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Steam in China, October - November 2008

by Dave Fielding

Part 1: Jalainur, Jixi, Baotou

Apologies for the long delay in completing this report, due to computer problems, failure of my infrequently used scanner and giving my priority to making the more up to date reports submitted available on SY-Country. The Jalainur section now seems so much history and has been overtaken by the events recorded on later visits by Jeff Cartledge, Dave Habraken, Bernd Seiler and others. Nevertheless I hope you feel this report is worth a read.

Almost a year after my previous trip to Jalainur and Jixi, I decided to join photographer David Gorton again on a three week itinerary starting again with Jalainur and Jixi, continuing to Baotou, Gongwusu, Baiyin and Sandaoling. We were joined by Trevor Boothroyd from Huddersfield who had met me on the LCGB/IRS China trip in 2005. Once more Mike Ma was to be our guide although there was a complication as Mike was arranging to guide another group of three at the same time, and there were variations in the two groups' itineraries.

Again I flew KLM from Birmingham to Amsterdam for the flight to Beijing. The onward flight arrived at 9:50 and I was surprised to find KLM still using Terminal 2, but seeing it again was like being reacquainted with an old friend.

The other five members of the two groups had arrived earlier on a British Airways flight from Heathrow and Mike flew with them on the 12:00 flight to Harbin. As this could have been a tight connection for me, Mike booked me on the 15:50 flight due Harbin at 17:30 but arriving late after a 30 minute delayed departure. Mike collected me from Harbin airport and I met David G, Trevor, John Miller, his son Kevin, Ewen Silvester and Mike's assistant guide Tao at a restaurant near the station before we boarded the overnight train to Jalainur.

Jalainur, Oct 25th 28th

At 5:40 we passed Dayan and in the darkness I think I could make out a Mining Railway diesel in the yard and a SY getting up steam.

We arrived at Jalainur Xi at 8:45 and found the sun shining and snow on the platform. We boarded our bus and transferred to Dongfanghong and the washery over icy streets covered with compacted snow. At the washery, much had changed since our previous visit. The high embankment, which was used by loaded coal trains from the opencast before the installation of the underground conveyor had been completely removed. Possibly the contents of the embankment now lay beneath the 8 tracks of Dongfanghong yard which had been completely re-laid at a higher level and provided with a headshunt in a cutting below the line to Daqiao. The two lines under the loading silos were no longer loop lines but only accessible from the north west. The connection from the south east end of the yard towards Nanzhan was replaced with an S-curve on an embankment that included a road overbridge. As on our previous visit SY 1601 was in charge of loading wagons from the silos, but whereas last year it was working facing south east at the south east end of the silos, which is no longer possible, it was now at the north west end and facing north west. For this reason I would now include it as a deep mine locomotive. SY 0924 was at the other end of the yard and both locomotives had a kind of spark arrestor fitted to their chimneys. Subsequently all deep mine locos noted were so fitted, although none of the locos working in the opencast mine were modified.

Seeing the new surfaced road in the direction of Nanzhan, we headed off in our bus in that direction. Nanzhan was quiet, SY 1303 propelled an empty spoil train to the servicing point, beyond which SY 1119 was stabled. SY 1303 and train departed and as we left a second empty spoil train arrived with SY 0959. We returned towards the washery, intending to pause and check the out of service locomotives on the way. Rather foolishly, our driver left the road and headed out towards the lineup. On the way, there was no problem on the frozen ground, but the return was not so easy as the strong sun had thawed out the surface. We got stuck twice on the way back and for a third time trying to get back on the road. We required the assistance of a tow from a front loader to get the bus out of the mud and we wasted quite a bit of time. Amongst the out of use locos were SY 1586 with its third pair of driving wheels missing and attached to a tender numbered SY 0867, also SY 1234 attached to a JF tender numbered SY 1688. Just for the record there were 10 locomotives here out of use, SY 0613 and 1496 seen by Jun at the beginning of September had been removed and we later noted SY 1496 at work. Very strange but following our visit, Jeff Cartledge noted both SY 0613 and 1496 had returned here.
Back at the washery, SY 1416 with large smoke deflectors was busy on the left hand coal loading silo, splitting a loaded train in two, each part being transferred to the re-laid yard. The wagons were a type new to me, they appeared to be flats carrying open containers for the coal. SY 1601 with wagons was on the right hand loading track. Just as SY 1416 climbed a second time from the silo with a set of 10 wagons, the lowering sun reappeared through a break in the clouds, a welcome change on a mostly dull afternoon. Whilst SY 1126 arrived from Daqiao and later departed, we were disappointed there was no further action from SY 1416 which remained simmering in the yard. So it was off to check in at our hotel in Manzhouli.

