The International Steam Pages

Industrial Steam in China, December 2002

Bruce Evans reports on a visit to some of those places in the IRS book which have seen few of any recent visitors:

Pingzhuang - 25 November

The national railways pilot at PingzhuangNan, previously a JS, is now a DF5 (probably from Yebaishou) with ex-Shanhaiguan DF5 1043 being noted. (Have  DF7Cs pushed out some of the DF5s at Shanhaiguan?)

Pingzhuang Coal Mine System

About three hours were spent in this area. Steam operations continue with about a dozen SYs and at least two JSs, one carrying the unusual number 1001 (Dalian 4/60). These locos perform surface duties, including serving the underground mines and the exchange yard with the national railways, and works train duties in the open pit mine. The steam-hauled inter-mine passenger trains previously noted here no longer seem to operate.

The railway system serving the open-cast mine is electrified and the coal is brought out by trains hauled by a fleet of 15 to 20 electric locomotives all of which appeared to be of the large LEW Bo-Bo type.

Locos seen:
JS: 1001.
SY: 0210, 0400, 0798, 1007 (dumped), 1025, 1083,
LEW: 6773, 6788, 6789, 6797, 7330, 7336, 7342, 7344.

Yuanbaoshan Coal Mine System - 25 November

A short visit was made to this system. According to workers at the main yard there are 4 steam locomotives in service. JSs 6245 and 8216 were in steam at the main yard.

Industrial Bo-Bo diesel electric GKD1 4008 (Dl, 97) was also present and was seen to haul a train of loaded coal gondolas from the main yard to the adjacent large power station. This diesel could be owned by the power station while the steam locos are probably owned by the coal mining administration.

Reshui/Jingpeng - 26 November to 30 November

The operations here have been extensively covered in numerous other reports for the same approximate period. The unwelcome presence of the leather jackets was also noted on a number of occasions. "Highlights" observed during the week were a dynamic and well-known lady guide in a bright ski-suit, and a member of her German-speaking group in a bright white/cream winter jacket. (Both persons probably were aware of just how brightly they stood out). A gentle appeal: Tour operators and leaders should request visitors to wear dark clothing as there are numerous locations at Jingpeng where there are several closely spaced photo spots and one bright item of clothing creating a highlight can spoil the pictures of people photographing from a nearby or following spot. Dark clothing stands out far less and makes a person look a little more like a local shepherd or worker. The last years are going to see Jingpeng even more popular and busy than it is now. Please do not allow this amazing spectacle we have been granted for steam's exit to become a circus - that would be a tragedy.

On the railway scene of note was the presence in a number of trains of standard flat cars converted to low gondolas for coal transport. In two trains coal was even noted being moved in ballast hoppers. For the writer it was also the first time national railways wagons equipped with new or modified bogies to allow 100km/hr running as against the present maximum of around 80km/hr were noted.

Shijiazhuang Local Railway - 2 December

This steam worked standard gauge local railway starts at Daguocun on the Shijiazhuang to Taiyuan line. The depot and workshops are at Daguocun on the northern side of the national railways, clearly visible from a main road that parallels the national railway.

The local railway mainly serves a large power station at Xibaipo but there are a number of other rail-served industrial plants at the midway station and coal loading platforms were noted at a loop nearer Xibaipo. Most wagons noted on the line were national railways gondolas but several older timber-sided gondolas are thought to belong to the local railway and to be used only for internal traffic.

Locos at the depot on 2 December were QJs 1729, 2566, 2615, 3255 (all seemed to be dumped), 6794 and 6918 and SY 0996. The SY was said to have come in from elsewhere for heavy maintenance at the local railway╠s small workshop. It was not possible to see inside the workshop and there could have been one or two more locos under repair.

Two QJs were found working on 2 December, 6245 was shunting industrial sidings at Daguocun while 6843 was later found working on the northern part of the line. Locos on the line seemed to be chimney-first towards the power station. Although such workings were not seen during the short visit it was understood from the
staff at the intermediate station that coal trains are often double-headed between the intermediate station and the power station. The line passes through more hilly country in this area and the grades may be steeper. From general observations the line would only see one or two trains per day but could this just be where the final double-QJ workings will take place? During our two days in this area the pollution levels were extremely bad and if this is the normal condition photography would be a great challenge.

Somewhat surprising most of the QJs noted at Daguocun are ex-Harbin Bureau including at least one ex-Bei╠an high-deflectored engine.

Other Industrial Locations in Shijiazhuang

Two SYs were seen at the Shijiazhuang Fertilizer Factory located north of the Dezhou mainline on the east side of Shijiazhuang

Shijiazhuang has a steelworks but this was not visited

Xingtai Steelworks

Some of the railway activity at this medium sized works, located in the south-western part of Xingtai was observed from the public road that passes the main gate. Five SYs and a new Beijing 7 Feb 2001-built GK1E B-B diesel (numbered 3109) were seen. There are probably additional locos at this works.

Of special interest were SY 0011, a very early example, dead but looking serviceable, and Changchun-built SY 3009.

