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China steam, Spring 2006

Da-Gu, Liujiaxia, Sandaoling, Yima, Yinghao, Pingdingshan

by Ole Jensen


We, Anders Falk Jensen, Bo Lindhardtsen and Ole Jensen, observed almost a hundred steam engines during this 17-day trip in March - April 2006 in Western- and Central China. Travelled Air France from Copenhagen to Paris; here a rather short transfer to Beijing, arriving March 24th. Domestic flight CA 1221 to Lanzhou. Here immediately direct bus from the airport some 70 km north of the city to Lanzhou, where we wanted to buy tickets for T53/52 to Hami, but Lanzhou station has no available tickets for this train, we were told … Changing our plans, we decided to go for Da-Gu first and were able to get soft sleepers for N 902 to Daba.

Daba - Guyaozi, 25. - 27.3.2006

Pretty much the same traffic as reported previously with 3 to 5 pairs of trains each day. 3 QJ's in line-service and one (7036) switching and servicing the mines in Guyaozi. The two diesels did the usual jobs; one in line service together with the QJ's and the other was yard switcher in Daba. Thank God it stayed there … In Guyaozi the authorities did not want us to take pictures and we were asked to leave. Otherwise no problems, except for some rather heavy sandstorms during midday the 27th. No filming was possible during these hours. In service were: QJ 7036, 7061, 7195 and 7205. (7194 seen in service 23/3 by German gricers as well as 6832 and 7200 cold in Guyaozi).

Liujiaxia, 28. - 30.3.2006

Very nice little system on the banks of the Yellow River. No problem getting access to the depot in Gucheng, where JS 8226 and the real 8227 stood cold in the sheds. 8223 and 8352 (numbered "8227") shared the daily work on the beautiful line to Shangxuan and Liujiaxia. I wonder why they make "fun" with the engine-numbers? On the 28th we travelled the mixed 8794 with "8227" in the front, 19 freight cars, 2 YZ and the baggage van, the train being pushed by JS 8223 for about half an hour. What an experience in the year 2006! A mixed steam-hauled train is not a very common sight, not even in China nowadays … In Shangxuan all the freight cars were overtaken by CNR-DF5 1734 to Hekou Nan. In Shangxuan, JS "8227" ran light over the Yellow River bridge to Yonguoxia to shunt in some factories, returning with two C62-cars. These two were the only freight cars in the mixed 8791 back to Liujiaxia. The next day there were no freight cars at all in the mixed, and on the way back only two freight cars were brought to Gucheng. Locos in service: JS 8223 and 8352. 8226 and 8227 cold.

Sandaoling, 31.3 - 2.4.2006

Very impressive system! It is well worth the long journey out here, 'cause the mine railways are extremely busy and offer lots of photographical potential. Of course, depends a lot how the weather is behaving. We were lucky getting 3 sunny days out there, and could even see the snow capped Tianshan Mountains out in the distance. A very fine view. On the way to Hami we passed through Shankou, but nothing of interest could be seen there, except a water crane and -tower. From Hami there is 72 km to go by bus, which takes 90 minutes and costs 10 Yuan. There are at least two hotels by the main street (Z502) in the centre of Sandaoling: One, "Jin Lun", a 100 meters to the east at a traffic light; this is a good hotel and offers very good food too. Here it is also possible to get reloaded your electric equipment. This is not the case at the other hotel, "Hamei", which is to be found by following the Z502 passing the traffic light, and then 400 meters further on the right side of the street. This hotel is a bit filthy and really not to be recommended. We found a lizard in one room … In the compound at the works at Jichangzhan were some dumped locos: SY 0092, JS 8188, 5455, 5473 and 6213. Other locos (partly coaled) in here were: SY 1304, 1720, JS 6261, 6430, 8076, 8080, 8167, 8190, 8225 and 8358. The cab from JS 5708 and 8193 was present too, but 8193 was still running! With another cab I guess … The level of steam action at the open mine is extremely high. We travelled the "passenger" (JS 6208 and two boxcars) in the morning at 8:50 from Dongbolizhan to Xibolizhan. Arriving there we saw 8 JS standing side by side with spoil/overburden trains. For one hour we posted ourselves east of Xibolizhan Yard and counted here 15 steam movements; that's a train every 4 minutes! A great experience too was riding the footplate of JS 8040 for two hours; first up the slag tip, and then - after visiting the stabling point in Xibolizhan - down the mine, where the train got loaded up with spoil. Nice sound banking up from the mine again … The line to the CNR connection in Lishuguan (11 km) runs through rather flat desert, but with the impressive Tianshan Mountains as a backdrop. In case the weather conditions allows you the pretty sight… A pity there seems to be rather few trains here and we did not see any banked trains on this line. JS 8027, 8053 and 8081 seemed to share work here. Working locos: SY 1593, 1718. JS 6203, 6204, 6205, 6208, 6209, 6210, 6224, 6259, 6436, 8027, 8040, 8053, 8055, 8077, 8078, 8089, 8081, 8173, 8189, 8193, 8194, 8195, 8197, 8221, 8222, 8314, 8366, 8368 and 8384.

