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Steam in China - Xinxiang, Pingdingshan, Luohe-Fuyang, Yongcheng, Fuxin, Benxi, Waitoushan, Fushun, JiTong, Pingzhuang

by Derek Jenkins


This is a report of a month's trip to China in the company of Lennox MacEwan. The idea was to not always to go to regularly visited places and sometimes not to pursue steam. The result was an interesting journey on which almost everyone we met was more than friendly and cooperative. We had 2 brushes with the law whilst taking pictures of China Rail albeit from public places and one unpleasant incident at Fuyang , of which more anon. Thanks to Lu Yong for making the arrangements for those parts of the trip where we needed a guide. As usual his arrangements were perfect. Lennox , as ever, kept me sane - even on the craziest days.

February 28 Beijing - Xinxiang

We travelled on Train T57. The one sight of steam en route was an unidentified SY from The Gaobedian Local Railway in steam at Gaobedian CNR station

March 1 / 2 - Xinxiang

Our first port of call was the Wucun - Huixian Narrow gauge the Wucun end of which our driver found quite by chance after casting around the countryside for some time. Previous reports suggested that the mixed train left Wucun Mine at 09:00 but on our arrival at 09:40 it was about to depart with an unnumbered JMY 200 in charge. The loco lurched towards us on track that was in a diabolical state and indeed so bad that as it got to each rail joint the loco dived downwards and gouged out parts of the ground. Speed probably reached a heady 5 MPH and 20 minutes after passing us the train was still in sight. We tried to find a road to follow it but the line seemed to head away across the fields. The 2 passenger coaches on the end of the train were in as diabolical state as the track.

Very close to Wucun is a large aluminium smelter which turned out to be Zhongzhou. An enquiry at the gate allowed us admission and a man appeared from the loco shed to show us their last QJ 2154. This was OOU and we were told that diesels had now replaced steam here. Despite driving around the extremities of the plant no other loco was seen. Reports suggest that this line runs a passenger service. This may well be so as we saw a line with stations en route to Wucun that had nothing to do with CNR.

From there we headed to Huixian. The headquarters of the railway are down an unlikely lane off the high street. Dilapidation was well set in here too. Despite being expected at 10:30 the mixed had not arrived and knowing its rate of progress would not appear for some time. In the yard was 02 a decrepit 6w diesel shunter. At the shed were another unnumbered JMY 200, a JMY 380 - unnumbered, 04 & 08 probably both NY 120's and 10 and an unnumbered fellow NY 380. At noon the mixed appeared having taken 2hours 20 minutes to cover 35 Kms. The passenger coaches were well patronised. The decrepit shunter shot into life in a vast cloud of smoke and whisked the coal wagons away to the nearby power station.

From here we went on to Fangzhuang Mine the outer end of the other narrow gauge in the vicinity. Here were ZN 120's 3 & 06 both of which were also in a decrepit state one apparently the shunter and the other the line loco. Nothing was going on so we followed the line to Xiuwu. It was in better condition than its neighbour and largely runs next to the road but is hemmed in by trees. There are a couple of bridges where a reasonable shot could be taken if you were ever lucky enough to find something moving. The shed is at Xiuwu close to the exchange sidings with CNR and there were more ZN 120's 01, 02, 7, 08 and 9. The man who painted the number on 08 had a bad day with the stencil as on the other side it is 80!

The following day we found Xinxiang Power station but steam has finished here and all work is now done by DF10D 1012.

Quail shows a local railway from Taitou (in the South of the city ) to Yuanyang but no local map shows it and enquiries revealed it was closed and lifted.

We spent some time photographing CNR from a lineside side street but our efforts were curtailed by Mr. Gripper who insisted that the trains contained party members going to The Congress and that they would not want their trains photographed - an astonishing degree of paranoia.

March 3 - Zhumadian

Arrived the previous evening on K21 from Xinxiang. After obtaining our tickets onward to Pingdingshan we secured the services of a taxi driver who claimed to know the whereabouts of the narrow gauge. He drove to the NE of the city and to some rather unlikely buildings where admission to a yard was by signing a watchman's book.. It all seemed highly improbable until an official appeared and we showed him a photo of a C2 and an NG diesel. Our intentions having become clear we were whisked behind another row of buildings and to the loco shed. Unfortunately this was as good as it got. In the shed were NY 380's 002 & 004, 160 class 160-6 and railbus 001. None had moved for many moons. Outside were 2 rusty passenger coaches and a flat wagon. There was a cast of 100's all pleased to see us but who paid them and what they did is a mystery. There is no longer any steam here and what we saw appears to be the extent of the motive power. We took a walk down the track. The triangle had not been used for ages and the exchange sidings had had a wall built over the entrance even though the track was still in place - the bricks being set on top of the rails.
The track, despite disuse, is in a good condition but whether anything ever does move here or will ever move again must be in doubt.