Locos seen:
SY: 0011, 0736, 1436, 1641, 3009.
GK1E: 3109 (Bj, 01).

Cishan-Handan Area - 5 and 6 December

Thirteen QJs and three JSs were staged or dumped at Cishan depot. Several of the QJs had previously been recorded on the Baotou-Daliuta line or on the Mengyuan-Linfen-Jiexiu line. (Were the locos seen on Baotou-Daliuta Beijing Bureau locos on hire?) According to the worker at the rail entrance to the depot the last steam workings had ended only in October.

Several trains were seen arriving at Handan from the new Handan-Jinan joint-venture line. All were noted hauled by Handan depot DF4/4Bs. This could mean this line is national railways worked although there could possibly be an interchange somewhere east of Handan.

A private scrap yard in Handan was found to contain four ex-Harbin Bureau diesels waiting to be cut up. These were DFs 1454 (Dalian 69) and 1638 (Dalian 71), both ex-Yitulihe depot locos and DFH3s 0060 (Sifang 77) and 0065 (Sifang 79) ex-Jiamusi. There was clear evidence of remains of other diesels that had been cut up at the yard and a truck leaving the yard was seen to contain panels from a DFH3. (Considering the distance these diesels were hauled to their place of destruction at Handan makes one wonder what the haulage rates must be on the national railways?)

Locos seen (Cishan depot):
QJ: 2328, 2338, 2339, 3224, 6198, 6201, 6246, 6393, 6344, 6394, 6425, 6451, 6453.
JS: 5039, 5406, 5631.

Xinxing Ductile Iron Pipe Plant

This plant is located at Cishan north-east of Cishan Station with a connection to the station. The plant was not visited but observations were made from a public road bridge and walkway above a deep cutting at the point where the various tracks in the main works yard converged. Three very well-kept SYs were seen, 0812, 0844 and 0856, as well as a Shijiazhuang-built diesel (modern JMY380?) similar to the one seen at Handan Steelworks. The SYs all had brass boiler bands, cast number plates and slogan boards around the smokebox doors.

All three faced towards Cishan Station. The full extent of the works could not be seen and it is possible that there could be a small number of additional locos here.

According to our well-informed taxi driver, who led us to the plant, the works has or had very close links to the military and security had been very strict. The military connection possibly accounts for the locos being so well kept. The plant now appears to be operated on a more commercial basis and the name as given above is apparently quite new. It would be interesting to find out whether formal visits to the works could be arranged or whether security is still tight.

(No military guards were seen and there were no high walls preventing one from seeing into quite a large part of the works).

Handan Local Railway

Part of this narrow gauge local railway system remains largely intact in the south-eastern suburbs of Handan. What appeared to have been the main yard and workshop area was visited and many items of rolling stock were staged in the yard. A small diesel (ZN120?) in what appeared to be very good external condition was stored in a shed adjacent to the yard and workers indicated that this shed might also hold one or two steam locos. Unfortunately the persons with keys to this shed could not be located so the presence of the steam locos could not be verified.

The general impression gained was that although trains could still be operated over at least parts of the system the system was closed and no scheduled services remained.

Handan Steelworks

A visit of a few hours was made to this works in the south-western part of Handan.

The steelworks was said to have a loco fleet consisting of 16 SYs and 11 diesels. Six of the diesels were seen, three being Jinan-built TS/GK1Gs, one a Dalian-built GK1L, one a Shijiazhuang-built Taihang (possibly a modern version of the JMY380) and the other possibly a similar Shijiazhuang loco. Apparently three of the diesels are Shijiazhuang-built.

The works is very convenient for visiting or for train-watching generally as there is a public footbridge adjacent to the loco depot from which one can see into one of the main yards and, pollution permitting, into what seemed to be the main blast-furnace area. Unlike at Anshan and Baotou most action seemed to take place in a very small area. At one stage there were five SYs lined up almost line abreast, all chimney forward, on ingot and molten metal trains and in the cold conditions this made a wonderful sight with the furnaces behind.

Locos seen:
SY: 0119, 0293, 0557, 0702, 0800, 1081, 1139, 1154, 1203, 1208, 1535, 1658, 2007, 2009.
TS: 0011 (Jn, 93).
GK1G: 6021(Jn, 94), 6022 (Jn, 95).
GK1L: 0001 (Dl, 98).

Other Possible Industrial and Mining Locations near Handan

There is a large coal-fired power station adjacent to the north-western end of Matou Station, to the south of Handan. The facility is thought to have steam locos.

Some maps show a spur of around 15km extending in a general east-west direction from the Wu╠an-Shahe national railways line in the Kuangshancun area. This line was found but due to the very poor weather conditions and the fact that the Wu╠an-Quancun road was under construction and in an appalling state it could not be investigated. The line appeared to be used and to be signaled. The area is quite hilly with coal mining activity so the line could be a mine line. Of course the line could be national railways diesel worked. The new road should be of relatively high standard and when completed would allow this line to be easily reached from Handan.

Chengde Steelworks Line - 8 to 10 December

On the steelworks line the first up-hill train on two of the three days only appeared in the afternoon while on the other day there was a steady stream of trains from early morning. Most trains seen had a single JS at the head of the train and two JSs banking. Only two SYs were seen and were used as the head engine on several workings.

