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JALAINAUR - HEGANG - HUANAN - JIXI - TIEFA - YINGHAO - YIMA - PINGDINGSHAN, MAY 2006

by Colin Martindale

 


This was my first visit to China since a 1987 tourist trip left me with memories of JFs at several industrial sites and RMs on local passenger trains out of Xian. But enough of the "good old days". My flight from Canada got me into Beijing 15 minutes early at 14:45 (Sunday May 6) and after some negotiation I took a cab to the Station Hotel (Beijing Xi Station) for Y200. Too much, but I couldn't be bothered to argue it down futher. Hotel Y260 inc. breakfast. A dumpling shop across the street produced a basket of dumplings and a beer for Y5 for supper. Next morning I found a wall to sit on at the west end of the station to add to my "modern traction" photo collection. After an hour and a half and 28 decent photos I felt it was time to move on; an officious railway employee confirmed this by telling me to clear off! I took two buses to the Beijing Railway Museum and later a taxi to the airport for a flight to Hailar. After being told to wait for an hour I was informed the flight was cancelled and the next one was on Tuesday morning; also I couldn't transfer my ticket, bought in Canada, I'd have to buy another. With little confidence that Tuesday's flight would really happen I took airport bus #3 (Y16) to Beijing Main Station and bought a hard sleeper to Jalainaur for Y375 leaving at 10:35 the next morning. On reflection Tuesday's flight would have landed me in Hailar just in time to miss this train. Overnight in the Youth Hostel across from the station at Y100 for a double room, all the singles being taken.

May 8/9 Train 1301 left dead on time and arrived in Jalainur 30˝ hours later at 16:53. A taxi took me to a bed and breakfast place, Y100, and then to the pit; what a site! This really is one vast hole in the ground. I spent a couple of hours watching from a view point on the approach road after which the taxi picked me up by appointment.

May 10/11 Windy, cool and sunny. Walked north to the mine railway and then along the tracks to east. Just missed a train from the northern mines on the underpass line (sounded impressive) and after waiting half-a-hour in a cold wind for another gave up and walked on the main office area. 1126, 1416, 1424, 1618, and 1688 present for work at deep mines. After wandering around taking pictures and video for a while I was waved off by a manger type. Since I was heading for the washing plant by then he contented himself with standing, hands on hips, and glaring. No request was made for money for a permit. Not much was happening at the washer so I headed to the open pit mine for the rest of the day. I spent the day scrabbling from level to level getting the best angles for sun and engines. Anywhere from seven to a dozen trains in view at a time, an amazing experience. As a warning to other visitors; they do some blasting in the pit so if a guy in orange vest and hard hat asks you to move along it is a good idea to do so!
Back to the station at 17:00 having spent 10 of the last 24 hours in the mine. Hard sleeper on N92 to Harbin, onwards by 2121 to Jiamusi and 6541 to Hegang arriving about 19:00 in near dark to the sound of steam whistles. Long Yun hotel, across the station square to the right, Y253/night with breakfast. The hotel was hosting a Russian party who were the only Europeans I saw in three weeks and my only chance to speak English until I returned to Beijing.

May 12 Woken by whistles at 05:30, vast selection of dishes for breakfast including assorted dumplings and fried dough. Found mine railway shed with little trouble, photographed everything in sight and headed back to the mine railway station where a train was just being waved away. I jumped on the rear steps as it started to move figuring I'd find out where it was going in due course. A ride on a steam hauled train is not to be missed. I took the train to the second mine after crossing the CNR tracks (Xing'an). One large and one small LEW arrived and shunted yard and a pair of SYs did the same shortly afterwards. A track laying gang was also at work. All this activity was enough to convince me to let the return train go without me. The crew of the large LEW, 1502, invited me into cab; we went down the line to Fuli, picked up a rake of loaded coal cars and brought them back. After shunting the yard at Xing'an it was time for lunch. They took me to the crew mess and ordered masses of food plus beer and wouldn't let me pay for anything; I distributed postcards of Calgary, Canadian coins and Canada flag pins and we were best of pals. Back to 1502, and we made ourselves comfortable and had a nap for half-an-hour! By which time the yard needed to be shunted again and the loaded coal cars taken to the CNR exchange sidings. Finally they took me back to Fuli and I got the passenger train back to Hegang. A final look at the shed and back to the hotel - a grand day out! Pleasantly warm and sheltered form the wind in the cab of a LEW!

May 13 Train 6548 at 05:50 to Jaimusi had been cancelled and I couldn't find a bus so I took 6544 at 08:10. (at least I got a second vast breakfast). Arrived about 09:30 and as expected there was no train to Huanan until 14:55. Found a bus for Y15 from the left side of the station. Hotel on northeast side of town square Y120 B&B. Out to NG railway, 41 and 43 in steam but not active, 011 locked in shed cold. Waited a long time for 168 to arrive on a PW train. Shunted yard, cleaned fire and went to sleep along with the other two. Overcast with cool wind.

May 14 Out to railway by taxi at 07:30, no sign of railcar. Hazy sun, strong cold wind. Young woman who was studying English offered to ask for me but got no sensible answers. As we came out of the station the railcar left from the goods yard!! Decided to cut my losses and found a bus to Jixi. Y14.5. Half-an-hour down the road I was awoken from a doze and bundled on to another bus where Y18 was demanded for the rest of the ride. I was expecting to pay about Y30 for the trip but this was certainly a strange way to collect the fares! Stayed at hotel on corner of station square for Y168/night. Taxi to Hengshan which was very quite, but it was Sunday afternoon; a couple of trains arrived and shunted C64s to the CNR yard plus there was some shunting by CNR. Took a bus to Lishu but couldn't find the mine, saw a single SY in the distance from the bus.

May 15 Left hotel at 06:30 by taxi to Dongchang for a busy "morning gathering" with locomotives coming and going all the time. Including 0863 and 1544 topping and tailing a long rake of cars towards Zhengyang. Clear skies and moderate wind, becoming warm later. Most of the locomotives had dispersed by 09:00 so I had breakfast in the local market. Then spent the rest of day chasing round the Dongcheng-Beicheng-Nanchang triangle and managing to be in the wrong place all too often. Managed enough good shots and video make me happy.

May 16 Up in a more leisurely fashion and off to Hengshan to watch trains going up the hill to Dongshantun. Sunny, but with strong wind blowing dust and grit around. At 08:30 1095 came down with loaded C64s. At 08:35 1369 went up with two car loads of used concrete ties followed by 1344 with a load of rails 10 minutes later. At 09:00 1340 went up light engine and came back with loaded C64s at 09:30. 0804 went up at 10:05 after which a long hiatus followed relived only by the sound of a train working hard on the Shanan line. The dog meat restaurant by the level-crossing looked a bit lavish so I was able to resist! About noon I got a taxi to Didao Heibei (Y30) and, after consulting the map, the driver appeared to know where I wanted to go. As we sailed past an obvious washing plant and on up the valley my confidence wavered but with an electrified NG line on the right I wasn't too concerned. He finally dropped me at a cross-road in a small village with dirt streets and a scruffy market; at least there was warm beer and bananas for lunch. I walked to a coal mine across the valley and spent a delightful half-hour photographing shunting on a 600mm gauge electric line. Wagons were regularly becoming derailed and being put back on the line with great hilarity by the workers. Eventually a manger arrived, stopped the fun and told me to leave. I did, via the double track main line, which lead me to the washing plant. I was passed by a train of empties and stopped off at the shed where to only employee was friendly. Three more electric locomotives were at the shed and one more at the washing plant. SY 1213 and 1446 were in the standard gauge yard and, as I took pictures of the latter, a smartly dressed fellow encouraged me to climb into the cab. We were joined by his buddy and they chatted to the crew. His buddy left and the rest of us took a string of self-dumping cars down to Lijing for loading and brought them back. My new friend turned out to be a plainclothes policeman, he showed me his badge. More Canada pins and postcards were distributed. Bus back to Jixi after a taxi refused to take the fare (Y2). Hard sleeper on train K412 to Chanchung at 21:15.

May 17 A day in transit: arrived Chanchung 10:30, (SY 3026 displayed in Shengli Park to south of station) then onto Teiling at 15:30, taxi to Diaobingshan arriving shortly after dark. Station hotel for Y100/night - a slice of old china with wardens on each floor and thermos flasks of boiling water. Clean and comfortable enough and there was a spittoon conveniently placed in the corner of the room!

May 18 Across to station at 08:00 and watched three trains arrive. Took the first one out and got off at first stop to video others passing while walking back to Daiobingshan (2 km). Hazy sun with very strong wind, blew the tripod and camera over even though I had rocks on the legs to hold it in place. Almost all traffic appeared to be going to/from Daming branch. Most lengthy coal trains were hauled by diesels but some steam hauled. Locomotives seen SY 1722 (pass), 1770 (pass) 1751 (coal empties), 1767 (single self-dump car), 1772 (with crane). Walked up to C&W works were high quality work is being done on both carriages and wagons, didn't have time to visit the shed (a mistake I fear).

May 19 Watched passenger trains at station before the 08:10 bus to Shenyang (Y25, 1.5 hours). Got K125/K128 to Luoyang at 11:50. Note this train leaves from North station not Main station were the bus terminates, had I known I could have got of the bus at North station and saved a mad dash back in a taxi.

May 20 Arrived Luoyang 08:53 and left on train 1432 at 09:47 for 48 min run to Mianchi. Mini bus to Yinghao, found despite help from a local bus driver, arrived there mid-afternoon. Hotel on the bend in the road, Y60 night with hot water, if you wait for the tank to heat up. Explored coal unloader and turning wye on foot, looked like there had been no trains for several days, cool, overcast and threatening rain. Sat by CNR line for a while but couldn't get excited by Shaoshans. The hotel owner's son took me to the internet café in the evening and showed me a crude sketch of a steam engine and train indicating he would help me arrange to see the line the next day.

May 21 Heavy rain at 04:00 and still raining at 08:00. Came downstairs to find the family at breakfast - no offers of food but when I confirmed that I wanted to see steam train the owner got out his own minivan for the trip up the valley. Just beyond Xiangyang, we were about to head for Liangjiawajing, when 15 appeared on the line from Yinghaokuaung. We followed it back to Xiangyang and then down to Liangjiawaing where it took water. We then visited the shops at Yinghaokuang where 03, 06 and 08 were cold and an unidentified C2 was being overhauled in the shop. Returned to Liangjiawajing and got a ride on 15 up to Xiangyang (coins and Canada pins for crew) where 17 had appeared and was shunting. 15 then took a train down to Yinghao and we gave chase getting good video and stills at the unloading point. Picked up bag from hotel and took video of 15 with next train at level-crossing outside town. Rain finally tapered off to a few spots. Mini bus to Mianchi and regular bus to Yima. Brand new hotel in western part of town with posted rate of Y338 but opening special of Y180 B&B. Taxi to station and walked to mine railway shops. JS 8092 in full steam but with no work to do, 5937 dumped. 8087, 8275 and 8276 were locked in the shops along with a steam crane, no sign of any other locomotives. The track showed there had been no significant traffic for a while.

May 22 Taxi back to station but the next train to Luoyang was at 16:00 so local bus back into town, flagged down Luoyang bus on the highway and arrived only an hour and a half after the train to Pingdingshan left! Took another bus arriving in Pingding at 13:30. Stayed at the Jinshawan Hotel which was perfectly okay at Y160 and only a 10 minute walk from Zhonxin station. Walked there and then up to the freight loop which is 200m further north. Walked down the track through Shenxi (where the control office crew insisted on me taking their photos) and on to workshops. Got excellent stills and video of locomotives going on-shed with perfect evening light. Walked round shops, inside and out, with no problems and nobody asking for money/permits. Bus back to hotel.

May 23 Bus to workshop; watched locomotives coming off-shed and heading for work. By 10:00 all those that were coming out were out and the gates closed. No QJs were let out but 6450 was moving locomotives in the yard. Hot and sunny, a chance to work on my tan! Walked up to Shanxi passed by JS8057 and DF10D0060 double-heading a long train of oil tanks. Took the afternoon train to Baofeng and back, returning about 18:00. Very enjoyable apart from the metal grills on the windows. Y6.50 each way.

May 24 Hazy sun and hopes for another nice day. Took 06:00 train to Shisankuang (Mine 13) and back returning at 10:30. Nap at the hotel waiting for sun to move round on the uphill section between Tianzhuang and Zhonxin. Out about 12:00 and foolishly forgot wet-weather gear; it rained all afternoon! Sheltered with crossing keepers just west of Zhonxin on steepest part of hill and was rewarded by JS8062 taking three attempts to get its load of empties over the summit. 8062 had only 10 empty cars but both JS8013 and DF10D0088 were able to breast the summit at a reasonable speed with loads of 13 cars each.

