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Steam in China - 22nd February to 8th March 2012

by Roger Croston

Pingzhuang, Yuanbaoshan, Fuxin, Beipiao, Tiefa (Diaobingshan), Beitai, Fula'erji, Wujiu, Baiyin

Pingzhuang Mining Railway – visited Wednesday 22nd, Thursday 23rd, Friday 24th February.
SY 1017 working
SY 1025 working
SY 1083 working
SY 1425 working
SY 1764 working

Cold and grey with falling snow on the 22nd and photography was abandoned early in the afternoon. The next two days were under brilliant sunny blue skies with two inches of snow on the ground.
Steam operations are reported due to end in the washery area by summer 2012.

Yuanbaoshan Mining Railway – visited Thursday 23rd February.
JS 8242 on afternoon passenger service to Fengshuigou looking very clean with smart repainted(?) white and red coaches.
Clear blue skies, no wind and three inches of snow.

Fuxin Mining Railway – visited Friday 24th, Saturday 25th, Sunday 26th February.
SY 0770 working
SY 0941 working
SY 0988 working
SY 1195 working
SY 1210 working
SY 1319 working
SY 1396 working
SY 1397 working
SY 1460 on passenger duty
SY 1818 (really 1414) working

Clear blue skies with exceptional visibility into the base of the deep mine where one steam hauled train was seen being loaded a quarter of way down the pit directly below the power station.
Afternoon passenger trains steam hauled on 24th and 25th of February.
Three inches of snow outside of the city.
Even though we were a group of only three (and walking very well separated) we were chased out of the yard by a security guard who was sitting in a hut on the 24th.
Many Chinese steam photographers were visiting on the 25th, including a very affable policeman in uniform.

Mid day passenger approaches terminus at Wangying, steam if you are lucky, 25th February.
 

Evening at the top tip, 25th February.
 

Empties heading for Wulong Mine, 25th February.
 

Tipping fly ash on the lower tip, mid day, 26th February.
 

The opencast pit below the power station is no longer served by a busy electrified system,
but can you spot a steam worked train in the pit, 26th February.
 

Beipiao Mining Railway – visited Sunday 26th February.
Steam ended officially in July 2011 but the last loco is reported to have continued in operation until November 2011. A very large public placard at the works offices, protected by glass and a shelter, displayed and celebrated the days of steam and photographs of officials on the official last day. Now fully dieselised.

Tiefa (Diaobingshan) Mining Railway – visited Monday 27th, Tuesday 28th February.
Passenger trains
SY 1770 built in 1999
SY 1771 built in 1999
KD6 487 (the first number 6 on the loco plate much smaller in size).
American built locomotive working an artificial goods train (complete with a live steam crane) being used for making a Second World War blockbuster film in a recreated prison camp. Many real P.L.A. soldiers were dressed in uniforms of various regiments and they were only too happy to pose for photographs or mock arrest 'Western steam imperialists' at gunpoint. We were permitted free access to the huge film set when no filming was happening and the director of photography was most friendly.

Had it not been for this film set, complete with a concrete 1930s style railway station flying a Kuomintang flag, there would have been very little to keep one occupied.

A friendly policeman, wondering why a lone westerner was on one train, came and sat with me. I explained in sign language that it was for steam. He then proudly showed off photographs of his infant daughter on his mobile 'phone.

Fare for one half- hour journey costs 1 Yuan (= ten pence).

Film set at Daqing, 28th February. (Photo: Liu Xuejun)
 

... more film extras. (Photo: Liu Xuejun)
 

KD6 487 in steam for filming, February 28th. (Photo: Liu Xuejun)
 

Beitai Steelmill – visited Wednesday 29th February.
SY 0448 working
SY 0946 working
SY 1075 working
SY 1191 working
SY 1561 working
SY 1567 working
SY 1648 working
SY 1684 working

SY 0825 in workshop under repair
SY 1560 in workshop under repair

SY 0864 cold in storage yard
SY 1054 cold in storage yard
SY 1577 cold in storage yard
SY 2019 cold in storage yard

Diesels were working in the area.

