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Extreme Steam Team Trip Reports - January/February 2005

by Michael Rhodes

Sandaoling, Liujiaxia, Yaojie, Baiyin, Yaoqu, Pucheng, Pingdingshan


Trip - 1 : 8th January - 16th January

This was basically a personal farewell to Jitong. Having been one of the first English visitors there in January 1997, I wanted one last visit and decided to join the GW Travel trip organised by Tim Littler - very much at the last minute! The highlights of the week, which ended up with me doing a bit of "guiding" and a bit of "doctoring" were the KD in action at Tiefa (picture below) and the passenger storming the pass in daylight. I'm not sure a detailed analysis of the week's action is of much interest. Suffice it to say we got a lot of steam between Chabuga and Daban and the sheds at Daban and Baiqi were surprisingly steamy.


G&W Orient Express at Shangdian


KD6 487 near Diaobingshan tunnel

I should say however that the GW travel train is an exceptionally pleasant way to ride up and down the Jitong line, with the comfortable bar car a particular asset!

Trip - 2

This was the main event - Steve, Vernon and I were joined by Tim Arnott and Adrian Roberts from Oz. Our guide was Alan Feng Wang from Chengde. He was an excellent guide and a more than adequate replacement for Li Weishu who has "retired" to Toronto - funny, ever since we dedicated our second Extreme Steam book to Li, he won't have anything to do with guiding us! I never knew it was such an insult to have a book dedicated to somebody!!

22nd January

BA039 to Beijing

23rd January

CZ6902, 15.05, Beijing to Urumqi where we arrived at 19.00. Then T1084, Urumqi to Chengdu as far as Hami where we arrived at 07:15.

Sandaoling Coal Company: 24th-25th January

First, many thanks to John Agnew for his excellent map. We explored a little further around the opencast and there is an exit from the bottom of the pit, both to the east and west of the pit. The opencast produces 1.5 million tonnes of coal per year and each of the deep mines produce 1 million tonnes each. One to three trains per day bring empties up from China Rail, about 60 at a time, top and tailed by deflectorless JS's. These are then loaded at mine 1 and 2 on the branch from Nanquan yard or at the screens adjacent to the yard where the washed opencast coal is loaded.

During the visit we saw the following locos:

JS5708(scrapped), 6203, 6208, 6260(scrapped), 6261, 6346, 8027, 8040, 8053, 8074, 8077, 8078, 8080, 8167, 8081, 8190, 8193(scrapped), 8194, 8195, 8197, 8358, 8366, 8368
SY1593, 1718

We stayed in Hami at the excellent Hami Hotel which meant a one hour drive to Sandaoling each morning but it was well worth the time given the dreadful state of the Sandaoling guesthouse. On 25th January we boarded N949, 23.45 Hami to Urumqi. Then on 26th we spent a little time in frozen Urumqi before taking MU2780, 16.30 Urumqi to Lanzhou where we stayed in the Legend Hotel.

Gucheng-HekouNan - 27th January

Gucheng, the depot for this line was reached in 90 minutes in our bus. Because it was the school holidays the school trains did not run at the time of our visit. One aspect of the line which seems to have been neglected in previous reports, is the busy trip freight working from Gucheng yard. At 09.30 the pilot (JS8352) tripped the 3km up the steep branch to Liuhua fertilizer factory, where it picked up wagons filled with bagged fertilizer. Then at 10.10 it tripped with coal to Dawangou. At 10.40 it then propelled a long rake of empty wagons to the fertilizer factory at Liuhua and stalled on the sharp curve near the factory - an excellent site which attracted quite a lot of attention from the locals.
The depot contained JS 8226 and 8227, 8226 started shunting at 12.30. It formed the 13.30 to Liujiaxia and then the 14.30 back to Bapanxia.
We departed for the gorge over the yellow river and sat there from 15.30 until 17.30 and the train never arrived. We saw 4 freights, several 19 coach passenger trains and the streamlined DMU, but no steam - it must have failed or been delayed.

Haishiwan-Yaojie-Heqiaoyi - 28th January

First of all, credit where credit is due - Loius Cerny posted a report of a Japanese visit to Haishiwan on 21st January - I picked it up 24 hours before we departed to China, and thought it might be worth a speculative visit. The system is called the Yaojie Country Railway. I notice the line is very clearly marked on the Nelles map and I just wonder why it hasn't been visited earlier. I also see there are 4 other branches off the Xining line - are any of these steam?? Anyway, it took less than 2 hours to drive here from Lanzhou.

Anyway, back to the Yaojie railway. The main yard is at Yaojie and traffic is to two collieries. The end of the line at Heqiaoyi is home to a massive aluminium smelter and a big power station. The depot at Yaojie is home to six SYs - nos. 0527, 0681, 0362, 1103, 1713, 0990. We were told that the smelter also employed a further six Sys but only saw SY 1097. Finally there is an SY pilot at Hanshiwan in the form of SY 1130 which shunts the coal yard and local cement works.


