Steam in China - September/October 2004
by Florian Menius / Thorge Bockholt
Nanpiao, Huludao, JiTong, DaGu, Baiyin, Changzheng, Liujiaxia-HekouNan, Podicun, Pucheng-Baishui, Tongchuan
Having a proper job with restricted holidays now, I had to realize that the manner of travelling has changed significantly compared with previous tours. Time now has to be used more efficiently and costly e.g. using taxis even for medium-distance-transfers. So, the average costs for a day in China have almost doubled, now being some 200Y (20 EUR) spent per day. However, this is still cheap if compared with guided or organised tours.
As I lost most of my China notes a couple of days after rearrival, some data obtained (especially details about the Liujiaxia Tielu line and modern traction sightings) cannot be given below as this report largely relies on my memories.
Beijing, Sept 19th
Rather than going to Dahuichang for the 10th time or so, we opted for a visit to the Beijing Aviation Museum. It is located some 40..45 km north of Beijing some 10 km east of Changping at a former military aircraft base Xiaotangshan. I can strongly recommand a visit to this museum as it shows hundreds (no overestimation!) of planes including an impressive line-up of two dozens of MIGs for example.
Fastest access is Metro Line 13 from either Dongzhimen or Xizhimen to "Lishuiqiao", then on by taxi (30-40Y) or bus 912(2Y), which unfortunately operates at quite long intervals only.
Thorge went to Dahuichang and reported, that: a) bus 385 operates again with the same derelict buses as before and b) the Dahuichang locos now have large, chork-written numbers on their smokebox doors which do not look very pretty ("almost unphotographable").
In the evening, we took SS9G-hauled T271 Beijing 19:48 - Jinzhou Nan 00:48. Upon arrival we had to notice that JinzhouNan not even offers a lüdian for some hours rest. So, we had to take one of four (!) taxis for the trip to Nanpiao. The 200Y spent (180Y is the regular fare + 20Y night supplement) made us "enjoying" a memorable 2-hour-midnight-and-nightmare-drive along muddy, dirty and partly flooded roads and paths to Nanpiao including the passage through a river at 02:45 in the morning...
Nanpiao Coal Railway, Sept 20th-21st
Nanpiao now has got 3 BJs: 3132, 3241 (ex Chengde) and 3248 (ex Tangshan).
Altogether, 4 locos are scheduled for linework. This means that the 3 diesels and 1 SY do these jobs. The line-work-SY during our visit was SY 1092. On the first day, SY 1092 worked one of the passenger diagrams but unfortunately those trains in unfavourable light conditions. Following day, day all passengers were BJ-hauled with 1092 just performing an unphotographable pre-sunrise freight trip to Sanjiazi returning tender first around 09:00 and a noon trip towards Linghe - 100% against the light.
Another 3 SYs are steamed for shunting duties at and around Zaojiatun. They also do some trips along the unphotogenic line to Xiamioazi.
So, on both days, we only had the chance to photgraph either steam shunting movements around Zaojiatun or BJs as all steam line workings were unphotagraphable. In my opinion, the most positive aspect of our Nanpiao visit - beside the friendly people - was the opportunity to watch and photgraph BJs in nice landscape...
- Of special interest is SY 0754, which seems to be a new arrival at Nanpiao. It is in considerably better external condition than other SYs.
- The mid-night passenger trains (109/110 and 209/210) have been cancelled according to locals. This was confirmed by us.
- On Sept 20th at around 11:00, two JS of the "Jinzhou Factory 701" were seen at Xiamiaozi returning to Jinzhou after having received maintenance at the Coal Railway Depot. JS 8162 pulled its cold sister engine 8116 along the CNR line.
- About 10 km south of Nanpiao along the CNR line to Jinzhou, a 200 m long track branches off at the second passenger halt. It goes into a fenced-off complex in a side valley, probably military terrain. A cold QJ or JS in immaculate ex-works condition was seen stabled there, but could not be identified from the passing train.
