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Steam in China Feb / Mar 2007

by Ole Jensen

Jixi, Hegang, Jalainur, Fuxin

The plan for this winter trip was that we, Bo Lindhardtsen and I, wanted pictures with snow and white exhaust from the SY’s. Although Jing-Ping is long gone now, China still has got a lot to offer the steam-enthusiast. And I think it’s definitely worth while to travel long distances for it. Flew Finnair from Copenhagen to Helsinki; from here to Beijing. We thought … The plane was cancelled, due to damage on the aircraft made by a cargo-truck. We therefore had to hurry in order to catch the flight to Shanghai instead, Finnair quickly arranged. Finnair in Helsinki even managed to put us on a China Southern flight from Shanghai to Harbin too. From here we travelled to Jixi in a comfortable soft sleeper in K 411, arriving in Jixi at 6.25 in the morning.

Jixi
February 23-25th

Temperatures in the mornings minus 10 C rising up to ca. minus 3 C midday. Mainly sunny weather, only little wind. Steam operations in Chengzihe and Hengshan seem to be the usual, no sign of any diesels yet. Observed several trains on the bank up to Zhongxin, mainly in the morning hours. The best was at 9 o’clock, when SY 1095 was in front of 30 empties, banked by 0746 and 1340! This train was followed half an hour later by SY 1369 having serious trouble hauling 21 empties up the hill alone. At 11 o’clock 1369 again arrived at Zhongxin with 14 wagons. In Lishu south of Jixi SY 0477 was doing (little) work here, no sign of any other engines. We found her waiting with 5 wooden hoppers being coaled at the Qikeng mine up in the hills at 11 o’clock. Train departed half an hour later to Lishu, and this was the only train this day, we were told … SY 0477 was looking a bit strange with only parts of its chimney remaining! We did not investigate Didao and Donghaikuang this time, but we probably should have done …

Working SY’s in Jixi: 0341, 0477, 0590, 0733, 0746, 0804, 0863, 0898, 1058, 1095, 1340, 1351, 1369, 1437 and 1544.

Hegang
February 26-28th

Weather pretty much the same as in Jixi, perhaps even more sunny. Still lots of steam here, but the electrics are hauling most of the heavy coal trains. Passengers are steam with SY 1498 and 1464 sharing the work, 1498 looking good with brass boiler rings. Notice that times for the passenger trains has been changed slightly, and the trains 25 and 26 on the northern branch are now cancelled.
We were not allowed access to the shed, therefore we were not able to check out the locos in there. Observed 3 dumped engines at the western side of the shed area, but could not identify the locos.
Seems like most is happening on the southern line; the passenger 3 with SY 1498 was being followed by 3013 one day, disappearing somewhere to the south. The electrics are interesting to watch too. The northern line ending in Xingshan did not see much traffic, at least not in the afternoon hours. And yes, train 24 is leaving Xingshan at 16.50 now, not the funniest place on earth to spend 3 hours between two trains … Why did we not take a cab back?

Working SY’s in Hegang: 0498, 0799, 1030, 1370, 1464, 1498, 1683, 3013 and 3014.

Jalainur
March 2-5th

Amazing as ever! Sunny, very cold and almost no wind, apart from Sunday 4th, a very strong icy wind blew down from Siberia in the north. Even dressed with 6-7 pairs of clothes it was a tough job being out in the open trying to make any pictures.
We stayed at the cheap ludian approx. 200 yards west of the crossing close to the Daqiao depot. For the fair price of 30Y for a double we slept there 3 nights; some decent food was possible to buy there too, otherwise there is a good restaurant just across the street.
At midday the second of March we counted 17 (!) steam locos active in the mine when looking down in the “big hole” from the north. Quite a sight. Nothing new to add according to steam activity. The workers trains ran as usual at 7.30 in both directions, being back at “Station 510” about 9 o’clock again. We travelled both trains without any problems. The “Nanzhan-train” ends down to the south in the middle of nowhere at “St. 565”, just a small cabin. The tracks seem to end up in the spoil dumps out there. We were told that there are no longer any workers trains on the western branch to the Shiyijing mine, but there seems to be a number of freight trains on that line, many even as mixed freights. Locos chimney first southwards.
The short, but steep bank from Dongfanghong up to Daqiao still offers many trains, and the place is good in the afternoon hours. Often you can expect steam here every half an hour.
I must mention, that on one occasion we were told not to take pictures at the Daqiao depot. That was the only problem of any kind we had in Jalainur, still the place is highly recommended. Go there, you won’t regret it for sure.

Working SY’s in Jalainur: 0682, 0924, 0957, 0959, 1119, 1126, 1240, 1257, 1258, 1285, 1286, 1303, 1371, 1376, 1416, 1424, 1448, 1450, 1496, 1600, 1618, 1650, 1654, 1663, 1678, 1688 and 1689.
SY 1234 were dumped at Daqiao with an JF-tender numbered 1688. A wrecked SY-tender stood there too – also numbered 1688! And still the SY 1688 where running too …

Fuxin
March 7-9th

Got interested in Fuxin by reading some recent reports (Duncan Cotterill, thanks), and we decided to give it a chance. It is a very industrialised place, but the SY’s are very active there, and around the main yard in Wulong the number of trains are quite high. As everywhere we visited, the people here are extremely friendly and we had no problems by taking pictures. The morning session at 8 o’clock just north of the crossing, where the crews are changed, is really a gem. Seven engines were present and are leaving one by one in an hour or so.
Many lines are electrified but we saw only steam, not even the new diesel disturbed us. We did not even see it. Some crossings offer nice yellow cabins; one is situated on the line from Wulong to the open mine and another at a crossing approx. 3 km’s north of Wulong, close to the depot in Taipeng. Here YJ 403 stands for years together with SY 0541, both engines in a very bad shape.
At the depot between the new blocks in Fuxin/Wulong JF 0508 were buried in a pile of snow, a bit further to the south stood SY 0127 and 0576. One km north of the depot, we found the dumped engines SY 0036, 0391 and 0770, together with some passenger cars.
The workshop was quite busy; 2 or 3 SY’s were receiving heavy overhauls (one was 0941). A cab was being painted, standing on the floor among lots of other steam locomotive parts.
We stayed at the Railway Hotel, just west of the CNR-station, 120Y for a good double room.

Working SY’s in Fuxin: 0540, 0785, 0849, 0850, 0988, 0989, 1210, 1319, 1320, 1378, 1395, 1396, 1397 and 1818 (1414).

We also observed SY 0895 active some 8 km north east of Fuxin in a yard close to the CNR line to Shenyang; loco may belong to the Fuxin power plant?
Travelled the rather slow train 2112 from Fuxin to the new station in Beijing Bei. Home-flight again Finnair to Helsinki and finally to Copenhagen.

Conclusions

This was really a trip to “SY-country”; the first trip to China without any QJ’s … A bit sad, but we like the SY, and some places they are still to be found on heavy duties; in Jixi among others. It’s been said before, but Jalainur has really got it. Nothing will last forever, not even Jalainur, but it will probably be one of the last steam locations in the world. In many ways to be compared with Sandaoling, I think. Fuxin was positive too, seems that steam will go on there for some time, they have the facilities to carry out heavy overhauls on their own. There may still be some non-explored lines left in this area. And perhaps even more steam than we observed.

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2007 Ole Jensen