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Steam in China, October/ November 2006

by Markus Mayer

Weihe, Jixi, Huanan, Sancha, Yemao, Huangjinggou, Shibanxi, Yinghao, Pingdingshan, Yima and Xingyang

 

My seventh and longest china trip until now took about 45 days. As I am not really a friend of industrial action but prefer lines which are situated in interesting landscapes I had to travel long distances between my destinations which caused a main part of the costs. But most of you know that relaxing in a sleeper for a day or two after running many km along the line can sometimes be necessary. I did the whole trip on my own expect the last five days when I joined Bernd’s FarRail group.

 

 

Beijing, 12/10/2006

 

I arrived with flight CA 932 from Frankfurt. Took an airport shuttle bus (you’ll find them on the lower floor) to Beijing main station (16 Y, journey took about one hour) where I met Bernd’s famous guide Mrs. Zhang Yi Lan who handed out my ordered soft sleeper ticket to Weihe (486Y).

 

 

Weihe, 13-16/10/2006

 

Arrival in the early morning. I went to the ng station for finding out what’s happening and checked in into the hotel around the corner. As line service should be over now I just mention the basic data: C2 54 (in good external and technical condition) hauled four returns per day to Baliwan. The trains included two YZ passenger cars and a luggage car. Sometimes they brought some additional freight cars from/to Zhenzhu. Trains have always been used by many factory employees and farmers (no tourists). As the engine shed was always locked I unfortunately couldn’t see whether some other locos have survived in Weihe.

 

 

From Weihe to Jixi, 16/10/2006

 

12:08 at noon I took train 1451 to Mudanjiang (hard seat, 20Y). I continued to Jixi with train N71 at 5:20 p.m. (hard seat, 27Y).

 

 

Jixi, 16-21/10/2006

 

I arrived in Jixi in the evening. Tried to check out the conditions in the well known Long Fu Binguan when a pretty 21 years old girl from the hotel staff was already pulling me into the elevator for showing me the two-room-suite for 200Y per day. I asked for a cheaper room but they told me (she had already got some recruitment by her colleague) the standard rooms would have been sold out (the same as every time). After bargaining down to 160Y I agreed. No breakfast but hot water 24 hours per day.

 

 

Chengzihe, 17-18/10/2006

 

I took bus No.3 from Jixi station (fare was 1Y) until its terminus in Chengzihe just one hundred meters to the south of the triangle. Traffic level was high as expected. Unfortunately, there was no train to Jixi Xi one day due to track works. In my opinion the landscape is not very inspiring in this area. The morning shift at Dongchang station between 7.30 and 9 o’ clock was by far the best.

 

I got the following locos:
SY 1437,1544,0733,237,0590,1351,1058

 

 

Hengshan, 20-21/10/2006

 

I went to Hengshan by bus, too. From Jixi station I took by bus No.1 until its terminus at Jixi University. From here I continued with bus No.27 until Hengshan CNR. In my opinion much better than Chengzihe! Hengshan offers real line action combined with interesting landscapes. The morning shift around 7.30 at Xinhengshan station is worth a visit, too.

 

One day I got five uphill trains to Zhongxin (all single headed, no banker) between 8 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. Another day I saw two single headed and a single headed and banked train. I was waiting about 300m above the second level crossing. No problem to see the banker in this position, also if train would be double headed. I walked along the line to Xiaohengshan where SY 0804 was pushing spoil trains to the tip.

 

All in all I saw: SY 1340,0341,1095,0746,0804

 

 

From Jixi to Huanan, 21/10/2006

 

I walked to Jixi bus station which is situated about 300 m to the west of the railway station. I got a bus to Huanan at 1 p.m. (26 Y, trip took about two hours).

 

 

Huanan, 21-28/10/2006

 

I gave a call to a friend who was already my driver for several times. His name is Er Lin and I can highly recommend him as he is always in time and very helpful by asking the railway staff for the times. His mobile phone number is 138 4549 4168. We went to the ng station where I saw that the former stabling point was completely pulled down and the tracks have been lifted (excluding the turntable for the railcar). The facilities have changed into the shed now. No problem to ask for the times inside. Went back to the Bao Li binguan for checking in (the locals call it Da Bao Li as Huanan has a Xiao Bao Li, too, I paid 100 Y per day).

 

Unfortunately there was not much traffic on the line due to a low output in the mine. About 2 to 4 trains in daylight. Some days they had 3, some days just 2 locos in steam. I usually went by taxi to Tuoyaozi every morning and walked along the line towards Lixin. In the afternoon my driver picked me up in Tuoyaozi again.