The next day we were at the opencast mine to see the passenger trains. At 7:40 the Nanzhan train departed the "Office Control Station" (510) propelled by SY 0959 and at 7:50, down at the Coal Unloading Point, a loco uncoupled from a coal train then departed with its coach. So why are the passengers for this train no longer allowed to board it at the "Office Control Station" and have to descend all those extra steps, not to mention their return climb at the end of their shift? A siding has been specially laid at the Unloading Point to hold the coach between duties. The Nanzhan passenger reappeared at about 8:45 but was held at a signal for about 15 minutes before reaching the "Office Control Station". The weather had turned overcast much earlier than on the previous day, despite which we headed for the S-bend out of the opencast mine, a favourite spot from the year before. However we didn't find any loaded spoil trains leaving the opencast, all spoil was being tipped at the south west corner of the mine, from either a track at the edge of the mine or from two tracks at lower levels.
However we did find SY 0959 on 5 tipper wagons reversing into what I thought was a disused siding near the junction of the line to Nanzhan with the connecting line from Dongfanghong. This siding was next to a ridge of sandy soil which was being excavated to be loaded into the tippers. As we returned to our bus, we were passed by SY 1654 propelling a crane from Nanzhan on the connecting line. It didn't continue to Dongfanghong but reversed into a yard containing crane parts continuing to a store of concrete sleepers and track panels. (This is the track that leads to the store of out of service locos.)
We spent the rest of the day at Dongfanghong yard, the sun reappearing earlier than the day before. SY 0924, 1126, 1450, 1601 (of course) were seen, SY 1448 was at Daqiao. At 15:45, SY 1450 departed the yard on 13 CR wagons and 5 tippers of sandy soil, probably from the excavation we had seen earlier in the day. At 16:00 SY 1618 and SY 1424 double headed a train of tippers and CR wagons into the yard, but we weren't lucky enough to see any spectacular departures. So back to our hotel.

During thw course of the third day, we were to be left in the care of Tao, as Mike was to depart with John, Kevin and Ewen to guide them to (hopefully) see QJs at Yuzhou and the narrow gauge Xingyang Brickworks line.
We were again at the opencast mine to see the two passenger trains, SY 1401 working to Nanzhan. At 10:30 we set off to explore some of the deep mines line to the south west. Somewhere along the line, SY 1416 was noted shunting a track into a coal yard, where the road vehicles waiting to be loaded varied from 4 axle trucks to blue 3 wheelers and horses and carts. Maybe 1416 had been here the day before as well. Not seeing any trains on the line, it was back to the opencast mine arriving at 12:00.
Here an unusual train just departing from the "Office Control Station" down into the mine was a chimney first SY hauling 4 tippers loaded with coal. At one stage of its descent it was coupled behind another SY propelling a crane. The 4 tippers were eventually propelled to the Coal Unloading Point. I assume their load was washed coal from Dongfanghong destined for the loco coaling facility next to the Unloading Point. This servicing facility is used by spoil as well as coal trains. This third day was much busier (the days before had been a weekend), with a procession of loaded spoil trains and returning empties out of and into the mine, SY 0957, 0959, 1119, 1284, 1285, 1303, 1376, 1654 and 1663 being noted. SY 1496 was on a permanent way train of track panels and crane whilst SY 0867, 1193, 1256 and 1449 were coal train locos with numbers legible from a distance.

