The International Steam Pages

Steam in North East China, March/April 2002

Dave Farmer writes:

Frankly I'd written China off; Can't afford an organised tour, no experience for a private bash, too late anyway. Following cancellation of a trip to Cuba Edmondson Bland and Farmer decided to go for it. Our itinerary initially included Tonghua and CITS guides but evolved to fully independent; WEIHE shanhetun? TIEFA fuxin? JING PENG via tongliao and daban? CHENGDE dahuichang?

Tue 26 Mar dep Heathrow 09.35 Austrian Airlines via Vienna

Wed 27 Mar arr Beijing 06.14 bus to Beijing main station 16Y. Lunch upstairs of station 11Y dep 14.10 train 265 soft class sleeper to Yabuli 539Y. Prebooked hard class seats Harbin Tieling 34Y.

Thur 28 Mar breakfast 18Y arr Yabuli 09.05. Taxi to Weihe Forestry Hotel 130Y. Receptionist understood English when it suited her. 360Y per night between us but she couldn't be told that 360 * 3 doesn't = 1200. Taxi driver hung around presumably expecting us to ask for another hotel. She pretended not to know any of the recommended taxi drivers and when I tried to ring Guo Daqing I found the hotel had been disconnected. HER choice of driver with old blue 16 seater bus was expensive slow until the ride back when he became dangerously fast. She had obtained cash in advance for his services the following morning. Midday 30 arr Weihe tender first passenger for P W gangers, then 35 arr LE on coaling stage. 13.03 35 left with coal wagon and 4 empties. Wulide halt 35 southbound empties, unidentified on 212R. Zhenzhu 53 on C211. Drizzle and mist. NB 212R = train 212 plus railcar trailing. C211 = train 211 crane coupled between loco and train

Fri 29 Mar dep Hotel 5.45. 6.00 just missed loaded arrival. Driver refused  road to Xinli. 7.28 we ditched driver at Zhenzhu and rode 202 behind 54 to Keyunzhan 4.5Y. 53 in steam on shed. We rode 201 to Luishan behind 55 fare 4.5Y. Shuangfeng 55 banked 33 on loaded northbound before resuming south. Passed freight at Cheng Guo. Much whistling from loco through street market at Cheng Guo. Back to Weihe on 212 behind 55. Passed empties at Xin Shan 35, Pinglin 33, Zhenzhu 30. Filmed 53 on 211R through streets of Weihe. 54,55 on   shed at Keyunzhan.

Sat 30 Mar good taxi driver apparently colleague of Guo Daqing. 6AM loaded arrival Weihe. Xiping 55 on N passenger C202. 8AM crossing S of Shuang Feng 54 N loaded. Chased 33 on S pass 201 Dong Feng, crossing N of Cheng Guo and Cheng Guo street market. Then 33 on N pass 212 junction S of Cheng Guo or
river crossing half mile north (driver surprised we picked these spots) Crossing south of Shuan Feng pass 212 now with 53, then empties downhill 55.Wulidi Halt 53 212 now with rerailing crane, 35 S 211. Weihe 30 assisting on a train grounded by a broken rail.

Sun 31 Mar Guo Daqing with his goanywhere microbus. 6AM loaded arrival didn't run this day. South of Zhenzhu 54 on N pass, 35 N loaded, 55 S pass, 53 S empties plus 2 wagons of logs (new sleepers?), chased to Pinglin summit and photted before thanks to Guo's sharp eyes. Stalled at summit but made it on 2nd attempt. Also at Pinglin summit 55 on N pass and 35 S empties, finally 33 loaded uphill from Shuan Feng. 3PM to 9PM drive to Shanhetun. Guo swapped with one of his mates for a faster car. Fare 300Y for linesiding plus 800Y to Shanhetun incl evening meal alongside line where we heard steam shunting. Road better than around Weihe supporting huge log lorries so this railway already excess to requirements. Shanhetun shunter 5, hotel at crossing between shed and station 50Y between us.

Mon 1 Apr: 5 shunting. On shed; 4 in steam but separated from tender under repair, 8 dead, 7 dead and separated from tender. We were told 4 would leave at 11AM. Needless to say this didn't happen. A group from Just in Time Travel turned up. Noon they went up the line in 2 chartered railbuses. Went to SG station to find out train times. We had missed the one train a day to Harbin by 20 minutes,though we knew several went Wuchang to Harbin. Outside our hotel line of blue minibuses; first in line going to Wuchang 1 hour journey after an hour of stopping on every street corner to tout until all seats filled. We thought it would terminate at Wuchang bus terminus but it halted outside same we were hastened off and the bus gone with my camera bag. It all happened soquickly! Graham Bob and luggage waited at bus terminus while I went back to Shanhetun to find the line of minibuses had disappeared. I asked to be taken to the Shanhetun bus garage and was put on a rickshaw taken to a hotel. Plan B return to my mates but the nearest taxi driver either couldn't read my Nelles map or traslate "Wuchang" into Mandarin. Sunset approached and busesvanished from the road. In desperation I turned one last street corner and by fluke found the last bus to Wuchang. They could not understand why I wanted Wuchang bus terminus and turned me out somewhere in that metropolis. Some locals took me to a mini police station where the constable bought me
dinner, sent for an English teacher and interviewed me. Eventually they drove me a mile or so to a hotel where my mates were finishing their dinner and I was to eat mine again. They had been chucked out of the bus station when it shut at 18.00 and crossed road to Hotel 30Y meal 19Y best value of all the places we stayed.