 

Locos in service (they changed sometimes):
C2 168,011,043,044

A local in Tuoyaozi seems to improve his salary: Foreigners have to pay 50 Y if they want to go from Tuoyaozi to Lixin, but just between September 15th and December 15th! Reason is, that the money is needed for paying the firemen if there is a fire in the fields above Tuoyaozi. Locals have not to pay for sure because they have a special permission. You don't believe that? I didn't, too so I refused to pay and... nothing happened....I was told that a group with guide had already paid...
Two nights I slept in a railway workers house in Lixin. Here is the (in)official price list if you're interested to find accommodation here:


20Y per night (just for sleeping there)
50Y for each meal

If you come with a guide you have to pay the fix price of 200 Y, per day! Not bad, isn't it.....?

 

 

From Huanan to Yizhou, 28-30/10/2006

 

I took train 6451 to Jiamusi at 09.55 a.m. (hard seater, 4,5 Y). Here I caught train K340 to Beijing (soft sleeper, 568 Y). I went by taxi to Beijing Xi (40 Y) where I got train T5 to Liuzhou (soft sleeper, 705 Y). Arrival in Liuzhou in the late afternoon. I walked to the bus station which you can find about 500 m far away from the railway station. It is situated in a street which runs in a right angle to the railway station. I got a bus to Yizhou at 6.20. p.m. (30 Y, trip took a bit more than one hour via the expressway). I got a room in the Paradise Hotel (sorry, I don’t know the Chinese name, 175 Y per day incl. a superb breakfast). It is situated about 200 m from the bus station at a big road junction. The best hotel on my trip!

 

 

Sancha-Luocheng, 31/10-02/11/2006

 

31/10: I took a bus at 7 a.m. to Sancha. Buses leave the bus station close to the railway crossing every hour at x :00 (8Y,90 min ride).I was waiting in the river bed close to the well known bridge when JS 8353 arrived from Luocheng with some 15 freight cars and no passenger cars at 10.00 a.m. After the train had passed I walked northwards along the line to find a position for taking the northbound train on its way back to Luocheng. Some two km south of Chayan I found a reasonable position from a new railway bridge which was still in construction. According to Dick Walker this is the new high-speed railway from Liuzhou to Guiyang which will have a connection with the line to Luocheng! The JS came back at 11.30 a.m. with some ten freight cars. I followed the train towards Chayan when SY 0371 arrived some 20 minutes later from the fertilizer factory. She did some shunting movement at Chayan before JS 8353 left the station towards Luocheng at 12.20, including the passenger cars which had been dropped here on the way to Sancha. After the SY ran to the factory again I walked back to Sancha for getting a bus back to Yizhou.

 

01/11: Bus departure at 08.40 a.m. towards Luocheng (11Y, 40 min ride). I left the bus behind Siba at the level crossing and decided to walk northwards along the line. As I didn’t find a single reasonable photo position I arrived at Luocheng shed at 10.30 a.m. Here I saw the following engines:

 

JS 8284, cold, in good condition
JS 8286, cold, in good condition
JS 8374 and 8377, oou, in bad condition
JS 8376, in steam

 

The railway workers told me that there would be a train to the northern mines at 11.15 a.m. which would come back at four p.m. After a hurry I found a very good position some 1 km to the north of Luocheng station. Sun was in a good angle and in this section the line is surrounded by very impressive karst rock formations. The JS came just in time at 11.20 chimney first with four coal empties. I went back to Luocheng station for waiting for the train from Sancha but it didn’t arrive… At 2.30 p.m. I decided to go back northwards. After some two or three km I found several good positions in this area in which I would wish more trains. The line describes many curves which allows to get the sun in a good angle every time. The JS arrived at 3.20 with its four loaded coal cars. I returned back to Luocheng for getting a bus to Yizhou. I met a cop in Luocheng but he was absolutely not interested in me. Maybe Luocheng city is not off limits for foreigners?

 

02/11: I took the bus at 09.40 a.m. which I left at Siba level crossing again. I hoped to get the nb train from Sancha this day so I walked southwards along the line. After some three km I found a good spot just opposite to the embankment dam at Siba. After waiting for more than three hours in which nothing happened the light became more in more wrong. I continued my way to the south for finding a new position when I heard a steam whistle behind me! Indeed JS 8376 approached tender first with a freight from Luocheng at 3.20 p.m. I waited until sunset but neither the mixed nor the freight returned…I walked to Siba and went back to Yizhou.

 

 

Yemao Railway, 03/11/06

 

After the disappointments due to the lack of trains at Luocheng I decided to spend a day in Yemao. I went by taxi to Yemao station (20Y) and walked to the nylon factories which are situated in an area which is thickly white powdered with residues from the manufacturing process…. Nobody was interested in me when I walked through the factory. I found the following locos:

 

SY 0917, in steam, tender first towards Yemao

SY 1702, cold, in good condition, chimney towards Yemao

 

I had a bit conversation with a very friendly worker who brought me to his extremely friendly boss who invited me into his office. After he knew what I was doing there he immediately started to telephone with several people for finding out where in the region steam has survived, too. He found out that Laibin still should have two SY for industrial operation. It seems they are running to places which are called FungWang and BaYiKuang. He also told me that Liujia (west of Hechi) still could have two SY but he wasn’t sure.