On our last day we arrived at Jalainur at 7:00 with the sun rising into a cloudless blue sky. It was bright enough to video the departure and return of the Nanzhan passenger, also the return to Nanzhan at 8:55, together with spoil train action. We later took the bus to the south east edge of the opencast. The other two members of the group continued on to the "S-bend" exit from the mine but I felt it was a long walk so remained at the edge of the opencast to video trains running to and fro and the loading of coal and spoil. In the afternoon we visited the depot. There were 3 locos in the running shed for attention and 2 locos in steam outside. One of them, SY 1371, disappeared but then returned towing newly repainted SY 1664, so one of the apparently unused sheds is used from time to time as a paint shop. In the workshop SY 1401 was in the course of being overhauled, although no one was actually working on it, so was the work ever completed?
It was then back to Manzhouli, for the first KFC "Junk Food" of the trip before joining train N92 overnight to Harbin departing 17:50 (This train appears since to have been speeded up as it now departs 19:20 but arriving no later in Harbin).

Locos seen. All working in the opencast mine on spoil, coal or works trains unless indicated :-

SY

0471(n), 0614(z), 0682(z), 0795(z), 0867, 0924(d), 0957, 0958, 0959, 1041, 1119, 1126(d), 1192(z), 1193, 1234(z), 1240, 1256, 1257, 1258(z), 1284, 1285, 1303, 1371, 1374(z), 1375, 1376, 1401(w), 1416(d), 1424(d), 1448(d), 1449, 1450(d), 1496, 1586(z), 1587(r), 1601(d), 1617(z), 1618(d), 1619(z), 1650, 1654, 1663, 1664(d,p), 1678, 1688(d), 1689, 1690, 3005
Notes:
dworking to deep mines, locos face in opposite direction to opencast mine locos (10 locos)
zstored/dumped (10 locos)
rlight repairs in running shed, in steam
poutside running shed, repainted
nin running shed, not in steam
win workshop for major overhaul

SY 1416 climbs away from the coal loading silo at Dongfanghong.
 

SY 1618 departs the relaid Dongfanghong yard with empties for one of the deep mines.
 

Looking into the opencast mine on a dull morning,
note the passenger train at lower right, returning to the Coal Unloading Point.
 

Coal train being loaded at the edge of the mine.
 

Spoil train being loaded.
 

In late afternoon, a loaded spoil train approaches a reversing point.
 

SY 1303 takes water at Nanzhan, not much activity at the multi track servicing facility.
 

Jixi, Oct 29th Nov 1st

We arrived at Harbin at 6:40 and caught an express bus to Mudanjiang at 7:15. We arrived and transferred to our own private bus by 11:15. After lunch in a restaurant at Mudanjiang we departed at 12:35 reaching Didao at 14:45 and being held up on the main street by a train from the power station. We overtook the train and, for those who wished (not me), pictures were taken at the level crossing before the mine, the loco being identified as SY 0590. We were not welcome in the mine yard and a man in a leather jacket suggested we hand over 50 yuan each. With representatives of both red and white rose counties in our party, his suggestion was declined. We spent the final hour before sunset there, noting two more SY, 0407 and 1213. We checked into the usual hotel, which seemed to have been renamed but still had the giant globe in the foyer with the Falkland Islands referred to as the Malvinas, to the annoyance of British guests. I was surprised to find the room next to that of Tao and myself occupied by Liu Xuejun from Chengde who was my guide in March 2007. I was delighted to meet you again, Jun.

