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Steam in China August - September 2005

Daban - Chabuga, Pingzhuang, Nanpiao, Huludao

by Dave Fielding

 

This trip was arranged at very short notice, being inspired by Michael Rhodes report on his July 2005 visit to Daban-Chabuga. Five e-mails over four days (8th - 11th August) to Sun Xiolan and the arrangements in China were fixed with a BJ airport arrival on 25th August and departure on 9th September. My guide was to be Hou Zhuang and my driver Mr Pan, both familiar from previous visits organised by Roger Johnson. A message on the Steam_in_China group failed to find anyone to join me on the chosen dates (yes, it was very short notice) so it was a solo trip. By choice I fly from Birmingham International (8 minutes from home by train) but on this occasion Air China from Heathrow was significantly cheaper at 400, so my adventure began with National Express coach from International to Heathrow for CA0938 departing 20.25. Plus point for Air China, you get your first Chinese beer that much sooner.

Met at the airport by Zhuang and local driver for meal and Beijing Bei station. The train to Chifeng in lowest bunk of hard class sleeper was most pleasant as this was a modern coach, non smoking and carpeted, quite a contrast with some hard sleepers I've had to endure previously. And the presence of a teenage girl (with her mother) who inevitably wanted to practise her english, also improved the journey.

Daban-Chabuga

26/8/05

Quick getaway from Chifeng with Mr Pan and his bus. After two and a half hours, a new experience as we joined the expressway which seemed to be officially open although no money was being collected at the toll booths. Some of the locals haven't quite grasped the concept of a road with two lanes in each direction, but treat the two carriageways as independent parallel roads, hence donkey drawn hay cart approaches in the wrong direction in the overtaking lane. We left the expressway at Daban to head for the overbridge to the east of Daban yard arriving at 10.25. Not much action, Daban pilot 6981 shunted a single tank wagon (probably diesel fuel) and then positioned itself on a line of brake vans, a diesel freight departed west at 12.15 and another arrived from the west at 13.05. Spirits rose with the arrival of 7049 + 7104 on a freight from Chabuga at 13.20. We then left Daban, returning to the expressway, arriving at the river bridge next to the expressway between Chaganhada and Dariqiga at 14.20. There were spots of rain and cloud, with thunder to the west, but by the time a train appeared at 16.10, bright sun had returned. 6984 headed a long westbound freight, with traces of slipping. Then at 16.45 a single QJ headed an eastbound freight and at 17.10 ????+7040 were on a westbound freight. We were informed by two enthusiasts guided by Mike Ma that another westbound freight was expected but we gave up waiting at 18.30 as freight appeared to be held to leave the line clear for the evening westbound DMU, and headed for the Lindong Hotel..

27/8/05

The cunning plan for the day was 1) eastbound passenger at Xindi, 2) L114 extra passenger westbound at overbridge near Chabuga and 3) expressway to bridge spot of yesterday afternoon for L114 again. We departed Lindong Hotel at 05.55 and arrived at Xindi at 06.40 (this is the village just east of Diaojiaduan station, after the level crossing at road-km 817). Passenger 6051 headed by 7081 passed at 07.10 in nice early morning light with white exhaust, pictured at the donkey track level crossing at the west of the village, rather than the more usual spot east of the village, as there were no other photographers about. Timings for the day indicated westbound, a freight before L114 and 3 after with nothing departing Chabuga in daylight after 13.05, whereas 6 freights were due to depart Daban between 06.50 and 15.45. I set up at the main road overbridge nearest to Chabuga and transparencies taken of 7163+7164 climbing westbound on a long freight at 08.10. At 08.55 a single QJ headed freight rolled down the grade towards Chabuga. Great anticipation awaited my first view of L114, which was scheduled to depart Chabuga 09.19. Unfortunately it was 15-20 minutes late, which allowed the sun to get that much further round towards the south making the light at the chosen spot that much less favourable. However the sight and sound of the train did not disappoint. The loco was 7030 as expected and the load on this day was increased to 15 coaches rather than 13 when reported by Michael Rhodes and Bernd Seiler. It was now onto the expressway, at 10.35 an eastbound freight was noted looped at Dariqiga and at 10.40 we were at the bridge of the previous afternoon. There was already one photographers' car there and a minibus soon arrived. At 11.00 7030 and train passed over the bridge, looking and sounding magnificent, the sun was out and behind me, definitely my shot of the tour. By 12.00 the sky clouded over and there were even a few spots of rain. But just 5 seconds before a 2xQJ westbound freight reached the bridge at 12.50 the sun reappeared. The next action was at 13.15 when a 2xQJ eastbound freight crossed the bridge followed by 6988+6984 on a westbound freight at 14.00. We then left the expressway for the summit between Chaganhada and Gulumanhan. At 15.05 7037+7143 headed an eastbound freight, then at 15.30 6891+7040 on a westbound freight. As no more westbound trains were expected we checked out the river bridge and main road level crossing to the east of Gulumanhan, but the river in particular seemed much poorer photographically than in September 2004. At the village between the main road level crossing and the summit we observed 7038+7002 at 17.10 on an eastbound freight, and then at 17.35 an unexpected further westbound freight with 7119+7012. At 18.15 it was back to the Lindong Hotel after an excellent first full day's linesiding.

