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Steam in China, March 2008

by Roger van Duijnhoven

Pingdingshan, Jixi, Zhalainuoer and Nanpiao

Because of the ‘end of steam in China’, we (Eelco de Graaf and I) made a trip to China from 7-29 March 2008, visited Pingdingshan, Jixi, Zhalainuoer and Nanpiao. It was my 14th trip to China, but this time once again only to see and enjoy the steam locomotives. In this report maybe no shocking news, but I hope helpful for those want to visit China in the near future. (Also thanks again for the reports on SY-Country and the timetable of Duncan Peattie!)

7,8 March:

Fly Amsterdam-Beijing by CZ346 China Southern airlines, departure 21:25 and entry China next day, 45 min. early (13:30). After quick passport control and money change, we took the airport shuttle bus [16 yuan] to nearby Beijing-Xi(west) station. Immediately on arriving bought tickets (hard sleeper/YW) on night train K261 (17:26) to Pingdingshan, so without any hold-ups to the south.

9-12 March, Pingdingshan:

On 9 March: we arrived (06:38) at Pingdingshan, so within 26 hours we were welcomed by 2 QJ’s [6690+6650] at Pingdingshan-Dong(east) station!. First we checked in at “our” Jinxiu Hotel [128 yuan] and after a coffee break we went by city bus 34 [1 yuan] to the depot.
The first surprise was not about the steam, but the weather! We didn’t expect here -24C at this time of the year, but sunny and +24C! (Yes, I forgot my T-shirt). In the depot and Tianzhuang yard several JSs were seen, a lot of shunting and also some JSs left the yard with (heavy) freight trains. The morning passenger (also by JS) took the middle track, because of construction works. The two tracks between Tianzhuang and Xizhan are now in use. (both tracks in both directions).
Later on we walked in the direction of Pingdingshan-Dong (CNR), but no sign of a QJ. So we continued walking to Bakuang. A JS shunted here, soon after it left back to PDS with a more than 40 wagons loaded coal train! A fascinating sight ‘how easily’ one JS pulled away this heavy train of at least 3200ton! The next freight trains were unfortunately diesel, so we waited for the afternoon passenger. Very shocked as this train was pulled by the GKD diesel! So we went back to our hotel. (You can reach Bakuang station by city bus 2). In the late afternoon a quick visit to the depot again, of course several JSs, but also QJ 6450.

10 March:We first bought our next train tickets (Zhengzhou-Beijing) in the Pingdingshan Fandian CNR office (open from 08:00). The (YW) tickets Beijing-Mudanjiang were “méi yǒu” (haven’t). Then we looked for a taxi, chartered it for one day, to see the QJs on the Yuzhou-line. First we got an uncomprehending look from the driver, because there is no village Youxian or station in Yuzhou! But with the help of the PDS-map (www.farrail.com) we left northwards. When the road, a few kilometres before Yuzhou, was parallel with the railway line again, you saw on the left-hand side a coal transhipment terminal (close by village Xiao Liü). QJ 7186 was shunting and putting together the next coal train. (And the taxi driver was greatly relieved when he knew what we were looking for!). About 13:00 the train left to PDS, but this time pulled by a DF4DD diesel and pushed by QJ 7186. Just before this train left, QJ 6690 arrived. But QJ and driver took a siesta, so we had time to scan the QJ from bearings till cutoff, and compare the valve gear, the grate shaking, etc. with our locomotives by the VSM [Class 50, 52, 44, etc].
Meanwhile 6 loaders were transferring coal to rail wagons, raising clouds of dust, so not the finest place with white goods! (h’m..…)
Because of lack of activity, we went back to Pingdingshan-Dong. Unfortunately walls surround this station, but at the back we found a gap and just saw a QJ shunting back onto its train.

11 March: In the morning to the depot and Tianzhuang yard again, watching various JSs, (now roughly 50% steam / 50% diesel). A visit inside the depot and shop was unfortunately impossible this time. After the morning passengers, all by JS now, we walked to mine 2 and later to Zhangxin station. Here we were able to take nice photos of 3 JSs together. We took the afternoon passenger to Hanzhuangzhan (>Baofeng) (3 yuan) and back to Zhangxin again.

