The International Steam Pages

Steam in North China, March 2002

Bruce Evans was in China in March 2002. I have extracted the 'steamy' bits from his full report.

Changchun (2 to 4 March)

At Changchunnan station (previously Mengjiatun) four SYs and a blue GK1C were found at the motorcar plant sidings. Of the SYs, 0086 was staged, 0071 was under repair leaving only 0103 and 0984 working with the GK1C. It is thought that the motorcar and truck plant and the small power station here form part of a single very large motor vehicle and heavy engineering complex that extends some distance south of Changchunnan.

What was the steam loco repair works, now apparently a part of the Changchun Car Company, the large passenger coach factory, was also visited. Two QJs were in the process of being overhauled in one workshop. Of these 6586 was freshly painted and apparently due to go to the local railway at Shijiazhuang and 7088, a Jitong loco, was partly stripped and being worked on. Outside Jitong QJ 6773 (recently ex-Da'anbei) and ex-Da'anbei QJs 6851, 6926 and 7104 were awaiting their turns to go into the works. According to workers these three QJs have also been bought by the Jitong railway.

The one workshop where steam overhauls are taking place is relatively small and it was not clear that locos could be fully stripped down in this facility. Most of what was the repair works has been turned over to other activities including diesel overhauls and manufacturing for the coach works. According to the staff the works is expected to close completely for steam overhauls in about two years time. (Is there a situation now where Changchun, Mudanjiang, Luoyang and Liuzhou works have been 'officially' closed to steam repairs according to the MoR but are in fact still maintaining very basic overhaul capabilities?)

There did not appear to be a steam pilot loco at the works any longer. Workers indicated that the steam locos were moved by a diesel but this was not seen. Derelict JS 5740 (Dalian 64/1 or 7) was still present near the workshop at which overhauls were being carried out.

Ganhe - 6 to 11 March

The logging operation here was found to be much as reported elsewhere recently. Four locos were in use each day and 01, 02, 03, 04 and 07 were seen in operation at different times. The passenger train was cancelled on one day due to loco availability problems and ran late on several days.

The general pattern of service was two log trains in early in the morning, an empties and the outbound passenger outbound generally after this then an inbound log train and the inbound passenger late in the afternoon.

Between Qilibin and the river bridge about 3km further north the new logging road being built incorporates the formation of the railway and existing small bridges and culverts are being widened and strengthened. It is extremely unlikely therefore that railway operations will continue north of Qilibin after the road is opened. Qilibin and Ganhe both have relatively new timber clad station buildings and these could be used as part of a tourist railway but it was not clear that this would definitely happen.

Nenjiang - Haibaoshan Local Railway - 12 and 13 March

Two days were spent on the southern part of this JS worked local railway. On both days breadbox minivan taxis were easily hired in Nenjiang.

The line has two loco depots, one between the national railways depot/turning facility and mainline south of Nenjiang station and yard, and the other at or near Haibaoshan. There are around 10 JSs of which around 7 are in working condition. Three JSs are derelict at the depot at Nenjiang.

The first station north of Nenjiang is named Baigeli and is about 40km from Nenjiang. It consists of the through line, a full-length loop and a short loop serving a freight platform. Signals are colour light but turnouts are manually worked.

Baigeli station can be reached by traveling along the rather rough 'main' road towards Haiboashan and turning right onto a lesser road a short distance before the main road crosses the line about 35-40km from Nenjiang. The station is 4 or 5km along this road. A short distance beyond the station is a surprisingly large town.

The line in the vicinity of Baigeli station is reasonably attractive with low hills and several curves. The grades to both sides of the station are against north-bound trains.

While there seemed to be the possibility of around two freights per direction during daylight several of these could be light-engine at times. We saw one freight arriving at Nenjiang, one arriving at Baigeli from the north as a reasonable length train but then dropping most of its load, and two northbound light-engines. By the time we left Baigeli on 13 March the loop there was completely blocked by loaded coal wagons that for some reason could not be moved on to Nenjiang.

According to station staff at Baigeli there are two coalmines at Haibaoshan and these generate most of the traffic on the line. Timber and general freight is also carried.

It seems that the line is in the process of being relaid with reconditioned Chinese 43kg/m rail. The short-length rail being taken out was 40kg/m and seemed to have rolling dates in the 1930s. Sleepers were generally concrete and the ballast was gravel in places but the more usual crushed stone in others - it appears that there is an ongoing programme to upgrade the track to what could be said to be standard Chinese secondary branch line standard.

The JSs seen in operation were generally in poor external condition but some showed signs of having been kept in good condition with brass boiler bands. Of the working locos seen 6547 and 8113 are ex-Hulan Power Station (Harbin No 3 Power Station) locos that have been replaced there by DF5B diesels.

Locos seen:

JS: 5604(derelict), 5741(derelict), 5896(Dl,60/5)(derelict), 6012(Dl,59/11), 6547, 8113, 8153, 8247, 8248, 8298.

Tiefa - 14 to 16 March

Operations on this system have been thoroughly reported elsewhere so only two items of significance are covered here.

All passenger trains on the long west line noted had the SY chimney-first out of Tiefa so reducing the opportunities of obtaining what are possibly the best phots on the system, those of inbound passengers on this line with a chimney-first SY climbing eastbound towards the tunnel, from 50% to 0%. The reason for the change is unclear but it is hoped this has not resulted from 'advice' passed on perhaps indirectly to the management by other enthusiasts. I hope group visitors to this system who are entertained at the depot by the management after paying their visiting fee encourage the management to at least revert to the previous arrangement where the SY could face in either direction.

At least three of the system's SYs, 0979, 1183 and 1770 are now immaculate with brass boiler bands and red slogan plates on the smokebox front.

Tieling-Shenyang - 16 March

Two SYs were seen in steam on the Hushitai coal railway. One of these was on a one-coach passenger service.

Rob Dickinson