The International Steam Pages

Steam in Northern China, February/March 2001

CHINA 11 February to 04 March 2001, Report of a trip to Chengde, Jingpeng, Lindong, Zhanhe and Weihe, by Duncan Cotterill.

Owing to space limitations on my server, the images from this report have been removed (15th June 2004). 


This was a private trip to the north and north-east of China to photograph some of the last steam worked industrial, main line and forestry operations. The arrangements for our group were made through Sun Xiaolan of China Liaoning Steam Locomotive Photographic Association based in Shenyang.

London - Beijing - Chengde (10-11/02/01)

The main group flew with British Airways from London Heathrow to Beijing. Our departure was delayed by about an hour because air traffic control was evacuated following a security alert. Fortunately, some of the lost time was made up en-route. At Beijing, formalities were completed with the usual efficiency and we quickly met our guide for the first couple of days, Sun Xiaolan. By 12:00 we were on our way by road to Chengde, arriving at Shuangtashan just before 15:00.

Chengde Steelworks Branch (11-12/02/01)

This usually busy system was incredibly quiet. On the 11th we arrived in time to see the first and only daylight train go up the hill at 15:28. The following day there were 3 uphills in daylight, but the first didn't run until 14:46.

Contrary to recent reports, SY do still work trains to and from Chengde. Of the 4 trains we saw on the climb from Chengde, none was entirely JS worked, 3 has 2 JS + 1 SY, the fourth, 1 JS + 2 SY. Shuangtashan appeared to have 8 locos available for branch workings, 4 JS and 4 SY, so it would have been possible to work the line without SYs but this was not being done.

The money grabbers have reached Chengde. The police at Shuangtashan were demanding RMB 50 per person to photograph in the station area. We declined to pay this ridiculous price to photograph in such a mediocre location but were watched closely until we left. There were no problems on the lineside away from Shuangtashan or at Chengde.

Satisfactory silhouettes on the bridge at Chengde are now virtually impossible following changes to the riverbank and the construction of high rise buildings on the town side. However, the bridge itself is likely to disappear before too long. According to our driver, construction work on the new line bypassing the town centre is underway with completion due around 2003. The new line will have to cross the same range of hills as the existing route, so should be steeply graded and scenic, but whether it will be steam worked remains to be seen.

Locos seen:
JS-5634, 6216, 6218, 6403,     None of the JS had smoke deflectors.
SY-0533, 0872, 1422, 1726.

Chengde Area CNR (11-12/02/01)

The venerable DF2s previously used on pilot duties at Chengde station have been replaced by brand new DF7C. DF7C-5290 (Beijing Feb 7th Works, 2000) was on duty on 11/02. BJ-3122 was on a Longhua line goods and a standard green DF4/4B arrived from the south on another goods.

The weather was generally cold and clear on the 11th but poorer on the 12th with high cloud all day. Temperatures were comfortable at around -10 to 0 C. Accommodation was at the Huilong Hotel near the station.

Chengde - Chifeng - Reshui (12-13/02/01)

We travelled on train 2189, the through Beijing - Wulanhaote working, from Chengde to Chifeng. Our guide for the rest of the trip, Deng Feng, had travelled on the train from Beijing and met us on the platform. DF4-0692, which brought the train in, was exchanged for DF4-2428, which took us on to Chifeng. Arrival was on time at 02:56 but we were still half jet-lagged and, therefore, relatively wide awake even at this early hour. No steam was seen at Chifeng.

The journey by road to Reshui was uneventful and in spite of our underpowered bus lumbering up the hills at a snail's pace, we arrived at Reshui around 07:00 and grabbed a quick breakfast before intercepting the day's first westbound freight.

Jingpeng Pass (13-18/02/01)

The greatest steam show on earth continues unabated and our visit produced numerous good shots. Although the weather wasn't perfect, we only lost one shot due to cloud. The incessant wind was the biggest problem but after several visits we've learned to work around it. Temperatures rose steadily during our time here from a low of around -20C when we arrived to around +5C by the time we left. There was a lot of old, hard packed snow around but by the last couple of days, it was starting to thaw with a vengeance, and most was gone by the time we departed on the 18th.