12 March: Early in the morning we went to the level crossing east of Zhangxin, saw the morning passenger (06:50) come in. The JS had a short pit stop in the “depot” (beside the level crossing) and at 07:30 left Zhangxin again in the Baofeng direction. By the way, no sign of the SYs anymore? (Are they scrapped?).
Around 11am we went back to our Hotel, checked out and then went to the bus station. (Can also be reached by city bus 34, you pass the bus station when you go to the depot).
A bus ticket to Zhengzhou was more expensive now [52 yuan], but we took a new expressway, so within 2 hours we were in Zhengzhou. In Zhengzhou railway station we tried again to get YW tickets for K265, but “méi yǒu”!
So after dinner (The famous tánqcü liji again (sweet & sour pork fillet)) we took the night train 1488 (20:07) to Beijing-Xi.

Conclusion Pingdingshan:
Indeed more diesels compared with my last visit in 09-2007, but still interesting. You can see (at least) 14 JSs and 4 QJs in operation. (Although, you have to be more and more at the right place at the right time now, but steam is used for shunting, as well as for (heavy) freight trains.)
JS 5644 / 6225 / 6253 / 8030 / 8031 / 8054 / 8057 / 8062 / 8065 / 8068 / 8122 / 8338 / 8363 / 8421.
QJ 6450 / 6650 / 6690 / 7186

13 March:

On the way to Beijing we passed by accident the DF4D 1893, decorated “Chairman Mao” diesel. Arrived Beijing-Xi (07:32) and immediately went to the ticket office. I had already drawn up a plan-A to E for our next journey (because of the “méi yǒu” in Pingdingshan and Zhengzhou), but sleeper-tickets for K265 to Mudanjiang? “No problem”!! (So conclude from this, buying tickets in advance is possible in all stations, but they have only limited tickets.)
We walked to the metro station and went by taxi to Xidan. (Logical? Yes, passengers with baggage are not allowed in the metro before 09:00). Had eggs and coffee for breakfast by MC Donalds (not our favourite, but it is open before 08:30) and changed some extra money at a bank. Afterwards we went by metro (reduced now, 2 yuan) to Beijing station. Departed with K265 (12:50) to Mudanjiang. (Also got a good dinner in the train [20 yuan]).

14-17 March, Jixi:

14 March: Arrived in Mudanjiang (09:08) and saw QJ 6xxx (?) in depot/shop, cold, but well painted. Bought tickets to Jixi (N77, 11:00). At the platform a SY with I suppose a JF type tender.
In Jixi (arr. 14:57) we checked in to the Jixi Fandian (hotel), just across from the station, nice room, clean and warm water [120 yuan]. After dinner (with ‘strong’ water!) we bought tickets for our next overnight train N76 to Haerbin and also N59 Haerbin-Manzhouli (so here no problem).

15 March: [Chengzihe system]
We went by city bus 3, just opposite the hotel, to (near) Dongchang [1 yuan]. You could also take first city bus 1 to its terminus, but then you have to change to bus 3, so…(?!). The station square in Jixi doesn’t exist anymore, it is now a big building excavation. Bus 3 still has its terminus just before the railway triangle.
We first looked in Nanchang (one SY in depot) and then walked to Dongchang. Here there was a ‘gathering’ of 7 SYs in the morning (about 08:00) for the “coffee break”. (Or “tea break”? at least they get the new orders of the day).
The snow came spitting down and it felt cold today. Two SYs in tandem with an empty coal train (some 60 wagons!) arrived at Dongchang at 08:15. After 09:00 we walked to Beichang, saw some SYs shunting and other SYs coming and going with coal trains, a very nice place to visit in the morning. In the afternoon we walked in a westward (Xi Jixi) direction, (3,5 km). Took some pictures by the river bridge and watched shunting of 2 SYs across the river. In the meantime 3 loaded trains passed the bridge to ??? (Station between the River Bridge and Xi Jixi). Finally, in late afternoon, 2 SYs took away the complete loaded train (again about 60 wagons) to CNR, Xi Jixi (a very nice sound for your ears!).
Back to Nanchang again (could take minibus, 2 yuan) and then took bus 3 back to Jixi. In the town centre of Jixi you have many restaurants. From hotel, first go left, second street to the right and after 800m (shopping street) left again. Here there is a small street with many restaurants together.

16 March: [Didao system]
We went to Didao Hebei by bus. [2,5 yuan], from a bus stop opposite the station/China post. In Didao Hebei, did not go to the terminus, but when Main Street in Didao branches off to the right, you can see the washery on the left-hand side.
First we visited the washery, where in the morning were all its 5 SYs together. Later on we walked to the west (Lijing direction) and to the tip. Here a SY was hard working to bring up a loaded train. (3x zigzags!). At noon back to the washery, watching 2 trains which brought coals –up a steep hill- to the unloading point.
We had our lunch break together with a friendly engine driver and at the same time learnt more about the SY. Again watched some shunts in the washery and depot and at the end of the day back by bus to Jixi.