 

Steam traffic in Yemao was on a very low level. There was a single shunting operation from the upper to the lower factory at noon. But that was sufficient to get the one and only good shot in which I was interested in as there is a gigantic karst mountain between the two factories which gives a very scenic backdrop. Rest of the one km line was completely uninteresting as the fields have been very high which made photography senseless.

 

 

From Yizhou to Weiyuan, 04-05/11/06

 

In the morning of November 4th I took train 1319 to Chongqing (75Y, departure at 08.14 a.m.). Fortunately I could get a hard sleeper berth from Hechi (additional 64Y). Arrival at Chongqing station in the next morning where I got train 5602 towards Zigong (26Y). Between Rongchang and GuangShunChang station I spotted SY 1661 in steam close to a shunting yard and a coal mine. Arrival at Zigong station in the afternoon where I got a bus into town and from there to Weiyuan (due to the perfect road conditions the 20 km-trip took about two hours, not bad with at least 40 people in 16-seater…). I got a room in a scruffy hotel (120Y, forgotten the name) which should be the best one in the area according to locals. Maybe it was the best one 10 years ago…

 

 

Huangjinggou, 06/11/06

 

Left the hotel in the early morning and took a taxi towards HJG. The trip to BaDongQiao took just about 20 minutes as I had a very motivated driver…The C2 crossed the bridge just in time at 7.30 a.m. with 22 coal cars towards NiHe and returned back at 8 o’clock. Although the weather was good I had no chance to get a shot in sun as the line was completely in the shadow. Definitely not the ideal season to visit this line but my last chance for sure. I chased the train to HJG where the train arrived at 8.30. Due to previous reports about the “friendly” railway management I refused to visit the shed. The loco was in disastrous condition. I even couldn’t identify its number… We drove back to Weiyuan where I had to pay 120Y to the driver for a bit more than three hours. The future for the line is definitely bad, maybe it’s closed already?

 

 

From Weiyuan to Qianwei, 07/11/06

 

There is a bus connection from Weiyuan to Leshan. I left Weiyuan in the morning. The journey took perhaps three hours (fee was around 25Y). From Leshan I got a bus to Qianwei (11Y), very quick connection. The Tian Bo hotel offers fair quality and service (220Y per night have been definitely too much).

 

 

Shibanxi, 08-15/11/06

 

I took the first bus in the morning at 6.20 so I had sufficient time to get the first train at 7. The bus connection to Shibanxi is very frequented. Within the next days I did some line siding between Mifeng and Bagou. My preferred section are the first km above Mifeng where the locos have to produce a delightful thrash for accelerating the trains. There is a big difference between their technical and visual condition. They get a respectable speed in the gradient towards Caiziba without problems.

 

Traffic was as reported: C2 07 was in use for the passengers, C2 10 and 14 hauled the freights. Freight traffic was very high! The morning freight which was normally scheduled after the first passenger ran every day, incl. week ends. The second freight left Shibanxi between the 2nd and the 3rd passenger and ran every second day. The pathway along the line seems to become a more and more important traffic route as there was sometimes an heavy motorbike traffic. Don’t wonder when they spoil your shots, especially if you take videos. Fortunately the drivers don’t seem to know yet that railway enthusiasts can be a valuable source of capital (as in Huanan, where nearly every driver stops for offering his service which can become a bit annoying after several days). The feared hordes of tourists haven’t been there, just a few friendly single travellers.

 

After three days I decided to change my accommodation and transferred my basis into the doctors guesthouse in Mifeng which I got recommended by Jan Willem van Dorp. That’s the authentic place to be! I got a clean room for 25Y incl. three warm and tasty meals per day in a hundred percent real Chinese environment. It can happen that you have to bargain a bit especially for the meals but it is by far the most cheapest and practically way. In addition it’s a very nice way to become awoken by a whistle of a C2 which drives past five meters away from your bed. The friendly doctor offers a perfectly temperated shower in the coal cellar surrounded by his impressive pin-up collection…Okay, he has no heating in the rooms which can become a bit cold in winter but with about 20 degrees in November I had no problem with that within the six days of my stay. Highly recommendable! Weather was as expected: 2 days sunny, 3 days foggy and 3 days cloudy, but no rain. The doctor told me that May would be the sunniest month of the year (but I can imagine it could become really hot outside).

