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Steam in China, December 2011

by Michael Reilly

Fuxin

Andrew Benton and I visited Fuxin on 17-18 December. My original intention had been to go to Xintai to see if the QJs are still active there but a previous attempt in October had ended in failure when I got stuck in an enormous traffic jam near Taishan and I was keen to get a 'fix' of active steam before returning to the UK for Christmas, so Fuxin won out. Although there is a daily overnight train direct from Beijing, by far the quickest and most convenient way of getting there is to take a fast train from Beijing to Jinzhou South on the Shenyang line, of which there are several daily, and a taxi from there to Jinzhou bus station (there is a taxi rank at the station), from where coaches leave every 30 minutes for Fuxin until 1830, taking under two hours for the trip. This way the Beijing-Fuxin trip takes less than 7 hours, well under half the time the direct train takes! And staying overnight in Fuxin had the added advantage of a hotel room to retire to and warm up in at the end of a freezing day outside.

The situation on the ground remains very much as in recent reports. On the 17th the morning line-up at Wulong Yard saw 6 SYs in steam at 0800, the following morning 5 SYs were being serviced as we arrived, together with 2 diesels but within a few minutes another SY came through from Wulong Mine on a loaded coal train, to be followed a few moments later by 2 SYs topping and tailing a rake of empty spoil wagons, but also with a diesel on the end.

Once the shift change was over, we headed to the Wulong Tip branch, where activity was quite intensive, with 2 trains at the head of the tip on the morning of 17th, and a steady rotation of trains throughout the day. There appeared to be two types of spoil being tipped - heavy rock over burden from the deep level mines, in trains of not more than five wagons which when fully loaded posed a challenge for the SYs on the steeply graded line. There was lots of slipping as trains neared the top of the branch. Less frequent were longer trains of 7 wagons, which may have been clinker from the power stations. Both the tip and Wulong Mine, where there was also lots of activity, including a number of spoil workings up the tip branch, were 100% steam while we were there (but see comment above about a diesel working in from the mine on the morning of 18th). We did not see the early morning passenger - the dark and cold were major disincentives - but train 111 was diesel hauled each day. And with relatively limited time we concentrated on where steam was reported to be most active, so did not venture further afield to Taiping or Gaode. Although we walked up to Wulong Mine and the Tip, Bus no 5 goes to the mine entrance and there are also lots of taxis and motorcycle rickshaws for those who prefer not to walk. We had no problems with security, provided guidance was followed at the (often busy and potentially dangerous) level crossings.

Altogether we saw 9 SYs in action over a day and a half. In sheer numbers Fuxin may not compare with Sandaoling but for ease of access from Beijing, concentration of action in a relatively small area and the intensity of activity, Fuxin can be highly recommended - if Sandaoling is the 'steamiest place on earth', Fuxin certainly runs it a close second.

Locos seen working: SY 0770, 0988, 1210 (18th only) 1319, 1320, 1378,
1396, 1397, 1460 (17th only) plus at least 3 DF5D diesels.

SY 1397 descends from Wulong Tip with spoil empties, 17 December.
 

SYs 0770 and 1398 in Wulong Yard during the morning shift change, 18 December.
 

SY 0770 works through Wulong Yard heading for the tip with a loaded spoil train, 18 December.
 

Michael Reilly

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2011 Michael Reilly