- Nanpiao-Jinzhou CNRThe line seems to be entirely worked by two Jinzhou based DF4C, alternatively used on freight and passenger trains: DF4C 5045 and 5140.
|Nanpiao Coal Railway||BJ||3132, 3241 (1984,ex CNR Chengde), 3248 (1985, ex CNR Tangshan)|
|SY||0754, 0973, 1092, 1299, 1478(cold)|
|Jinzhou Factory 701||JS||8116(cold), 8162|
Huludao-Yangjiazhangzi Limestone Railway, Sept 22nd
Operation was much as reported previously and showed little difference to our visit last December:
Train workings were as follows: 05:30 ex Huludao, 11:00 ex Yanjiazhangzi, 13:00 ex Huludao, 16:00 ex Yangjiazhangzi. Train loco of all trains was JS6243 once again and working funnel first on all trains though another 2 JS were under steam at Huludao. SY 0513 was shunting at Huludao Bohai Factory.
|JS||6243, 6305, 6307, 8207(cold)|
JiTong, Sept 23rd-Oct 1st
A new line of poles is erected on the southern side of the track along most parts of the JiTong line, including the steam section between Chabuga and Haoluku (I am not sure about Haoluku-Baiqi). Many previously good or excellent photo spots are spoiled now.
Zhelimu-Chabuga, Spet 23rd
Only diesels were seen including DF4 0384 and 0549, both still wearing CNR Tongliao depot codes.
Chabuga-Daban, Sept 23rd-26th
Only few freight trains were seen. This is probably due to increased train loads along this section which probably already are designed for DF4s. The trains between Daban and Chabuga are considerably longer (usually 40..55 wagons now) than those to Haoluku (25..40 wagons). A fair number of trains is splitted at Daban. Most trains between Chabuga and Daban are double-headed now. 3 DF4s were in use, usually double-heading with a QJ. Fortunately, there was a maximum of 2 daylight diesel trains, often only one, as the DF4s were not used intensively. Daban`s DF4s, by the way, have proper "JiTong Tielu, Daban Depot" depot codes - in contrast to the rented DF4 used between Chabuga and Tongliao.
Daban-Haoluku, Sept 27th-29th
The last 3 days with 100% steam were spent here. Business as usual with numerous trains. Poling continued and the amount of gricers present at the pass was surprisingly high.
Haoluku-Baiqi, Sept 30th-Oct 1st
Haoluku, one of my favorite places along the JiTong line is easyly accessible now using the new expressway. However, going there by train is more stylish, e.g. using the evening railcar service from JingPeng. We had hoped for reasonably warm weather at Haoluku which would have elimanated white exhaust - the major problem at Haoluku as it uses to ruin most photography there due to the ever-blowing heavy northerly wind. But we were greeted with heavy rain and snowfall on the 30th and freezing temperatures on Oct 1st (-5° to +5°C). I am hoping for an re-try in spring/summer 2005...
The restaurant, which offers a window view to the yard, serves excellent food. We rated Haoluku`s restaurant to be amongst the best ones visited on this trip. The lüdian however requires some negotiation: they originally wanted 50Y/person for a small room with neither in-door-toilet nor shower. We bargained them down to 12,5 Y/person, which is still 2,5Y more than the "standard lüdian price" 10Y.
As trains arriving from Daban are not remarshalled at Haoluku, number of trains towards Baiqi is as high as over the pass. During our 2-day-visit, about 80-85% of trains towards Baiqi were QJ hauled, usually single headed. Only two DF4(B) were seen in use (as confirmed by Bernd Seiler at Bqiqi depot).
- Only QJs with numbers above 6600 are still used at Daban, at Baiqi even only those above 6900.
- Most former Chabuga locos are now at Daban. Additionally, some former Baiqi have been cascaded to Daban, too (e.g. QJ 6849, 6850, 6900, 6991)
- Daban`s QJs 6977 and 6991 must be a renumbered, older QJs in my opinion as the original ones both have been reported "dumped" for the last 3 years...
- QJ 6778, 6878 and 6900 were in ex-works condition.
- Two QJs were sent away for overhaul: Daban`s QJ 6763(to Dahushan) and Baiqi`s QJ 7052(to Fuxin).
- All Daban QJs and most Baiqi locos no longer have any builder plates, probably all sold to gricers... Only one single QJ of Baiqi depot still had its plates mounted!
- Ongoing illegal sales of railway property by JiTong staff becomes more and more annoying.
- Riding the caboose is no longer possible for free, too as it used to be.
- Railway staff at Chabuga was quite unfriendly and refused to tell us the train schedules but threw us out of the train control room. Anywhere else, getting timetables was no problem.