28/8/05

On this day I decided to start observations at Lindong station. At 06.10 2xQJ light engines were held at the west end of the station. 7081 on passenger 6051 duly arrived at 06.15 and departed at 06.26. At 06.45, 7104+6998 arrived at Lindong on an eastbound freight and at 06.55 the 2 light engines, 6988+6984 departed westwards. We then checked out that the pagoda was accessible by bus which it was. Much better than September 2004 when the bus could not clear a ditch before the start of the climb, so it had to be all the way up on foot. Unfortunately, at the pagoda, I realised I had forgotten to take my daily medicine before setting off for the day so I decided to return to the hotel. We then set off for the summit between Chaganhada and Gulumanhan. An attempt to proceed east in the bus to a photographic position failed due to a deep sand filled ditch.

At 14.40 arrived at Daban depot. 200 yuan exchanged hands and I, guide, driver and bus were allowed in. Although this report has been superseded by those of later visitors, I took quite a few details of the situation which I will put on record. I first approached what I call the north side where the scrap lines and maintenance sheds are situated. The first loco noted was 6882, conn. rods off. Then came the three lines of dead locos. Looking towards the sheds, on the left line were 7007, 6977 (conn. rods off), 6876 (rods off), 6844 (conn. rods off). On the central line were 6851 (conn. rods off), 6978, 7041, 6849, 6986, 7137 and coaling crane 5209. On the right hand line were 6763 (conn. rods off), 6905 (all rods off), 6828, 6900, 6884 (conn. rods off), 6825 and 6992 with part of motion removed. The left line was outside the fenced off two other lines and not connected as building work at the depot had required a deep hole to be dug and a short section of track removed. 7007 was on the stump of the left line still connected and from its condition did not appear to be a withdrawn loco, but apparently it was. I later made an error recording 7007 as being in line service but this was a misidentification of 7037 (thinking Swindon was Great Western). The central and right lines were still connected. No scrapping was in progress. Worryingly no steam locos were present outside or in the maintenance sheds. Outside were diesels 0548, 4241, 4234 and 9518 with just 6005 inside the central shed. The left hand shed contained tank wagons, 3 on each of the three tracks.

At 15.50, 7119 entered the running loco servicing side having completed its run from Chabuga. The tender solebar identified it as repaired at Sujiatun, 2005.7. It was quickly coaled and turned on the triangle. Too quickly to get the pictures I wanted. The situation in the servicing side was in stark contrast to previous visits. Looking out from the offices, the outermost coaling road was no longer available as a through road as its western end was blocked by withdrawn locos 6996, 6926 (conn. rods off, fitted with "railings" along the running plate), 6853 (conn. rods off) and 6639 (conn. rods off). On the coal crane road for the outer coaling road, crane 5208 was out of use at the western end (buffer stop). Then towards the east came 7009, out of use, and crane 5212 in steam. At the eastern end of the two lines were 7163+7012 on the coaling road, both in steam and on the crane road, 6988 in steam. On the crane road for the inner coaling road, crane 5204 was at work, with 6878, dead, between the crane and the road's buffer stop. On a positive note, Duncan Cotterill has since reported 6878 in line service and today (28/9/05) Alan Beard, China editor of Continental Railway Journal, reports on Steam_in_China confirming it remaining in line service, one of 15 QJ in service on the first day of his current visit. At the east end of the inner coal crane road, 7048 was in light steam. My hope of getting pictures of 2 x QJ off a freight from Chabuga arriving on the inner through coaling road failed to happen. On the next road facing east, were 6984 and 7119 (now turned), both in steam. The remaining three lines towards the offices all had their length restricted by temporary halt boards. On the outer of the three was just passenger loco 7030 in steam awaiting its Daban-Chabuga working later in the day. On the next road was 7049 in steam, 7105 later seen in line service and withdrawn former passenger loco 6911. On the road next to the offices were 6925, 7112 and 6795 (conn. rods off) all out of use. I failed to specifically note the two QJ, chimney to chimney, out of use at the west of the area but by process of elimination they were 6840 and 6850. Returning to our hotel on the expressway, we noted a small herd of bactrian camels feeding.

