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Railways in China - December 2005

Jixi, Jalainur, Baotou, Daba-Guyaozi, Yaojie, Yinghao, Pingdingshan

by David Habraken

 


Jixi

Not so much to report from here that hasn't allready been mentioned. We found Hengshan very nice before noon as the sun is standing here perfectly at this moment of the day. We didn't see the engin-train towards the service point in three days, nor did we see trains with three SY's towards Zhongxin. We've got a lot of single-headers instead, working quite hard, so you won't hear us complain.
The Beichang system must have been relatively calm during our visit as we certainly didn't see our hear movements 'every ten minutes' when we were near the washery.
The Lishu-system may seem calm with only two engins but it's really worthwhile visiting as it has very nice European-like scenery with hills, threes and snow. The Pinggang-mine is definitely open. We saw a train riding towars this mine but were to late to chase it. We saw it going up tender first for at least 15 minutes, so this line must at least be some 5 km's long after Taiping. If you don't mind about tender first's, the sun on this line is perfect before noon.

Zhalainuer

no problems at all visiting this system but then, we visited it during the day... Of course, as a dirst time visiter here, this was thruely a great experience! I hadn't seen pictures yet from an SY with the grey snow plow-car. This was surely a very nice sight! Never say never, but it seems hard to believe also this system will be "steam-free" at 2008. We'll see ;-)

Baotou

We were a little afraid steem was passing away here but in fact, the steel plant is still worthwhile visiting. The guide told us they still have 37 SY's in working condition. We doubted heavyly this amount so we re-asked him several hours later and he was sure of his case. I still ain't... This seems really a big amount of SY's, even if we saw a lot of steam movements going on. It was nice to see two decorated SY's shunting, certainly the SY with high deflectors and decorations (1748? I don't have my notes with me right now, sorry for that matter). During the evening we visited the slag tipping. This was really a great sight, certainly with the snow reflecting the orange glow.

DaGu

Things were more or less like reported earlier. I just had the idea the sand hills near Lingwu were much less spectacular then during my visit with Bernd in 2003. It seems they have dugged out the sand hills near the track. They certainly planted a lot of trees and other "green stuff" there. Also, they created a big waste dump on this neighbourhood which has just come into use. On the second day, the diesel engin hauled one train straight towards the new mine on it's way from Daba. In the afternoon, once again, we saw the diesel running towards the minem this time to search the loaded cars. For chinese speaking people: the phone number of the control office is: 09513975191.

Yaojie

BAD NEWS!!! The first diesel has arrived and if our info is correct, they will use it for most (probably nearly all...) trains towards Haishiwan. Until tomorrow, it's only in use for shunting at Yaojie yard and the trips towards the mines. From the 5th of January on, they'll use it towards Haishiwan...
We had bad luck today as the station of Haishiwan was completely filled up by CNR-trains. Until 18:00, there was no movement at all between Yaojie and Haishiwan. You can imagine our state of mind knowing that we're just 2 days away from what's probably going to be the end of steam on this section... With all the spare time, we tried to make a charm offensive towards the people at Yaojie after the recent problems, read here on the news group. We had a lot of pictures to spread from my previous visit, we also made some pictures from the depot manager and us. They were very friendly and we could freely walk around, also in the shed. Just once, we were kindly asked to leave the control office but then again, we could stay on the platform and within five minutes, we were in the room where the loco-personal takes a rest.
By the way: the track on the right in the shed is completely rebuilt for the diesel...

The second day at Haishiwan (4th of January) was a little "better" then the first day over there. With no trains at all the first day, it was of course difficult to do worse... Before noon (when we took the train towards Sanmenxia), we saw 2 workings from Yaojie to Heqiaoyi, one loose engin running from Yaojie to Haishiwan which came back (tender first of course) with a train an hour later. Conclusion about our visit to Yaojie: it's not funny at all to know that the diesel will come in use on the gorge section the day after you leave and while those two last days of "total steam" in the gorge having seen one (o-n-e) train on this magnificent section. At least we had it in the snow that fell during the night from the second to the third of January...

Yinghao

The 5th of January, we visited the Yinghao NG railway and we were lucky: the railway was in action and the area was covered with fresh snow. Loco's 3 & 4 were in action (by the way, the number of no.4 is difficult to read as the front plate beneath the boiler has been removed, you can only read it on the cabin and even there it's not quite visible because of all the dirt). We just had one problem on this day: when the engins had to work hard, they were leaking steam so heavy that on a lot of the pictures, they are invisible by the high volumes of steam. So: we had to concentrate on pushed trains to Liangwa, shuntings at Xianyang and pulled trains from Yinghao towards Xiangyang (at least these trains were usable as there was a heavy wind blowing the steam away from the engin). The people were nice as always.

