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Jitong, Xilongzhen, Suiling and Meihekou

by Michael Rhodes and Tim Arnot

 

6th - 7th October

I flew with KLM 1508 from Norwich to Amsterdam, only to miss the KL898 to Beijing. Thanks to some good work by one of KLM's staff I got onto CZ0346, the China Southern flight to Beijing. Seat comfort, inflight service and general company were all diabolical! Got to Bejing but my luggage did not, so a frantic visit to the cheap market round the corner from the Holiday Inn Lido was needed to get a fleece and a couple of shirts etc - all done before rushing back to the airport to catch CA1109 to Xilinhot. We then drove from Xilinhot to Reshui - it was a 3 hour drive but took us 6 hours due to a bit of road building!!! The driver got so tired that I ended up driving the van for 2 hours whilst he slept - a first for me in China.

8th - 10th October

Breakfast at the Longuan Hotel to the sight of DF4s climbing the horseshoes - sad when one has seen steam so often but it is still an amazing stretch of railway.

We visited Daban shed and then on to meet up with Messrs Arnot and Roberts who had already spent a week between Daban and Chabuga soaking up the last of mainline steam. I shall not repeat the numbers of operational locos etc as others have kindly provided this information in more detail than I have recorded. I hope a couple of pictures will suffice to capture the last days. I have also included a 24 hour log of trains with the locos booked to haul them - we were looking at 10 steam to 3 diesel workings on average.

The crews were having fun during my brief visit - they were thrashing the locos as never before and on several occasions crews kept the regulator open even once they had cleared the summit at Chaganhada - one train set off over a dozen lineside fires as it thrashed towards Daban - a glorious site indeed.

Diagram 9/10th October 2005
Leaving Chabuga

TimeTrain NoLocos
1935510627038, 7048
204060517081
2105441209010
2215335206894, 7105
2325875027010
0025335087163
0150441647049, 7063
0240441306891
0740570047104, 7030
0840335109518
1035335127012
1225441627002
1340570027104
1630335169010
1755861787105

Leaving Daban

TimeTrain No.Locos
2030335136891
2125834059518
0005335237012
043060517081 (ran 3 hours late)
0830335197019, 7105
1000335216984, 7010
1110335057163
1305335077049, 7063
1740335259518

Please note these are the timings and locos as allocated by control - observation of some of these trains suggested that the locos were allocated differently - for instance 33505, the 1110 departure from Daban was hauled by 7049 rather than 7163. Anyway I hope this gives a good idea of 24 hours in the life of Daba Chabuga towards the end.

10th - 11th October

I still had not received my luggage!! Anyway, Tim Arnot and I drove to Chifeng to continue our trip on the narrow gauge and took the opportunity to meet my luggage outside Chifeng station. We also provided a lift for a fellow enthusiast to get to the nearest ATM machine to Lindong (which is Chifeng!!).

The 1840 Chifeng to Shenyang sleeper was taken and then on 11th October T2509, 0735 Shenyang to Harbin. We then overnighted in the Kulun Hotel adjacent to Harbin main station before meeting up with the IRS/LCGB tour as we had arranged to join the narrow gauge charters to Xilongzhen and Suiling.

12th October

We took train 2121, 0850 Harbin to Xilongzhen. Here we saw C2 189 which looked steamable and also 027 which was not. I am sure the IRS team will post a detailed report of all the narrow gauge locos we saw. We ended up with a diesel charter out to Waxing, just over 40km along the 120km line. It seems a misunderstanding over funding meant we could not use the steam - as usual there was the question of some extra money for getting the steam repaired or prepared in time and we opted for a short diesel charter.

The line owns diesels 41-49 built in Mundajiang and 51-56 built in Changsha. Up until a couple of years ago the system carried 500,000 cubic metres of timber each season, but last year it was just 120,000 cubic meters. The viability of the extensive narrow gauge railway is borderline with this little timber and sources suggest that if the timber cut falls below 100,000 cubic meters the line will have to close. Needless to say the story here is the same as elsewhere on logging lines - the forests are logged out and there has been no orderly replanting. In this setting the idea of a "tourist train" was mooted to try and increase revenue and the narrow gauge coaches with swivelling directors chairs are very comfortable. The line also has a regular railbus service (illustrated below) and is a real railway gem - even if we didn't get steam haulage.

At the end of the day we drove the 2 hours to Suiling and stayed at the Jindu Hotel

13th October

This day started our epic steam charter on the Suiling forestry line. Our train was diesel hauled, with a special "comfortable carriage" followed by C2 021 and some open wagons with a single tank and a guards van. Upon our return the open wagons were used to carry furniture, sacked rice and even some branches with wild cranberries! Anyway, again the railway here is on its last legs and since opening in 1950 the tonnage of logs carried has fallen to the current level of 110,000 cubic meters (just on the edge of viability). The company owns 7 diesels, 5 of which are working. In earlier days there were 14 C2s on the line. Anyway - hats off to the IRS - the charter worked really well.

Today was mainly a lengthy journey up the line to Yaojin, 111km up into the hills. Much beer was consumed and very few pictures were taken as it was very dull.

The accommodation at Yaojin is basic - 9 IRS guys had the privilege of lying like the "nine dwarfs" all in a row on a wooden bench with no padding. Tim and I were fortunate in that our "thousand dollars per head" seem to have bought us a double room with beds!!!!

14th Ocotber

The day dawned beautifully clear, with a temperature at -6 degrees. The rest of the day was spent taking shots of our steam charter - all in all a very good arrangement - every time you see a good spot the diesel and single luxury carriage are detached and run half a mile forward. The steamer and the wagons then do one or two runpasts and then everything is recoupled and off you go.

At the end of the day we caught the 1703 Suiling to Harbin, dinner on the train and then to bed at the Kulun Hotel Harbin.

15th October

T184, 0812, Harbin to Changchun arriving at Changchun at 1045. Then we bussed it to Meiheikou - very good roads and a 2.5 hour journey. The system here is great - a very compact and intensively worked colliery railway. During our visit there were 3 Sys in action and one diseaseal! The diesel is GK 4010, Sys are 1564, 1662, 1217, 1216, 1664, 0791. Just for information the system opened in 1966 and serves 5 collieries producing 3.25 million tonnes per annum. This produces an average of 150 wagons of coal for CNR per day but when we were there the daily output was 232 wagons. Given that they only shuttle a max of 40 wagons at a time to CNR one gets the idea - it is a very busy and really fun little system.

16th Ocotber

Did some photography and then drove to Changchun airport from where we caughtCZ6149 to Beijing. We stayed at the Holiday Inn and Tim and I enjoyed an excellent Chicken Jalfrazi in the Indian restaurant there! Adrian Roberts joined us briefly but then had an assignation in Beijing!!

17th October

Tim and I left for Oz with Singapore Airlines - me to give some lectures in Brisbane and Tim back to Sydney - another short but enjoyable visit over.

Michael Rhodes


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East of Yameniao, the distant signal drops just as the sun peeps over the horizon. This late running Chabuga to Daban freight storms through Yameniao 10 minutes after sunrise


Again just 15 minutes after sunrise, on a still morning, the pagoda at Lindong looms over a solitary QJ departing for Daban


A tiny cloud nearly spoilt this shot of the approach to the summit at Chaganhada - nearly but not quite!


Charter on the Suiling forestry railway


Diesel railcar passes our diesel charter on the Xilongzhen forestry line


2400 tonnes of coal leaves Meiheikou for CNR


Meihekou driver


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