Yaojie Yard


Yaojie Gorge

Operation of the system is basically that empty coal wagons come from China Rail along a very spectacular gorge which is easily observed and filmed from the parallel road - the problem is that it is so deep that the sun doesn't reach the rail line until 10.30 and is off the rails by 15.00. On the day we visited, trains ran at 07.00, 08.00 and 15.50. Once at Yaojie trips run out to mine 1 and mine 3. Much of this coal runs to the power station over 20km away at the power station to the smelter. There are several good photo spots and the line is definitely worthy of a couple of days visit - we sadly had just one day to explore.

Baiyin - 29th January to 30th January

Now this really is an excellent system - the map is based on our 2 days exploration. Previous reports have concentrated on the passenger trains - just a note that the first train of the day does not run on Saturday or Sunday.


What most of the reports fail to mention is the lively trip working which is very much of the traditional "out and back" variety. There are 4 or 5 SYs on standby for this traffic and there are a total of 15 distinct loading points in and around the four separate smelters in the area (two zinc, two copper). The amount of metal smelted is much reduced as the ore from the deep mine at Shenbutong is much reduced from the days when it was mined from a big opencast site here.
We observed the following SY in operation:- 0206, 0612 (slag tipping run), 0701, 0819, 0965, 1047, 1470, 1583, 1596. In addition the scrapped locos are still the same as reported by John Agnew.

K120, 20.40 soft sleeper to Xian and then bus to Tongchuan - we found we had to stay in Yaoxian as we were told the main water main in Tongchua was broken and there was no running water in the Red Rose Hotel.


Dawn at Baiyin


Sanyelian Departure

Yaoqu - 31st January

After quite a performance with a smiling, morbidly obese local guide who tried to take us to the wrong location twice! We made it to Yaqou, which is a nice 2km branch and JS6025 and 5184 were in steam there. The pit opened in 1972 and produces 1.7 million tonnes of coal each year. It also has a delightful narrow gauge electric railway whch was fun to watch.
With the recent accident we could not visit Chengjiashan and the local guide told us there was no active steam at Diantou (not sure if this was true but we were left with Pucheng)

Hanjing - 1st February

Again some typical Chinese dishonesty - we were told it would take at least 3 hours from Yaoxian to Hanjing. In fact it was 80 minutes and the long journey time was only quoted to try and force us to move hotels to Pucheng. Anyway, Hanjing has a big yard and the four collieries on the system produce 3 million tonnes per year. The system only opened in 1980 and the controller at Hanjing said it had started with 3 locomotives, two of which came directly from Japan and being built in 1936 and 1937. Anyway, they are long gone and the line has had a brand new DF4, No9571 for a few months. Otherwise QJ Nos.6429, 6449, 6891, 6928, 7021 and 7291 are here. 7291, the last Datong QJ has had a bad accident, destroying the tender and cab and is in a sealed compound under wraps. On top of this the DF does most of the shuttling of empties up from China Rail at Pucheng. The empties are then ferried out to the collieries from Hanjing yard (boiler first by the QJs). Coal comes back tender first. Sadly the big climb from Pucheng is now mostly in the hands of the DF4.


Hanjing Yard

Finding this sytem infected with a new diesel and deciding we couldn't be motivated to drive further to Chengcheng, we decided to head east early. We also had information both from the newsgroup (thank-you Duncan Cotteril) and from a couple of phone calls to Zhengzhou, that the brickworks narrow gauge was already closed for the New Year. So we decided on a drive to Pingdingshan.
Just before leaing the Tongchuan area, we paused at Tongchuan Nan to find JF2369 in the yard. Water still in tender and somebody living in the cab with a stove pipe shoved up through the cab roof!

2nd February

Drive to Luoyang - passing the Yinghao railway which miracualously produced a steamer over the highway, just as we drove past! New bus from Luoyang to Pingdingshan

Pingdinshan - 3rd/4th February

Well we had a great 2 days here, good, sunny weather, not much smog and loads of action. More important however is the arrival of a second GKD3 - No.0060 with a Dalian 2005 builders plate - it was out on trials on the second day of our visit and GKD3 No.0003 was also very busy on the system. As far as we could tell, the first GKD3 has had a few months of trials and the rest of the diesels will be coming soon -No.0060 being the first of them.
Anyway we saw:-

SY0758(scrapped), 1002, 1087(scrapped), 1209
JS5644, 6225, 6351, 6428, 6539(scrapped), 8030, 8031, 8057, 8062, 8065, 8068, 8120, 8122, 8338, 8421
QJ2035, 6450, 6813, 6690, 7186

In addition I should say the top and tailed train from Pingdingshan to Xuzhou did not run for the three days we were there and it looks as if that work has been lost as Vernon saw one of the "dedicated" QJs on the line to mine 10 one morning.


Pingdingshan Mine 2

This is a great system - go now before the rest of the GKD3s arrive. One correction to my 2003 map is that mine 9 actually lies adjacent to Tianzhuang yard on the north side of it.

Anyway back via Zhenzhou on 5th and home on BA038 and the end of probably our last Extreme Steam trip - it takes ever more travelling to get fewer and fewer shots but it was great while it lasted!

Michael Rhodes
Feb 7th 2005


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© 2005, Michael Rhodes mr@lapsurgeon.co.uk