The International Steam Pages

Steam in North China, April/May 2002

Charles Towler reports on the first two stages of his China visit (updated 5th May 2002):

Hegang 10 + 11 April 2002

Here the picture was much as reported and it is certainly excellent. More interesting for me than Tiefa. Note though that all passenger trains observed were steam, with electrics only on freight. Plenty to see and do. I prefer to travel rather on the trains over taking photographs, but a tip to any one going here the Branch to Shanzhuang (the one which gets just two trains per day) is not electrified for the last half, from memory the station is Er Zuan or similar (notes in left luggage office!). I had not seen this noted - this does give some possibility for catenary free photos against a rural backdrop, or with the city in the background. The train only got to Ging Shi (excellent scenic Chinese village) rather than the last station. I was unable to acertain if this is a permanent closure.

Other things I noticed is that SY1030 and SY1498 seem to be dedicated passenger engines. They were working both days and appeared to follow the same diagram. The passenger timetble is as reported. Most locos very clean to supershine (as are electrics). The other passenger was SY0905 (decorated). Near the first Opencast pit and the stored electrics is a compound containing 3 dumped or stored SYs of which one is 0642. The others have their numbers painted out, but one appears to be decorated with the 'Mao Zedong' flag style. I will write a more detailed report when my trip ends.

Some reports have seemed unaware that there are two opencast pits at Hegang both easily visible from the Xing Shan passenger branch which is by far the best way to reach / explore them. The first (nearest to Hegang) is not working, with spoil tipping only at the rim served by electrics. The other pit nearer Xing Shan has rails to all levels, mostly electric on my visit plus one SY with a crane (SY0555).

Other SYs (from memory) 0472/0498/0561/0683/0799/3013/3023/3024 all in steam.
SY1370 cold with no motion - being shunted around and de-coaled.
SY1464 under maintenance at Hegang Shed.

Hotel across square from station OK but plumbing appalling. Y60. Has number 24 above door. 2 doors to right down steps to basement level is a bath house that was a good subsitute for failed shower: Y5.

Ganhe 13 April 2002 (definitely unlucky)!

This day was a disaster. I went to Ganhe. The CNR station police were happy to see me. As suggested many times I steared clear of the station until almost departure time. However the Police spotted me and I had to go to the office for the passport / have you got a permit routine. In the end I was conversing in written English with a policewoman, who was interpreting for the 'Leader'. I wanted to take the train but they were having none of it. After about an hour of begging and pleading on my part, they agreed to take me with them on the train to Yisihan (the first stop from Ganhe) and then drive me back. Surprisingly they did allow me to photograph even at Ganhe station and even with ordinary passengers in shot. For the record the loco was number 03 and yes the soft coach is comfortable. It could do with windows both sides though. I saw 02 and 09 and one other in steam.

It was suggested I get permission at Alihe. I connot say if such permission would be likely. With no train tomorrow (Sunday), I had no choice but to give up after this short ride. Having had 'the works' at Weihe in January 2000 this miss is for me a bitter disappointment. So I have just done a fast Taxi from Ganhe to Jiagedaqi for train 1468 to Xinlitun (for Fuxin). The road is metalled but fairly poor to Alihe, but excellent after. About 120 kms for Y160. This bought me an extra day at Fuxin so I have retrieved something.

My advice to anyone without permit / guide would be to get a taxi from the town or Alihe to Yisihan if you can and avoid Ganhe (Narrow Gauge) station itself like the plague, until you return on the last day when you can blow a raspberry at them for me please!!

Fuxin Coal Railway: 14 and 15 April 2002

Although this has been described as run -down, there was certainly plenty to do. Steam movements were numerous. Although most of the details are well known the main news is that there have been some changes to the passenger timetable. I did not see a timetable displayed and so I cannot post a complete timetable.
My observations were that the timetable now only requires two locos. There is a three YZ set employed on two shuttle runs from Wulong to Xinqu. These run more or less at the times previously indicated. The other set however has eight coaches. It runs to between Xinqu and Wangying at about the same times as the later of the previous pair of trains. Here at Tongliao I don't have time to type all the details of my observations but examples are Train 113 leaves Wulong at 13:32 now, Train 114 is about 10 minutes later. Trains 117, 109, 105, 104, 108 and 116 which all served Dongliang don't run.