The next morning we headed for the Chengzihe system's Nancheng servicing point. Despite Jun and his party of 7 or 8 having beaten us to it, we did manage a few pictures. By 7:10 we had seen 3 or 4 SY being serviced, but before leaving noted the numbers of the 8 electrics from Pingzhuang (their numbers should be their LEW "Hans Beimler" works numbers minus 10,000 but my eyesight wasn't good enough to check them). We spent some time at Beicheng washery noting 4 SY, 2 of which we had noted earlier at Nancheng. After this we set off on the bumpy road towards Zhengyang. We turned off towards the spoil tips, noting on the way SY 1340, light engine, not very smart with its cabsides and tender touched up with lots of patches of grey paint (subsequently reported to have had a repaint completed). Exploring the tips there was no sign of activity, confirmed by later reports. However from our elevated position, we observed a very long train, top and tailed, entering the line that turns north to the east of Dongcheng. My guess, a train of empties using the line as a headshunt for the sidings at Dongcheng, but by the time we had reboarded our bus, followed a car along dirt tracks towards the line and I had been helped scramble across a narrow stream, the action was over. We followed the line back towards Dongcheng and where it rejoined the line towards the spoil tips, we could see that the parallel line to Zhengyang was blocked by a permanent way railcar with a crane fitted flat wagon being used for work erecting poles (for electrification?). Shortly after there was a break in poling work and the railcar departed towards Nancheng followed by a second railcar with a gang of track workers that had also been occupying the line. So with the line now clear, we headed for Zhengyang and at 11:45, SY 1545 arrived light engine from Dongcheng, followed not long after by SY 1369 on a long train of empties, both locos tender first. This later made a nice picture of the locos chimney first, side by side, in the yard. Around 12:35 first SY 1545 returned light engine to Dongcheng and SY 1369 departed with empties for Xinghua without us being in a suitable position for pictures. We next headed for Xinghua, never having visited there previously, and found not only SY 1369 there but also SY 1544. We hung around but the only action was SY 1369 departing light engine at 14:00.

To end the day we returned to Beicheng washery where SY 1058 was working the hopper wagon shuttle between the washery and Dongcheng and SY 1369, following us around, reappeared. The weather was mild enough for the coal slurry beds to be worked and some horses and carts were still being used. Although I didn't observe it, at one point a horse and cart failed to make a sharp turn above the beds and toppled in, although I was informed the horse and its owner were seen later, so the horse must have been none the worse for its experience. (OK, I was busy exchanging names with a group of young girls on the way home from school who were keen to show me their English text books ... after school I go home to read a book, or ride my bike, or learn to play the violin).

The following morning we were at Nancheng by 6:10 before the sun had risen, noting 4 SY being serviced. At one point 3 SY coupled together on the line above the servicing point and departed to Dongcheng. Once the sun had risen, it was a bright, clear morning so we moved on to the level crossing at Dongcheng and sent Tao off to find us some warm dumplings for breakfast. Seven SY were present for the shift change, and when action restarted there was a double headed train towards Jixi at 9:00. Only SY 1340 remained at the stabling point and it departed at 9:15. We observed trains between Dongcheng and Beicheng washery before setting off for Didao via the old road. We checked the river bridge carrying the Chengzihe line to Jixi, but decided to continue on to Didao arriving at 11:50. There were 4 SY in the mine yard. SY 1205 on a set of empty tipper wagons was at the servicing point and then departed up the "hill" to a coal storage point to be loaded. At 12:35 another SY, 1213, appeared on a set of loaded tippers, propelling them, tender first, towards the power station.
We then moved to a position close to the CR main line and recorded:
13:15, SY 1213 returns from power station.
13:55, SY 1205 to power station.
14:20, SY 1205 returns from power station.
15:05, SY 1446 with 17 loaded CR wagons to Didao CR.