Pingdingshan

The last two days of our trip were spent at the Pingdingshan system. How things have changed here since my last visit with the new diesels now spoiling the sight...
The first day was spent on the Baofeng - Hanzhuangzhan - line. I had never visited this branch of the system and was hoping that at least here, we would be relatively safe for the diesels. At least during our day there, this proved to be correct. We only saw steam. traffic is not extremely heavy on this section but there are some very scenic locations. I've made a map that I've mailed to Florian. Hopefully, he can put it on his website. The most remarkable things we saw during our visit here:
- the station of Dazhuangkuang is just great with a temple like building on the platform. Before noon, this building is perfect for the passenger train towards Zhongxin. In the afternoon, pictures from the train towards Hazhuangzhan are possible.
- between Dazhuangzhan and Gaozhuangzhan, there is a hill on the south-eastern side of the line. There are some really nice sights waiting to be photographed here :-)
- at least at our visit, most of the coal was not charged at the big mines. Near Dazhuangzhan, there are 3 loading places, served by trucks. Two places got one train a day, but the third place has a special branch of a kilometre long and was at least served by four trains during our visit. As we were not expecting this quantity (we were still waiting for our first train on the other branch), we did not investigate this branch any further but it surely is a nice climb, the engins have to make, leaving Dazhuangzhan. I'm pretty sure, some nice pictures can be made on this branch.
- they sure like shunting at Dazhuangzhan. We saw it only from a distance (are they leaving? oh no, yet another shunting movement) but it all seemed very unefficiŽnt from our point of view.

Afterwards, we took the train from Baofeng towards Zhongxin. To take this train, you don't enter the CNR station, but you take a small tunnel at the right before the station. At the backside from the station, there is a separate platform where the trains from the Pingdingshan Coal Railway make their stops. For 5 yuan, we could buy two tickets for one hour of steamy pleasure with the JS6253 pulling the train and us, enjoying our chinese company and watching the sun going down. This really were some unforgetable moments...

The day after, the real shock came while looking at the daily parade at Pingdingshan. The parade is still nice, but has lost it's full glory. There were gathered some 10 steam engins in the depot (where was all the rest??) and of course the 5 orange steam-murderers. QJ6813 is definitely scrapped (snif) and we only saw one further QJ with a four axle tender (QJ6450? I'm not sure). A friend of me seemed right in october when he feared that the QJ's will be the first real victim of the diesels at Pingdingshan... We did not see a trace of the other QJ's, all the heavy trains are run by the diesels now.
We could enter the workshop without problems but what a difference... There were only two steam engins inside: JS8120 without it's decoration, receiving minor maintenance and SY1207 in big overhaul. There was also one diesel. We could find the decoration of JS8120 at a heap of scrap. This image was stronger than 1000 words. Steam is going down at Pingdingshan :-((( In general, we have one question left unanswered after visiting the depot: where were all the other steamers? We were missing two QJ's and quite some JS's. It seems difficult to believe that they were all shunting somewhere else as we did not spot them the rest of the day. Are they put aside at another location?? Who knows more about this?
Outside now JS6429 was shunting with the old steam crane and an ugly orange new (diesel) one. We first thought, this was to test the new crane but when the JS left with the whole train, it became clear that "something had gone wrong" somewhere...
After our visit to Tiangzhuang, a visit that left a very sad feeling, we went towards Zhongxin. There, JS6429 was just shunting with the cranes. Woops... JS8057 had lost it's tracks with his four driven wheels. Of course, it was a chinese chaos so we could take some pictures of this before the police saw us. They did not want us to give in the pictures but they did ask us to leave (of course...). Happily, we could explain that we were just railway friends, without bad intentions, so finally, they guided us to the JS6429 with the steam crane so we could make one further picture of that train. Of course, then we left, knowing that it was going to be a very calm day with JS8057 being derailed in the middle of the station.
For the rest of the day, we had bad luck with some of the only trains that ran: waiting on the wrong branch (as always...), getting frustrated when a diesel showed up on the right branch :-(((((( No, Pingdingshan is still nice IF you get the right train on the right moment on the right place but these chances are now reduced a lot by the incoming diesels. The factor that was once part of it's charm (the unpredictness of this system) is now turning against us... To make things even worse: we had the feeling that they use the diesels to haul the empty trains towards the mines. When a diesel has brought up an empty train, and has left allready towards a next mine, the steamer will show up, just to shunt the train at the mine and to pull it back (tender first and rolling down) towards Zhongxin. Maybe, we just had bad luck with this, but there seems to be some logic in this practice...

Conclusion of this tour

We started at a very high level at Jixi, Zhailaenuer and Baotou. It then was clear allready that we couldn't maintain this level. At DaGu, things were nice too, but of course, the recent arrival of the diesels is not good news... At Haishiwan, things got wrong all the way with no trains the first day, only one tender first working in the gorge the second day and the new arrived diesel making it very obvious that one more scenic line is going to be dieselised. Yinghao was a nice relief again, so was our visit to the Baofeng area. Pingdingshan itself has lost most of it's charm. It's still a relatively steamy place, but it's much more difficult now to get a decent picture on a nice place with a steamer passing by.

Will I go back to China? Yes, but with a lot more consideration which lines to visit and what to expect. Diesels are coming in really fast now so the steam era is coming to an end relatively fast now. It was a hard hit of the hammer, starting to realise this during this tour, especially at Pingdingshan.

Thanks to all the China-visitors who write down their experiences. We really were helped a lot again by all your reports. I hope, my report will help some visitors too. Thanks also to Tina from Chifeng, who once again arranged a lot for us. With here recently bought digital camera, it surely was a funny sight to see here make pictures of steam trains sometimes even more enthousiastic then us :-))

In general

There's still a lot to see in China, even with the heavy loss of JiTong. Let's just try to keep ourselves welcome. Everybody has to make out for himselve how to do this but as places with steam become less, it's certainly not funny when we're not welcome anymore at an increasing number of places. I feared this at Zhailainuer and Yaojie this time due to the recent events. It was such a big relief for me that it went out fine this time... But who knows what's coming next?

Dave Habraken


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© 2005 Dave Habraken, e-mail: davidoff5181@hotmail.com