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An outward flight with BA039 on 27/02, on board was Duncan Cotterill who has posted his report already and saved me some effort on Baiyin!
An afternoon China Eastern flight Lanzhou-Chengdu on 03/03 and bus ride to Quianwei (3 hours) for one night at the hotel. Next morning we were at Shibanxi for the 0600 train which we caught to Mifeng, arrive 0630, for three days at the ‘Doctors’ hostal.
The first and last passenger trains never had the dreaded tourist coaches on, of which we had seen five at Shibanxi depot. On the first morning we had no.9 on the passenger, now very dirty and without all embellishments except for the awful Pride of Leicestershire brass plates. Whether you agree or not we tried to negotiate (through our as always excellent guide Jun of Chengde) to get the passengers run without tourist coaches. Photographically this line is very difficult as it is and with the tourist coach/coaches very hard going. A price of some £9pp per day was quoted, there were six of us, and we agreed. If a lot of tourists turned up an additional train was run (with the loco off the morning freight) with tourist coaches only, leaving the regular passenger trains in their original formation. We also ‘persuaded’ them to remove the hideous nameplates from no.9, hopefully to never re-appear! The daily freight/coal train now leaves Shibanxi at around 0640 which makes it virtually un-photographable at this time of year. The following two days we had a ‘vintage’ passenger train with no.14 in charge and an additional tourist train followed the 1400 ex Shibanxi. The other loco in traffic was no.10, not seen out on the line until our last day. This loco still sports its sloped tender. The weather was abysmal during our visit. We really questioned whether going all the way to the line was worth it photographically. It was also very damp and with tourists seemingly popping up everywhere to wreck natural looking station shots was very hard going.
Perhaps high summer would offer the best chances of pictures of the 0600 passenger and following freight, the only guaranteed ‘normal’ trains, but with the heat and mosquitoes it could be very unpleasant.
As an experience it was nice to be there with the locals and ride their trains but would I go again to try to achieve a decent photographic record? Very unlikely!
On the 07/03 the weather was so poor we caught the return of the 0930 passenger train back to Shibanxi and by road on to Chengdu for a night in a hotel. At last a shower with warm water and being able to go to bed without being fully dressed, it was that cold and damp at night up at Mifeng!
On the 08/03 a morning Air China flight Chengdu to Beijing was made then a road journey from Beijing to Nanpiao. This latter took seven hours, a good deal more than we had expected.
Four BJ diesels and two SY 2-8-2’s in traffic, 1092 & 1478. The SYs worked the morning Sanjiazi and afternoon Linghe passenger trains every day plus the 1726 to Sanjiazi in the evening. After arrival at Sanjiazi in the morning the SY worked a trip to Wezigou colliery and back before returning to Nanpiao on the 0900 passenger. The other SY tripped as required and was noted on turns to Linghe/Zaojiatun/Sanjiazi/Quipigou and the power station branch.
Of the other Nanpiao SYs, ex works 0754 awaits a return to traffic in the compound west of Xiamiaozi station, 0366 is stored in the depot, 1299 was being steamed after repairs. The wheels of a recently scrapped SY (0973 we were told) were in the depot yard. Two more BJ are expected soon, this probably will signal the end of regular steam operation there.
We had mixed weather with a lot of pollution.
On the afternoon of 12/03 we returned to Beijing by road.
At Beijing Jun had managed to get us a pre-release copy each of his new all colour book ‘Charms of the China Steam Locomotive’, ISBN 978-7-113-08358-8. A very nice book, some attractive summer Ji-Tong shots included. Contact Jun if you’re interested.
BA038 Beijing to Heathrow from the new terminal 3 at Beijing. Fully staffed and with a rapid transit connection from the check in/security area every few minutes the BA flight is at present the only daytime departure. There were fifteen people manning our departure gate!
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© 2008 Trevor Maxted