To enter the steel works it is necessary to pay and a mine employer has to be hired as a 'minder'. The cost depends on the size of the group. A group under five in number is very expensive. For groups of five or more one can reckon on paying about £120.00 per person per day, payable to the mine's tourist section. The 'minder' issues a hard hat and instructions to take good care not to fall into any pits of molten slag etc., etc. and leaves one free to wander anywhere. (Just try doing that under “Elf and Safe Tea” rules in any western steel works).
Weather cold and lightly overcast.

SY 1567 and SY 1075 on the access tracks to the blast furnaces, 29th February.
 

Tipping slag, 29th February.
 

Fula'erji No. 2 power station and chemical works – visited Thursday 1st March.
JS 6546 working power station to China Rail
JS 8123 working power station to China Rail
JS 8355 working power station to China Rail
SY 1312 in power station yard, coaled up but cold.
Very friendly loco crews. Power station yard is out of bounds to photographers.

SY 0897 (built 1974) in chemical works yard, working
SY 1688 (built 1976) in chemical works yard, working
Both locos absolutely clapped out with their tyres badly burred over their edges.
After about one hour we were most politely requested to leave by the works management who had spotted our group of five on security cameras, even though we had kept out of the prohibited area of the actual chemical works.

Clear blue skies.

Early afternoon, heading light engine from main line interchange into the yard of the No. 2 power station, 1st March.
 

Meitian Wujiu coal mine (north east of Yakeshi) – visited Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd, Sunday 4th March.
A fantastic place for steam with great views of the track and excellent possibilities for chasing by car across wide-open countryside, interspersed with a few woodlands and hamlets.

SY 1134 (built 1981) idle but in gentle steam in workshop
SY 1225 working frequently
SY 1546 (built 1987) cold in workshop for maintenance. This loco had had a major overhaul in October 2011 when technicians had been requested to come from Sujiatun (near Shenyang) who then reported the discovery of this location to Chinese steam enthusiasts.

Brilliant blue skies, intense sun, no wind, deep snow, temperature of minus 29 Celsius on Saturday 3rd in the morning rising to minus 16 Celsius in the afternoon.

Loco 1225 had much work and ran frequently until midday on the Sunday when there was no demand and the loco was chocked and abandoned in the main yard awaiting further instructions.

Heading west out of Wujiu passing the mine's triumphal arch, early afternoon 4th March.
 

Arriving into Meitianzhen, 4th March.
 

Working to No. 2 Mine, 2nd March. (Photo: Liu Xuejun)
 

Working from the mines, 2nd March. (Photo: Liu Xuejun)
 

Arriving at Meitianzhen station, 3rd March. (Photo: Liu Xuejun)
 

Sketch map of railway
 

Baiyin Mining Railway – Friday 6th, Saturday 7th, Sunday 8th March.
Passenger trains to Sanyelian and Shenbutong

SY 1013 in steam in shop for minor repairs
SY 1047 cold in workshop
SY 1067 cold in front of workshop
SY 1470 on passenger services, very clean
SY 1581 in steam in workshop
SY 1583 on passenger services
SY "2008" not seen, reported dead.

JS 8021 very dead
SY 0135 very dead
SY 0139 very dead
SY 0819 very dead

Weather tended to be cloudy. Overnight snow on 7th and 8th of March which lay two inches deep outside of town and which melted by 10 a.m. Intermittent snow showers during the day. Little sun.

Slag trains have ceased altogether. The slag is now dumped onto a huge concrete apron with approximately two hundred 30 foot tall numbered posts. The slag crucibles seem to be allowed to go cold and the slag is then tipped out into piles of slag rubble. It is taken away by road in wagons, possibly for further processing.

Diesels are doing many more of the yard duties and they are pulling longer trains and as a consequence there are fewer trains. Yard activity is much reduced from 2011 and sometimes very little or no activity is seen in the yard for 3 or 4 hours. All the morning and afternoon passenger trains were still steam hauled.

The evening train to Shenbutong, 6th March. (Photo: Liu Xuejun)
 

Morning train from Baiyin calls at Dongchang Gou halt, 7th March.
 

Roger Croston

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© 2012 Roger Croston