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I have just returned from my first ever trip to China- a combined family holiday and steam trip. So as a new-comer in respect to steam in China (but very experienced from Eastern Europe in the "old days" around 1980), I would like to express the deepest thanks to all who have provided essential information on the Internet, including the homepages of F. Menius and Hans Schaefer as well as the new railway timetable provided by Duncan Peattie, which proved very valuable - not just as a timetable, but also with the list of station names in both Pinyin/Chinese - which we used for ordering both railway and bus tickets - and the booking form for ordering train tickets also made it very easy to buy train tickets at various places.
In general, I found it possible to buy train tickets - including soft sleeper tickets - 4 days in advance at all major stations visited.
The valuable informations from the Internet, the actual timetable, my Berlitz Mandarin Chinese Phrase Book and Nelles North-Eastern China Map (and a little patience here and there) were the basic tools to make this trip a very successful experience for the whole family.
We continued to Yuanbaoshan, where JS 8246 arrived from north with a loaded coal train just as I reached the bridge north of the station at 13.22. JS 8216 and 6544 were also in the station. The passenger train to Fengshuigou departed behind JS 8216 at 15.00 and was easy to chase. A new road toll gate was being constructed just south of the bridge north of Gongye - but was not in service yet when I visited.
Traffic pattern changed from day to day, but generally traffic was very intense and an average of MORE than one steam train an hour could be seen on all days, the longest interval without trains experienced was less than two hours and at many occasions I saw 3 steam trains within an hour… I don't understand why so few people have visited this very interesting steam line in summer time, the climate proved to be wonderful, lot of steam trains and sunlight from about 4.45 to 19.15 in mid-July! I did not meet any other steam photographers at all - except for a small group of Japanese visitors I encountered once.
On July 18th, two westbound freighs (both headed by two QJ's) shipped each a diesel locomotive in the train, one (headed by QJ 7112 and 6981) being DF4B 0490. As the diesel engine helped dragging the train up the incline, the train passed Sandi station with a speed of about 50 km/h..!
On the 4 days in Reshui, I saw about 35 different QJ's in service. Very few trains were headed by a single QJ, a pair of QJ's being the normal traction of almost any train. The same pair of QJ's could be seen at several occasions - meaning that engines are paired for a number of days, not just for a single return trip from Daban and back.
On July 20th, we moved east to Daban and I visited the depot. The fee was 200 RMB and I was allowed free access to the area. Many staff members tried to sell number plates, steam locomotive parts etc. In late afternoon, only about 5-7 warm engines were present in the depot, being serviced and waiting for trains, as well as receiving final attendance after a maintenance visit to the
works, all others were on the line - also a sigh of a very high traffic level. QJ 6911 was seen in steam with nice decorations.
I saw DF4B 0548, 0552, 0570 and 0636 in the works area - not in use, but apparently intensive training was going on. No diesel facilities could be seen.
On the morning of July 21th, I saw the morning passenger train arrive 15 minutes late, changing engine in Daban (from QJ 6751 to QJ 6631) and making an impressive departure - seen from the bridge east of the station in beautiful morning sunlight at 6.30. QJ 6996 (without smoke deflectors) was shunting in Daban.
Traffic pattern in Daban was generally a freight train in each direction arriving / departing every 75-90 minutes, departing trains always waiting to cross an incoming train before departing. We left Daban with the 10.10 bus to Chifeng.
On the 5 days in the area, I saw more than 50 QJ's in service as well as about 20 dead in the dump at Daban.
The remaining days of our China trip was spent on more tourist-like activities, including some nice days at Shanhaiguan (where the Great Wall meets the ocean) and Beidaihe (a nice bathing and vacation resort) - but that is another story.
Jens Toft Ingemann Larsen, Denmark
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