Yima, 4.4.2006

Nothing moved from the Yima Shed in the morning hours. Everything looked abandoned. In the yard stood JS 5937 from 1960. We were allowed access to the shed, where we found the following engines: JS 8276, 8092, 6215, and SY 1419. In the grass behind the shed could JS 6061 and SY 1435 be found, both in bad condition, especially the SY. The rainy weather just fulfilled the strange, spooky atmosphere at this place.

Yinghao, 4.4.2006

Busy with 3 engines working. No. 8 was newly painted, while no. 15 looking just the opposite, a living wreck, but still running. No. 01 was shunting at the mine at Liangwa and working the line to Xiangyang. At the depot in Huangmen loco 06 and 17 was found by the shed as well as 03 without its tender. Inside the shed were number 14, undergoing some repairs. Still present were 5 boilers/wrecks in various states of destruction. Crews very friendly.

Pingdingshan, 5. - 8.4.2006

Still much steam-action. Yes, the diesels are present, but Pingdingshan and surroundings are still very much dominated by steam. The two SY handled all passenger trains during our visit, while 14 JS did a lot of freight work. Tianzhuang yard is good for at least 3-4 shunting steam locos most of the time. Especially around 9 when 8-10 locos goes off the shed area for line work, a lot is going on. By the way, we walked freely around in the depot area; nobody seems to take any notice. A friendly smile gets you far … A fine observation point in Pingdingshan is the hill just north of Zhongxin station, on which you find a small park with a little pagoda on the top. A fine view from up there; you can follow the steam trains for long distances. The stairs to the top is on the south-eastern side. We stayed at the "Club of Miners" hotel some 600 metres south of Zhongxin st. The QJ's was not doing a lot, but still 3 of them was being used. At 7.4. QJ 6786 (nd) worked a train out of Tianzhuang heading north-east in the early morning. At 8.4. QJ 6450 and 6650 left the depot at 8:22 and worked straight away light to the mine just north-west of Tianzhuang. Two hours later 6450 returned light and after three hours 6650 and JS 8120 came back, only locos … At the depot wall stood QJ 6813 separated from its tender as well as JS 6539 without its tender. In the compound for passenger cars west of Zhongxin we found QJ 7186 (nd), dead. Working locos: SY 1209 and 1687. QJ 6450, 6650 and 6786. JS 5644, 6225, 6253, 6429, 8030, 8031, 8054, 8057, 8062, 8065, 8120, 8338 and 8421. JS 8122 was prepared for test run after overhaul. JS 8068 cold, repaired in shed.


China still has a lot to offer the steam enthusiast, but you have to travel further and further to see fewer and fewer engines. Sandaoling is very much to be recommended, well worth the long journey. Go to Pingdingshan too; this is a lovely system, not yet completely spoiled by the diesels. But go there soon … Da-Gu still offers QJs in line service, but for how long? Liujiaxia may go on with steam for a while; well worth a visit, in spite the lack of trains … Generally the weather was just fine, only being a lot warmer than expected. 28 degrees in Pingdingshan is not usual in the beginning of April, the locals told us too. Thanks to everybody, who helped with maps and information on the internet. Nice flight back to Europe, again Air France Boeing 777. Quick change of airplanes in Paris, now bound for Copenhagen. Home again we found that spring wasn't yet in the air …

Ole Jensen

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© 2006 Ole Jensen