Daban depot - part of an imaginative panorama in tiles of a steam train climbing the Jingpeng Pass

29/8-3/9/05

Quite some time was spent exploring the line from the level crossing between km667 and km668 to the well known photo spot near the level crossing to the west of Dariqiga. The driver took some persuading to reach the first level crossing as he had never driven there previously. The approach from Chagan village to the ford was impassable at this time of year so the alternative route from the expressway was taken (refer to Bernd Seiler's map). The plan was to take L114 on 29/8 at a suitable spot after following the line towards Dariqiga. This was achieved and I carried on towards the s-curve, taking pictures of westbound freights without being sure I was really finding the "master" positions. It was a long walk on a warm day and I got very drowsy, actually falling asleep at the lineside, only to be awakened by another passing freight. Fortunately it wasn't a missed shot as the train was downhill eastbound and in any case the sun was now shining on the opposite side of the line. Returning on the western side of the track, it was noted that a possibly driveable grassy track almost reached the s-curve. It joined a sandy track that appeared from under the railway near km670. The sandy track branched into two near a storm water bridge under the railway. Keeping to the track following the railway, it was apparent the track was a continuation of the one on Bernd's map which is shown as only going from the level crossing to a building.

On another day I left the bus parked on the hillside near the well known Dariqiga photo spot and walked around the hill to the cutting shown on Bernd's map. It is long and straight, partly stone faced and a stiff climb for westbound trains. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures there as there was an annoying gap without trains, presumeably some p.w. work somewhere on the line at that time.

There was always some doubt in my mind on the number of occasions I would see passenger L114. If, as some reports suggested, the L114/L113 service stopped on 30th August, I would see it twice but if it ran until the end of August I would see it three times. 31/8 was a cloudy day and I started by checking out the river bridge to the west of Diaojiaduan where 7081 on passenger 6051 was photographed at 07.05. I headed on for Chabuga, possibly to check out the depot, but the train times from my guide's contact revealed there was a 09.21 passenger that day. After a picture of Chabuga pilot 6991 resting, 7030 had already backed off depot to the station ready for its turn. DF4 0567 arrived with L114 spot on time at 09.09, locomotives were exchanged and departure at 09.20 was one minute down, all recorded on film. Next it was a repeat of the drive along the expressway to the river bridge between Dariqiga and Chaganhada. The surprise was that the first train seen at the bridge was an eastbound freight headed by 7119 + 6984. It was 11.00 before 7030 and its train passed. I expected this would be the last chance to see L114 but no, two days later on 2nd September it was still running although its load was now reduced from 15 to 13 coaches. Also on that day, passenger train 6051 didn't arrive at Lindong until 06.55, 35 minutes late.

Some impressions of Daban-Chabuga from video stills:

Having taken over at Chabuga, 7049 + 7104 roll into Daban with a westbound freight, 26/8/05

7081 leaves Lindong on 6051, around 10 minutes late, 29/8/05 ...

 

... followed by 7037 + 7048 on eastbound freight

 

7030 on L114 just west of the s-curve between Dariqiga and Chaganhada, 29/8/05

 

7063 + 7010 westbound over the s-curve between Dariqiga and Chaganhada, 29/8/05

 

7030 on L114 at river bridge between Dariqiga and Chaganhada, 31/8/05...

 

...and a little further on. It had lost about 20 minutes since Chabuga, probably due to single line operating problems.

Pingzhuang Mining Railway visited 4-6/9/05

Locomotives seen:

Loco Works plate data Remarks
JS 5758 no plates seen Working (pit tracks)
SY 0210 2/1970 Minor repair at Wufeng depot
SY 0400 8/1971 (l.h.s. and r.h.s.) Working (deep mine tracks)
SY 0463 2/1972 On test (deep mine tracks), later seen at Wufeng depot, tender
solebar indicated repaired Shenyang Bureau 2004.3.1
SY 0517 6/1972 In steam at Wufeng depot, tender solebar indicated
repaired Sujiatun 2005.8
SY 0766 4/1972 Working (pit tracks), tender solebar indicated repaired Sujiatun 2004.9
SY 0798 3/1974 (r.h.s.) no plate (l.h.s.) Working (pit tracks)
SY 0942 1/1975 Working (pit tracks)
SY 1025 no plate (l.h.s.), too dark to read
plate on r.h.s
Heavy repair in Wufeng depot workshop
SY 1079   Identity from tender. Stored in locked, sealed up long shed near washery
SY 1083 6/1976 (l.h.s. and r.h.s.) Working (deep mine tracks), fitted smoke deflectors and
skyline casing, works plates fitted to skyline casing
SY 1084   Stored in small double road shed near washery locomotive servicing point, fitted smoke deflectors and
skyline casing
SY 1085 6/1976 In steam, minor repair at Wufeng depot
SY 1425 1/1986 Working (deep mine tracks)
SY 1441 1/1986 (l.h.s. and r.h.s.)
- Rob Pritchard has corrected this,
plates carried are 1/1969
Working (pit tracks) plates not very legible.
SY 1487 9/1986 Working (pit tracks)
Electric
Loco
Comment of Rob Pritchard
(numbers were not as legible as I thought)
6700 should probably read 6788
6707 should probably read 6787
6785  
7324  
7327  
7329  
7340  
7342  
7343  
7344  
7346  
7349  
7366  
7370  
7384 should probably read 7364

Stayed in the Ping Mei Hostel. The Bao Shan Hotel, where I had stayed on previous visits, was no more. A vast area including the site of the former hotel was being redeveloped.

