The International Steam Pages

Steam in Northern China, January/February 2002

4 "Anzacs" John Agnew, Paul Mahoney, Jim Staton and Brian McNamara flew into Beijing on 25 Jan and immediately entrained for Tonghua arriving 06.30 on 26th. We mini vanned north to Songshuzhen intending to phot our first JS in the Da'an gorge just beyond Yonghong, but icy roads and an unsuitable vehicle with an inexperienced driver quickly put paid to this idea as we spun off the road on the first icy patch. That night we stayed at the green Ludian behind the station, while station pilot JS8112 kept us entertained. (I understand that the JS in this area were expected to have finished at the end of February 2002. RD)

27 Jan. saw us on the mixed departing Songshuzhen 05.13 behind JS 8103. After traversing the Songjianghe (not Songhua!) gorge and getting a nice crossing at Zhubaogang high above the river, we alighted at Quanyang. Today we visited the depot here and recorded all 19 JS located here, most of course being withdrawn with only 8106 in steam at the shed. So we saw 9 Loco's active on the line. They were 8019, 8103, 8106, 8108, 8112, 8198, 8199, 8200, and 8208 all with high deflectors.

We spent the night in another Ludian, and caught the southbound bound Diesel passenger #4264 at 05.35 on 28th back to Xianrenqiao, having seen a Changchun - Baihe Df4 hauled express depart Quanyang at 05.30. Here we exchanged the van for 2 Beijing 4 wheel drive Jeeps and set off for the Songjianghe gorge using Florian Menius' excellent map. We photographed 3 passenger trains - all diesel hauled and then finally got the 11.30 steam double header at the north end of Wanniwazi on the 3rd bridge. Locos were 8198-8199. Later 8198 came back light engine, tender first.

29 Jan. Spent a full day on the frozen river in our jeeps but only managed a couple of steam freights, and plenty of Df4 passengers. We actually drove several kms up to the frozen rapids between bridges 6/7 and would have liked to have gone up as far as Zhubaogang station but the drivers did not care to venture onto the rapids. Today we also drove a few Kms south of Xianrenqiao, as the gorge continues south of here. Looks equally interesting, but no steam seen.

30 Jan. Got a steam double header departing north behind 8200/8198 and crossing a JS caboose hop going south at Xianrenqiao. Today we were to drive to the JS line at Baishanzhen but the condition of the roads meant a long detour westward via Jingyu. We twice saw n.g. forestry wagons being loaded behind an 0-6-0 diesel while heading north from Jingyu towards Huadian city on the Baishanzhen - Yantongshan line where we stayed the night in a hotel.

31 Jan saw us phot JS 8104 departing for Baishanzhen on train #1 the Electricity Workers passenger service. Its return working is #2 arr back at 18.08. Also JS 8099 departed soon after with a freight for Baishanzhen. Our train #6834 departed Huadian 08.04 behind the lines only Df3 #0091/1980 on the Yantongshan passenger train. Its return working is #6833 which goes on to Baishanzhen at 17.28 daily. Heading west we arrived at Xinlanzhen km 46 and saw a branchline heading off SE towards Hongqiling. There were exchange sidings here with 3 yellow tank cars waiting perhaps to go down the branch. We heard a rumour that 2 SY's run this branch? But saw nothing. Soon we passed a 10 total double headed eastbound freight at Yima, behind JS8107 and a near new Df5.

Upon reaching Yantongshan we visited the depot and the friendly staff there confirmed that their were just 3 JS left. All are deflector-less. Another Df5 1123 was seen in the yard here, possibly China Rail. At 10.55 we boarded the passenger for Jilin behind an orange Df4. In Jilin we got a slow passenger at 16.26 for Shanhetun arr 20.20 to meet up with our old friend and guide, Ma Jun Ming here.

1 Feb saw us bussing out to Sanreban but the weather got worse and our minivan driver chose to return to Shahezi rather than get stranded here by icy roads. We got 1 loaded log train here at 08.00 behind a C2 before a derailment put paid to today's trains. Binguan at Shahezi was very comfortable.

2 Feb another derailment so all we got today was a tender first empty heading up the long Dongsheng branch in nice sunlight! So after lunch we drove back towards Shanhetun and grabbed another empty service near Xiangyang. We visited the log yards at Shanhetun and got 3 locos in steam at the depot. Then drove on to Haerbin for an 06.20 morning train north to Zhanhe on 3 Feb. Very heavy snow seen while going north.

3 Feb arrived Zhanhe late afternoon and vanned out to first bridge to be rewarded with an empty logger heading into a nice sunset. Stayed at the Forestry hostel after a great meal with our old mate Mr Guo, the lines security chief etc. Our third visit here.

4 Feb started our railcar charter at 07.00 and headed out to our first photo spot the horseshoe curve just above Wulugan station. Then walked back to our favourite place "The Ledge" which is just that, above the big Zhanhe River at about km 90 just past the Gaotan bridge #1 at 89 kms. After a long wait we bagged a tender first empty descending the ledge from Maolan. Stayed with same friendly family at Kundeqi again.

5 Feb saw a repeat operation and we got a loaded steam plus a couple of Mudanjiang diesel loads today. Traffic was sparse. Overnight Kundeqi again, great food, warm beds. Trains in the night. 

6 Feb we visited the twin bridges #2/3 at km 100 about a km past Zhanbei station. But got diesels only. Finally got a steam empty consist outbound near "Johns Knob" near km 57 about 3 kms short of He Dong. Here Mr Guo gave us the bad news that the steam fleet was being shut down for the 2 weeks Chinese New Year / Spring Festival holidays starting 11th Feb. Returned to Zhanhe Forestry hostel tonight. (As we now know, steam was not used again after the holidays. RD)

7 Feb Visited Loco depot and got all of the steamers having their boilers drained for the close down. 7 are in use out of 10 locos. Diesels only in use today. Got some nice ice sculptures in town before taking train K620 to Qiqihar and then to Jitong Railway and home....

Rob Dickinson