Traffic levels were reasonable with around 5 phottable trains in each direction daily. There was only one set of light engines, westbound, fitting in with our perception that there was less coal traffic and more general freight than in previous years and hence a better balance of east and west bound workings. A few trains in each direction were single headed but the vast majority were double headed as expected.

In addition to the usual freights in the 228xx and 441xx series there were also a number of 87xxx trains, thought to be through freights, not remarshalled en-route. These were all westbound and either empty coal wagons or empty flats. As before 56xxx numbers denoted work trains and 51xxx denoted light engines, although in practice expected trains could turn up as light engines and vice versa.

We had no difficulty in obtaining train times although I believe our guides used their local connections, rather than relying entirely on the goodwill of the railway staff. There appears to be an ongoing dispute between the railway and the self appointed travel agency that collects the fees for photo permits. This has been said to be the cause of some problems that previous groups have had obtaining times although all the railway staff we encountered were friendly and provided information  freely.

Locos Seen:
QJ-6110, 6135, 6230, 6274, 6351, 6356, 6388, 6389, 6517, 6580, 6630, 6639,6735, 6760, 6828, 6876, 6878, 6905, 6986, 6992, 6998, 7007, 7009, 7012, 7041, 7112, 7137, 7143.

Total 28 different locos. All the above locos are on Hans Schaefer's latest list, except QJ-6986, which we saw several times. Apart from QJ-6580, which we only saw once, all locos were from brigades 1 to 5. QJ-6580 was the only loco from brigade 6 seen west of Daban.

Reshui - Daban - Lindong (18/02/01)

The road from Linxi to Daban has been much improved recently and the journey time was only around 1hr30 exclusive of stops. Daban to Lindong took only 1hr20. Much of the way, the line was in sight of the road but relatively uninteresting. There were several good positions between Pingdingmiao and Daban, near to the road.

From Daban, the line appeared devoid of locations until east of Gulumanhan. From a point between Gulumanhan and Chaganhada, the line appears to drop for some 50km through Lindong to Yamenmiao. The landscape on this section is wide-open semi-moorland, semi-desert reminiscent of large parts of the South African veldt or Turkish interior. There are distant mountains but few dramatic scenic features near the line. That doesn't mean the terrain is flat. Far from it, there is a long and steady slog for westbound trains all the way to the top of the bank. The line is often far from the road but those prepared to hike in will almost certainly find some worthwhile positions.

Lindong (18-21/02/01)

Looking east, Yamenmiao reminded me very much of the lonely outposts on the Karoo with a station and a full set of semaphores standing sentinel amid vast tracts of nothingness. Towards Chabuga, there is open undulating prairie/desert for many miles. In the Lindong direction, the line crosses the river then skirts several ranges of hills as it climbs out of the Olji Moron He river valley towards Chaganhada summit. The first section to Lindong is quite photogenic and relatively easily accessible. Lindong station is 14 km up the bank and some 4 km by road from the town of the same name. The station here has several through roads, watering and fire cleaning facilities and a few sidings. Above Lindong, the line is less accessible but appears to climb through relatively open country. We didn't explore this section.

In spite of the potential, our time here was very frustrating. The sun shone some of the time, the wind blew from the right direction some of the time and, just occasionally, trains ran, but all three factors rarely came together at the same time, resulting in much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

During our stay, the weather was uncharacteristically warm, continuing the trend started at Jingpeng. A few very small patches of snow remained in spots shaded from the sun but most had gone before we arrived. High cloud obscured the sun about 50% of the time and the wind was a major problem, swinging from north-westerly in the mornings to north-easterly in the afternoons and making photography tricky on the few occasions we did see a train in the sun.

Traffic levels were disappointing compared to Jingpeng. Although our first full day saw 4 uphill freights in daylight, the second day netted only 2 and the third day saw only one train before noon. There were excellent glint and silhouette possibilities on the line, but with no uphill trains around dawn or dusk, there was never the opportunity to exploit them. We weren't there long enough to determine whether the generally low traffic levels were typical or we'd just hit an uncharacteristically quiet spell. The towns of Linxi, Daban and Lindong must consume a significant amount of coal between them, not to mention the coal used by the railway at Daban depot. There was also some evidence that longer trains are operated east of Daban. Both these factors will reduce the amount of traffic through Lindong but not by as much as we experienced.