We left Didao taking the road marked as #115 on Bernd Seiler's 2008 map. We noted the new mine at Tianjie worked by a diesel that I guess is a GK1C to judge from its orange livery with deep cream "flash". We then reached the level crossing over the Chengzihe line to Jixi Xi where an enormous queue of road traffic was waiting as a top and tailed train was stopped in the loop over which the road crossed. Eventually two coupled SY arrived light engine from the Jixi Xi direction, but paused before passing the top and tailed train which had earlier been trying to reverse backwards to clear the crossing. Finally 35 minutes after we had arrived at the crossing, this reversing was completed and traffic flooded across in best Chinese chaotic fashion.
Whilst there, as light was fast disappearing, we checked the layout of the junction to the unnamed mine. There are two loops on the main line next to the control office and SY 1340 and SY 1058 were waiting here to be joined later by SY 1369 which had been reversing the train off the level crossing. So together with the coupled light engines, SY 1437 and SY 1544, 5 SY had been seen in a short space of time. SY 1340 remained by the control office while SY 1058 and SY 1369 coupled together and departed light engine towards Dongcheng.

On our final day in Jixi, we set off for Lishu noting a diesel and 2 SY as we passed the mining railway yard at Hengshan Xin. Reaching Lishu after an hour's drive, we found SY 1118 and SY 0951 stabled. Shortly after, SY 0341 arrived from the direction of Pinggang mine hauling 3 CR wagons. Train times at Lishu are unpredictable but after SY 0341's fire had been cleaned, it ran down the yard and was attached to the rear of a lengthy train of empties headed by SY 0951 which then departed at 9:15 for the mine at Pinggang. We boarded our bus for Pinggang where, soon after our arrival, the train struggled up the final climb to the mine. SY 0951 detached itself and propelled some tippers of spoil to a tip beyond the mine, leaving SY 0341 to position the empty wagons for loading.
We left Pinggang at 11.00 returning to Hengshan by 11:30. In the yard were SY 1344 tender first on CR wagons and GKD1A 0106. I had never seen much of the Hengshan system so we headed for Zhongxin. We crossed the line to Erchang mine which looked somewhat disused. Shortly after our arrival at Zhongxin, SY 1018 arrived with 13 loaded coal wagons from Xiao Hengshan mine, ran round its train and left down the bank for Hengshan Xin. This was followed by GKD1A 0107 arriving light engine from either Zhangxin or Erdaohezi mine. We left after this brief visit, but on the road out of Hengshan towards Jixi, we saw a SY at Erchang that looked to be out of use, but didn't stop to go and identify it. We headed back to Chengzihe for the activity around Beicheng and Dongcheng for the rest of our stay: 13:00, SY 1544 propelling 8 empty hoppers, Beicheng to Dongcheng.
13:40, SY 1544 returns with loaded hoppers.
14:05, SY 1437 on tippers (1 empty and 4 loaded) tender first from Beicheng to Dongcheng, then reverses and propels towards Jixi.
14:20, SY 1544 with empty hoppers back to Dongcheng.
14:40, SY 1544 returns with loads to Beicheng.
SY 0863 and SY 1058 stabled at Dongcheng.
15:00, SY 1369 arrives at Dongcheng with 53 empty wagons from Jixi.
15:25, SY 1369 and SY 1058 top and tail 24 wagons towards Jixi then reverse into Beicheng on far side of triangle.
15:50, SY 1437 returns with tippers.

Locos seen. All in use, except stored EL2 and SY at Erchang :-

Chengzihe

SY

0863, 1058, 1340, 1351, 1369, 1437, 1544, 1545

EL2

6785, 6786, 6788, 7327, 7336, 7343, 7349, 7368
Didao

SY

0407, 0590, 1205, 1213, 1446
Hengshan

SY

1018, 1344

GKD1A

0106, 0107
Hengshan (Erchang)

SY

???? (probably 0898)
Lishu

SY

0341, 0951, 1118

Chengzihe - Dawn, SY 1369 leaves Nancheng before reversing to Dongcheng.
 

Chengzihe - Loco preparation at Dongcheng.
 

Chengzihe - Zhengyang mine, SY 1545 leaves for Dongcheng and SY 1369 waits with empty wagons for Xinghua.
 

Lishu - SY 0341 at Pinggang mine.
 