Initially I wanted to find the Wufeng "workshop" and then check out the Wujia mine branch. My driver said he knew the way to the workshop but we ended up at the well known "Washery Area" next to the brewery, with wagon works, crane sidings, heavy equipment workshop, ex-KD6 compound etc.

Plenty of activity on the pit side. Unidentified SY with coach, 3 flat wagons and crane departed north, went through 1800 and headed down into the pit. SY 0942 with digger on flat wagon, SY 0766 in servicing area adjacent to throat of tracks into wagon works, together with SY 0798 on next track with 3 side tipper wagons, a van (used for carrying bicycles) and another side tipper all piped up and ready to go.

Light engine SY 1487 passed on the higher level, then reversed. All the time electric trains backwards and forwards e.g. 7370 on empties heads north, then reverses back south. At 7.00, SY 0798 backed off light engine then forward into the crane yard to the right of the wagon works, and began shunting a van and flat wagon. At 07.45 JS 5758 moved forward with side tipper, coach (seatless and glassless) and a second side tipper and halted adjacent to the brewery, clear of the level crossing , in effect a halt for workmen to board the train. At a higher level, 7342 with a similar train waited to head northwards. At 7.55 JS 5758 and train headed southwards well loaded. Note the two parallel electrified lines are independent single tracks not a double track, the western line descends from the permanent way yard area and the eastern line comes from the wagon works yard. A couple of minutes later, 7342 departed, only a few workmen on board.

SY 1487 headed southwards with two wagons loaded with concrete sleepers. At 08.35 SY 0798 pulled out of the crane yard, tender first, hauling several wagons and two cranes. It then reversed and pushed its load northwards, ending up in the headshunt of the permanent way yard. At 08.55 SY 0766 finally moved off with its wagons. 6700 electric, light engine from north (electric loco parking area?) coupled onto rear of SY 0798’s cranes and complete train headed north, then reversed and headed south. Meanwhile SY 1487 returned with its two wagons loaded with additional sleepers. JS 5758 reppeared light engine and returned to the west side of the wagon works yard.

At 9.15 I moved to the deep mine side of operations at the washery. SY 1425 chimney first departed south light engine. SY 0463 with partly unpainted patched up cabside, chimney first, arrived light engine from south. It stopped, then reversed back south. It could have been on some sort of test, as there appeared to be a fairly senior member of staff on the footplate. I then walked to the locomotive servicing point and found SY 0400 and SY 1083 side by side facing south, so some nice pictures were possible comparing standard and rare smoke deflector fitted SYs. I then returned via the shed yard at a lower level to the east of the running lines. In the smaller two-road shed, with space for just one loco on each track, through the door could be seen out of use SY 1084 on the right hand track and a permanent way railcar on the other track. In the longer locked, sealed up shed, tender SY 1079 could be identified through the shed door. This was as I observed last October until I checked my old notes. Then the tender identified was SY 1052. SY 1425 headed northwards with a train of main line empty wagons.

I then decided to revert to my original plan and explore the Wujia deep mine branch to the southwest (Wujia is shown on the Nelles map. This might not be the correct name for the mine, but the name by which enthusiasts know it). It was noted that the line swept in alongside the road, which it followed, with a very steep straight approaching the mine where the line levelled off with a level crossing over the road into the mine. There were no wagons present.

I then returned towards Pingzhuang as far as the level crossing over the Mining Railway's line connecting to Pingzhuang Nan CNR. After the crossing took a sharp right to follow the line south going over a level crossing of the line assumed to go to the Wufeng depot/workshop. Then continued on the rather rough road that goes round the east side of Wufeng village and a cement works ending up at a level crossing of the Mining Railway's line between Wufeng yard and Pingzhuang Nan. There is a modest six-pillar river bridge here with footpath and railings on the west side of the bridge only so morning/midday should be best time for photography. The climb out of Wufeng appeared fairly steep but by the approach to the river bridge, the line had levelled out. At 12.10 SY 1083 departed north from Pingzhuang Nan, tender first with empties. At 13.00 SY 1425 arrived with loaded train then departed at 13.10 with 31 empties. At 14.10 and 14.30 more CNR trains of empties arrived in the exchange yard. At 14.45, far to the west, a steam hauled 9-wagon spoil train was visible unloading. The locomotive appeared to be a tender first JS, I would guess it was 5758 with spoil from the washery where coal is transferred from the pit to main line wagons. JS 5758 has been pictured more than once on a track on the west side of the deep mine side of the washery attached to a train of side tipping wagons. The spoil could result from the washing process and need to be periodically disposed of. This could well currently be a regular turn for 5758. At 15.25 SY 1083 arrived with about 30 loaded wagons, and at 15.45 departed with empties. There was a CNR shunter at Pingzhuang Nan, DF5 1043, built 1989. After returning to the main Pingzhuang to Wujia road, the Wufeng depot/workshop could be clearly identified as an SY was visible from the main road. At 17.00, I checked out a steam locomotive servicing point "discovered" at the end of a visit in January. It connects to the main electrified line running south. There were no locomotives present but appeared to be still used as there was plenty of loco ash alongside a line leading to a water crane and disused coal staithes.