 

 

From Qianwei to Sanmenxia, 16-17/11/2006

 

Buses from Qianwei to Chengdu ShiYang bus station are running every hour (45Y, comfortable journey is about 3 hours). From ShiYang I took bus 28 until its terminus at the railway station (1Y, trip took one hour). In the extremely overcrowded ticket counter area I luckily got an hard sleeper ticket for train 2098 to Sanmenxia (199Y, departure at 6.55 p.m.). Arrival in Sanmenxia next day in the afternoon. I decided to take my basis here as I didn’t know anything about accommodation possibilities in Yinghao. I got a room in a hotel just opposite of Sanmenxia station (120Y) but cannot recommend it as it has been extremely loud due to many people who used it just for several hours until their train departures. They checked in and out 24 hours per day producing an horrible noise. Don’t forget your earplugs!

 

 

Yinghao, 18-19/11/2006

 

18/11: There is a good bus connection between Sanmenxia and Yima/Mianchi via Yinghao (6Y, 50 minutes ride). From Yinghao I took the bus to Huangmen (2Y) where I got C2 03 in steam in the shed. At 9.15 a.m. she went to Xiangyang light engine for hauling a few trains from Liangjiawajing (about one train per hour). C2 08 arrived at 10 in Xiangyang with some empties from Yinghao and continued service on the Liangjiawajing line. 03 left Xiangyang at 12.20 with a loaded train to Yingao where she arrived at 1.15 p.m.

 

The loco crews asked for money (they didn’t collect coins!) and cigarettes and told me that I was not allowed to take photos when I refused to pay. I asked them why I should pay but they had no answer so I continued. Who began giving money to them and why?

 

19/11: Next day I visited the shed in Huangmen again. I had no problem to enter the maintenance hall where C2 06 was in works. I saw the following locos, too:

 

C2 08: cold, was in service the day before

C2 09: cold, in good external condition

C2 15: seems to be oou but was complete

 

C2 03 and a C2 without number (in horrible condition) were in service between Liangjiawajing and Yinghao. One time 03 had to tow the numberless loco which had been broken down on the mainline with its empties towards Xiangyang.

 

 

From Sanmenxia to Pingdingshan, 20/11/2006

 

After one day break due to the weather I took train T232 to Luoyang (20Y, departure at 8.49 p.m.). Here I met Bernd with his FarRail group and continued my trip with them together. We had a charter bus to PDS where we arrived in the late evening.

 

 

The FarRail part

 

Please look at Bernds FarRail homepage for getting further information about our destinations. We went to PDS (much steam traffic, just a few diesels), Xingyang (break due to heavy rainfalls), Yima (just some dead JS in the shed) and Yinghao (busy, C2 09 and 03 in service).

 

 

From Sanmenxia to Beijing Airport, 25-26/11/2006

 

In the afternoon of the 25th I left the group in Yinghao and went by bus to Sanmenxia. Waiting for my train I spotted a shunting JS in the yard. As Bernd could find out a bit later the JS belongs to Sanmenxia-Hubin. From Sanmenxia I took train K118 to Beijing Xi (120Y, departure at 5.57 p.m.). For some additional 93Y I could get a hard sleeper berth. Arrival at Beijing Xi in the next morning. I took a taxi to a place some km away from the station which is called Xidan (15Y). Here is a terminus of the Airport Shuttle buses which bring you to the airport for 16Y.

 

 

Conclusion

 

At first I’d like to thank everybody who helps with its knowledge and experience to realize such independent trips like this one. Please keep on your brilliant work! Comments or questions to my trip report are welcome. My E-Mail address is QJ6911@web.de

 

A special thanks to Bernd Seiler, Jan Willem van Dorp and Dick Walker for providing their information about several lines. After the Jitong era there is just a little rest of enthusiasts who are making the effort to travel through China for getting the little rest of real steam. The masses from Reshui are history! Within all these weeks I just met a handful of fans, less than in Jingpeng on a single day.

 

I would say that all the lines I’ve seen were definitely worth the visit, some of them are or could be already history. Huanan is one of my favourites, if it’s running… Sancha too, if there would be more traffic. Pingdingshan is still on the agenda due to the horrible weather conditions during our stay. The mass of steam locos leaving Tianzhuang station in the morning is so fascinating. But we have to hurry up before additional diesels will destroy one of the last big steam places on earth.

 

And what about the Chinese? Maybe we should thank them, too for being so friendly and helpful in more than 90 percent of the cases. I don’t think that a Chinese would meet so many people in middle Europe who would be so frank to him and his culture. And the other 10 percent? I mean those who are thinking that all longnoses are rolling in money and that it is okay to rip them off. Those who want to double their week-salary just for taking some pictures. I’ve an idea: I live in the city where Karl Marx was born. In 2006 more than forty thousands Chinese visited the “Karl Marx house” in Trier. Maybe I should wait there for demanding a week-salary when I see them taking photos. Of course I will tell them that I’m an official who has the authorisation to do that and if they don’t pay they have to leave :-) Most of you know this situation…

 

Markus Mayer, Trier, January 2007

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2007 Markus Mayer