Seeing the passenger trains in daylight was a pleasant change. Both daytime trains had regular locos, QJ-6911 on eastbound 6051/6054 and QJ-6631 on westbound 6053/6052. Both machines were relatively clean and highly decorated with much polished brasswork. Presumably, the return workings were on the short Daban-Tongliao and v.v. trains 6060/6057 and 6058/6059. We wondered whether the locos worked through from Daban to Tongliao and back. There was certainly enough time to allow this.

Most of the freight workings were in the hands of Daban locos. Only QJ-7163 was positively identified at a Chabuga allocated machine, although QJ-6981 could have been either Chabuga or Daban based as it carried no discernible 4 character code in the tender. Most of the Daban based machines were from "brigade" 6 as expected although a few were from other brigades, notably the passenger locos. QJ-6580 was the only loco we saw both east and west of Daban.

Locos seen:
QJ-6125, 6576, 6577, 6580, 6631, 6884, 6911, 6981, 7010, 7037, 7063, 7163. Total 12.

Between Jingpeng and Lindong, we had seen a total of 38 different QJ, 35 of which were on Hans Schaefer's most recent list of Daban locos. Of the other 3, one was a Chabuga machine and the other 2 appeared to be new to the line.

We stayed at the Lindong Hotel, a pleasant, modern establishment near the town centre. The staff were friendly and helpful and the restaurant provided good food. Beware of rooms on the ground floor though. The windows have feeble catches, many of which are broken, allowing anyone to break into your room easily.

Lindong - Chifeng - Shenyang - Harbin - Longzhen (21-22/02/01)

Lindong to Chifeng via Daban took around 5 hours by road, including a couple of stops and a long march across the steppe to photograph QJ-7163 cresting Chaganhada summit. From Daban, we took the direct route to Chifeng via Wudan.

Train K650 took us overnight to Shenyang in a soft sleeper that had seen better days. Chifeng was busy with DF4/DF4C as expected and DF5-1080 was piloting. At Yuanbaoshan, just a few km into Shenyang bureau territory, we saw our first steam, a deflectorless JS, probably outstationed from Yebaishou. No steam was noted overnight, although that doesn't mean very much as none of our group heard many trains pass.

It got light somewhere between Fuxin and Xinlintun. Light is a relative expression, as the fog was very thick and it was difficult to see more than a few metres. As expected, standard green DF4/4Bs predominated at first, some with early 04xx and 06xx series numbers. East of the main line junction at Xinmin more DF4C were seen on freights. DFH3 and orange DF4B were noted on passengers. Several orange DF7C were seen approaching Shenyang. The only steam seen was an SY at the wagon works opposite Huanggutun shed.

The western approaches to Shenyang are being remodelled with a number of flyovers under construction and widening work evident in many places. Shenyang station is being rebuilt. The old reinforced concrete canopies have been partially demolished and a concrete raft is being built over the tracks but the main building still stands amid a sea of frozen mud. Even the recent Shenyang Bei station is being expanded with the addition of at least one new island platform on the western side. Electrification work in central Shenyang is at an early stage with only a few masts erected around the station areas.

We travelled in soft seat on train 2509 north from Shenyang to Harbin. A good decision in view of the appalling weather in the Shenyang area. Our train had a standard green DF4/4B for power and numerous other diesels were seen in the Shenyang area including:

DF4-2185, 4174, 4309, 4342, 4355, 5039, 5043.
DF4D-0044, 0049, 0243(SY), 0246(SY), 0250, 0258, 0435(SY), 0441,
DF11-0099(1998 SHG), 0121(1998 SHG),

Dates following the numbers are taken from the builders plates where seen. 2 or 3 letter codes indicate loco allocations SHG = Shanhaiguan, SY = Shenyang.

