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EARLY AUTUMN in CHINA

Saturday 25 August 2007 to Friday 21 September 2007

by Wilson Lythgoe

Xinglongzhen, Hegang, Huanan, Pingdingshan, Yinghao, Shibanxi


BEIJING TO HARBIN
I tried to arrange, via email from Australia, for a Chinese travel agent to buy me a ticket on the D train service from Beijing to Jinzhou but was eventually told the Railways would only sell tickets to Shenyang despite the train being scheduled to stop at Jinzhou.   As an alternative I suggested the agent buy a Shenyang ticket, and I would get off at Jinzhou, but by now all tickets had been sold so settled for a soft sleeper on the very slow daylight train 2589.

The plan was to spend the night in Jinzhou, buy a ticket onto Harbin on the night train from Jinzhou and then visit Nanpiao for a couple of days.   This was not to be as was unable to get a ticket of any type onwards to Harbin on a choice of 3 dates on any train.   After braving the ticket queues late at night, early morning and again mid morning decided to head north on daylight trains and give Nanpiao a miss.

So that afternoon travelled from Jinzhou to Shenyang on A137 with a couple of interesting sightings along the way.   At Gaoshanzi (thanks Duncan C for the extra info) SY 1015 was seen moving a long rake of loaded wagons from a fertilizer complex into the CNR yard.    At the next station, Dahushan, there is still the old steam depot with at least a dozen derelect QJ outside plus one engine of a class I didn't recognise.   All looking very photogenic.

Spent the night at the Heping (Peace) Hotel close to the Shenyang South Station where the in house ticket agent was able to get me a hard class sleeper on daylight K39 onwards to Harbin within a couple of hours.

XINGLONGZHEN

A between stations halt

Travelled on the 6.30am railcar from Xinglongzhen to Heping with the return journey arriving back at 6.15pm.   Another railcar was crossed at Dongxing each time so the passenger service must be two trains each way a day with early morning and lunchtime departures from each end crossing at Dongxing.   Each service comprised a railcar plus something that looked like an older railbus converted to a trailer seating about 20.   A small freight was passed twice heading towards Xinglongzhen.

The train I was on was overcrowded to full for most of the trip with seats only becoming free on the last hour or so towards/from Heping.   Very few passengers travelled any great distance though with continual stops anywhere anyone wanted to join or leave the train.   Near Heping, with fewer passengers, I was allowed off the train a couple of times for photos.

At Xinglongzhen tickets and a numbered seat were issued at a ticket office in the waiting room/pool hall alongside the passenger platform (single trip costing 20Y).   To find the passenger platform go to where the road into town crosses the ng freight yard, turn left (north) and walk a few metres past what looks like the train control office.   The passenger platform is the short spur at right angles to the freight yard.

There is a good (fairly new) hotel on the main road between the CNR station and the narrow gauge.   It’s a long way from the CNR station so a taxi is needed but only a few minutes walk onwards to the forestry railway.   An internet café can be found on the ‘market’ street on the other side of the freight yard from the passenger platform.

HEGANG

Depots can be photogenic

Spent 3 hours in the afternoon and another four the next morning at Hegang Jipei watching the comings and goings or lack of them!

3 diesels seen: one on the Junli passenger service whilst the passenger service to Xingshan was electric.   A total of 5 SY in steam but mostly they seemed to just remain in depot area...if venturing forth were only gone for a fairly short period of an hour or so although one did arrive with a crane train late in the afternoon.   Only one of the SY appeared to be out of the depot at any one time.   My assumption would be steam is now only used for special workings as required with all other services covered by diesel or electric.

HUANAN

Many hands make light work

Four days with Farrail Tours and Bernd’s ‘Sunflower Quickie Tour’ was a great experience and a most enjoyable way to see this railway at its best.   Apparently the railway had just restarted after another shutdown so was going gangbusters.

After the first day the railcar was replaced by a mixed comprising 4 coal wagons with a van for the passengers.   On my last day there it arrived back in Huanan as engine and van only……would this qualify as a passenger train?

From Huanan I took the bus to Jiamusi, K340 to Beijing and then D135 (ticket purchased when I passed through Beijing on arrival) onwards to Zhengzhou.   33 hours travel was a hard haul so overnighted in Zhengzhou before carrying on by bus to Pingdingshan the next morning.

PINGDINGSHAN

The QJ’s last stand?

Four days at Pingdingshan and one at Baofeng.   Over 3 mornings saw 12 JS and 2 SY in steam plus 6 working diesels at the depot at shift change time.   The QJ situation was a bit more complicated with one present and in steam the first morning, a different two the next two mornings and another found at Bakuang on the third afternoon seeming to give a total of 4 in use.

Two mornings were spent line siding on the line to mine 1.....this line seems to be used for test runs as on the first morning a QJ and then two different JS went up and back light before an actual train appeared.   The next morning a JS again went up and back light before a long train appeared with JS top and tailing.

