, just three long sidings with coal, water, pits and such like. At times as many as ten engines can be seen here. There is no means of turning engines. All engines work chimney-first out of Shuangyashan and tender first in.
At the south end of these sidings is the mine railway Jianshan station building. Perhaps it serves the branch to the steel works, or once did, as no passenger trains were seen using it. A ¼ mile further along the main line is the central mine railway station, a substantial building. The QJs run light between this station and the engine sidings by the CR station (no SYs were seen on passenger trains). About a mile further on a spur leads off on the north side of the line to the engine, carriage and wagon shops. Engines which need anything more than routine maintenance are dealt with here. Just after this a long branch goes off to the north, crossing the CR Qian Jin line to reach Jixian mine. The whole system is single line and the main line between Shuangyashan and Dongbaowei has perhaps four or five trains an hour on average.
We were told that there are 15 QJs, 10 SYs and 5 DF7s. Engines seen, all in service:
Question: where were the missing engines? There may be only 14 QJs and perhaps 9 SYs. The missing diesels, however, are stored in a shed at SYS waiting for the call to replace steam. So waste no time.
This is the passenger timetable in November 1999, compiled by Rob Pritchard from information supplied by Ted and Nicholas.
Central - Lingdong
Bafengchang - Shuangyang
Central - Fushan
Central - Bafengchang - Shuangxing
Hegang Mine Railway 17-18.11.99
This is another extensive and busy system, but unlike that at Shuangyashan, it lacks the potential for action photography, as there seems to be no rural or scenic section. It probably has more of railway interest, however, as it is largely electrified but uses steam on passenger trains. Hegang itself is an astonishingly modern city, with very wide streets and many large new buildings of striking design.
The mine railway station is on the east side of the main CR line, a little to the south of the CR station on the west. By the station are extensive sidings and just to the north of it is the shed, with separate buildings for electric and steam. The system seems to be largely, if not entirely, electrified, and steam seems to be used only for passenger trains, shunting off electrified lines, works trains in the open pit mine at Xing Shan, and so on. Whether other mines are open pit is not known. Xing Shan was found purely by chance: Lets go to a mine. Xing Shan seems near (looking at a map). How do we get there? (to guide). Follow a No. 6 bus. All in all, a fascinating system, worked largely by antique electrics, and undoubtedly with much remaining to be discovered.
Dalianhe Mine Railway, 23.11.99
Both the Quail atlas and the IRS book show an isolated system at Yilan. Although it is also referred to as at Yilan by the Chinese (the manager of the Huanan system, for example), it is actually at Dalianhe. Yilan is some 76km from Jiamusi on the new highway to Harbin and Dalianhe is 24km further along the same highway, that is, 100km from Jiamusi.
At Dalianhe there are three coal mines supplying a power station. Coal is now transported to the power station by road but at one time a narrow-gauge railway was used with 15-16 steam engines, all 28-ton 0-8-0s. Later, part of the system was electrified and eight 20-ton electrics (probably 2001-8) and four 40-ton electrics (4001-4?) were used. Then some large dumper trucks (Bilas) were bought from Russia and the railway closed in 1993. An unidentifiable C2 0-8-0 is on display in a childrens park and nearby are the remains of one of the 20-ton electrics, 2006.
Huanan Coal Railway 22/25.11.99
The narrow-gauge railway starts about ¾ of a mile east of the CR station at Huanan and is connected to the CR line by extensive tranship log yards, which if now used at all, are no longer supplied by the narrow-gauge line. No evidence could be found to support the statement that the line starts to the north of the CR station. Nothing was visible of it from the train to and from Jiamusi, and my taxi driver set off from Huanan CR station along the main road to the east and turned off it only after a mile or so into an unlikely-looking suburb, in which lo and behold was the narrow-gauge station and other attendant buildings.
Log traffic ceased in 1996 and the line now carries only coal. Four trains of eight or nine bogie wagons run daily, taking about four hours in each direction. There is also a passenger service worked by a railcar which does one return trip a day, leaving Huanan at 8.00 and the terminus, Hong Guang, at 12.00, and taking about 2 ½ hours each way. There is only one railcar, so when it breaks down, the service is suspended. From Huanan there are stations at Dajingang, Xiahua, Li Xin, 36km, and Hong Guang, 47km. Beyond Hong Guang, the line is lifted.
At Hong Guang the railcar uses the station proper but the coal trains use a siding a short distance before the station, where there is also a loop. The engine arrives here tender first, leaves the empties in the loop, pulls out the loaded wagons and pushes them on to the track beside the empties, and then pushes the empties into the siding, where they are loaded from a coal stack by some sort of mechanical shovel. The engine then sets off for Huanan. According to the manager at Huanan, there is a triangle at Lin Xing, where the engine of the outward working turns, and loaded trains take a banker there for the climb through the hills.
There may be a master shot on this section but it would be hard to get to, as there is no road access. It is possible to get to Hong Guang by road: the first section out of Huanan is a new toll road but the turn off this road leads to a rough forest track for a considerable distance before Hong Guang is reached. Otherwise, except for the first section out of Huanan, which is flat, it seems impossible to reach the line, especially on the hill section. So the only obvious way would be to take the normal railcar service, which would not allow much time on the hill section, or to get permission to ride on a freight, which might be difficult as no van is normally taken. A challenge for some intrepid explorer!
The manager said that the railway opened in 1953 and was originally worked by 18-ton engines, which had all been replaced by 28-ton engines before 1989. The railway was at its busiest between 1973 and 1986, when the allocation was 12 engines. The present allocation is six engines and one railcar 041 in the list below is probably considered withdrawn. All engines have 6-wheel tenders and none have makers plates. Except for 041, all are in service:
The railcar was not seen.
In the shed and yard were the remains of two 0-6-0 diesels (looked same as those at Zhanhe).
In the yard were:
Derelict frames of two 0-8-0s, no numbers visible. Cab numbered 52 by one.
On the way from Harbin to Xinlongzhen Nicholas had noticed a power station on the east of the line just south of Fu Lan station, so on his return to Harbin he arranged to investigate it and found at Harbin Power Station No 3:
The JSs were delivered direct from Datong and are expected to last another couple of years.
26.11.99: From Jiamusi to Harbin, then overnight on K18 to Peking. Stayed in Airport Capital Hotel, then caught KL898 on 28.11.99 flight packed and very uncomfortable. No need to remind me not to fly KLM again.
CR diesels seen:
On Peking-Harbin train
DF11 0128 (Qishuyan 1998), 0142 (1999),
DF2 3321 (? 1970)
DF7D (single-ended) 3030 (? 1996). 3033 (Peking 7th Feb 1997). DF7D 3003
DF7 (US-type) 3045 (Peking 7th Feb 1993), plus 3048/3072-4 all on shed
DFH3 0134 (Sifang 1982), 0160 (Sifang 1985) Harbin Division Shed 3. DF4 2351 (Dalien 1992) Shenyang Division, Changchun shed.
DFH3 0221 (Ziyang 1987 ?), DFH5 0535 Sifang 1987
DF5 1511 ( ? 1995)
DF11 0143 (1999), 0127 (1998), 0115 (1998), 0113 (1998)
DF4 2478 (1994)
DF4D 0142 1997, 0151/0157 1998
3227 Bo-Bo built 1994, looks like a small DF4, painted blue never seen one like it.
Things we were told: