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Steam in China, November, December 2006

by Derek Jenkins

Jianghe, Chongqing, Shibanxi, Sandaoling, Yinghao, Pingdingshan

This is a report of the recent China trip that I did with Adrian Bagnall.
Nothing particularly new although we did see an SY at a previously unreported place North of Chongqing.
Despite the distances to be covered we had resolved that as this was a railway trip we would use the train rather than internal flights and as a result we did some daytime train journeys through some exceptional scenery.

After arriving in Beijing we headed for Xi station and with some time to spare watched the comings and goings at the west of the station with a surprising number of types of loco to be seen including 2 DFH5's on carriage pilot duty. One of these was 0373. We took T9 to Chongqing  finding that  start point and destination on Chinese railway tickets are now also in English. T9 also has it's restaurant car menu in English but it seemed to have lost something in the translation. "Fish with interesting taste" wasn't. On the exit from Xi we saw a BJ double unit but little else of interest. By morning we were around Shiyan. The whole line from here (and thus presumably from  Xiangfan to Chongqing , is being doubled. This is a monster project with numerous deviations, tunnels, embankments and viaducts under construction. On this line freights seemed to be exclusively SS3 and passenger trains SS7C. At Ankang a number of SS3B double units were present. These closely resemble SS4's but are Co-Co-Co-Co. Some of these work to Chonqing and presumably they also work Ankang - Baoji.

Our first sight of steam was at Qinghua where an in steam SY sat in what was probably an Ironworks but too far from the line to get the number. At Daxian there were a number of DF4DF's. They look to be in at least 2 number series as we identified 0351 and 4057. South of here , probably at Lushi there was a DF1 in a Cement Works  and around Moxinpo there are a number of coalmines with narrow gauge systems and some with extensive ropeways. After being on time all the way we were then extensively delayed by problems on the single line and arrived in Chongqing exactly 1 hour late.

Jianghe Coal Railway 21st November

As we headed out of Chongqing it started to rain  and poured for the rest of the day.  We found the mine devoid of any locos but after a few minutes a convoy of 4 trains of empties appeared hauled respectively by 1, 4, 5 and 6 of the unique locos that work this line. They quickly loaded and we were able to photograph them from the road using the tailgate of our vehicle as an umbrella. The staff here are known to have some hostility to visitors. One driver certainly did but the others seemed completely friendly. The rain made it impossible to follow the line into the country so we were restricted to the road and to Taishan where the line goes down the main street. Here there are some good photographic opportunities and the locals were delightful. The 4 train convoy returned but did not stop here for lunch as previously reported. 2 locos then retired to the shed with a 2 train convoy then setting off. With the rain still pouring we set off back to Chongqing

Chongqing Monorail 21st November

Our early return to Chongqing meant that we could ride the monorail. It's not a monorail in the true sense as it is rail less, the cars running on a narrow central concrete platform presumably on rubber wheels. The whole thing is elevated and as it tilts as well riding it over the streets of the city is like being in a low flying helicopter. Certainly not to be missed. They do appear to have had a singular problem at the stations, however, as each one has signs which say "No Tossing". Points on a monorail are always a difficult thing and at the depot the points system would have won Lartigue's approval it being very Listowel  and Ballybunnion.

From here we took N858 to Chengdu which despite it's ambling schedule arrived 10 minutes late.

Despite quickly acquiring a car to take us to Qianwe it was now our problems began as Chengdu was suddenly engulfed in  a impenetrable fog. The motorway was closed and despite the driver's best and sometimes lethal endeavours to use the old road progress was at a snail's pace.  A change of wheel and a punch up with another taxi driver didn't help. We had intended to go to Mojiang en route but this proved impossible but we did just get to Yuejin to see some action on the Shibanxi line as the sun eventually pierced the fog.

Shibanxi 23-25 November

We stayed at The Tian Bo Hotel in Qianwe at a substantially discounted rate to that advertised. Setting out in the dark to get the 07:00 train the third car to pass the hotel was a taxi the driver of which knew our intentions. Indeed we had not the slightest difficulty getting to and from the line during our stay. The taxi fare was 22Y on the meter.

14 was the train engine. We rode the train to Mifeng then photographed the departure before walking up the line. We had hoped a freight would run the intention being to photograph it on the Caiziba curve but no freight came and we were still there waiting for the 10:30 passenger when the rains came with a vengeance and it rained for the rest of the day. We were entertained by a recalcitrant pig refusing to board a down train before returning. At Yuejin we encountered No. 10 which double headed the train back to Shibanxi.

The following day it was still pissing down so we took the 10:30 finding 14 with a train of asbestos sheets and concrete at Xianrenjiao. We rode up to Bagou then back to Jiaoba photographing the following train on the curve near here. More pigs boarded on a wet  return journey. The next day the rains continued so we gave up and headed back to Chengdu staying in the adequate Quanxing Building Hotel. Outside were extensive works for the new Chengdu Metro. It looks like this will be on stilts like Chongqing but if the publicity is to be believed will not be a monorail but still a rail less rubber wheels on concrete job. The same street bizzarely had no less than 26 shops selling theodolites and 8 sex shops -  those kinky Chengdu surveyors!

The following day we took 1012 from Chengdu headed for Hami. There were only 4 occupants of the soft sleeper coach on this wandering train which misses out Lanzhou going from Baoji to Zhongwei and on to Wuwei. Leaving the greenery of Sichuan and waking up in the snow covered wastes was a bit of a shock.

At Wuwei Nan we changed our SS3 for a DF11 but the electrification now goes right on to Jiayuguan. All passengers remain DF11 but freights are now SS3 (sometimes in pairs) or SS3B doubles. Also at Wuwei Nan we saw an SS7E which had an SS9 bodyshape together with some SS8's in red , white and blue livery. As we saw none of these to the west presumably they only run to Lanzhou.

Beyong Jinchang (a dreadfully polluted town) the line is on a new spectacular, sweeping alignment. The old single and double track alignments can still be identified here. There is a freight loco changing point at Zhang Ye where the old steam shed still stands.

Sandaoling 28-30th November

Despite having been 45 minutes late at one stage we arrived early at Hami and were quickly on our way to Sandaoling. We had to knock up the slumbering receptionist of the padlocked  Sandaoling Hotel to get in and still managed to be at Xibolizhan before dawn on a crystal clear still morning with snow on the ground. With JS's on spoil trains coming and going almost all the time it began an exceptional 3 days where we got in 10 hours dawn to dusk photography each day. The first evening a host of trains were on the Xibolizhan tips at sunset.  We started the following day at Dongbolizhan with equally good results and ended at Kengkongzhan where we were rewarded with a storming train at the ultimate time as the sun set. Quite a number of coal and spoil trains came out of the hole this way during our visit and there is also spoil tipping being done in the hole. On each of the first 2 days the empties train ran from Liushuquan. The first day banked with over 60 wagons and on the second a single header (but no less spectacular) with only 24. On the 3rd day this train did not run. On both occasions we saw the train it halted just short of the level crossing so perhaps there has been a recent collision here. The action on the line was so good that we did not bother to visit the works.

The following were seen (all in steam) :- SY 1593, 1718. JS 6203/8/9/10/23/59, 6430/6, 8027/40/55/77/8/81/, 8167/73/89/93/5,

8221, 8358/68.

Heading back to Hami we caught T198. We had organised soft sleepers on this from Urumchi because Hami had no sleeper allocation. This was a wise move as upgrading would have been impossible as the sleeper was full. We hit the Lanzhou pollution as far out as Hekou Nan and pretty grim it was. At Lanzhou K197 to Lhasa was about to leave with a pair of DF4D on the front. From Lanzhou towards Baoji nearly all freight we saw were double headed by an SS1 and an SS3.

Yinghao 2nd December

We staggered off the train at Sanmenxia Xi at 05:12 the only people to get off there. This is a freight loco change point in the middle of nowhere. As we had a car organised we disappointed the huge gaggle of taxi drivers who were waiting for non existant business outside the station even at this hour. The drive to Sanmenxia itself was down a vast, empty well lit highway and after an early breakfast we headed to Yinghao.When I first visited here the concrete road was all but complete and predictions were that coal lorries on it would finish off the railway. Now the coal lorries have finished off the concrete road in many places and the train still runs. On arrival at the shed 15 was being serviced. An apparently unnumbered loco was in light steam and 08 was dead. Another loco (it could have been more than one) was lying around in bits with its boiler being retubed in the open. 15 had some blocked tubes and when these could not be cleared with a steam lance an oxy acetylene torch was brought out to perform the task. Such an item near a pressure vessel caused us to make a sharp withdrawal and by this time 09 had arrived and was being watered and having its sand box refilled from the antiquated sanding platform. The engine lubricating oil was obviously too thick so a fire was started and the can plonked in the middle of it in a huge cloud of smoke. 09 then headed to the mine with 4 empty wagons but expired in a ball of steam on the climb back despite the attentions of a crew member sitting on the boiler trying to get the sanders to work. Eventually it struggled to the junction and 2 more runs with 3 wagons were alright. 15 then appeared but didn't look well taking over the mine shuttle. 09 took the loaded train to CNR but when it returned it had to go to the mine as 15 had expired there and the two double headed 3 loaded wagons. 09  was despatched to CNR leaving there at 15:00 as we left for Pingdingshan We did not have time to look in at Mianchi but crossed the Tiamen Silica sand line which is still in use as the rails were shiny. Freight traffic on CNR west of Luoyang now sees a good number of SS3B's with the 6K's less in evidence. There is now a new motorway open which got us from the centre of Luoyang to The ShenMa Hotel in PDS in 2 hours.

Pingdingshan 3-6 December.

Steam here continues to hold up well with 12 JS and 2 SY seen on the line. The 2 in steam QJ did not rouse themselves from the shed. Of the 5 diesels we only saw 4 on the line on any one day. Traffic was generally heavy. Diesels are certainly not preferred to steam on the heavier turns , for instance on 3rd December JS 8031 brought a very lengthy train of empties from CNR passing straight through Tianshuang yard without stopping. The following day there were 3 steam departures from Tianshuang with empties before a diesel even stuck its nose out of the shed. The line between Tianshuang and Shenchi is being doubled and new road construction means that new bridges are under construction on all lines west of Shenchi. The slacks for these had an advantage on the line to Mine 1 as trains were shorter, 4 - all steam hauled going up before 13:00 on 4 December. The Passengers were SY save that the morning train from Mine 13 was JS on 6 December. All the locos were in excellent condition and only problem was the usual PDS grey days.

Locos seen :- QJ 6450, 6813 (dumped), 7186, JS 5644, 6225/53, 6429, 6539 (dumped), 8030/1/54/62/8, 8122, 8338, 8421, SY 1209, 1687. DF5G 5121, DF10D 0060/87/8, GKD3B 0003.

We then motored back to Luoyang taking K270  back to Beijing

Derek Jenkins

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2006 Derek Jenkins