Next morning I decided to recheck this area. At 06.10, SY 0942 was on one line coupled to a flat wagon and JS 5758 was on the line leading to the water crane. At 06.25 SY 0942 moved off with its wagon and at 06.30 JS 5758 backed off ready to be signalled onto the elecric line. At 06.40 SY 1441 arrived tender first at the servicing point, had its fire cleaned, proceeded to what I thought were disused coal staithes and took coal from one of the shutes. It then returned forward to be watered and by 06.55 was ready to leave the servicing point. I then proceeded to the pit side of the washery area near the brewery. Just before arriving, the level crossing barriers were down at the entry to the electric loco depot for 7349 to go on depot. At 07.30 SY 1487 backed out of the permanent way yard with coach, 2 wagons and a crane. 7342 with side tipper, coach, side tipper workmen’s train waited to depart northwards as 7345 had done the previous day. At 07.35 SY 1441 arrived light engine and went into the permanent way yard. At the lower level, 7346 waited to depart southwards on side tipper, coach and side tipper. This was a disappointment as JS 5758 had worked the train the previous day and I was hoping to record the train on video. At 07.55 7346 departed promptly and 7342 had already left.

I then returned to the level crossing on the deep mine line between Wufeng and Pingzhuang Nan, arriving at 08.35. Steam could be seen at the south of Pingzhuang Nan yard and at 08.55 SY 0400 passed the level crossing light engine returning northwards. Meanwhile the CNR DF5 was shunting loaded coal wagons at the north end of Pingzhuang Nan. I walked the short distance to Wufeng to examine the track layout there. There were five through tracks devoid of wagons and an apparently disused siding with headshunt into the adjacent cement works. The layout confirmed the map I had received on the IRS/LCGB visit last October that the Wujia branch left the south end of Wufeng yard and curved away to head off in a southwesterly direction. There was very little shine on the branch track.

At 10.20 the departure colour light for the line south to Pingzhuang Nan changed to green and SY 1425 arrived light engine, pausing at Wufeng to transfer a sack of something to a motor cyclist, then continuing on its way. I returned to the level crossing and, at 11.30, SY 1425 passed the crossing tender first with a train of 18 empties. I walked to the trackside and looked northwards but was surprised the train was no longer in view as the track through Wufeng and beyond is dead straight. I then realised there was some steam visible at the west side of Wufeng yard and the penny dropped. The empties were bound for Wujia and SY 1425 was running round its train. So it was quickly back in the bus, a slow run on the poor road around Wufeng village and onto the main road, turning left for Wujia. When we reached the point where the branch ran adjacent to the road, it was clear the locomotive had been working hard as small fires were smouldering in patches of dry grass beside the track. We caught up with the train when it had almost completed the final climb to the mine. If only we had been parked at Wufeng yard, we would have caught up the train easily. After a pause, SY 1425 backed its empties under the loading hopper. The locomotive remained attached to the train as the wagons were slowly dragged under the hopper.

As this operation was going to take some time to complete, I decided an attempt should be made to visit the Wufeng depot/workshop. It was located at the back of an industrial site. The day before I had walked all around the perimeter wall of the site without finding any means of entry other than by the main gate, identified as the "Chi Feng Hong Wen Machine electricity Co. Ltd" (honestly). Whatever conversation occurred between my guide and the man in the gatehouse, it worked and we were in. Driving directly from the gate house would have brought us to the official entry to the depot complete with the familiar "China Rail" symbol so instead, just before reaching the entry, we turned right then left around another industrial building and parked next to the depot yard. SY 0463 was in steam in the yard. This was the SY seen the day before at the washery and thought to have been on test. Its tender solebar was lettered "Shenyang Bureau repaired it 2004.3.1". This suggests to me it was repaired somewhere at a CNR depot, rather than Sujiatun. On the left of the building was a 2 road workshop and on the right a 3 road running shed. In the workshop SY 1025 was having a heavy repair with all locomotive and tender wheels removed, cylinder end plates and some boiler tubes also removed. In the depot were SY 1085, in steam, SY 0210 for minor attention (dome cover removed) and SY 0517, in steam, freshly repainted with repair details on the tender solebar indicating Sujiatun, 2005.8. SY 0517 later moved outside alongside SY 0463. Arrival at the depot had been 13.15 and I left at 14.50.