Once clear of Shenyang and its junctions, electrification work had progressed much further. Virtually all sections of open line were poled and many were wired as well. Station areas were less advanced and major stations such as Tieling or Kaiyuan, let alone Siping or Changchun still require an enormous amount of work to complete. North of Changchun, the station areas were a bit further advanced but the open line sections less so. It's difficult to believe that the necessary work can be completed this year, particularly as there didn't appear to be any work ongoing at the time and line occupations must be very difficult on such a busy line. In parallel (literally) with the electrification work, quadrupling of the main line appeared to be in progress between Shenyang and Changchun. There were numerous civil works where new bridges and culverts were being built and areas where buildings had been demolished and the ground cleared for a pair of new tracks.

North of Shenyang, virtually everything on the main line was DF4 hauled, DF4/4B & DF4C on freight and DF4/4B & DF4D on passenger. No steam was seen until Xintaizi where a dumped SY was in the industrial line's yard. Another SY was dumped at Tieling, south of the station, east of the line. Nothing was seen of the Tiefa system's locos, hardly surprising in the fog. At Kaiyuan, a line of dumped JS were at the local railway's depot, numbers: JS-6044, 8044, 8210, 8241 were seen. Two DFH3 were also on the depot including DFH3-0144 but it wasn't possible to ascertain whether they were CNR or local railway locos.

Locos seen:
JS-6044, 8044, 8210, 8241 all dumped,

In the Siping area DF5 pilots were seen in various yards. A DFH3 with Tongliao depot code was seen here on a passenger working. In addition to the usual diesels, Siping shed contained a few dumped QJ and QJ-6765 in steam! Another QJ was in steam in a permanent way yard at Gongzhuling, 50 km further north.

Locos seen:

An SY was in steam at the power station at Changchun Nan (Mengjiatun) but a new looking GK0 (or similar) was also present along with a pair of DF5 in the CNR yard. The view of Changchun depot from the northbound line is restricted but many DFH3 and DF4 of different variants were seen. No steam was visible. Piloting was in the hands of DF5s. DF5 and DF7C piloted the new yard at Changchun Bei and, a pleasant surprise, SY-1222 was in steam near the hump. North of Changchun, the DF4's near monopoly of line work continued.

Locos seen:
DF4-1769(CC), 4412(HB), 4414,
DF5-1469, 1488, 1610.

CC = Changchun, HB = Harbin.

No steam was seen after crossing into Harbin bureau territory at Taolaizhao. DF4C built by Datong are notorious for carrying numbers duplicating the original DF4 series but there is some evidence that this problem is being addressed. A couple of locos numbered DF4C-0022 and 0024 rather than just DF4-xxxx were seen. Both had 1999 Datong builders plates.

The fog had lifted south of Siping but we had already lost 20 minutes as a result. However after Taolaizhao we lost time hand over fist as our train was repeatedly looped to allow expresses to overtake. By now, our 60 minute connection at Harbin was starting to look a bit dodgy. We finally arrived 45 minutes down at 18:10. Our man in Harbin met us at the coach door with our tickets and we were comfortably on train T415 before it left at 18:25.

T415 was a remarkable train for a 50 km/h trundle through the back of beyond. Why the trip to Heihe warrants a rake of the most modern rolling stock in pristine condition, staffed by very smartly dressed attendants, is not clear but we weren't complaining.

Very little was noted north of Harbin as it was dark. At Suihua, no steam locos were seen but the coaling crane was in steam and there was a large pile of coal waiting forlornly for visiting QJs that would never arrive. At Bei'an, there was much hooting and a brake test indicating a change of engines, however, when we got off at Longzhen, there was a DFH3 at the front of the train instead of the expected DF1. As it was almost 01:00, we didn't wait long to find out whether it would be replaced but there didn't seem to be any moves to uncouple the DFH3. This begs the question: has the Heihe local railway acquired some DFH3s for working the through passengers? There were also 2 local railway DF1 at Longzhen, DF1-1395 and one other unidentified machine.

