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Steam in China, March 2013

by Michael Reilly

Tianjin Heavy Machinery (Tianjin Tanzhong, also known as Tianjin Nancang Heavy Machinery)

Following reports in recent months from Chinese enthusiasts Jiang Yifan and Pang Dawei of continuing steam operations at Tianjin Heavy Machinery works, Andrew Benton and I visited on 9 March to investigate. Thanks are due to both of them for bringing this to wider attention, and especially to Pang Dawei for his detailed map of the site, including access. The depot is hidden away behind other buildings and on an earlier visit last November to look for it, I had passed within 100 metres of it on two sides, yet oblivious to its existence!

The Heavy Machinery Works complex covers an extensive site in the north west of Tianjin, approximately 8km NW of Tianjin North station. The simplest, if not quickest, way of getting there is to take metro line 1 to the penultimate station of Xihengdi, then walk approximately 5km almost due east. Quite recent maps of Tianjin show an oval shaped railway encompassing the eastern half of the site, with additional sidings. The whole complex, indeed most of a formerly extensive industrial zone in this part of the city, appears to be undergoing major redevelopment however, and the railway is now basically a very long siding from China Rail exchange sidings by Nancang bridge. SYs 1007 (Tangshan, 1978) and 1524 are on site. The latter was last used in May 2012 but failed an inspection soon after and has not worked since. There are no plans to restore it and in current circumstances it is unlikely it will be used again. No 1007 is steamed daily. Servicing normally takes place around 0800, subsequent activity is usually no more than a single trip working to the China Rail exchange sidings and back. The timing of this is entirely in the hands of China Rail. We had been told beforehand that it was usually between 11.00 and 13.00 and arrived shortly after 11.00, to be told it would not be until the afternoon, most probably not before 14.00. Weather conditions were dreadful, with a gale blowing up the huge amounts of dust and rubbish in the area, making standing up difficult and photography almost impossible, so we didn't stay long.

Depot staff said that traffic has been gradually declining and thought that the entire works would probably close within two years. Presumably this explains the continued presence of steam - there would seem to be little point in investing in a diesel loco in such circumstances. Although activity is limited, it does mean that there are still, in 2013, three locations with working steam that can be visited on a day trip from Beijing, each of them representing one of the remaining classes of steam in use in China! (Bajiaotai - JS and Sishui - QJ are the others).


 

Map by Dawei Pang
 

Michael Reilly

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