An attempt was then made to locate some workings on the deep mines branch north of the washery. At 15.15, SY 0400 passed the second mine to the north of the washery heading south on a heavily loaded train. I expected to find plenty of wagons at the mine nearest the washery (according to my guide, Wushun mine) but it seemed quiet so I returned to the washery. At 16.25 at the north end of the washery, just as on a previous visit, I missed the approach of a train from the north, only taking pictures after the climb to the washery was completed. It was SY 1083 with 2 loaded side tippers and 20 loaded main line wagons. The two side tippers were removed and placed by the locomotive servicing point, obviously a top up for the coal supply there. At 16.45, SY 1083 combined the main line wagons from its train with a rake of wagons already waiting at the washery. I then explored the double electric track at the north end of the washery, which curves through 1800 around a small lake. A second electric double track from the west, probably giving access to spoil tips, turns south and joins the track from the washery with the northern line of the double track crossing the tracks from the washery on a flyover. Where the two double tracks join is a parking place for electric locos and 7342, 7370, 7329, 7349 and 7346 were present.

During the day, I had attempted to enter the compound where JS 1001 should be. The gates were wide open, but I had only taken a couple of paces when two little ladies emerged from an office. I pointed to the picture of a steam locomotive on my tee shirt and pointed to my eyes, trying to indicate I just wanted to look around, but the sign language didn’t work and I didn’t get any further.

To end the day, the "Wagon works yard" servicing area was checked. Present were SYs 1487, 0798, 0942, 0766 and JS 5758 all seen previously. As SY 0942 and JS 5758 had been at the other servicing point further south at the start of the day means that some, if not all, locomotives on the pit tracks are not confined to working from a specific servicing area.

Next day I was due to depart for Nanpiao, but before departing, decided to try returning to the Wufeng depot/workshop with a list of questions about the locomotive stock. Unfortunately the staff seen the previous day that looked they would know most of the answers were not seen and the self-appointed spokesman was rather useless. For example he couldn’t give an exact number of steam locomotives working at Pingzhuang. One answer was 20 -30, another was 31, possibly as a result of asking how many JS were working which seemed fairly definitely to be one. Q - Where was JS 1001? A – In the pit. Q – Why does it have the special number 1001? A – Because it was the first JS. (My comment, did he mean the first JS at Pingzhuang, we know it’s not the first JS of all). Q – There is a loco here (SY 0463) that indicates it was repaired by the Shenyang Bureau, do you know where in Shenyang Bureau? A - Sujiatun. (My comment, hardly believable, locos carry identification repaired at Sujiatun, would a Sujiatun repaired loco carry any other identification?)

I have noticed several inconsistencies in the various maps of the system, some on the internet and some not. As mentioned above, the 1800 curve into the pit north of the washery on Duncan Cotterill’s map was checked out. I didn’t have chance to check if a similar curve exists to the south, as shown on one map. Wujia is the correct name of the place where there is a mine to the southwest, not Wujai, and the branch from the mine enters Wufeng yard from the south not from the north. I did not manage to identify the exact location where the deep mine lines link to the pit lines but would guess there is just one connection.

Nanpiao Mining Railway visited 6-8/9/05

Locomotives seen:

Loco Works plate data Remarks
SY 0366 5/1971 (l.h.s. and r.h.s.) In steam
SY 0754 No plates Working
SY 0973 No plates Working
SY 1092 6/1976 (l.h.s. and r.h.s.) Working
Diesel
Loco
3132
3248

6/9/05

Following the delayed departure from Pingzhuang at 08.10, we joined the expressway in western Chaoyang at 11.20. The expressway was left at the Banjita exit and Linghe checked out (a well known map has the local roads in Linghe, which it calls Linghai, incorrect). Proceeding through the bridge under the disused spur, we came to a level crossing with the barriers down for SY 0754, chimney first, with a few wagons to pass towards Linghe. Continuing towards the Linghe terminus we came to another level crossing, at the entrance to the mine, again with the barriers down and SY 0754 and train passed again. A lunch snack was consumed, but as SY 0754 remained in the mine yard we proceeded to Xiamiaozi.

The first observation was of the three ex-works locomotives in the adjacent CNR yard as listed later.