Zhanhe Forestry Railway (23-26/02/01)

After a break last year, it was time for another visit to this mixed steam and diesel narrow gauge operation in remotest northern Heilongjiang. Rumours of the lines imminent demise appear to be unfounded. Railway staff say that operations will continue until the end of the current 5 year plan at least. Visitors require an Aliens Travel Permit as the area is still normally closed to foreigners. We also required official permission from the railway for our visit and there was a charge of RMB 50 per person per day for this. Unlike most of the places where a fee is levied, we actually got something for our money. The railway's chief of security, Mr Gao, accompanied us each day and, like all the railway staff, was most helpful.

This line is not recommended for those who enjoy their creature comforts. Zhanhe itself is rather run down with little to offer the visitor except narrow-gauge steam. There is a hotel of sorts but it leaves a lot to be desired with no baths, showers or hot water available. There is cold water some of the time but it's very, very cold. If this isn't acceptable, the nearest hotels with half-decent facilities are in Bei'an, over an hour's bone jarring taxi ride away along appalling roads. Zhanhe does have some excellent restaurants though, especially the "New Century" adjacent to the station. To call it a station is an exaggeration, there are no platforms but most trains do stop and hard seat tickets can be bought here.

The timber yards at Zhanhe are located north-east of the station, at right angles to the main line. Beyond, and out of sight of travellers on passing trains, are the narrow gauge depot, workshops and station. The forestry main line runs east from Zhanhe (km 0) to Beiying (km 138) with a branch from Lingding (km 117) to Wusineng (km 154). Although some loading takes place at intermediate points, such as Tianlongshan (km 36), the vast majority of timber is loaded at the far end of the system from Kundeqi (km 105ish) eastwards. At Xingfu, the large timber yard was out of use. The main locomotive facilities are at Zhanhe with a servicing point at Maolan (km 85). This is extremely remote and largely uninhabited territory stretching from the rolling prairies near Zhanhe through extensive birch forests to the Xiao Hinggan Mountains. Much of the area is a pristine wilderness populated by bears, deer and wild pigs. The few small communities that do exist have no electricity and many have no connection to the outside world except via the railway. We were told that the railway itself employs over 1300 people, a remarkable number for an operation this size and, no doubt, a significant factor in any decision whether the line remains open.

The line appears to be worked in 2 sections, Zhanhe to Maolan and Maolan to the loading points. Some locomotives return westwards shortly after arriving at Maolan, others seem to perform several trips at the far end of the line before returning to Zhanhe. Traffic is relatively heavy with around 8 trains each way in a 24 hour period. Each train consists of approximately 18 bogie flat wagons or pairs of loose-coupled bogies, each carrying around 10 cubic metres of timber.

From an operational fleet of 9 steam locos and 5 diesels for line work, we saw 8 steam locos and 3 diesels working. Another of the diesels was under repair, leaving one diesel and one steam unseen. We saw a total of 30 trains during our stay of which 23 were steam hauled and only 7 had diesels. This could be taken as an indication that the diesels spend more of their time away from home, working east of Maolan, with the steam concentrated on the western section or it could just be good luck. In the short period we spent east of Maolan, we saw 2 steam and one diesel working.

Locos seen working:
Steam: SZ-31036, 31037, 31080, 31095, 31174, 31175, 31198, 31203,
Diesel: 2x Mudanjiangs, 1x JMY380.
Out of Use: SZ-31023 dumped, 1 x MDJ diesel under repair.

Most locomotives were devoid of plates and fairly dirty making the painted numbers barely legible. I had to wipe away the grime on several machines to determine what the numbers actually were. Two locos carried the painted numbers 095 and 080 but have previously been reported as SZ-31195 and SZ-31180 (assuming they are the same engines). The diesels don't carry any numbers at all, so have to be identified by other means instead, such as the size and position of the dents on the bodywork. All the diesels are painted orange this year.

We stayed at the forestry hostel at Zhanhe and spent 3 days chasing by "mian bao" microbus on the Zhanhe - Sidaogang and Hedong - Changfeng sections, which are relatively accessible by road. On the other day, we hired a 4-wheel railbus and travelled much further east to Kundeqi and back, photographing the trains we crossed or overtook en route. The section between Maolan and Kundeqi runs along the Zhanhe river gorge, crossing the river 5 times on elegant concrete viaducts and we were lucky enough to catch a loaded, steam hauled train on one of these bridges. This section appears completely inaccessible by road.