Tue 2 Apr 8AM taken to police station, given a complimentary packet of  cigarettes and camera bag returned after 2 hours. They even helped us buy tickets for the 11.10 bus to Harbin which left to the hotel staff and a few locals waving goodbye. Traded our tickets for train we'd missed for train 1418. Arr Tieling 2300ish wave off the touts; hotel nearest station 20Y each if a bit basic.

Wed 3 Apr Train 783 paid 2.5Y to Tiefa but chucked off at Daqing. Permission to photograph for 3 days 300Y each. The girl assistant came with us to Station Hotel Tiefa and beat driver down to 10Y. 2 rooms each 126Y per night. Unexpected heatwave. JS5029 dumped outside carriage shed, 14.20 0979 filmed near tunnel on train 407 20 minutes earlier than expected. Back down line towards Diaobingshan 1771 on ballast. 17.20 to 18.30 curve south of Diaobingshan 3 arrivals into and 2 departures out of sunset.

Thur 4 April rode 0665 on 6.30 to Sanjiazi. This dep Sanj... 1 minute before 6.40 ex Diabo. As well as rushour pass's 1147 LE posed then went south. After rush hour only 3 freights before 12.00 when we caught bus to Tiefa. Took hour and half to change dollars to Y at bank. My dollar travellers cheques proved useless. Only Graham fit enough to lineside in afternoon. He met David Longman who informed us of the JS workings at Yuanbaoshan an hours drive from  Chifeng and the high activity at Fuxin. We decided to do both centres at the expence of the Tongliao-Daban run and a second full day at Chengde. Evening photography at Diaobingshan for Graham only. Atfer early sunshine grey & cold.

Fri 5 April Sanjiazi rushour then train 303 to Daqing. On shed: 1255N 1771N 1751S 0979N 1772N 0435N 0393S 1769S N = facing north. 8.40 empties dep, 8.45 caught train 783 to Diaobingshan. Breakfast in cafe outside of station building 2 pasties and beer 11Y or 33P each. Cloudy all day. Rode 407 to Dongguantun and 410 back seeing each way pass at Xiaokang. Station at Faku over half a mile from town hence use of taxi next day. Night photography at Tiefa. The couple of rubberneckers that followed Graham previous night had multiplied so police chucked Graham and Bob off station.

Sat 6 April Raining hard for first time. Leave hotel 7.35 taxi to Faku then bus to Fuxin changing twice arr Fuxin 13.20 taxi to Hai Zhou hotel 190Y per room. Rain stopped play. Dinner in hotel 40Y each.

Sun 7 Apr cloudy but dry. 5 bus to Wulong walk to Taiping filming shunting. Observed blue railcar in siding. trains 111, 112 ran. Dumped at SP near  Taiping YJ403, SY0541. Taxi to Minzhu train 114 SY0391, train 116 blue raicar, Wangying-Fuxin coal train SY1320. Bus to Fuxin station to book hard class sleepers on 21.54 to Chifeng. Hotel area for dinner. Taxi to station.

Mon 8 Apr arr Chifeng 06.10 to Jing Peng until ....

Sun 14 Apr Bus direct to Chifeng supposed to pass Reshui 09.20. No sign of it  by 9.50 so took minibus to Linxi change to Chifeng. Stayed initially in doss hotel near station. Chucked out by police at 10PM and taken to waiting taxi which took us to the Chifeng Hotel 1040Y for 3 for 2 nights.

Mon 15 Apr dep 06.10 taxi to Yuanbaoshan arr 06.55. JS6246 left at 07.00 on N mixed. 6544, 8250, 8249 all shunting. All JS faced N and had full smoke deflectors. Supershine 6245 went south with freight 08.15 then doubled back on a parellel line half a mile to the west. It began a climb at 35mph+ almost stalling at summit. Though we missed it our driver easily found same: a road crossing in the town. Locals informed us there was a similar working at 14.00.After this summit the line fanned out into several branches where we filmed 6245 again. Sun right until 11AM. Warning GKI 4008 built 1997 also active. Midday returned to hotel fare 200Y. Driver who seemed to know his way both to and around Yuanbaoshan is based at the Chifeng Hotel. Easy afternoon, at hotel I got haircut plus head massage for 25Y. Tue 16 Apr 06.00 stopping train to Chengde arr 13.45 18Y. stayed at Hui Long  hotel. Paid 2Y each on No 5 bus to be taken too far ie past the summit Saw 5634 banked by 3 SY bunker first on loaded steel rain. Heard 3 departures during night.

Wed 17 Apr Sunny with the odd cloud. JS 5634,6227 and SY 1493,1765,0533 and supershine 1753 on all combinations of 1 at front 2 banking, also one train with JS at each end.

Thur 18 Apr dep 06.16 to Beijing hotel at ChongWenMen 1124Y for one 3 bed luxury suite for 2 nights. Metro to Bajiaocun bus 385 to Dahuichang arr 16.00 1 dead in shed, 2 and 4 in steam. Activity began at 17.00 after change of shifts. Filmed both departing but didn't venture up line; too many soldiers.

Fri 19 Apr culture day: turned right at exit of the Forbidden City and doubled   back on parallel road value for money cafe.

Sat 20 Apr flight home.

I give special thanks to Rob Dickinson for running the website, two of the taxi drivers at Weihe, one at Chifeng and Mr Li, the people I met in Wuchang and Dave Longman. I am sure the meeting with him was God's intervention as were the daylight passengers and snow around Jing Peng.

Rob Dickinson