The passenger service was using a SY and JS on the first 2 days before changing to using both SY.   The day prior to the changeover an SY was seen on a coal train.

Spent a worthwhile afternoon at Bakaung even though the sun was shining directly along the rails most of the afternoon.   A procession of JS was seen plus a QJ marshalling a long train for PDS CNR.   The QJ’s train was so large it had to use the main line rather than the back shunt to marshall it and had great difficulties restarting on the grade.   It took over half an hour of trying with much slipping etc.....during this time it’s managed to block the PDS side of the yard to all other trains.

Spent another day walking between Gaozhuangzhan and Liangwakuang.   Only the passenger trains, one JS freight and one diesel freight were seen but hopefully quality shots of the 'temple' station at Dazhuangkuang and street market at Lianwakuang.



Powerlines Everywhere

At Pingdingshan stayed at the 4 star PingAn Hotel (328Y single).   A bit over my budget but turned out to be great value midway through a China trip with a fantastic breakfast buffet with both toast, jam and real coffee on offer.   The hotel is 5 mins walk from Zhongxin station and has a tourist map of PDS in the guest compendium that shows the railways and bus routes making it real easy to get around.

At Baofeng couldn’t get the taxi drivers to understand I wanted to go to the Mining Railway station and twice ended up at the CNR station but discovered there is a tunnel running between the two.   It runs underneath the CNR ticket office and starts from just outside the railway station compound.   A bit hard to find the first time and is very dark and wet so used a motorbike taxi to get through.

YINGHAO
Spent an afternoon at this system ....the crossing keepers hut at Yinghao was securely locked and the rails on either side appeared not to have been used for some time.

Took a bus up to Xiangyangchezhan where a very derelect looking 08 was on a work train of 1 flatwagon doing sleeper replacement work.   The driver was quite enthusiastic about getting money off me in return for allowing photographs but eventually settled for a couple of my photos from a previous visit.   The wheels on the coal wagons were extremely rusty and they did not appear to have been moved for some time.   Walked through to the depot where nothing appeared to be happening apart from 2 ladies doing brush cutting in the station area and triangle!

Returned to Mianchi on a bus service that goes Haungmen – Liangjiawajing - Yinghao - Mianchi that appeared to be every half hour but couldn't work out where its Mianchi depot was as was dropped off outside my hotel.

Hopefully next visitor to Yinghao will have some better news.

From Mianchi to Chengdu on train 1433: only hard class tickets available but was able to upgrade to a hard sleeper on what was a very full train.

SHIBANXI

The Mixed at Caiziba

5 days on this great little railway with rain for only a couple of hours one morning.   The passenger service was unchanged from recent reports but there don't seem to be as many passengers as when I was here a couple of years ago.   Some of the passenger trains were actually mixed with a wagon or two of freight, or returning empties, added as required.   I saw a couple of flat wagons of bamboo plus coal wagons being used for bricks and gravel/sand.   Coal trains were variable with 2, 2, nil, 1 and 2 per day during my visit.

What could be new station buildings (they are all of similar design) are under construction at Mifengyan, Xianrenjiao and km 3.5.   New concrete platforms have been built at km 3.5 and Bagou.   They are also reconstructing the walking track to a new viewpoint about half way up the hill towards the shrine at km 3.5.......the building and platform won't affect any photos but the viewpoint could be a problem depending on what finally eventuates.

The Qianwei bridge is still only open to pedestrians....it looks like reopening could be some time away but couldn’t see any sign of what work was actually being done.

Stayed at Feng Huang Hotel(100Y) in Qianwei, ...its big plus is a 24 hour supply of continuous, really hot water and took a taxi (30Y on the meter) out each morning to catch the first train.   No difficulties in finding a taxi at 5.15am as there were a couple sitting on the street corner near my hotel each morning.   This early start and staying in Qianwei suited me fine as enjoyed the steam train ride each day.

Train fares seem to vary depending on the crew as paid 25Y to Jiaoba, 20Y to both Xianrenjiao and Bagou with returns into Shixi costing 15Y from Caiziba, Jiaoba, Bagou and Huangcunjing.

From Qianwei: bus back to Chengdu, K145 to Kunming and then the flight back to Australia with Malaysia Airlines.



Full speed ahead to the next trip

Weatherwise a lot better than expected with sun most days (Central China smog allowing) and light rain early in the day a couple of times (once at Huanan and once at Shibanxi).   All in all quite happy with what the trip achieved and still finding lots to interest me in China.

My thanks to all who helped make the trip a success: Bernd Seiler for his assistance and companionship at Huanan plus his always interesting website, Duncan Peattie for that invaluable timetable and to all who contribute information to SY Country and the Steam in China websites.

Wilson Lythgoe

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© 2007 Wilson Lythgoe