17 March: [Chengzihe system]
Again by bus 3 and first looked for the morning train (08:00), 1 SY with some 40 wagons, but still marvellous! This was followed by a visit to Dongchang and Beichang again, today with sunny weather. In the afternoon we went in a west direction again, but now we wanted to make nice pictures at the climb (roughly 800m before the river bridge). But after 2 hours waiting, no train appeared! (Yes, sh*t happens!). But finally decorated SY 1544 came in full steam with some 40 loaded coal wagons! But, it came to a stop just 40cm before Eelco’s camera! (No Eelco, you don’t get the blame!). Later on, with the help of a second SY, the train continued to Xi Jixi. Next we went to the river bridge, saw one SY with a 40 empty wagons train passing the river bridge in the Nanchang direction.
Back to the hotel, we had dinner and afterwards a warm shower and coffee break (yes, some Dutch people perform best after coffee!). At 21:00 we checked out of our hotel and left Jixi by train, N76 (21:38) to Haerbin.

Conclusion Jixi:
This was my first visit here, but looking back I would say that a longer stay here would be worthwhile. With 10 SYs on the Chengzihe system, 5 SYs on the Didao system and a great deal of traffic, it’s a nice place for a visit!
Chengzihe: SY 0341 / 0863 / 1018 / 1058 / 1340 / 1345 / 1351 / 1369 / 1544 / 1545
Didao: SY 0407 / 0950 / 1205 / 1213 / 1446

18 March:

We arrived Haerbin at 06:30. Eelco saw a cold QJ, just before arriving Haerbin. In Haerbin we had a tourist stop, so visited the famous St. Sophia Church, the (famous?) railway bridge and the nice city centre/shopping street, of course with a lot of “Russian” houses. Our next train to Manzhouli N59 left Haerbin at 17:46. (Note, trains now arrived and departed from Haerbin station, not from Haerbin-Dong station, as indicated in the CNR-timetable).

19-23 March, Zhalainuoer:

We passed Zhalainuoer and got off in Manzhouli (08:15). First we bought here our return tickets for the 1302 sleeper to Jinzhou on the 23rd. Shortly after back to Zhalainuoer by city bus 1. Bus stop (terminus), from station straight on (cross station square), second street turn to the right (China post) and about 700m (small square) you can find the terminus. Bus ride to Zhalainuoer-Xi [3 yuan] takes about 1 hour, mainly because of “loading the bus”.
In Zhalainuoer-Xi we didn’t find the hotels mentioned in Ameling and Jan Willem reports (only saw some closed buildings (?)), so we checked in at the new Bin Guan Zhuan Yong (hotel, red building, opposite station). Clean and (very) warm rooms, warm water from 19:00 until 09.00 [but 160 yuan].
After a coffee break (yes, again) we went by bus (1 or 2, east direction, 1 yuan) to the mine. First we went across the rubbish dump to the west-side. Yes, indeed as Jan Willem mentioned: “Just like trains on the moon, fantastic!!”
In one panoramic view you can see 8 -13 SYs, often hard working and with an acoustic sound! In the afternoon we walked to the east-side of the mine.
In late afternoon we went back through Dongfanghong (2 SYs shunting) and Daqiao.
Here we met “flapie” for the first time, the decorated and with smoke deflectors SY 1416. Back in the hotel we visited the restaurant, maybe “high-class”, but looking at the “unusual animals with a searching look”, we decided to go outside. Found a small restaurant near the hotel (around the block) and ordered the famous tánqcü liji again. Very tasty meal, but it subsequently appeared that the bill was 95 yuan! (Yes, seriously). Ok, after a heated discussion down to 70, but still overcharged! (Lesson one; always first ask the total amount, although we hadn't expected that, with menu-meals of 12-20 yuan).

20 March: First a visit to Daqiao, but no activity (it was already 09:00!), so continued walking to the east-side of the mine again (better sunlight in the morning). Also, we only stayed/walked on the edge of the mine. Maybe it's not allowed, but in my opinion it’s not sensible to go inside/down the mine! (Pressure of work and sometimes blow up, so I suppose foreigners are not welcome below). At noon we got back to Zhalainuoer-city, eating our lunch in ‘the Manhattan’. (Kind of MC Donalds and Pizza Hut). In the afternoon visited the west-side again. At 16:00 we saw the passenger (SY+ 2xType22 coaches) at the top level. There was no sign of the passenger on the other days (!?).