|Tongliao CNR||DF4||0384, 0549 (both working Chabuga-Zhelimu)|
|Daban||DF4||0552(H,C), 0570(H,C), 0636(H,C)|
|QJ||6631, 6632(nd, Chabuga pilot), 6729(C), 6735(H), 6751(H), 6760(nd, Daban pilot), 6763(for overhaul), 6773(H), 6778, 6825(H), 6828(H), 6840(H), 6849(C), 6850(C), 6851(H), 6853(H), 6876(H), 6878(H), 6882(H), 6884(C), 6891(H), 6900(H), 6905(H), 6911(C), 6925(H), 6977(C), 6981(H), 6984(H), 6988(C), 6991(H), 6998(H), 7002(H), 7007(H), 7010(C), 7012(H,C), 7030(H), 7037, 7038(H), 7040(H), 7041(H), 7048(C), 7049(C), 7063(H), 7081(C), 7104(C), 7105(C), 7112(H), 7119(C), 7137(H), 7143(H), 7164(H)|
|QJ||6982, 6987, 7043(nd,Baiqi pilot), 7052(for overhaul), 7088, 7114, 7118, 7139, 7140, 7141|
H=Daban-Haoluku section C=Daban-Chabuga section
We left JiTong onboard the diesel express railcar to Huhehaote on Oct 1st Sleepers were not available. According to staff, this is very common now on this train. So, we had to ride soft seat, which was quite ok, too.
CNR Jining Nan-Baotou-Shizuishan-Yinchuan
Oct 2nd was spent for a daylight journey, arriving Huhehaote with the express railcar from Haoluku at 08:18. Then on 2085 (Beijing-Baotou) to Baotou Dong and to Yinchuan with the additional train L265 as the regulary scheduled trains were all overcrowded due to the National Holidays. Arrival at Yinchuan was at 19:30.
- JiningNan-Huhehaote: many freight trains were seen, all double-headed. There was a mix of JiningNan and Huhehaote based DF4 and DF4Bs, but only very few JiningNan based DF8Bs. Passenger trains had DF4D or DF4DK.
- Huhehaote-Baotou: Freight trains with single headed DF4s from Huhe depot as it used to be during the last years. Passengers with DF4D and DF4DK.
- Baotou Area: Shunting was done by DF5s and brand-new, maroon-grey coulored DF7 (DF7C ?). The Bayanebo passenger is still DF4C. There is only one pair of passenger trains to Shiguai left, outbound in the morning (BaotouDong dep. 06:21)and returning late evening (arr. after 21:00). Ring line passenger services may have ceased completely (at least, they were not longer shown on Baotou Dong`s departure board).
- Baotou-Shizuishan: Freights with DF4C, pax DF4D/DF4DK as expected. At WuhaiXi, only DF5s present, no sign the former steam activity.
- Shizuishan-Yinchuan: 100% Yinchuan-based SS3 on line work, shunting by DF5s.
Daba-Guyaozi, Oct 3rd
DaGu railway is still very well-cared. The yard at Guyaozi resembles to Switzerland - without any dirt, rust or plants between the tracks.
The second coal mine at Guyaozi has opened now. It is connected to Guyaozi yard by a 12 km long branch line south-eastwards. Trains to both mines are worked by the Guyaozi pilot QJ, but trains to the new mine are hauled in both directions whereas empty trains to the "old" mine 4 km north-east of Guyaozi are pushed. As there is a steep gradient against empty trains just beyond Guyaozi, the empty trains get a kick-start by a second QJ. Loaded trains from the mines are always tender first. The trip to the mines starts about 30 minutes after a train has arrived from Daba.
Trains go to one of the two mines as block loads, usually alternating. Destination of the coal is Daba Dianchang (Power Station). Trains usually consist of 38-44 coal wagons, no oil tankers were seen conveyed.
5 QJs were steamed: 4 QJs were used for line duties between Daba and Guyaozi, shunting at Daba and spare loco at Guyaozi. The fiftht engine was the pilot at Guyaozi. Trains are worked approximately at 4-hour-intervals now. Altogether, we photographed 3 downhill and 2 uphill trains between 07:30 and 18:15.
- Access to Guyaozi from Yinchuan railway station via the new Yinchuan-Qingdao highway takes about one hour by taxi. Yinchuan airport is half way between Yinchuan and Guyaozi.
- Railway Staff continues to be as friendly as previously.
- Depot visits at Guyaozi are no problem.
- A sad sight was the former supershine- and "pride of the DaGu tielu"-QJ, QJ 7205: dumped in abondoned condition at Guyaozi.
|QJ||1465, 6545, 6832, 7036(Guyaozi pilot), 7195(oou), 7200, 7205(oou)|
Baiyin, Oct 4th
Some confusion about railway stations at Baiyin: the steam passenger trains start close to Baiyin Shi (City) station. The main railway yard (Baiyin Gongsi) and the depot of the local railway are some 2 km further east inside a military guarded security complex. Going there without permission is not recommanded. We had some [harmless] troubles with the security there. They made us leave the complex and told us neither to ride the passenger train, which was claimed to be "internal" traffic only, nor to go to the open cast mine.