At the island platform at Xiamiaozi, SY 0973 prepared to head the 14.59 to Sanjiazi with 5 coaches, a baggage van and some wagons. Then diesel 3248 arrived from Hungjia with the 14.56 departure to Linghe. After taking more pictures of the ex-works locos, we set off for Sanjiazi at 15.55. At the level crossing near the power station, the barriers were down and SY 1092 with wagons passed towards Xiamiaozi. At Sanjiazi, SY 0973 had finished any shunting and was on its train ready for its 17.00 departure back to Hungjia. There was cloud over the sun so we departed at 16.40, noting diesel hauled wagons heading up the branch near Shajingou. School children were waiting for the passenger train at Shaguotun station. We had a brief look at a level crossing between Xiamiaozi and Hungjia, noting a Nanpiao - Jinzhou passenger on the CNR track. We then set off back towards Jinzhou and our hotel, noting a coal train descending the Linghe branch near Zaojiatun, reaching the expressway at 17.55.

7/9/05

The next day we had a lazy start enjoying an excellent breakfast at our hotel opposite the main station in Jinzhou. We departed Jinzhou at 07.45, the first note being 3248 at the very small Qiupigou (Choupigou?) mine. There was no sign of activity at Zaojiatun mine and no spoil trains were seen throughout our visit. Arrival at Xiamiaozi was at 08.55, in good time for the arrival from Linghe at 09.26 and the arrival from Sanjiazi at 09.35, running through to Hungjia and returning at 09.51. Meanwhile SY 1092 moved a few wagons in and out of sidings to the north west of Xiamiaozi station. At 09.20, a permanent way railcar and wagon arrived from the Sanjiazi branch followed by SY 0754 on the passenger from Linghe. SY 0973 arrived on the Sanjiazi passenger and after returning from Hungjia left its stock at the platform and departed for the depot. In the mean time the permanent way railcar had departed for the Linghe branch at 09.30 and at 09.45 SY 0754(?) had followed it, light engine. 3132 arrived at 10.00.

It was decided that there should be an attempt at some pictures of the long river bridge towards the end of the Linghe branch. After getting to a suitable position a diesel with 5 side tippers and 5 wagons crossed the bridge towards Linghe at 11.05. Not all the wagons were empty, some of the side tippers were loaded with domestic coal for Linghe. This could well have been the train we had seen the previous day worked by SY 0754, but running an hour earlier. At 12.20 the diesel returned with 6 wagons. The next action was a diesel with 3 wagons towards Linghe that returned at 15.10 with 5 loaded side tippers. It was apparent that on this day, unlike the previous day, the only steam action would be the passenger. At 15.32 it passed over the bridge, SY chimney first of course, stopping at the halt on the Linghe side of the bridge. At 16.45 the train returned, the locomotive being in view when stopping at the halt before the bridge. At 17.00 we set off back for the hotel. A lot of time was spent at the bridge, and the photographic results were very indifferent. At this time of year, it was too easy to find the passenger train merging into the green background on a more distant shot taken from a higher level than the train.

8/9/05

Although the today was planned for Huludao Limestone, I decided more Nanpiao pictures were required. So there was no hotel breakfast and the only 05.00 start on the trip. With less traffic in Jinzhou we were on and off the expressway by 05.35 and at 05.55 noted SY 1092 tender first on the 05.21 passenger from Linghe waiting at Zaojiatun. No sign of any wagons being loaded or slag trains at the mine. On arrival at Xiamiaozi, SY 0366 was in steam over a pit next to the offices, and 3132 over a pit on the next track. At 06.20, an SY (must be 0973) arrived with the passenger from the Sanjiazi branch and crossed to the Linghe side of the island platform. At 06.25 SY 1092 arrived from Hungjia, at 06.30 the passenger from Sanjiazi departed for Hungjia. At 06.40 SY 1092 departed with the Sanjiazi passenger, with SY 0973 arriving from Hungjia shortly after. Then at 06.45, SY 0754 arrived, probably from the Linghe branch, on 5 loaded wagons. At 07.00 SY 0973 departed on its passenger to Linghe. In the meantime 3248 had parked up behind 3132. This had been an hour of very intensive activity.

I particularly wanted some pictures of the mine at Weizigou towards the end of the Sanjiazi branch. According to Rob Dickinson’s report of December 2003, the locomotive off the Sanjiazi passenger is expected to trip wagons to the Weizigou mine and sure enough this is what happened. At 07.55, SY 1092 appeared with several wagons. It topped up its tender from the coal loading hopper, shunted around a bit and ended up parked by the staff office. Nice light for my final Nanpiao pictures looking at the mine yard from both higher and ground levels.

At 08.55 3132 passed the mine light engine towards Sanjiazi, so we then left for Huludao. I did not check out the depot.

From descriptions of the system I had read, I hadn’t realised just how small scale the mining operations are. There were none of the massive trains of coal hoppers as at Tiefa, or the long trains of wagons for interchange with CNR as at Pingzhuang or Yuanbaoshan. I don’t think I saw any train of more than ten wagons. With the modest size railway yards at each mine, and the passenger workings, it would make a perfect inspiration for a model.