21 March: Again first we went to Daqiao (08:00), today 5 SYs here, including “flapie” and morning freight in Shiyijing direction. Later on we followed a shunting SY to the ‘industry line’ (nice between small houses). Also we made a short visit to the central workshop, where SY 1119 and 1688 were getting overhauls. After cheeseburger(s) and coffee in de Manhattan, we went back to Daqiao. Outside a steam crane took water and inside Daqiao workshop SY 0924. After this we went to the Tiebeikuang line. About 15:00 a loaded coal train (some 38 wagons) with two hard working SYs in tandem went in the direction of Daqiao. (Very, very, very nice!!).
Also, today we met the first ‘foreigners’, 4x British and 2x Australians.
In the late afternoon and during the night snow was falling.

22 March: Because of the snow everything was white, so we went to Daqiao to make our Christmas cards. There was a lot of activity in Daqiao. Later we went to the mine, east-side again, now of course with a wintry face. When we walked along the edge, we noticed a heavy steam crane near Dongzhan. So we decided to take a look. The heavy steam crane was loading another (orange) crane on flat cars. We also discovered a row of 20 dumped SYs, though kept guarded! Some SYs looked as if stored yesterday! Besides SYs also –the rest of- Type22 coaches and steam cranes. We continued to walk to Nanzhan and south-side/tip, later back again.

23 March: A last visit to Daqiao and Dongfanghong, then checked out of our hotel and went back by bus 2 (3 yuan) to Manzhouli. We got off by the footbridge near the station. (Here you can see the Russian and Chinese shunting-yard).
We departed Manzhouli at 13:29 by train 1302 to Jinzhou.

Conclusion Zhalainuoer:
This was also my first visit here. It’s really a fantastic/marvellous place! I think nowhere else can you see so many steam locomotives together (above and beside one another!). Just take a chair and watch the marvellous spectacle!
In service:
SY 0471 / 0853 / 0924 / 0954(?) / 0957 / 0958 / 0959 / 1126 / 1284 / 1285 / 1286 / 1303 / 1416 / 1424 / 1448 / 1450 / 1601 / 1618 / 1654 / 1678 / 1689 / (and about 5 extra SYs down in mine)
In workshop:
SY 1119 / 1688 / 0924
SY 0613 / 0614 / 0682 / 0794 / 0795 / 1192 / 1234 (Daqiao) / 1256 / 1258 / 1371 / 1375 / 1449 / 1496 / 1586 / 1587 / 1600 / 1617 / 1619 / 1650 / 1663 / 1664

24-27 March, Nanpiao:

We arrived 12:38 at Jinzhou. Just 1 hour before, we saw about 5 rusty dumped QJ’s in a small depot? (Sorry, no numbers or station-name?).
First we bought our next tickets, but here I got a major problem. It looked as if he refused to understand, and his shouting through the loudspeaker and his dialect didn’t make the communication any easier! No, my Chinese is not perfect, but here I couldn’t get any word understood! Everywhere else in China there wasn't a problem, just show a paper with train number, date, YW and (Chinese) destination! Anyhow, I remained standing and finally got tickets for D6 Jinzhou-Nan – Beijing. (Yes, D6 now stops at Jinzhou-Nan(south) station).
After this we walked to the bus station, from the station turn to the right (not real to the south!) and after about 800m you see the bus station on the left. In the ticket office we bought tickets to Nanpiao [8,5 yuan] and 45 minutes later arrived in Nanpiao at the bus stop next to Huangjiatun station and our hotel (red building).
Rooms (simple) still 62 or 80 yuan, but we decided to take a “luxurious room” [158 yuan] with own shower and warm water. No, not room 207, but one of the new clean rooms on the front side. Here you can watch the SYs pass by!
At the end of day we watched SY passenger (17:21) and then it was time for dinner (yes, famous tánqcü liji again!).
Also, CNR train (Shengyang-Nanpiao) still stops in Huangjiatun! (Arrival 07:10 / 16:10, depart 08:45 / 17:00). This train is not mentioned in CNR-timetable(?).