Bad weather conditions made us obey this. But generally, as Baiyin City is open for foreigners and no ATP requested, it should not cause any problem to take photos of the steam trains as long as you avoid the mine area(s) and the central yard at Baiyin Gongsi.
The sketch map below shows the basic layout of railway lines at Baiyin.
The industrial railway has got 12 steam locomotives, the line to the open cast mine (Shenbutong Lutiankuang) north of the city is 19 km long and served by three passenger trains times during daylight. Addditionally, there are two shorter workings to Sanyelian, a deep mine half way up the branch.
Departures of passenger trains from Baiyin:
- 07:30 ex Baiyin Shi - to SanYeLian (the deep coal mine)
- 07:50 ex Baiyin Shi - to ShenBuTongKuang (the open cast mine)
- 15:15 ex Baiyin Shi - to ShenBuTongKuang
- 16:15 ex Baiyin Gongsi - to SanYeLian
- 17:15 ex Baiyin Shi - to ShenBuTongKuang
Arrivals at Baiyin Gongsi are at 08:30 (from Sanyelian) and 09:30 (from Shenbutong, going further on to BaiyinShi and returning without passengers 15 minutes later).
As SYs face in both directions, it is not easy to predict whether tender oder funnel first working will appear. Sightings indicate, that the trains to the open cast mine might be funnel first.
Otherwise, the SYs predominatly serve the numerous factories around Baiyin Gongsi yard and also closer to Baiyin Shi. West of Baiyin Shi is an factory, that had an own small depot with 3 SYs visible from the passing train. It is unknown, whether this in an independant operation or part of the "Baiyin Gongsi". Talking to railway staff, we could not establish whether the coal mines are served by rail, too. It is possible, that there are no freight train(s) to the open cast mine, but to the deep mine at Sanyelian.
|SY||0135(oou), 0819, 0965, 1013(oou), 1047, 3020(in bits inside shed, either overhaul or for scrap)|
Generally, the local railways has got a very run-down appearance. Almost everything seems to be in terminal decline.
Jingyuan Coal Corporation, Oct4th-5th
The Jingyuan Coal Corporation serves seven coal mines situated on the eastern bank of the HuangHeRiver some 80 km east of Baiyin around the cities Jingyuan, Pingchuan and Changzheng. The Coal Mining Administration Headquarter is at Changzheng 500 m south of the railway station.
Jingyuan Corporation`s rail-served coal mines are:
|Wangjiashan||30 km north||2.700.000 t/year|
|Dashuitou||0.2 km north||1.500.000 t/year|
|Baojishan||6 km north-east||250.000 t/year|
|_jiadi||5 km east||1.500.000 t/year|
|HonghuiYi||25 km east||1.300.000 t/year|
All coal mines are served by CNR, there is no coal railway. Operational center is the CNR station Changzheng. There is a small depot area, too. Coal is both transported away using the CNR line to Baiyin and to the Pingchuan PowerPlant 6 km west of Changzheng.
Coal trains between Baiyin and Changzheng are hauled by CNR-DF4s of LanzhouXi depot (however, two DF4s had Baiyin depot codes). They are usually double-headed due to the grades and length of the trains (40..45 wagons). Trips from Changzheng to the mines are shorter with some 20..25 wagons only and single-headed by a DF4. Changzheng also has got a DF5 pilot. Steam operation in this area ceased in 1999.
A passenger train from Changzheng to Lanzhou operates, too. It consists of DF4+1XL+3YZ+1YW only, but is well-patronised as its fare is less than half of the bus fare.
5704/5 : Lanzhou 09:14-BaiyinXi 11:11/14-Changzheng 13:30
5703/6 : Changzheng 14:46-BaiyinXi 17:03/07-Lanzhou 19:14
The area is generally hilly and pleasant. Especially the section between Tingjin and Dongwan is very scenic.
Pingchuan Dianchang (Power Station)
Part of the coal from the Jingyuan Coal Administration goes to the large PowerPlant west of Changzheng (Pingchuan Dianchang). The power plant has got a own shunter: 2004-aquired DF5B 0009. 2 JS are still present but stored inside the small depot and used as spares when the diesel fails. Coal is delivered by CNR diesels. It was really impressive how friendly and nice the people in the were - though hardly any western persons had been there before.
|DF4||1631, 1632, 1736, 1788, 1835, 6138, 6151|
|JS||8126, 8415 (both stored)|
CNR Lanzhou Area, Oct 5th-6th
- Baiyin-Lanzhou: All trains are worked by Lanzhou-based SS3, freight trains usually double-, but sometimes even quadruple-headed! Impressive and spectacular sections can be found close to BaiyinXi and some 20 km north of Lanzhou.
