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Steam in China - November/December 2005

DaGu, Baiyin, Yaojie, Liujiaxia, Sandaoling

by Barry Buckfield/Norman Spalding/Brian Hawkins

 


DaGu, 27 - 30 Nov 2005

We felt that we arrived here in the nick of time, as it appeared that only one of the new diesels, (DF4 DD 0053), was line working, together with three QJ's, (7194, 7195 and 7200). 7061 was the Guyaozi pilot and trip loco. (The other new diesel, (DF4DD 0052), was at the stabling point at Daba throughout our visit, not being used). Of the other QJ's, 1465, 6545 and 6832 were dumped, 7036 and 7205 were not seen, however, we could not gain access into the workshop at Guyaozi.
Traffic levels were reasonably good on three of the four days, with generally two or three trains in each direction during daylight hours, however, 25% of workings were with the diesel. On the third day of our visit, there were no trains into or out of Guyaozi between 10.30 and 16.00, (which were both diesel), with no steam departures between 07.50 and 17.15. The workings up to the new mine at Yangchangwan, are worked hard and are easy to chase along the adjacent road. Usually the Guyaozi pilot loco performs this duty, but sometimes the loco of an incoming train works on up to the mine. Similar operations, but propelled, work up to the old mine beyond Guyaozi.
The weather over the four days was excellent, apart from the final day when the Guyaozi area was in the centre of a sandstorm until late afternoon, which precluded any photography in the sand dunes east of Lingwu. When the second diesel comes fully into use, probably 50% of all line work will be diesel. We were told by staff at Daba that steam will finally finish in about two years.

Baiyin, 1 - 2 Dec 2005

The official permit to access the depot and the 'Transport Department' at Baiyin Gongsi, was 160 Yuan per day each, but we managed to negotiate this for the two days we were here. We were given a Company guide, who clearly did not have too much knowledge of the railway system, so information was inaccurate with trains and opportunities being missed as a result. To frustrate the matter further, an official company inspection was taking place on the second day and we were prevented from entering the 'Transport Department' until the afternoon. No access was possible into or around the smelters, where we saw SY's working, or into the compounds where the dumped locos are kept. We did gain a lot of useful information from Warwick Mead's report, so had a good idea of the system. Passenger trains were in the hands of SY's 1581 (Sanyelian) and 2008 (Shenbutong) on each day, working in between passenger duties on shunting and trip working to and from the 'Transport Department' together with SY1470.
Contrary to what Warwick Mead found on his visit, the pollution was bad during our visit here. On both days there was a freight working in the morning up the line towards Shenbutong into the gorge section, which has some potential for photographs. In the locomotive depot, SY1013, previously reported as dumped, has been brought into the workshops, for a '60 day' overhaul we were told.

Yaojie, 3 - 4 Dec 2005

All foreigners are now banned from the main yard complex and depot at Yaojie upon the orders of the Railway director, following a visit during the previous few days by a large group of gricers in a tour bus. As a result of this, our Chinese guide had no co-operation in obtaining information of workings from the staff at Yaojie.
We therefore headed out to the north of the town where SY1321 was running trips up to the power plant at Heqiaoyi. Other SY's seen in use at Yaojie were 0362, 0527 and 0681. We had difficulties obtaining information about workings through the spectacular gorge to Haishwan, all such workings depend upon China Rail at Haishwan contacting Yaojie that a train is ready for collection. The second day proved more promising when our guide was told by one of the SY drivers that two SY's were to be dispatched to Haishwan at 12.30 to pick up a freight. At 12.50, SY0527 and SY0681, separated by a single wagon, traversed the gorge down to Haishwan and picked up a loaded train consisting of coal, timber and other products in tarpaulined open wagons, with the SY's top and tail. In a spectacular display, the two SY's slogged up the gorge with the heavy train towards Yaojie.
This is a pleasant railway with a lot of photographic potential, it is just a pity that the actions of an irresponsible tour group of gricers have upset the authorities in preventing full access to others.

Liujiaxia, 5 - 6 Dec 2005

This delightful operation is a pleasure to visit and the line has some potential, despite the JS's only working as far as Shangxuan now. On 5th December, we found three JS in steam at Gucheng depot, as one was due to be changed over for maintenance. Loco numbers do cause confusion though. 8223 is the real number for one of the JS, but another JS also numbered 8223, is really 8226, the real 8227 is currently not being used, but another 8227 is really 8352 ! Confused ? We certainly were.
All the passenger trains worked to time on our visit and were well patronised. Most of the freight traffic comes from the chemical factory near Gucheng, but other freight, including wagons for Liujiaxia, can turn the Gucheng - Liujiaxia passenger trains into mixed trains.
We were told by the depot staff that they cannot afford to buy new or second hand diesels, so with luck, this friendly little line will see steam for some while to come. Some lists report JS8022 and JS8183 as being here, but they were in fact scrapped in 2003 we were told.

Sandaoling, 7 - 9 Dec 2005

Little more to add on previous recent reports, however, we saw 11 JS being put into store adjacent to the servicing point at Dongbolizhan, near to the main workshops. Due to 2005 coal production targets being met, these locomotive will be kept in serviceable store until the new year. The locomotives are:-
JS 6206, 6209, 6221, 6223, 6224, 6430, 8076, 8078, 8089, 8197, 8368

Of the locomotives in the storage compound east of the main workshops, clearly all of the 16 locos in the compound are not dumped. Several, including JS8173, JS8193 and SY1720, have recently been overhauled and have not yet been put back into traffic. The full list of the locos in the compound is as follows:-
JS 5455, 5473, 6204, 6205, 6213, 8040, 8080, 8167, 8173, 8188, 8193, 8222, 8225
SY 0092, 1304, 1720

We also saw the remains JF1281 in a yard at the rear of the wagon workshops. JS6259 was being overhauled. In total we saw 15 locos working during our visit, (some of which were previously reported as dumped or out of use), with 5 or 6 more unidentified locos working in the opencast pit. JS8366 and JS8027 were working the top and tail trains to and from Liushuguan, although on one occasion, we saw a train with just 8366, which came to a stop before the X502 road crossing for a blow up.
Our local guide from Hami, Mrs Gou Li, was invaluable as she had good contacts with the Railway's control and we could gain information on the chimney first workings from Liushuquan and Beiquan throughout our visit. Distant haze prevented us seeing much of the mountain range during our visit, but the snow on the ground added more flavour to photography.

Conclusion

A worthwhile visit for us all, with the excellent services of our guide, Mike Ma. It was a hard trip with a lot of travelling and effort to get the photographs we wanted, but as steam gets less and less in China, the more difficult the experience will be to get value from such trips.

Barry Buckfield
14th December 2005


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2005 Barry Buckfield, e-mail: barrybuckfield@beeb.net