The International Steam Pages

Shanhetun Forest Railway and Wangbai Railway, 2002

Alexandre Gillieron reports on his visits to these two narrow gauge systems. Click here for the Wangbai report: (with pictures added 24th March 2002)

Shanhetun forestry line, visited January 4th to 6th 2002.

We arrived at Shanhetun on the 4th at 15:00 during heavy snowfalls on the region (the biggest of the winter, according to locals). 004 was in the station yards shunting the empties and some heavy loaded box and open cars. In the shed were at least 4 other engines in steam.

On the 5th we set off by taxi to Xiangyang, weather clearing and total blue sky was there when train 41 reached the station at 12:00. This train is the only photographic possibility of the system as normally all operation is nocturnal. It usually leaves Shanhetun around 10:00-10:30 (nearly daily according to the stations log books) and on that day they were also 5 flat cars loaded with bricks to convey. It is easy to chase by car for about 30 km from SHT. Best section is before Xiangyang as already reported. The rest is flat with some good local scenery (villages). Xiangyang station is good with red star on the building and long water + fire cleaning stop. An ugly 4-axles railcar on its way back to Shanhetun was also crossed there, then the train continued at 12:30 to Shahedzi. We made our way back to Shanhetun after some more chasing. 2 other railcars on their way into the mountains were seen but no further steam trains.

On the 6th at 8:00, 004 was busy shunting a just arrived freight train. This including 14 timber wagons and 7 box and open cars loaded to the maximum capacity with crop bags (even on the roof of the box car). All wagons were brought to the exchange sidings. What a total frustration that such trains are running during night time !

An inspection of the station log books gives the usual pattern of operation on the line : empties are leaving SHT after 18:00 (usually up to 3 trains), loads return during night, usually arriving between 23:00 and 7:00. Only day-time trains are the already mentioned empty train 41 and on very rare occasion loaded train 42 arriving at SHT late in the morning (maybe once a week). 4 railbuses are leaving SHT after 13:00 to various destinations, returning early morning and around midday the following day...Trains numbers for railcars are the 2xx series as in Weihe.

Condition of the engines is bad to very bad with leaking parts for most of them. Numbers seen were as already reported. The hotel near the shed has good suite-style double rooms with hot shower and working heating for 260Y (and naturally low-budget rooms with no water for less than 50Y...).

Further serious investigations should be made along the upper sections of the line after Shahedzi. There may be some day-time action there but very difficult to do other than by rented railcar... The most interesting aspect of the system are the real freight trains with box and open wagons that are used in the normal logging trains. All staff are very friendly and cooperative and there is no problem to phot and visit the shed and yards areas.

Alex continues with his visit to the Wangbai system near Baoding. I was here in between visits:

We visited from December 27th. to 29th. 2001 and again on January 11th. 2002.

Bad news from the staff on our arrival : the steam locos are no longer going to Baihe due to frozen water supply there. Only the diesels are allowed into the final station. In steam in the coal supply facilities was 2816 (Chrzanow 3846/1959). In the shed were 2813/2819, both serviceable and 2 diesels, from which one nearly destroyed by what appeared to be some collision...

At 13:50 another orange-painted (last year blue) diesel arrived from Baihe with 2 stone wagons.

At 15:30 2816 set off to Wangdu with a nice train of 9 stone wagons. Some good shots made with the help of another Japanese enthusiast minibus.

The following day, 2816 arrived at 10:50 with 1 stone wagon taken at Yangzhuang (summit station). Before that it had helped a diesel with a sand load to Baihe over the bank into Yangzhuang.

At 12:20 the diesel came back from Baihe with 2 stone wagons.

After coaling/watering/lunchbreak, 2816 was turned on the triangle and took 2 sand wagons and started at 15:05 westbound. Many and excellent shots done leaving Tangxian and on the climb to Yangzhuang, which was reached at 16:20! 2816 then immediately uncoupled and returned to Tangxian to bring 2 more wagons later in the evening.

On December 29th, 2816 started at 9:25 to Wangdu with the 2 stone wagons brought the previous day from Baihe. Again, very good shots especially in Wangdu when shunting into the cement factory. There is a very good position at Wangdu station entrance with a small wooden bridge and nice trees. After the shunting, 2816 moved into the small shed area and nothing more happened for the rest of the day!

We returned to Tangxian on January 11th. All we found was a locked (and guarded) shed with all engines cold. Access to the shed was refused. Many empty wagons were stored in the station yards and even on the triangle. We got the information that the railway is closed until March 1st. So nothing else to do than to rush to Dahuichang...

It must be also said that all quarries on the way to Baihe seemed to be out of use. The only loading point for stones is now in the Baihe station. The continuation of the line into the quarry at Baihe is also out of use. The cement factory at Baihe seemed nearly totally still during December. Maybe this is the reason for the temporary closure of the railway...

Rob Dickinson