Many thanks to Robin Gibbons for correcting the transliteration of several station names: The previously reported Lingnai should actually be Lingnan, Sudaogang should be Sidaogang and Kunteqi should be Kundeqi.

The weather was remarkably warm for this far north, never dropping below -20C and, towards the end of our visit, actually rising above zero. There was plenty of snow around although it was slowly melting by the time we left. The skies were reasonably clear most of the time although on the last afternoon it did cloud up completely.

Zhanhe to Weihe (27/02/01)

If the cold weather, the lack of a bath or the cost of the grip don't put you off visiting Zhanhe then the hassle of travelling there and back probably will. The journey back to Harbin seems to take forever and the trains aren't conveniently timed.

We left Zhanhe at 07:18 on train 4052 as the snow started to fall. A good day for travelling. Motive power was DF7D-3051, a Suihua based, 1999 built product of the February 7th plant in Beijing. The external state of all the DF7D we saw was appalling. In spite of being less than 2 years old, they all had huge areas of peeling orange paintwork. Our loco was replaced at Bei'an by DFH3-0119 (built Sifang 1981) which continued all the way to Harbin.

Between Bei'an and Suihua, DF7D dominated freight haulage with very few DF4 being seen, and then only at the southern end of the line. There were DF5 pilots at Bei'an, Hailin and Suihua. Passenger trains were all DFH3 hauled. No standard gauge steam locos, dead or alive, were seen here or anywhere else on the journey. At Suiling, narrow gauge diesel 99801 was shunting. The only other loco seen here was a dumped C2.

Locos seen:
DF4-1266 (SH),
DF5- 1393, 1394, 1707, 1709,
DF7D-3045, 3052, 3053 (SH), 3056, 3057, 3058, 3059,
DFH3-0110 (SH), 0165(SH), 0168 (SKS), 0175(SKS).

SH = Suihua, SKS = Sankeshu (Harbin)

From Suihua to Harbin, DF4/4B replaced DF7D on freight while DFH3 continued to dominate the passenger workings.

Locos seen:
DF4-5302, 7328, 7382, 7414, 7415, 7418, 7421,
DFH3-0130 (SH).

Harbin was a hotbed of DF4D activity with locos numbered in the 3xxx series carrying a revised livery.

Locos seen:
DF4D-0254 (SY), 0430 (SKS), 3016(SKS), 3043
DFH3-0142, 0166 (SH), 0174 (SKS).

(Bryan and Richard had completed the same journey a day earlier and noted a DF5 + DF7D combination on a goods south of Bei'an. At Xinglongzhen the narrow gauge appeared to be intact and in use. There seemed to be a passenger station next to the CNR station and the line ran out of town via large log yard. There were placards beside the line, one of which showed a C2 on passenger coaches. Is there a steam tourist operation here (at least)? Never seen a report of this line but it is only 75km north of Haerbin so would fit for tourism.)

We planned to travel on to Yimianpo on train K609 but for some reason the tickets had not been arranged in advance and our guide couldn't get anything better than hard seat. Spending 3 hours crammed into a coach with120 other people isn't my idea of fun and I wasn't sorry to get off at Yimianpo to continue the journey by road. The only observation made on this part of the journey was that there were a lot of DF8s around on coal trains.

Weihe Forestry Railway (28/02/01 - 03/03/01)

The first news we got on our arrival was rather depressing. The passenger coaches had been painted yellow for a filming contract! Fortunately, it wasn't quite true. Three coaches had been repainted a fairly unobjectionable brown colour but they were the standby rake and, apart from one brief foray to Zhenzhu and back, the passengers operated with the usual green stock during our visit. Timings appear unchanged from previous visits.

Timber trains also followed a similar pattern to our previous visit in March 2000 with empty trains going out at approximately 2 hourly intervals during the day and loads mainly returning at night. On most days the last one or two loads would get back after dawn and Dongfeng would dispatch a train in the late afternoon, so it was possible to get some shots of loaded trains.

