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Steam in China - November, December 2007

by Graham Hancock

Baotou, Baiyin, Sandaoling

This is a brief report of the final week of a three week tour led by Mike Ma. The first two weeks were described in report china531.

Baotou Steelworks, 30th November-1st December

After our group reduced to four, we departed from Jinzhou 'main' station at 1939 on 29th November and arrived at Baotou at about 1600 the next day. We managed to locate a couple of SY ladle trains after a very long and uncomfortable walk over the hardened slag 'lava' before sunset and we achieved a nice sequence of big red ball sunset silhouettes.
Next day dawned dull and dismal but we drove round the works after photographing the stabling point where nearby were plinthed two ET7 0-8-0 tank locos. 5 SY's were being prepared for work including 1631 with a decorated smokebox. No photography was permitted at the dusty road crossing by the ovens as security was very tight; all the torpedo trains were diesel hauled by 'switcher' locos anyway. Finding our way to another slag tipping location about a mile from where we were the previous evening we encountered small deflectored SY 1748 on the slag ramp which performed three tipping operations during our short stay. I had never seen this type of operation before so it made quite an impression. Unfortunately at this time of day, just as the sun was trying to pierce through the pollution, the ladles were being tipped on the shadow side of the tipping ramp.

Locos seen:

SY 1518, 1521, 1631, 1723, 1731, 1743, 1748 all in steam.

SY 1431, 2015 were on the stabling point, not in steam but serviceable.

SY 1293 was in the shed.

SY 1676 and 1696 also noted.

JS 58001 and YJ 232 were rusting away on a siding nearest to the adjacent road.

XK 13 0-6-0T 5903 was plinthed along with ET 7 0-8-0T 5333 (looked to be running as a 0-6-2T !) on the opposite side of the road.

ET7s 5328 and 5332 were on a scrap line, also as 0-6-2T's....!

SY 1731 being coaled.
 

SY 1748 on slag tipping.
 

The two ET7s on the scrap line.
 

Baiyin, 2nd-3rd December

I could quite happily have spent another few days at Baotou but we had to be on our way at midday on a 'hard' sleeper to Baiyin which departed Baotou at 1431. Having only done one overnight journey 'hard' sleeper on my previous five trips to China I was pleasantly surprised by the relative comforts of the accomodation and service. We arrived at Baiyin at 0555 on a deserted platform with a long walk to the exit (we were on the last coach !) and then mini-bussed to our 2 year old spacious hotel. Still in darkness we drove into the town and collected our permit for the area from a young man who appeared out of nowhere. We then drove up into the hills for the morning passenger trains and later freight train to the end of the line.
On that morning the first passenger train departed from Baiyin Shi station at 0735, just before dawn, tender first, and waited at Sanyelian, the first station with a passing loop. The second train departed at 0750 smokebox first, arriving at Shenbutong, the 'terminus' for passenger workings. That morning, SY 2008 failed with a defective air pump at Shenbutong; SY 1581 ran up light two hours later and brought loco and coaching stock back down the line presumably to Baiyin Shi. 1581 then came up an hour later with a rake of 16 empty hoppers for the mine beyond Shenbutong station - Kuangsan ( ?.)
The steeply graded line runs through very spectacular 'loess' scenery and, had we been able to stay longer than one and a half days, I would have liked to explore the hills overlooking the line for possible phot spots. At this time of year the sunrise is unfortunately just too late to illuminate the 0750 passenger train on its approach to Shenbutong. Nevertheless, we were fortunate to have clear weather conditions for the duration of our short stay which culminated in a visit to the works and shed area the following morning where we encountered 6 SY's being coaled and watered at the mid morning shift change. The friendly shedmaster informed us that Baiyin would retain its steam allocation at least until 2010......

Locos seen:

SY 0965, 1581, 1470, 2008 (failed on early morning passenger), 1583, 1596 all in steam.

SY 0206, 0612, 0819 were in the shed, serviceable.

SY 0150, 1097 were OOU by the shed.

SY 1047 was dismantled in the works.

JS 8021, 8052, 8350 and one other very much OOU in a compound.

Note: SY 0150 and 1097 are from Liancheng Aluminium Smelter (N of Yaojie), probably here awaiting overhaul.

SY 2008 on the 0750 passenger from Baiyin Shi approaches Shenbutong on 2nd December.
 

SY 1581 at the depot being decorated for some big wigs visit.
 

Sandaoling, 4th-7th December

We arrived at Hami in the dark at 0600 and the mini-bus journey to Sandaoling took a further hour and a half, just in time to see two JS's easing out from the stabling point en route for the CNR empties collection point in the half light. After a long wait until about 1030 the return phot and chase did not disappoint.......
Other reports have detailed Sandaoling so just to say that once again I wish I could have stayed much longer than our three and a half days. In the main we were blessed with good weather (wall to wall sunshine on the first day) and a relatively calm wind. Our local guide who accompanied us throughout the stay here was a great help, particularly in finding out the timings of the 'empties' workings from CNR and arranging a visit to the works and coal grading plant. This was of particular interest mid morning once we had photographed the shift change at sunrise (approx.0900 hrs.) and the subsequent workings out of the 'hole'. It is worth mentioning that each days photography was preceded by a visit to a little cafe in the main street for a breakfast of superb dumplings which were consumed with relish much to the amusement of several schoolchildren who came in to gawp at 'the big noses'.
On the penultimate day we learnt that Mike had been unable to obtain train tickets for our return to Beijing. The alternative was a seven hour coach trip along the old Silk Route westwards to Urumqi, which, after some misgivings was a very comfortable and interesting journey in a modern 40 seater coach with only 14 people on board. Next morning, after an overnight hotel break we left for the ultra modern airport in unanticipated heavy snow ; after a 2hour flight delay whilst snow and ice were cleared from the 737 and the runway, we took off. It was a white knuckle take off, where I seriously doubted that our 737 would get off the ground.......
If it had snowed a day earlier I doubt very much whether we would have made it back to Beijing in time for our flights back to the UK.......

JS loads wagons at Erjing Mine.
 

Spoil train at sunrise.
 

Opencast coal being unloaded for washing and grading.
 

Banked empty wagons from the China Railways yard at Liushuguan climb towards Sandaoling.
 

Graham Hancock

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2008 Graham Hancock