We then took train K238 to PDS Dong. This was heaving with passengers and we were happy to pay 30 yuan to ride in state in the restaurant car.

March 4/5/6 - Pingdingshan

For once blue skies here and little pollution. New arrivals are JS 8421 and high deflectored JS 6539 which seems to be being used as a source of spare parts. The new diesel is DF10D 0060 a Dalian product of 2005. SY 0758 looks to be finished. Passenger train locos were SY 1209 and JS 8062. One set of coaches now bears an unpleasant red and white livery. We had arranged an official shed visit which also got us access to the works with no problems. We went out into the country on the line to 13th Mine but at Qilidian what was a rural scene has been despoiled by the erection of 2 coking plants. One is not yet in use but the other belches smoke out across the fields. Otherwise little new to report.
Locos seen (in steam unless indicated) : QJ 2035, 6450, 6813 (OOU), 6990 (in works), 7186, SY 0758 (OOU), 1002, 1209, 1687. JS 6225, 6253, 6429, 6539 (OOU), 8030/1, 8054/7, 8062, 8065/8 (both in works), 8122, 8338, 8421.

March 7 - Zhoukou

We got a car from PDS and on arrival went to Luohe-Fuyang Local Railway shed. Reports just before we departed suggested steam was finished on this railway and a cursory look here would probably confirm it as all evidence of steam (even the QJ used as a stationary boiler) had gone. But despite the turntable being locked off the steam crane was still in steam standing by a large pile of coal and this gave us some hope. Zhoukou Station has had a facelift and the track seemed to be in much better condition than on my previous visit. Then there was no traffic on the line at all but we found it busy and it looks like CNR is using it as a diversionary route.
In the afternoon we set out to find the narrow gauge at Zhoukou Dong. Our taxi driver dropped us where the line crosses a main road on the Eastern outskirts of Zhoukou and we walked back down the track which was clearly in regular use. In Dong station we found BBDH 3804 on a rake of loaded coal wagons. We were offered a ride but turned it down as we had no idea where the train was going. We should have accepted as the destination was the exchange sidings with the local railway. The best way to find this place is by taking the main road East out of Zhoukou until it's crossed by a standard gauge line which dives into a coal yard - the exchange sidings. Dong is found by taking a road that heads North just before the yard and then by casting about in the backstreets!
Whilst we were at the NG a number of freight trains passed on the local railway and we got back to Zhoukou Station in time to see BJ 3304 (sounding for all the world like a large clockwork toy) depart at 17:10 with a passenger from Zhengzhou to Shenqui. This train is 4741 in the CNR timetable

March 8 -Fuyang

Our plan had been to take the local railway passenger train which left Zhoukou at 09:01 but despite an inviting ticket window at the station the train no longer runs. This is probably a recent event as a crowd of locals were turned away as well. So we obtained a car and driver and set off for Fuyang. There is a motorway all the way which may be the reason for the train's demise. We saw a number of DF4 hauled freights en route and a number of intermediate stations have semaphore signals. We turned off the motorway at the first Fuyang turn and with the driver's help eventually traced Fuyang Xi . The wagons in the yard here can just be seen from the road. It was a good thing we had a car as this place is remote and having got off a train here getting into Fuyang would have been some task.. The layout here is rather odd in that all trains (whether from East or West) enter the yard at the North end. The shed is at the South end beyond which the line ends , so all trains have to reverse. There appeared to be some smoke rising from the shed and as we got close we could see 2 high deflectored QJ's in steam. This shed, unlike Zhoukou, had a gateman so we looked him up, made our intentions clear and he was happy to wave us in. This turned out to be a false sense of security because as we reached the locos some heavies appeared. They were seriously unpleasant people one of whom made it quite clear that he wished to engage in violence so we beat a hasty retreat. In fact everything in the shed can be identified from the public side of the wall.
We returned to the yard and were rewarded by the arrival from the West of yet another high deflectored QJ 1271 on a 50 wagon train.

Locos seen at Zhoukou and Fuyang : QJ 504 (Stored), 506, 509, 1271 (all in steam)
DF4 : 0107/8, 0124, 0182, 0373, 0588, 7718, 7689, 9561. BJ : 3234, 3246, 3304. DFH3 0065.
DF10D 0050 (Fuyang shunter), DF12 0076 (Zhoukou shunter)

From here we went to Fuyang CNR where it seemed the whole world was camped out in the station forecourt. Only with difficulty did we get tickets on 1622 to Shanqui Nan. This train was astonishingly overcrowded - 5 people were sleeping in one toilet. Even leaving our seats 10 minutes before our destination we only got to the end of the coach as the train arrived. The train lady was unable to open the door due to the bundles piled up against it and panic set in. When the doors eventually opened the hordes on the platform immediately tried to get on. Having a heavy suitcase was a blessing and using it as a battering ram got us off. Those bruised by the battering ram made no complaint and seemed to regard it as part of the game.