We now had to get from Jixi to Baotou. David Gorton's draft itinerary had us flying from Mudanjiang to Beijing, staying overnight at the Sino-swiss and flying to Baotou the following afternoon. To reduce costs, I proposed train travel despite the downside of two consecutive nights in sleepers. We had plenty of time to kill before we departed Jixi at 21:19 on train N76 to Harbin arriving Harbin 6:00. Breakfast was another "Junk food" meal at a KFC crowded with (mostly young) people.

Travel to Beijing was on fast train D28 departing 9:02. I think it was formed of two coupled 8 coach units and I got an excellent window seat on the right hand side. First stop was Changchun and departing past the CR depot the following loco was noted:-

JS 8411Changchun CR depot, not in steam

Changchun is not somewhere I associate with JS class, but consulting Duncan Cotterill's List revealed it to be one of a pair (JS 8411/2) from Changchun No 2 Power Station.

The train speed was displayed in the coach. The maximum as far as Shenyang was 160-170 km/h, from Shenyang onwards 240+ km/h. Nearing Beijing a NY class diesel hydraulic was noted on passenger stock with another newly repainted at Beijing depot. However two others at the depot were stored with cab windows boarded up.

On arrival after 17:00, there was confusion meeting Mike Ma along with John, Kevin and Ewen who were rejoining us for the overnight train K263 to Baotou at 18:48, very important as Mike had our train tickets. As a result we only had time for yet more "Junk food" for our evening meal, in contrast to Mike and his charges who dined out at a restaurant.

Baotou, Nov 3rd Nov 4th

Our train was due in Baotou at 7:19 but didn't arrive until 7:43 being delayed by track and electrification work in the Baotou area. We left our bags at the Rong Zi Hotel and proceeded to the Steelworks offices where 0-6-2T (ex 0-8-0T) ET7 5333 and 0-6-0T XK13 5903 are plinthed. Across the road at the depot JS 58001 and YJ 232 were stored. SYs 1676, 1677 and 1748 (high deflectors) were in steam. SY 1725 was laid aside with the right hand side of its cab damaged, rear coupling rods removed both sides and attached to a tender with its number painted out. Whilst we were there SY 1517 arrived for coal. We visited the depot again the following day and again SYs 1676, 1677 and 1748 were in steam, with SY 1727 being coaled. On the second visit we noted that ET7s 5328 and 5332 were still present in the undergrowth beyond the turntable. There was no sign of any steam locomotive under repair.
At the first slag tip we visited, which was next to a busy road, SY 1743 was in action. We then visited a second tip where SY 1431 and then SY 1696 worked slag trains. We returned to the first tip where John, Kevin and Ewen left us with Tao as guide to catch a train for visits to Baiyin and Sandaoling.
On the following day we returned to the second of the two slag tips, where tipping was being done further round the tip and trains arriving from the opposite direction. SY 1743 was on the first train seen, and then SY 1731, not seen the day before, on a second train. The slag tipping was a spectacular show, I hadn't felt the heat of tipped slag since Anshan in 1995.

Locos seen with works plate data where noted:-

ET7 5328

 Dumped at depot

ET7 5332

 Dumped at depot

ET7 5333

 Plinthed outside offices

JS 58001

 Stored in depot yard

SY 1431

 Working on slag train

SY 1517

 Working, at depot for coal

SY 1676

 In steam at depot

SY 1677

 In steam at depot

SY 1696

 Working on slag train

SY 1723

 At depot, cab damage etc.

SY 1727

 Working, at depot for coal

SY 1731

 Working on slag train

SY 1743

 Working on slag train

SY 1748

Tangshan 9/1993In steam at depot

XK13 5903

 Plinthed outside offices

YJ 232

 Stored in depot yard

A spectacular sight as two ladle wagons are unloaded almost simultaneously.
 

An SY rolls back to the steelworks with an empty train.
 

We were then off with Mike to catch train 2635 to Wuhai departing 14:31.

Continued in Part 2.

Dave Fielding

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