National Railways

The number of BJs in the area appears to have increased. All freights seen arriving from or departing towards the south-east were hauled by double-headed BJs although in most cases the loads did not seem to justify this. At least five BJs were dumped or staged at Chengde depot. All the BJs as well as the two DF7C pilots at Chengde appeared to carry the Chengde depot code. As before DF4s and DF4Bs were also to be seen.

Locos seen:
JS: 5634, 5720, 6217, 6227, 6368, 6403.
SY: 1522.
DF4: 0627, 0692.
DF4B: 9008.
DF7C: 5271, 5290.
BJ: 3030, 3041, 3068, 3076, 3077, 3090, 3113, 3128, 3129, 3130, 3149, 3171, 3240, 3241, 3259.

Beijing-Jiaozhou - 13 December

This was part of a journey to Yantai at the northern tip of the Shandong peninsula. Travel was on the Beijing to Weihai train which reached Qingzhou just east of Zibo by daybreak.

DF4B 7511 was noted on a train departing on the local railway extending north from Qinzhou. (The same loco was seen several years ago and is believed to be one of two DF4Bs on this line).

No steam was seen between Qingzhou and Jiaozhou with the JS pilots previously seen now replaced by blue DF5s.

Weihai Local Railway - 13 December

This local railway meets the Lancun-Yantai national railways line at Taocun. It extends through attractive hilly terrain for about 150km to the small but expanding port city of Weihai. The line was initially steam-worked and steam facilities were provided at both ends of the line. Sadly all workings now appear to be diesel with the only steam seen being a line up of five dumped QJs, one being 1775, at the depot at Weihai.

Through passenger trains to Weihai change locos at Taocun. On 13 December the train from Beijing exchanged its Jinan-based DF4D 0279 for local railway DF4B 7622. At Taocun DF4 0063 with characters showing it to be a local railway loco from Weihai depot was present. It was seen here again on 15 December. This is an ex-Jinan Bureau loco once based at Qingdao.

At Weihai a second DF4B 7655 was noted and a third was parked inside the depot.

Yantai - 14 and 15 December

This is a larger and busier city than Weihai and sees considerably more railway activity. In addition to national railways workings there are port authority lines that appeared to be entirely diesel-worked.

On the national railways tracks the usual mixture of DF4 types, except DF4Cs, were to be seen on line workings while shunts and station pilot duties were in the hands of a pair of Qingdao depot DF5s. Yantai does not have a full depot but there is a small open facility at the west end of the main yard at which the various DF4s, DF4Bs and DF4Ds from Jinan, Qingdao and Lancun depots are parked while awaiting their return workings.

The port appears to be split into two main sections with the 'old port' being at the east end of the station and the 'new port' at the west end. Diesel-hydraulic B-B GK1D 1042 (Sifang, 99) was seen several times shunting both areas. This is a previously unreported type but externally it is very similar to the more common GK1F. A young manager in the national railways freight yard who spoke good English said that there was no industrial steam at Yantai.

General - Speeding up of Freight Services

Perhaps the most interesting general observation made on this trip was to note the large number of new and refurbished freight wagons of several types now fitted with modified designs of the standard bogie. The modified bogies have a form of stabilizer link fitted at the bottom of the bogie close to each of the axle-box mountings. The wagons so fitted can be recognized by the designation "T" or "K" after the normal type indication e.g. C64T or C64K. It is a key policy and goal of the MoR that freight workings, particularly on the lines where 160km/hr passenger services are operated, should be accelerated to allow maximum speeds of 100km/hr for general freight and 120km/hr for parcel, express container and other special categories of freight. Up to now bogie design has been one of the main limitations on achieving these higher speeds with 80km/hr generally being the existing limit applied.

Clearly with such a huge wagon fleet the change over is a massive task but judging by the numbers of wagons already to be seen with modified bogies the MoR has set about it in a big way.

In the Qingdao, Lancun, Yantai area most of the freight diesels now carry their maximum permissible speeds stenciled on the lower body panel in a similar way to what has been done for the passenger stock. In all cases the speed was 100km/hr.

The introduction of the high-powered DF8B freight diesels and the development of even higher powered diesels (6000hp+) form part of the same technical goal as the fitting of the improved bogies. The MoR aims to be able to run 5000t freights with a single loco at up to 100km/hr and at as high an average speed as possible to minimize interference with high-speed passenger workings.

Possibly also associated with the same strategy there have been several indicators that with the elimination of steam on the national railways the MoR now wants to limit the number of industrial and local railway steam locos that need to be hauled over national railways high-speed lines as these locos can possibly not be run at 100km/hr. Some kind of directive seems to have been issued which "encourages" operators of large fleets of steam to do their own overhauls wherever possible.

Long block trains made of the new 120km/hr type XK1 container wagons were seen for the first time on this trip but in both cases with 100km/hr locos. In due course one can expect to see these trains hauled by cascaded DF4Ds etc, probably in multiple due to the size of the load.

Rob Dickinson