March 9/10 - Yongcheng

Quail shows a line from Shanqui Nan to Mangshan. At the Shanqui end no one - even the police knew anything about it and whilst it was foggy even quite extensive exploration failed to find it. I had a map that clearly showed where the line passed to the South of Yucheng. We found the road it was supposed to cross but absolutely no sign of a railway or even where it might have been. Enquiries of locals were greeted with incredulity. I guess that when the CNR line through Fuyang was constructed in the 1990's this line closed but perhaps it was even earlier than that.

So we headed on to Yongcheng, another place where worringly it had been reported steam was finished. We soon knew that this was not so for as we entered Yongcheng we came to a level crossing the gates of which obligingly fell and QJ 3439 came over with a long rake of empties. The situation here is that 2 diesels DF10D's 0051/2 are in use and were sharing the duties with QJ's 3439, 3550. QJ's 3000 and 3552 are OOU outside the shed and JS 8363 was shunted into the shed as we arrived never to be seen again. With 4 QJ's in steam this would have been a worthwhile visit but with the diesels sharing the duties equally it probabaly wasn't. Steam still runs to the main line but we only saw one power station turn in the 2 days there.

March 11 -Xuzhou

Our main intention here was to photograph ND5's on CNR. They still hold sway on most freight - single headed to the South and double headed to the North. We found a spot in a field well away from the city and had done what we came to do and were packing up because the weather was so evil when Mr. Gripper appeared. He didn't seem quite clear why he was there so we wandered off and he followed us for a long way before becoming bored. As soon as he took off we found a public side road which bisected the steelworks but despite being crossed by many railway lines we neither saw nor heard any loco and the whole place looked surprisingly inactive. Xuzhou station is being electrified but this is for the line East to Zhengzhou only.

March 13/14/15 - Fuxin

We got 1228 at Xuzhou on 12/3 a direct train to Fuxin and had no problem upgrading to soft sleeper as this train had at least 3 such coaches. Our coach was a very smart and almost brand new Changchun product but it had an unnerving habit of going into very severe resonance at about 50Km/H causing everything to shake violently. Instead of the usual vase of flowers on the table we had a bowl of goldfish as travelling companions. Just out of Xuzhou we passed Maocun Power station with 3 QJ'sdead outside. On the way in to Fuxin we saw the SY outstationed at Aiyou but it was too dark to identify it We had made enquiries beforehand that it was now possible to visit Fuxin after the terrible mine disaster and had been answered in the affirmative. In fact, as ever, everyone we met in Fuxin was amazingly friendly.
There was a little less activity than when I had visited in November particularly with spoil from the big hole and it appears that the spoil is now being tipped in a redundant part of the hole. The large 15 road yard near the old spoil tips in which once many trains could be found is now completely blocked off.
The condition of the electric locos leaves a great deal to be desired. Steam is generally in better shape. Otherwise nothing new to report here.

Locos seen :
SY (in steam) 0076, 0112, 0126, 0391, 0770, 0785, 0849, 0940, 0941, 0988, 0989, 1210, 1319, 1320, 1359, 1378, 1395, 1396, 1397, 1818(1414).
SY (Dumped) : 0541. (OOU) : 0127, 0205, 0576, 0912, 0939.
YJ 403 remains dumped as ever and the following JF are stored or dumped : 0508, 624, 2195, 2345.

March 16 - Benxi Steelworks

Train 2251 leaves Fuxin at 04:30. We thought that at that hour there would be few takers but the station was heaving and when it arrived, 30 minutes late, so was the train. By paying 10 yuan each for breakfast we got a seat in the restaurant car. We turned down the utterly inedible offering. The train ambled along and when it left Shenyang was even later but this turned to our advantage for as we got to Waitoushan the mine train was leaving but sadly behind GK1 0235.
At Benxi, as already reported the steam shed has been demolished. The PL2, XK one of the fireless and an SY (probably 708) have been repainted (minus their numbers) and stand forlornly in a pretty unphotographable position on a sort of exhibition line. Nearby we found fireless 5.
Benxi apparently still requires 16 SY which now all seem to be based at the end of No 2 blast furnace. There have been huge changes here. Many new buildings have gone up and particularly a new blast furnace served by a fleet of new GK1C's which operate torpedo ladles. These locos are radio controlled by an operator who rides on the wagons or the outside of the loco but in true Chinese style the loco still has a driver who spends his time snoozing with his feet up in the cab! There was a large amount of steam activity which kept us more than occupied.