The loads here are a lot lighter than at Zhanhe, about 10 cars as against 18 further north. The grades don't appear any steeper but they must be as the locos are thrashed at least as hard and regularly need to stop for a blow up on the major climbs.

Since our last visit, the loading point above Shuangfeng has been closed and the track lifted. We didn't travel to the far end of the line this time but most, if not all, the other loading points probably remain active as traffic levels haven't decreased since last year.

A recent report indicated that railway staff had turned anti-gricer. As usual with these reports, we found no evidence of this whatsoever! Loco crews and footplate staff were as friendly and helpful as ever in spite of the language difficulties and we never felt unwelcome around railway premises.

The loco fleet here has not changed since our last visit in March 2000, although identifying individual engines is not so easy due to the lack of numberplates and the difficulty in reading painted numbers under the grime.

Locos seen:
SW-21030, 21031, 21033, 21034, 21035, 21053, 21054, 21055

Most locos only carry the last 3 digits of the number, eg 055 rather than SW-21055. 031 is unnumbered but can be identified easily as it is the only loco with a 6 wheel tender. 033 carries brass decorations. All locos were seen on line except 033 which was under repair in the shed at Weihe.

We stayed at the Weilin hotel in Weihe, run by the forestry bureau. This is a much better establishment than that at Zhanhe with all the usual facilities. We travelled around by hired bus, making it as far as Chonghe on one occasion in spite of treacherous road conditions. There wasn't much incentive to go to the far end of the line as, apart from the passenger, there wasn't a lot of activity in daylight. Again, it was remarkably warm for the time of year with the snow melting quite rapidly. Fortunately, there was little cloud until the last day, which was overcast with snow showers. As for the future, no-one seemed certain but there were no indications that the line wouldn't be open again next winter.

Yabuli Forestry Railway (03/03/01)

On our last morning the weather was poor so we travelled east to Yabuli to see what was left of this system. Parts of the trackbed in town, including the river bridge, have been parkified with gravel walkways and benches. The station building and some of the workshops remain, although now converted for other industrial uses, but most of the yard track has been ripped up. Two lines remain, one holds various items of rolling stock but not timber wagons. They were nowhere to be seen. The other line holds 5 dumped locos numbered C2-01,02,04,05,06. The boiler and frames of another loco lay nearby. In 1999, numbers 01, 02, 07, 010, 127, B*309 were active, 03, 04, 06 and 161 were out of use and 05 was dumped. The whereabouts of the missing locos is unknown but it's surprising that so few of the active machines remain.

Weihe - Harbin - Beijing - London (03/03/01 - 04/03/01)

From Weihe, we travelled by road to Harbin, taking around 3 hours for the journey in spite of heavy snow. Visibility was poor but a few DF8 hauled coal trains were seen en route. No hard seat this time! We left Harbin on a comfortable, clean T72 at 16:48, ensconced in the luxury of soft sleeper. A very pleasant way to travel.

Locos seen:
DF4-2193, 4413, 4453, 5167(HA), 9311(SH),
DF4D-0246, 0258, 0308, 0309(SY),

HA = Harbin, SH = Suihua, SKS = Sankeshu, SY = Shenyang

Passing Changchun depot in the dark, what looked like a JF was seen parked up by the turntable. It wasn't in steam but came as quite a surprise nonetheless. This was probably the JY reported by Bruce Evans. No other steam was seen en-route. There were plenty of DF4, DF4C, DF4D and DFH3 on shed.

The following morning, Beijing depot contained a selection of BJ, DF4, DF10F, DF11 and NY5/6/7.

After a short visit to the Airport Garden Hotel for a shower and breakfast, we said farewell to our guide and flew home. Another trip over.

In Conclusion

Thanks to Bryan, Pete, Ewen, Derek, Mike G, Mike S, Richard and Robin for their company and good humour. Nice also to meet Jelle at Chengde and Florian at Weihe.

The remaining steam operations seem to have survived well through the year 2000. How many will last until next winter remains to be seen. It looks like electric operation between Dalian and Harbin is some way off yet and hopefully won't start before next winter. So there should still be some real steam to photograph into 2002. I've booked my leave already!

Rob Dickinson