- Lanzhou-Wuwei: Passenger trains have either SS7D or SS7E, whereas freight trains seemed to be 90% SS1 (single-headed close to Lanzhou, near Tianzhu probably assisted by other locos) and the rest SS3. At HekouNan, there is a photogenic single-track steel girder HuangHe bridge (see map), but a new concrete bridge is being built some 300 m further south.
- Lanzhou-Xining: Except for the two pairs of Lanzhou-Xining daylight Tekuai (T-) trains, which are operated by an NYJ2 double-deck diesel railcar unit, all freight and passenger trains seen were hauled by green, LanzhouXi based DF4/B. The line crosses the HuangHe on a steel girder bridge some 10 km south of HekouNan close to the junction to the local railway to Liujiaxia.
HekouNan-Luijiaxia, Oct 6th
Liujiaxia, some 60 km south-west of Lanzhou is a quite famous tourist spot as it features one the largest hydropower stations in China with an impressive dam cutting the HuangHe (Yellow River) valley. Additionally, the famous "Bilingsi Grottoes" are nearby and accessible from Liujiaxia by tourist boat along the upper part of the HuangHe. So, tourists are common at Liujiaxia, though they usually did not visit the railway line so far. The city offers a couple of good hotels including one just next to the bus terminal, for example.
The Liujiaxia Tielu (刘家峡铁路分局) is the 100% steam operated local railway from HekouNan to Liujiaxia. It is proporty of the National HydroPowerPlant 4th Construction Bureau (中国水电第四工程局) and was probably built for the transportion of goods during the building of the dam and the hydro-power station. Nowadays, it has got only little importance with very little general freight traffic (maybe 5 to 10 wagons per day) and only few passengers.
Consequently, there is only one single train per day along the line, which is worked as a mixed train. It consists of the freight wagons just behind the loco, two YZ22 passenger coaches and a P64 decked freight wagon which serves as luggage van ("XingliChe").
The operational center of the railway is at Gucheng, the first station some 4 km west of Liujiaxia. There is a 6-track-yard, a fenced-off siding for the passenger coaches, the depot and two branch lines to factories. The industrial complex about 1,5 km west of Gucheng seems to be the origin of most freight traffic.
In general, two locomotives are steamed: one for the daily mixed train and the second one for the few shunting duties around Liujiaxia and Gucheng. According to the locomotive dispatcher at Gucheng depot, the shunting locos is scheduled to perform two return trips from Gucheng to Liujiaxia, one around 08:00 in the morning and another one in the evening around 18:00. As we weren`t there at these times, we cannot confirm this. Around 11:30, the loco was observed serving the factory west of Gucheng, too.
The locos for the mixed train has got the following schedule:
So, unfortunately, most funnel first working takes places during darkness. Please note, that this timetable does not correspond 100% to the "official" timetable! A paper, dated May 2004, showed 14:00 as the Gucheng departure time of 003 and 14:26/56 as the stopping time of 8794 at Gucheng. The list above shows the timetable actually applied and also confirmed by railway staff.
- 13:00 : leaving Gucheng depot and picking up passenger coaches plus van.
- 13:30 : train 003 (JS funnel first+2YZ+XL) Gucheng-Liujiaxia, mainly used by schoolkids.
- 13:42 : train 8794 (JS tender first), dep. Liujiaxia, arrival Gucheng 13:52, then picking up the freight wagons which were collected by the pilot loco.
- 14:30 : departure Gucheng with mixed train 8794, scheduled arrival at Hekou Nan is at 17:30, but in reality earlier when no intermediate stops requires shunting. (The CNR mainline is not entered at Xigousi before the T533 Lanzhou-Xining express railcar. The mixed waits at Xigousi if necessary.)
- 18:20 : mixed 8791 leaves Hekou Nan (JS funnel first)
- 20:46 : arrival Liujiaxia, then empty stock back to Gucheng (as train 004)
Railway Staff at Gucheng was extremely friendly and very happy to meet the "first western gricers" ever... A visit to the depot was no problem, too. The loco dispatcher and depot manager was very kind and informative as well.
Single fare on the passenger train Liujiaxia-HekouNan is 6,5 Y (0,65 EUR).
Altogether, the line is 49 km long, 40 km out of them belonging to the Liujiaxia branch. For the first 9 km out of Hekou Nan, the mixed uses the CNR HekouNan to Xining mainline. The line follows the HuangHe (HH) Valley (or sometimes better HuangHe gorge) for its whole length.