SY (in steam ) :715, 716, 717, 718, 719, 720, 722, 724, 732, 733, 735, 736. (OOU) 730

March 17 - Waitoushan

On the drive out we got to Waitoshan CNR again just as the mine passenger was leaving and bizarrely just as the train we had ridden the day before appeared again 45 minutes late. The mine train was today in the hands of an EL2 but our view of it was otherwise obscured by the CNR train. We feared that the SY was finished but at Waitoushan depot there it sat fizzling away - SY 1012. Quite what it now does is a mystery. We were allowed access to the electric works and spent some time by the lineside on this busy iron ore system . The whole operation is part of Benxi Steel .
The EL2's seem to have light duties and the bulk of the work is in the hands of Henningsdorf EL1's and Chinese ZG150's. Fro here we were driven to Fushun.

March 18/19 - Fushun

The operations at the big hole were much as before. Skoda's do the bulk of the work there with the older electrics on the lighter duties. Many electrics (including the oldest) have recently been overhauled. The oldest we saw was 1122 of 1933. All the El 1's are out of use mostly stored at the depot to the west of the hole. Steam still has charge of the maintenance trains but the only SY's we could identify were 1400 (which was fiddling about in the crane depot near Pingsanjie) and 1452. 0715 was OOU at the western depot.
We took the EMU to the western depot and from there retraced our steps to Xinshengqiao before following the EMU line west. After a while the line splits. The southernmost line looks unlikely but this is the one to follow because about 2kms along here is the loco depot for Old Steelworks and the depot is completely outside the works. Here were SY's 0839 (OOU), 0949, 1632 (OOU),1633, 1634. GK1 0066 works the nearby Petrochemical Plant and Sister 0430 the Power Station nearby.

March 21/22 -Dalian

We travelled down to Dalian on 20/3 on another heaving train N174. A number of electrics were seen at Anshan Steelworks and also GKD2 diesels which are probably new here. However, the biggest surprise of the journey came at Wafangdian. Just South of the station are stored 2 steam locos. Having managed to video these on the return journey one is definitely YJ 280. The other is a tank engine - possibly a GJ.
Dalian is one of only 2 places left in China with trams. The routes - 201/2/3 are all thriving and 203 has recently been extended. This has excellently refurbished 1930's Japanese trams although I'm not so sure about the TV screens showing Tom & Jerry cartoons. 202 has new articulated trams which have this amazing warning notice " Urgent circumstance or door is take placed out to break down for hour please draw apart this to revolve the red solution to lock the pole"Ah well. Dalian also boasts a new rapid transit with Line 3 running from the CNR station to Jinshitan. The whole line is elevated with 4 car EMU's operating.
At Dalian Loco Works awaiting delivery were DF10D 0061 and DF4's 7736/7/8. The former was the original shape and green but the others new shape and blue and yellow which rather blows a hole in the theory that each type is numbered separately. Dalian Docks ,like most docks, is a difficult place to see trains but a short observation near the passenger terminal revealed Gk1C 0004 and DFH5's 0327, 0354.

March 23 - 27 Lindong

We travelled Dalian - Chifeng on N151. Passing Sujiatun GJ 1018 was in steam and a QJ was sticking out of the works. Nearby in Hunhe yard an SY was sitting in a train. At Chifeng the QJ is still at the shed but now shorn of all its top housing. A DF4 was being dismantled and judging by the large number of bogies around it was not the first. Before taking off for Lindong we had breakfast in The Chifeng Hotel and chanced on both Hans Schaefer and Tina. During 2 half days and 3 full days at Lindong we saw only one diesel DF4 9516. As ever the weather and traffic were erratic. At first 7007 was the passenger engine and unable to keep time but whilst there 6911 reappeared from its overhaul at Sujiatun and reassumed the passenger turn with immediate results on timekeeping. Otherwise nothing new to report.

March 28 - Pingzhuang

Traffic was down on November and was restricted in / out the hole by a rewiring exercise. Yuanbaoshan JS 6544 was at Wufeng works receiving attention and later came down for coaling. One surprise was to find JS 5758 , which I had not seen for some time, up and running. JS 1001 is now stored in the yard where the KD6 used to be. The long squat building near the coaler is a loco store but it is well locked up.

SY seen : In steam - 0210, 0400, 0463, 0942, 1083, 1487. OOU - 1084, 1764.

From here it was back to Chifeng , 2560 to Beijing Bei and back to the real world.

Derek Jenkins


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