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Steam in China - June 2004

by Jan Willem van Dorp

Nanpiao, Huludao, PeiTun, Xingyang


Outward : After the frustating experience of being forced to abandon my 2003 trip to Asia in China because of the SARS-scare (see my 2003 China report) I decided to start my 2004 trip/which was obviously going to be my last big steamtrip to Asia or at least China in an appropriate way:

J by train with a few days in good old Wolsztyn to get into the mood, travelling through Germany on a weekend ticket (EUR 28) (Mönchengladbach 0.53 - Düsseldorf - Dortmund - Hamm - Bielefeld - Hannover - Wernigerode 10.31 - Wernigerode 18.32 - Ralberstadt - Magdeburg - Frankfurt/O. 23.47) crossing the Oder bridge on foot to catch the 5.00 bus from Slubice to Rzepin and on to Wolsztyn (via Poznan) to continue to Warszawa a few days later. Then Train Polonez Warszawa - Moskva Belorusskaja (EUR 67 in PLN, sleeping car), train 4 Moskva Jaroslavsky - Ulan Bator - Beijing (EUR 268 incl. visa support (30-day visa) via Trans-Sputnik (www.trans-sputnik.nl) in 4-berth compartment (local sale would have been about EUR 140, but one needs a visa to get to Moscow). Apart from 3 monuments (P36.0120 at Moskva Belorusskaja , Ov 14 at Perm II shed and Su 205.91 in Ulan-Ude) few remnants of the steam age were seen in Russia: just one E and two L class engines, all extremely derelict , were seen at unidentified wayside Siberian stations. In Mongolia the "outdoor museum" at Ulan-Bator (P36/Su/E/n.g./and indeed I think I remember a 2-10-0 as well) was briefly seen in passing, about 1 km south of the station on the eastern side of the railway.

New timetable

A new timetable valid from 18th April 2004 is now available. Whereas there had been few major changes to the Chinese passenger services for a few years, this time there are several major retimings and many trains have been renumbered. In particular most (relatively) short-distance K-trains (I guess all the intra-bureau ones, but I haven't checked that exhaustively) have been renumbered into a new N series. Two notable additions are the inclusions of the new Shenmu - Yan'an (p. 67) and Yibin - Liupanshui (p. 75, 78, 84) lines. On the other hand all KunmingBei - Kaiyuan - Hekou metre gauge trains are omitted and local information is that they are indeed not running anymore - is this line being regauged ??

Dahuichang / Beiiing

Two visits to Dahuichang on 17/8th June found no action on the narrow gauge but one of the engines had recently been overhauled or at least repainted and the track showed all the signs of recent action, so no need to worry (indeed the line was in full swing again in October , see my autumn report). Bus 385 was running normally again from Bajiao Amusement Park Metro station.

As always I stayed in Beijing at Jinghua Hotel, about 1 km south of BeijingNan station, where a dorm bed is 35Y and a standard double 230Y. The bar/restaurant with outside sitting area under the vines and duckpond is a heaven of tranquillity in bustling Beijing. You get there by bus 66 from Tiananmen Square, bus 957 from Beijing main station or bus 741 from BeijingXi station.

Nanpiao : 19-23rd June

A very nice railway system indeed; those who went there before the diesels came must have had a great time, but now there are three big blue pieces of vermin numbered BJ 3132/241/48. Wehen visited most (if not all) freights to the end of the two branches were diesel and so were some 60% of the passenger workings, with steam most active on the Linghe passengers, so the simultaneous departure from Xiaomiaozi with two SY can safely be considered history now.

Trip working remains SY though and this is quite interesting; two SY seem to be working around Zaojiatun every day, where they both do a lot of shunting. One of them also works trips to Xiaomiaozi and the other works frequent trips further east over the steep bank, presumably most (but not necessary all) up the branch to the North which climbs further from the junction with the main line about 1 km east of Zaojiatun.

From Xiaomiaozi, where one SY is pilot (a seemingly leisurely duty), there are also several trips daily to Hungjia (the market next to Hungjia station offers good photo opportunities) and, but these are usually pushed, to the power station just up the Sanjiazi line. SY seen working: 0366/0973/1092/1478 .

The hotel opposite Hungjia station charged me 62Y for a single room; it is indeed fairly basic and run down, but quite adequate. The electric n.g. line at Zaojiatun is well worth a visit as well. From Beijing I arrived by train 2549, Beijing main 21.00 - Jinzhou main 5.34 (- Anshan), hard seat 76Y and train 6762, Jinzhou 7.30 - Nanpiao (Xiaomiaozi) 8.58, hard seat 3.50Y. To add further to the confusion about the name Nanpiao; CNR uses the name Nanpiao exclusively for Xiaomiaozi station; the conductors were horrified when I wanted to detrain at Hungjia with a Nanpiao ticket!

Besides by train Hungjia can also be reached by direct bus from either Jinzhou or Huludao, most of these buses continuing to Zaojiatun/Sanjiazi etc.

Huludao : Visited 23-25th June

Despite the sparsity of the service the JS-worked Yangjiazhangzi line is well worth a visit. I thought that after the dieselisation of Chengde I would never again see a standard gauge steam train stall on a bank, but km 24,5 of this line proved me wrong. Basic daytime service still seems to be 11.00 from Yangjiazhangzi and 13.30 from Huludao, but trains can run late by several hours - or be on time. Engines are turned at both ends so always work chimney-first.

Most previous visitors seem to have been car-borne (perhaps wisely so) and little if anything has been reported on how to get to the scenic upper reaches of this line by public transport. In fact that is quite easy: the road paralleling the JS line at its upper reaches is the main Huludao-Chaoyang road and lots of buses (at least 20 per hour) to various destinations go there, many of them starting in front of Huludao bus- and CNR station.