25 March: We took the 06:34 morning passenger to Xiamiaozi (BJ diesel). We wanted to stay here in the “depot”, but immediately got “méi xiàng piàn” (photo not allowed)? So, we walked on in the Sanjiazi direction. Behind the cement works, we saw a hard working SY with coal train uphill and a BJ shunting in Hongshill. We continued walking, wanting to see the passenger near Fulongshan (bridge). A nice hilly landscape and sunny weather, so we had a lovely fair walk. But we just missed (1 minute!) the passenger on the bridge! (Yes, sh*t happens again!).
We walked on till Daguopu, (Weizgou mine). Here SY 1478 shunted some coal wagons, but also here got “méi xiàng piàn”. We returned to the bridge, expecting the SY freight to come back. But unfortunately no sign of the SY, so walked on to the cement works again (nice photo spot) and waited for the afternoon passenger.
But instead of the 15:10 passenger, there was a BJ coal train uphill. The passenger passed exactly one hour later, also with a BJ diesel. (Change in timetable? Rest of timetable is correct). In Huangjiatun at the end of the day watched SY 1299 twice (17:26 and 19:19), between times eating our dinner.

26 March: Because of the “méi xiàng piàn” problems in Xiamiaozi, we decided to ride on the steam 06:15 morning passenger to Sanjiazi [1,5 yuan]. In Xiamiaozi we took a ‘secret photo’ of the SY 0754 in the depot. At Sanjiazi terminus, a 1,5 hours break, so meanwhile we watched SY 1478 shunting. Back in Xiamiaozi we saw the Linghe morning passenger, today also steam with SY 1299. So both passengers with SY on Xiamiaozi platform. On our return, we took a siesta in the hotel and then the necessity of life, shopping (yes, coffee used up!). Later on we rode along with steam on the 14:46 afternoon passenger to Linghe. [1,5 yuan]. Here there wasn't “méi xiàng piàn”, but they kept a close eye on us!

27 March: Again we first walked in the Xiamiaozi direction, to see the 09:39 passenger. Then we went back to hotel, checked out and by bus to Jinzhou. [Now 7,5 yuan]. After we arrived in Jinzhou, walked to Jinzhou station (CNR) and by city bus 208 to terminus Jinzhou-Nan station [2 yuan]. Don’t worry that the bus takes ‘a tourist route’ outside Jinzhou through some villages. Then by high-speed train D6 (15:13) non-stop to Beijing, arriving exactly at 18:07! Yes, China is a real quality railway country, perfect!
Back in Beijing we went first to Xidan to find our Jian Yuan hotel. Unfortunately it was fully booked, as were many hotels in the neighbourhood (?!). So we went to Beijing-Xi station, found a reasonable hotel next to [5*] Beijing XinYuan Hotel, at the end of a small street, Kong Jun Lan Ying Hotel [270 yuan].
(It subsequently appeared that the arrival of the Olympic flame next day was the problem!).

Conclusion Nanpiao
There was almost the same atmosphere as on my last visit in 2003. Only now there were 3 SYs instead of 5 SYs. Unfortunately the “méi xiàng piàn” now, was not a problem in 2003. But it’s still worth the effort to make a (short) visit Nanpiao.
SY 0754 / 1299 / 1478

28 March: A visit to the railway museum. Not many changes compared with my last visit in 2006. We saw a new CRH 3 (German ICE) on the test loop line besides the museum. After scanning the QJs again, we went back to Xidan for some shopping, dinner in our restaurant and back to hotel. (Very rainy weather).

29 March: Our last day, we checked out of our hotel and by taxi to Xidan. (The first taxi driver wanted 50 yuan! Of course no discussion, we just went by ‘normal’ taxi driver to Xidan [12 yuan]). In Xidan we had breakfast, coffee and went by airport shuttle bus [16 yuan] to the Airport (50 min.). The airport shuttle Xidan Terminus is nearby the clock tower. If someone tells you “no airport bus, too slow to catch your plane” or “this bus is only for Chinese”!, nonsense, don’t believe them, just buy tickets and get on! [Yes, nowadays you also have ‘bad’ people in China]. More important, when you leave Beijing by air, check your terminal (1,2 or 3)! Terminal 3 is now open, but is a completely new airport beside the “old” airport 1 and 2!
We flew Beijing-Amsterdam by CZ345 China Southern airlines, departed 14:20 and arrived in the Netherlands at 17:20.
But then: 1 hour waiting at baggage claim and finally (after 7300km of smooth train travel in China) Eelco got the train-message “because of railway construction no trains, diversion……….” (h’m, welcome back to Holland).

Roger van Duijnhoven

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