Names and facts which I could not recall from memory 100% correctly are marked (?).
- km 0 (CNR): HekouNan (large CNR yard, electrified).
- 15 m above HH, on western side of valley, many dams, 1 tunnel
- km 5 (CNR): Bapanxia station (3 tracks, situated just next to Bapanxia ShuiDianChang, a small HH-hydro power station)
- as before, another tunnel just next to junction
- km 9 (CNR)/ km 0 (Local railway): Xigousi(?) junction, situated just east of HH bridge of the CNR line to Xining
- line follows wide HH valley through agriculturally landscape
- km 10 : Shangpo(?) station (3 tracks, staffed, semaphore entrance signals)
- appr. km 11: HuangHe River Bridge: long, standard-concrete bridge, not overly interessting compared to the rest of the line
- km 12 : Yanguoxia station: no sidetrack but abandoned branches to two factories. Road access from HekouNan ends here!
- spectacular, 15 km long gorge section without any road access along the HuangHe, many sections immediately next to the river, 6 to 8 (?) tunnels, spectacular mountains on both sides of the river gorge
- appr. km 28 : Kongjiashi (?) stop and HH River Bridge (concrete and steel girder mixture, very nice!)
- passage along the HH with another tunnel
- appr. km 31 : Dachuan station (sidetrack dismantled [so no longer a station] but still staffed, semaphore entrance signals in use).
- rural landscape in wider valley, some 100s meters away from the river
- km 35: Gucheng station (6 tracks, depot, semphore entrance signals)
- nice street running into Liujiaxia city
- appr. km 38 : Liujiaxia station (wedged between city and the river close to the bus terminal, light signals)
- The line finally terminates in the narrow gorge at the base of the HuangHe River Dam some 1 km east of the city.
By the way: the last syllable of both Liujiaxia and Yanguoxia, the major settlements along the line, means "gorge".
Liujiaxia is easily reached by a high-standard mountain road from Xigu (between Hekou and Lanzhou). Numerous buses operate along this toll-road. Gucheng is connected to Liujiaxia by a frequent urban bus service (1Y).
Hekou Nan is best reached by train, but minibuses, starting at Xigu can be used as well (50min, 2Y). Lanzhou`s urban bus No.102 starts in front of Lanzhou Main Station needs some 70-80 min to Xigou (2,5Y). Urban bus lines 44 and 133 even go as fas as Xincheng.
The only other point accessible by public transport is Yanguoxia with buses from both Lanzhou/Xigou and Liujiaxia.
The railway exclusively owns class JS locomotives. 4 engines are still property, another two JS were recently sold to a scrap dealer. No SYs are present. All locos face southwards, so HekouNan to Liujiaxia trains are funnel first. Turning the locos at Gucheng is impossible by the way, HekouNan not even has got a proper depot or servicing area.
No date was given for the arrival of diesels. Locos are overhauled at Tianshui works (between Lanzhou and Xi`an). All locos had overhaul dates from 2002 and 2003 written on their tenders.
Please note, that JS 8226 exists twice at Liujiaxia tielu! The one with the plastic number plates actually is NOT 8226, but 8227 (according to the loco dispatcher) whereas the "real" 8226 has got a large, red headboard showing its number plus the number written directly onto the cab.
|JS||8223(not seen, at Tianshui for overhaul), 8226, 8227 (alias "8226"), 8352|
Sadly, from the photgraphical approach, this line is almost a write-off. Funnel first workings are only photographable at the less spectacular far ends of the line, but not in the spectacular gorge between Dachuan and Yanguoxia. On the other hand, the short line atmosphere at Gucheng with the various shunting movements and the nice people is very charming. A ride on the northbound passenger train through the gorge is breathtaking and includes some hard work for the JS, too though the train is only short.
I`d recommand this line to anyone wishing to experience the charming amtopshere and to ride the passenger train. With the impressive hydropowerplant and Bilingsi grottoes nearby, this line would even be good for "non-gricer" tourists or for family excursion (train ride to Liujiaxi, overnight, Bilingsi+HydropowerPlant, train ride back).
Oct6th: K120 Lanzhou 20:40-Xi`an 06:14 - a wedged train. Sleeper tickets had to be purchased via an illegal ticket dealer in front of Lanzhou station at 100Y surcharge per ticket. On board of the train, we had to realize that upgrading would still have been possible... The ticket selling policy of CNR remains ununderstandable ...