These include, but are not limited to, those to Yangzhangzi. Indeed as 4-character place names are highly unusual outside minority areas this might well be the correct name for the terminus of this line ?? . One can get there by train as well, passenger trains 6760/59 Jinzhou - Yebaishou stop at a halt at Yejiatun (叶家屯) at km 214,5 on the CNR line and km 27 on the JS line, 0.5 km before these lines finally diverge. These trains skirt Huludao though, from there one needs to go to (__) station by town bus nr 16 or 21 which follows the JS line and then the old (now disused) connecting line to CNR for a while inside the city: get down where it turns south from the railway and walk the remaining 2 km. Bus 12 indicated on the city map reproduced separately does not seem to run.

When in this area on the north-western outskirts of Huludao steam can be heard shunting through the ammonia fumes from the industrial estate to the south. This does not seem to have been reported previously and I didn't investigate further. Engines seen working : JS 6307/8207, SY 1425 (tripping near Huludao)

Good accomodation was found at the New Century Hotel in Huludao CNR station, where a 120Y room with shower was discounted to 100Y.

Train 1230 (Fuxin -) Huludao 19:36 Xuzhou 10:10 (- Shanghai), hard sleeper (quota !) 153Y

Yanzhou

From the train QJ 6886 was seen entering a station (unidentified) some 10-20 km south of Yanzhou, working tender-first on a freight from the east.

Peitun : Visited 27th June

Following the directions of previous visitors I stayed in Xuzhou where I eventually found accomodation in the Shun Feng Binguan (room with shower, discounted from 140Y to 100Y). To get there turn immediately left coming out of the railway station and right in front of the Jin Li International Hotel, the long-distance bus station is then on the left and the Shun Feng Binguan across the road on the right. An AC bus (13Y, there should be cheaper ones) took me to Peixian bus station and a nr 2 local bus (which starts 100 m to the left of the exit -opposite the entrance- of Peixian busstation) to Peitun.
Do note however that there are two different nr 2 bus routes; for Peitun railway station one needs a nr "2West", not "2East", note the second character on the destination shield.

Within one minute of my arrival at Peitun station QJ 7075 rolled in with a freight from the south, which then continued on the easternmost of the three branches to the north. It returned LE one hour later after which QJ 7032 came off shed and took a freight to one of the branches tender-first. By 13:00 the real action started with the arrival of SY 2024 from one of the branches. After some shunting it retreated to the shed. Then QJ 7032 , followed by QJ 7031, which after some shunting was overtaken by QJ 6309, all brought freights from one of the branches continuing through to CNR until by 15.00 the action seemed to be over.

Both DF4 7693/4 were idle at the shed - whether that was to honour my visit or because the diesels are only used at peak traffic times I don't know and so were several more QJ including 7022 and 7077.

Photographing QJ with small smoke deflectors near Xuzhou in a hazy sun my memories went back to 1986 when I first visited the area; the RMs have gone since, but the QJs have only been replaced by newer engines (the 7000 series were not even built in 1986) and relegated to branch line duties, but just for how much longer. Future visitors should note that Peixian is quite a large city with several hotels including one near the bus station exit. Staying there would be much better than in Xuzhou.
Given the timings and occupancy of the trains I took a bus (97Y) from Xuzhou to Zhengzhou.

Xingyang: Visited 29th June

The n.g. brickworks railway here is a very scenic little line with some excellent photo spots, notably around the arched stone bridge almost halfway down the line and at both ends, but not many as most of the line is in deep cuttings. My general impression was more of Shanxi than of Henan.

Although C2 - 207 did work two pw trains (engine + flat wagon) there were no clay trains (but see my autumn report). On a good day with more traffic this line is weIl worth a visit.

To get there from Zhengzhou first take nr 1 citybus (paybox , 1Y exact fare) from the CNR/main busstation to the West bus station and from there a bus to Xingyang. When dropped in Xingyang take nr 5 town bus (0.5Y) north to the CNR station. From there walk west for about 800 m until the road passes under the CNR line, continue west into the alley just before the CNR line, turn left at the T-junction follow the path on its roundabout way through the fields and turn left again at the next group of houses which after another 200m brings you to the n.g. line. As previously reported nr 207 faces east. In Zhengzhou I stayed at the Tian E Binguan opposite the CNR station in the main bus station as recommended by previous visitors. A single room with shower was bargained down from 138Y to 100Y. Xingyang is large enough to have several hotels though, but the only one I saw was opposite the CNR station and looked closed.

Onward:
Train 1627 Zhengzhou - Nanning, hard seat 105Y
Train 5517 Nanning - Pingxiang , hard seat 30Y,
3-wheeler to the border, bus to Hanoi, train S9 Hanoi - Saigon , soft sleeper (VND 679.000,-) including meals.

In Vietnam several (possibly about 10) dumped steam engines (probably all 141 class) were seen at Hanoi Ga shed , but Giap Bat shed seemed to have been cleared of dumped steam. At Ninh Binh a diesel shunter was at the former steam sidings and at Saigon Ga 141-158 remains plinthed.

Bus Saigon-Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh-Poipet, border-Aranyaprathet, train Aranyaprathet-Bangkok, Bangkok-Sungai Kolok, bus Rantau Panjang - K.B. K.B.-J.B., J.B.-Singapore, ferry Singapore WTC - Sekupang (P. Batam) Pelni K.M. Kelud Sekupang (P. Batam) - Tg. Priok (www.pelni.co.id). For my Indonesia report see CRJ 140.
Jan Willem van Dorp


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© 2004, Jan Willem van Dorp