May 25 Light rain. Due the small number of trains available and long journey time I took a bus to Zhengzhou. It was still raining when I arrived and I kind of got sucked into the rather fancy Zhengzhou Hotel across from the bus and railway station for Y258/night, although the posted rate was Y360. Dumped my bags and came down to look for a way to Xingyang. The hotel busboy found a taxi for Y100 which might not have been too outrageous. In Xingyang we stopped out side a government building and the driver announced, "this is it", meanwhile the security guard was busy trying to chase us away! I said I wanted the station which made things worse since the closest station (that is open) is in Zhengzhou. Finally it got through that I wanted the station in Xingyang and he dropped me there, much perplexed! From the station it was only a short walk to the brickworks railway. Predictably, given the amount of rain in the past few days, the line wasn't working. 207 was in light steam and 07 was in the shop undergoing repairs. The couple of people that I saw paid me no attention. As the rain had ceased I walked the line out to the quarry and thoroughly enjoyed the hike. Slipping and sliding around the quarry in the sloppy red clay demonstrated why they can't work when it is wet. Climbed the embankment from the quarry to the main road and hitched a ride back to Zhengzhou with couple in a large van. They would take no payment beyond taking photos of themselves with a crazy, mud-splattered gricer!

May 26 07:30 train to Beijing Xi, fog, mist and rain all the way. A little souvenir shopping and spent the evening with Rob and Yuehong to whom many thanks for dinner, bed and my first proper conversation in three weeks! May 27 A leisurely morning of raiding Rob's library, breakfast and some more gift shopping before my flight back to Canada; close enough to on time as makes no difference.

All-in-all a fabulous trip. 113 steam locomotive were seen, not including remains of several dismantled beyond recognition. Probably 100 were in working order and at least 80 in steam. The greatest surprise, based on reports I had read, was Teifa where the steam activity was much more interesting than expected; and DFH3s probably count as vintage diesels by now! Dongchang at Jixi was great but the other locations, cab rides not withstanding, were a little sparse. Pingdingshan was fabulous, the hill from Tianzhuang to Zhonxin is perfect for afternoon shots and watching the engines "going to bed" places the sun far more kindly than in the morning. On the narrow gauge only Yinghao lived up to my hopes. Had I persevered at Huanan I might have been rewarded, or I might have had a frustrating time looking for trains that weren't running. Zhalainur was outstanding the only distraction being the wind, but what can one expect on the Mongolian steps?!

Summary of locomotives seen:

Jalainaur
SY 0471, 0794, 0867, 0957, 0958, 1079, 1119, 1126, 1192, 1234, 1240, 1257, 1258, 1285, 1317, 1371, 1375, 1376, 1401, 1410, 1416, 1424, 1440, 1445, 1449, 1450, 1586, 1600, 1618, 1618, 1644, 1644, 1650, 1663, 1664, 1678, 1681, 1685, 1689, 1690

Hegang
LEW EL1 1501, 1502
LEW EL2 2312, 2313, 3202, 3204, 3212
SY 0498, 0555, 0635, 0799, 0905, 1030, 1370, 1498, 1685, 3013, 3014, 3023, 3024

Jixi (Hengshan)
SY 1340, 1344, 1368, 1369

Jixi (Dongchang)
SY 0237, 0590, 0733, 0807, 0863, 1051, 1058, 1351, 1544

Jixi (Daido Hebei)
SY 0407, 1213, 1446

Tiefa
DF4 7721, 7754, 7755
DFH3 2003, 2005, 2009
SY 1751, 1770, 1772

Pingdingshan
DF10D 0060, 0087, 0088
GKD3B 0003
JS 6225, 6253, 6429, 6539, 8030, 8031, 8042, 8054, 8057, 8062, 8065, 8068, 8120, 8253, 8338, 8421
QJ 6450, 6786, 6813, 7186
SY 1209, 1687

Yima
JS 5937, 8087, 8092, 8275, 8276

Colin Martindale

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© 2006 Colin Martindale