CNR Xi`an Area, Oct7th and 9th
- Xi`an: Electric passenger trains were either SS7D or SS7E hauled in any direction. Freight trains were a mixture of 8G, SS4 and SS9(towards Zhengzhou), Baoji-based SS1 (towards Baoji) and SS4 or SS4+SS4 (towards Ankang). Xi`an depot also contained a workable BJ and various orange DF4Bs and DF7.
- Xinfengzhen-Pucheng/Hancheng: Passenger trains along the secondary lines northwards (Tongchuan, Pucheng, Hancheng) were hauled by Xi`an based orange DF4Bs. The trains continuiing beyond Pucheng towards Yan`an and Yulin swapped locos at Pucheng: Orange DF4B of Yan`an-Ji`an-JV Railway to orange CNR DF4B.
The numerous freight trains between Xinfengzhen and Zhangqiao-Pucheng/Hancheng were all hauled by Xinfengzhen based green DF4/DF4B.
- Yan`an-Xi`an Joint Venture Railway: in addition to Bruce Evans` Report, we found that the locos of the 20th Construction Unit, which are based at the depot complex north of Podicun yard, also do work trains north of Podicun. The porportion of 20th Construction Bureau Locos between Podicun and Pucheng is very high, too.
- Tongchuan Area: Green DF4s on freights as it used to be ...
Podicun, Oct 7th
We arrived at Podicun at noon with the crowded Xi`an to Yulin passenger train 7552 (orange DF4Bs south and north of Pucheng). Railway staff at Podicun was very friendly and helpful.
Podicun has got a medium sized yard with some 7 or 8 tracks. A DF10D of the YanXi Joint-Venture Tielu is employed as pilot. Just north of the station, the depot of the 20th Construction Division is situated, the home base of quite old DF4s, dating from around 1978..1983. 1969-built DF1 1593 was present, too, but unfortunately in abandoned state. A visit to the depot caused no problems.
Podicun can be reached by an tar road from Pucheng (where minibuses operate, too). Also possible is access by train (7552 Xi`an 08:22-Pucheng 10:52-Podicun 11:46). Especially the return train is perfectly timed (7551 Podicun 18:01-Pucheng 18:59-Xi`an 21:29) for a one-day-visit. Podicun station, by the way, still sells Edmonson style tickets which is very rare now in China (I got my last Edmonson ticket 2,5 years ago at the Shuangyashan Coal Railway, for example...).
Podicun-Changcheng Coal Railway
The Podicun-Changcheng Coal Railway was openend in 1977. Its main purpose is the transport of coal from four coal mines in the vicinity of Changcheng to "Pucheng DianChang", the large power plant situted half-way between Podicun and Pucheng near the YX-JV railway station Sunzhen. All trains from the Changcheng mines go there as block loads, usually consisting of 40-45 wagons. About three coal trains and the same number of empties run within 24 hours, but workings may be unbalanced. During our afternoon visit for example, we recorded three movements: two light engine working from Changcheng to Podicun and one train of empties to the mines. Train run on demand, no fixed timetable exists.
The coal railway leaves Podicun yard in northerly direction and passes the depot first. A steep downhill grade follows until km 2,5 where a large and impressive concrete viaducts spans over a deep valley. The viaduct is 535 m long and 53 m high according to an information board showing a photo of a QJ hauled coal train (!) next to the bridge. The picture shows a late afternoon train of empties, almost at the same time when "our" train passed. (Regular?)
The viaduct has got staffed bridge guard posts on both sides, but guards are very friendly railway staff and no military. On the eastern side of the viaduct, a steep climb against empty trains starts with grades between 18 and 20%o. A short tunnel is passed at km 3,5 and probably another one (summit tunnel?) somewehere beyond km 6 (we did not walk so far). Altogether, the line is said to be only 8 km long. As railway staff at Podicun always referred to "Erkuang" (2nd mine) when speaking about the destination of trains, it may be possible, that the central yard, where the coal trains from the 4 mines are assembled is at "Erkuang" with branches to the other three mines.
According to the bridge guard, 4 QJs are present. Two out of them are under steam: one for line work to Podicun, the second one for shunting duties at the mines. The loco depot was said to be near the mines (it is definitely not at Podicun). The QJs face northwards, so empty trains are funnel first. The locos is trashed tremendously on the steep grades.
|DF1||1593(1969/Dalian,dumped at Podicun)|
|DF4||0399(20th), 0445(20th), 1141(CNR,Xingfeng), 7342(CNR,Xinfeng), 7571(YX-JV,orange), 7573(YX-JV,orange)|
By the way: railway staff at Podicun knows the movements along the branch a couple of hours in advance...
