The International Steam Pages

Steam in China, New Year 2001

Ulrich Nowak has sent a report referring to his trip (with friend Matthias) to China from 18.01 - 03.02.2001.

"Yes, we did it the expensive way by having almost everything organized through Tina Wu of Chifeng ITS. Given the pretty short time we believed it would be the most efficient (we didn't prove wrong...) We left Frankfurt on 18.01.01 by an almost fully booked Lufthansa flight to Beijing - a lot of Chinese travelling home for the spring festival (starting 23.01.01) used that flight. From Beijing we took CA flight to Harbin where we were picked up and travelled to Weihe by car.

20.01 - 21.01.01 Weihe

We found this a very interesting centre, even though all locos seen were in a very bad external condition. Close to the end....? It was bitterly cold on both days (-36 C - as per our driver Mr. Wong, whom we can recommend very much) but sunny and almost no wind. The latter and the right clothes made it pretty easy to survive outside for a couple of hours.

The following locos were seen in use:
030, 033, 034, 053, 054, 055

The passenger trains ran on both days and were very well patronized. Scheduled arrival in Weihe is 7.20, the return train is supposed to leave at 8.00. On 20.01.01 trains arrived/departed as per schedule but the next day the incoming train didn't arrive before 8.05 (which made it possible to take a picture of the train approaching Weihe outside the city limits). The return left straight after the incoming train at about 8.20 in beautiful early morning light.

During our 1 days stay we focussed on the passengers which we did chase (thanks to Mr.Wong) quite successfully going out of Weihe to Dongfeng 13 ( the point where the Timber mill branch line diverts from the main line - about 1.5 KM past Dongfeng "main station") and back to Weihe again with the afternoon passenger. On Saturday we got some wonderful glint shots a couple of kilometres outside Weihe....

During chasing the passengers a couple of freights had been seen. On 20.01 there were 2 empties and 4 loaded trains, on 21.01 only 2 loaded trains were witnessed. After the afternoon passenger to Weihe, traffic came to an end on 21.01. - due to the upcoming spring festival. We therefore left Weihe early and had dinner in Harbin before entering the overnight sleeper to Anshan.

22.01 - 23.01.01 Anshan

At 03.40 we arrived Anshan and went straight to the Tianhe Hotel, even though it looked very western style there was nobody speaking English... After a couple of hours rest we left to visit Anshan Iron and Steel company. Again organized by Tina Wu.

In general it is possible to visit the steel works from 8.30 to 16.00. After a bad accident about 2 years ago involving a Japanese group (where one died and several got injured!) it is no longer possible to visit the actual Loco Shed (this is more to do with internal politics and money I believe RD)  nor the Slag dump... We were of course disappointed but we still enjoyed our 1 day visit here very much.

As per information of the staff there are only 22 steam locos left in service. We saw the following locos in use:
SY 0090, 0114, 0115, 0131, 0428, 0433, 0440, 0571, 0833, 0835, 0836, 0902, 1035, 1036,1038, 1555, 1568 and 0436
as well as YJ 290

Given that we saw a total of 19 locos working, it seems to be pretty unrealistic that there are only 22 locos left on the system, doesn't it?

However, a total of 5 new (?) diesels were noticed as well (GKil 8002 and 8003 were 2 of them) and as per staff it is planned to get rid of the remaining steam locos rather sooner than later. Hmmmm, the sometimes "supershine" condition of some locos made us feel that this is hard to believe...On both days it was very busy and as it was sunny and very cold again a lot of nice shots have been obtained.

We left Anshan with the overnight sleeper to Chifeng. As it was Chinese new year, the train was almost empty! A totally new experience for us. Even on the stations we were missing the usual bulk of people... During the night a lot of fireworks could be witnessed through the clean (!) window.

24.01 - 02.02.01 Jingpeng Pass

Early morning we arrived at Chifeng, where we met Florian Schmidt and his wife as planned. The next 3 days we spent together at Reshui before they had to go back to Hongkong and Singapore respectively. After an almost 3 hour drive (the drivers were pretty bad....they didn't even get close to the performance of Mr. Wong in Weihe) we reached Daban depot, where we had lunch and took some shots of QJ's being serviced (for Matthias and me it was the first time for 12 years to see a QJ in action again).
I noted:
QJ 1760 and 7040 dumped, 6844, 6925 and 6984 all serviceable but not steamed,
6351, 6760, 6828, 6998, 7007, 7012, 7137 steamed

Staff reported that it is planned to stick to steam until 2004. I wouldn't bet on it as most of the locos were in a pretty bad external condition.... During our stay at Daban we saw 3 freights leaving for Jingpeng. The last one we followed up to Reshui, where we were able to get a nice silhouette shot from the train crossing the big bridge.

As a lot of enthusiast go to Jingpeng, I will concentrate on some general remarks. The first thing we noticed was the bad condition a lot of engines were showing. It was sometimes impossible to catch the number from a loco passing by, simply because locos were so dirty.... Traffic levels varied from 7 trains to Jingpeng and 4 trains from Jingpeng on 25.01.01 to only 3 trains to and 1 train from Jingpeng on 01.02.01. Light engines not included. During our 9 days at Reshui/Jingpeng we did not see a single light engine going from Daban to Jingpeng, but in the other direction there were sometimes 4 light engine movements in a row. That made photography on the Jingpeng side a little tricky...

Although most of the days were sunny and clear, quite some pictures got ruined by the gusty winds. Luckily on the first days there was almost no wind and we were able to obtain most of the "mastershots" One of the highlights of our trip was a cabride from Jingpeng to Shangdian. The train was very heavy, we needed 1hour and 40 minutes from Jingpeng to Shangdian station. Locos stalled several times and the wheels slipped a lot. We moved virtually at walking pace over long sections of the journey. I was on the first engine and after we left Tunnel 4 the train got stuck - the second engine (with my friend Matthias on it) still in the tunnel! Breathing was almost impossible and he was really happy when the crew finally managed to make the train move again. That was quite an experience. The loco driver of the first engine said that he is located at Jitong Railway for 3 years but that he never experienced something like that."

Rob Dickinson