Nanpiao CNR 6/9/05

The following locomotives, in ex-works condition, were seen:

Loco Works plate data Remarks
JS 8216 Datong 1995 (l.h.s.), 1996 (r.h.s.) In transit
SY 0072 1/1968 (l.h.s. and r.h.s.) In transit
SY 1542 5/1987 (l.h.s. and r.h.s.) In transit

Nanpiao is believed to be the correct name for the CNR station and yard adjacent to the Mining Railway’s Xiamiaozi station and yard. It is thought the three locomotives, coupled together facing northwest, in the order SY 0072, JS 8216 and SY 1542, would have been delivered to the CNR yard by the Jinzhou 701 Locomotive Factory JS earlier in the day. They were definitely picked up by CNR DF4 4465 and attached to a train of wagons at the start of journeys returning them to their home depots. I would suggest that similarly, locomotives going to the 701 Factory for repair will be delivered by CNR to Nanpiao and then collected by the Factory’s JS.

The strange dated plates on JS 8216 immediately recalled a Yuanbaoshan locomotive I saw in October 2004. Yes, it was that same locomotive.

The only record I have of SY 0072 is at Lingyuan Steelworks, Liaoning Province, although when steelworks’ specialist Jan Schirling visited this site in February 2002, SY 0072 was not noted although its "twin" SY 0073 was seen.

Unfortunately, I have no record of SY 1542. I tried to persuade my guide to question the crews on the locomotives but had no success. I only hope that someone can identify the home of this locomotive.

In addition to the locomotives being accompanied by their own crews, as is customary when industrial locomotives are sent away for repairs, staff from the 701 Factory were also present, smartly dressed with blue caps and jackets with the logo "THJ", whatever that stands for. Of interest was that SY 0072 and JS 8216 had no special markings on their tender solebars, whereas SY 1542 was marked Chinese Railway Bureau 701 Locomotive Factory with the number 5762 on the l.h.s. only.

To summarise, a wonderful sight for September 2005, in particular that such an early SY as 0072 should be being returned to service for continued use.

 

Huludao - Yangjiazhangzi Limestone Railway visited 8/9/05

Locomotives seen:

Loco Works plate data Remarks
JS 6307   Working
SY 0513 5/1972(l.h.s. and r.h.s.) Working

The line was reached at 11.20 but level crossing keeper said the morning train had already returned from the quarry. SY 0513 was noted descending the line towards Huludao with a permanent way train at 13.10. JS 6307 ascended the line with 13 empty limestone wagons at 16.10. Both observations made near the summit accessed from old main road. Later SY 0513 was in steam near the level crossing at approach to depot where entry was prevented by a security guard.

We stayed overnight in the seaside resort of Beidaiha en-route back to Beijing. A shock, I saw the first western women since the start of the holiday. Next morning we set off at 06.50 on a misty morning, but at 07.10 there was no entry to the expressway, presumeably because of poor visibility. The driver tried his best on the ordinary roads but made little progress. Twice we found roads completely closed for roadworks, on one occasion our driver paid a motorcyclist to be guided along dirt tracks to bypass the closure, in the meantime the mist turned into a fog. Just before 09.00 we approached another expressway entry toll gate which was closed and packed with waiting traffic. Then at 09.00 the gates were opened, a great panic, but at 09.05 we were on an empty expressway heading for Beijing, arriving in good time for my flight home.

Conclusions:

Hard to believe I was witnessing the end of the final chapter of main line steam operation. Nothing like Lancashire in 1968 when so many of the remaining locomotives were grime encrusted. With steam locomotive repair facilities available for industrial users, the JiTong Railway has made full use of them with locomotives being regularly shopped. However appearances can be deceptive and locomotives appearing to be in remarkably smart condition have been abruptly withdrawn from service.

I found eight days insufficient to do everything I wanted on the Daban-Chabuga line and probably should have spent all my time there. On my eighth evening at Lindong, I sent a message to Steam_in_China and it was only then, checking my notes, that I realised it was my last night there. Some messages on Steam_in_China indicated possible closures of coal mines for safety reasons. As I was off to Pingzhuang and Nanpiao, I wanted to check the messages but didn't have time that evening. Next morning I wanted to go on the internet again but, for the second time during our stay, Lindong was suffering from a city wide power failure, so the internet was not available. Following our route in the direction of Chifeng, we drove to Daban and checked the messages there. If there had been bad news I would have abandoned the industrial visits and returned to Lindong. However interesting the visits to Pingzhuang and Nanpiao, we can be pretty sure steam will survive there in 2006, but certain that by then Daban-Chabuga will be all diesel.


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2005, Dave Fielding eva.fielding@which.net