Pucheng-Baishui, Oct 8th-9th
As reported by Bruce Evans, this railway`s mainline extends from Pucheng northwards to Baishui. Intermediate stations are Pucheng Bei (appr.km 4), equipped with a full set of semaphores, Shitan station (appr.km 17), Hanjing (km 25, light signals) and Baishui (appr.km 31, light signals). The section between Pucheng CNR yard, where the coal railway takes over the trains, and the operational center and central yard at Hanjing passes rather flat countryside with many industries, but grades against the northbound empty trains are very steep resulting in impressive action.
Just south of Hanjing`s 6-track-yard (another 4 tracks are abondoned) is the depot, where locos are serviced. Visits are no problem, too, staff is very friendly. The section between Hanjing and Baishui offers two large viaducts spanning over a valley - see map for details.
The Pucheng-Baishui Railway serves four coal mines:
- NanqiaoKuang ("mine south of bridge"): situated some 2 km north of Hanjing immediately next to the line to Baishui and to a small power plant.
- MacunKuang : situated along a 4-5 km long branch line, leaving Hanjing yard north-eastwards.
- BeiKuang ("northern mine"): 4 km long branch line extending from Baishui in south-east direction.
- ZhujiaheKuang : about 15 km west of Baishui along the line which connects with the Tongchuan system.
Based on our observations, Zhujiahe seems to have the highest output of coal. Destination for most of the coal is Pucheng Dianchang (near Sunzhen).
At the time of our visit, the Pucheng-Baishui Coal Railway System was 100% steam worked. The roster comprised 6 QJs with 5 out of them under steam but only 2 were actually used. All locos face northwards, meaning that only empty trains are funnel first. Empty trains from the PowerPlant are picked up by a single QJ at Pucheng. These trains are 40..45 wagons long which means hard work for the QJ on the climb to Hanjing. If the train is too heavy, it has to split at Shitan for the final climb. At Hanjing, the train is splitted into smaller parts for the individual coal mines. You may ask the at Hanjing for the destination of trains, but short-notice-changes occur.
There is no fixed timetable for the coal trains, the railway fully operates "upon demand". The log book at the road crossing near Shitan on Oct 8th showed 4 trains of empties during the previous night and the morning. But after 08:30, there was no more train of empties until sunset. Maybe, that the day was an exceptionally quiet one. The fact, that only 2 locos (6871 and 7021) were actually in use with 3 more steamed locos lined up inside the depot would indicate the same.
On Oct 8th, we had only one further funnel first train: 11:00 ex Hanjing to Zhujiahe. In the evening, the two locos collected loaded wagons from Zhujiahe (two trains, 11 and 24 cars respectively) and Beikuang (16 cars, tripped between Beikuang and Baishui in two parts of 8 cars each). But, of course, all afternoon workings were tender first!
Next morning showed a similar operation: a long train (30+ cars) had arrived from Pucheng during the night and left Hanjing at 08:15 again. Destination was Zhujiahe again. As we left for Tongchuan at 08:30, we cannot comment whether the traffic for the rest of the day was as light as on the day before.
|QJ||6429, 6449, 6871, 6928, 7021, 7291(oou)|
It was sad to see experimental QJ 7291 set aside requiring repairs. They probably will not be carried out ...
Future:According to senior railway staff at Hanjing, the first diesel locomotive is scheduled to arrive on Oct 18th 2004 and will replace "some" QJs. However, with one diesel present and given higher traffic levels, the operation may well still be worth a visit.
Tongchuan, Oct 9th
On our last gricing day, we decided to have a short farewell visit to Tongchuan`s JF. As the hoped-for morning train from Hanjing to Baishui ran at 08:15, we managed to get to Tongchuan just in time for the "traditional" 10:00 JF-train to Wangshiwa (JF 2368). To our big surprise, it was followed by another train to Wangshiwa only 90 minutes later (JF 2369) resulting in a meet up of the two JFs at Wangshiwa mine.
A new development at Tongchuan Nan yard was, that the local police kicked us off the railway area immediately upon arrival. Surely, some gricers had misbehaved here recently...
At 14:00, we went back to Xi`an by bus (2 hours, most of the time spent in Xi`an`s chaotic traffic around the main station. T42 overnight train to BeijingXi was hauled by SS7E 0043 throughout the whole journey. An interessting development was, that taking photos at Xi`an railway station was no problem at all - even under the eyes of police men. Three years ago, you would have been escorted out of the station immediately...
Dresden, Oct 21th 2004
Florian Menius, Thorge Bockholt
Florian Menius, email: email@example.com