Freight workings were consistent with the many previous reports. The electric passenger to the otherside of the opencast is also very enjoyable. A number of the coaches have been re-painted in the Standard green and only stored coaches had the slogans I had seen in pictures. The passengers were in the hands of Veteran SY0076 with the three car set and SY0391 on both days. The latter nearly came to grief during an emergency stop attempting to avoid a road vehicle stuck on a level crossing, whose driver got it out of the way with millimetres to spare. We stopped an SY plus half a coach length past the crossing!

At about five on the second evening I walked over to the works. I got to the door and peered in. Four SYs were in various stages of overhaul, two complete and two stripped down. Unfortunately I was met by a foreman who didn't say go away, but Mintien (tomorrow). I got there just as it was closing for the night. Only tomorrow I would be in Dalian. Doh!

SYs observed were working or in steam:
Cold/Store: 0770/0911/1350
Dumped: 002/051/0127/1089
Other types (all dumped): YJ296/403
JF508/624 plus two more - the identity of which is located on a piece of paper somewhere deep within my rucksack!

From Fuxin I made my way to Dalian where I took the Da-In ferry to Inch'on South Korea. Then by train to Pusan to catch the Jet-foil to Hakata and finally by Shinkansen to Tokyo for two weeks of mainly sightseeing and family visiting. I did sneek out for a bit of steam though. C11 312 at the Oigawa Railway and on the way back to the Korea ferry C57 1 at Ogori. I did have some bad luck even here. I tried to pay homage to 'Cumbria' and 'Northern Rock II' the Ravenglass built 15 inch gauge locos and ex-Faibourne veteran "Ernest W Twining" at Shuzenji, but the train was diesel due to Rain!! Sorry for the off-topic paragraph.
Returned to China by boat and train via Korea and Dalian, where trams 3009 and 3012 were sampled on route 203. Trains to Dalian remain diesel hauled, despite reports of the completion of the electrification. Dalian station is rebuild and electrification work is not finished here. Train T83 to Beijing gets a pair of DF11s from Dalian for another pair into Beijing.

Daihuichang Limestone Railway: 3 May 2002

No activity here (at 15:30), I assume due to the holiday. All four steam locos were cold inside the loco shed. The bus 385 is certainly the most straight forward route, but allow 2 hours from Central Beijing. I was told (Ithink) that operation would resume on May 5th at 14:00.

Yuanbaoshan Coal Railway: 4 May 2002

Many thanks for the recent reports about this location. This is well worth visiting. I arrived by bus from Chifeng at about 07:10. The previous visitor must have had a fast driver to do this in 35 minutes. It took my bus an hour. I missed the mixed, but it didn't matter. I saw JS6246,8249 and 8250 in the Yard and JS6244 at the stabling point.

The crews are exceptionally welcoming here. I was immediately offered a ride on JS6246 with coal empties which left Yuanbaoshan at about 07:45. This went up the line towards Anqinggou. I was told that the mine station is called Fengshuigou. JS8418 was here with the mixed train. I returned with JS6246 at about 08:30 with 27 loaded coal wagons. We arrived back at Yuanbaoshan at 09:15. JS8415 arrived back with the mixed (7 YZ passenger cars only) at 10:30. Nothing much happened until the afternoon. In the mean time I was offered an excellent lunch by crews of 6246 and 8418. They certainly get good and plentiful company food, even sharing with an extra body much was left. Then a two hour siesta on the footplate of 8418!

The office here had a fleet list which also showed JS 6245/8216/8218 and 8246 as being here but these were not seen. A compound next to the coaling point contained a shed and one cold/dumped JS. I wrote down JS6066 (previously reported here) and got a nod from staff. Locos are well kept and the scenery is pleasant. A tarmac road follows fairly close to much of the line to Fengshuigou and there are good spots with distant mountain backdrops, with cables out of the way. The large viaduct has potential also for linesiders. The line extends from Yuanboashan in the opposite direction and JS6244 and JS8250 both worked empties in this direction, but I did not explore it further. At least three GKD1 diesels work the trains from Yuanbaoshan yard to the powerstation.

I was able to ride JS8418 on the 15:00 passenger. This picked up a wagon at the first station. We dropped the coaches at Fengshuigou, but then tripped the wagon to Anqinggou CNR station where we arrived at about 16:00, I guess 2-3 kms further on. Here I alighted for the only train of the day to Chifeng - 13 minutes later.

Rob Dickinson