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Steam in China, May 2012

by Michael Reilly

Yuanbaoshan, Pingzhuang

Andrew Benton and I made a day trip to Yuanbaoshan and Pingzhuang on 12 May. We took train no 1457 from Beijing North and arriving in Chifeng at 0531 then took a taxi to Yuanbaoshan, arriving just in time to see a diesel backing onto, then departing with the 0700 passenger, seeming to bear out recent reports that steam would finish at the end of April. But JS 8249 was in steam and being serviced and once the passenger had departed, it came off the service area and coupled on to the southbound end of a rake of loaded coal wagons, presumably bound for the exchange sidings. It was pouring with rain and the light was very poor, however, so we decided to carry on to Pingzhuang. The level crossing at Yuanbaoshan CNR was blocked for almost an hour by shunting, however, putting paid to hopes of getting to Pingzhuang in time for the morning shift change.

So we headed for the town centre and a coffee instead, finally making it to the washery just in time to see SY 1017 struggling up the bank in wet conditions with a rake of empties for the deep mines. Shortly afterwards, smoke deflectored SY 1083 left the washery with a loaded train for the exchange sidings, returning about two hours later with a rake of empties. By this time SY 1017 had returned to the washery with a loaded train which it left there, proceeding light engine to the exchange sidings. Barely had it done so when SY 1764 appeared light engine, presumably from the link to the electric lines and the spoil tip, as 1083 was still in section. This time 1083 returned with its empties within 45 minutes and once clear of the washery sidings, 1764 promptly disappeared in the direction of the exchange sidings, still light engine. By this time the morning rain and cloud had gone and it was a glorious spring afternoon. As its smokebox faces north, 1764 would have made a fine sight tackling the bank between the works and the washery in the early evening sun. However it had not reappeared before we had to leave for our bus back to Chifeng and the train home. (Maybe 1764 had gone to the running shed/works?, D.F.)

Also seen, on one of the tracks in the walled yard on the east of the line between the brewery level crossing and the washery, were SY 0400, facing the gate, and behind it JS 1001, facing north.

Independent travellers may like to note that a large new bus station at Pingzhuang is almost complete. It is some way from the town centre but presumably buses to and from Chifeng and Yuanbaoshan will run from it once opened. Within Pingzhuang, bus no 1 runs close to the Zhuangmei complex, however there is a rather wider choice of buses on the road across the level crossing about 1.5km to the south (the second one south of the brewery crossing on Duncan Cotterill's map), including bus no 6.

JS 8249 comes off the servicing area at Xizhan, Yuanbaoshan, on a grey, wet morning.
 

SY 1083 carefully gets a fully loaded rake of 40 wagons underway from the washery, Pingzhuang.
 

The rain has gone and SY 1017 storms through Zhuangmei with a rake of empties.
 

Michael Reilly

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2012 Michael Reilly