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China Trip Report: Tiefa (Diaobingshan) and Sandaoling January 2014

by Ben Kletzer

Tiefa (Diaobingshan), Sandaoling

From January 13th to 24th, I travelled to Tiefa and Sandaoling to photograph two lines that I had not adequately covered in past trips to China.

I timed my trip to Tiefa (Diaobingshan) for the Steam Festival that was briefly mentioned on this site. The locomotives in steam were KD6 #487, and SY 1770, 1772. The first day of the festival, January 13th, saw a train of older (but authentically painted) coaches, head in the morning to the Daqing museum. This train was topped and tailed with the KD6 leading and SY 1772 pushing. In the afternoon, the same train headed to Wangqian. The line from Xiaonan to Wangqian has not been used since the end of passenger service on this branch, however the track was passable and the train made good speed. I chased the train to Wangqian, where the train did 3 runpasts at the famous curve for photographers. Wangqian was a bustling little village on this afternoon, with at least 400 Chinese gricers, and myself (the only foreign gricer!). Certainly, the Steam Festival attracted a lot of Chinese photographers to journey out to Diaobingshan for the day.

KD6 #487 enters Wangqian on the third runpast for the 400+ Chinese railfans alongside myself. (13/1/2014)
 

On the morning of the 14th, I met up with Jun and his group whom I would spend the rest of my trip with. On this day, the same special train ran on the line to Daming with the SY turned so a locomotive was chimney first in each direction. They did several runpasts at the Wang River Middle Bridge, as shown below. The afternoon saw this train head to Faku (but not any farther) with runpasts at the tunnel and alongside the lake. The Festival organizers cancelled the planned itinerary for the 15th, and instead the KD6 and SY 1772 took the regular Faku line trains. These locomotives hauled the trains on both the morning and afternoon. On the 16th, SY 1772 powered the Faku trains while the KD6 was put back into the museum at Daqing.

 

KD6 #487 leads the special train across the Wang River Middle Bridge near Daming. (14/1/2014)
 

SY 1770 was intended to haul all Faku line trains for the 13th-18th. However, it suffered a failure on the morning of the 14th, and was replaced by diesel that day, then SY 1772 took over those duties for the remainder of the Festival.

 

SY 1772 crosses the arch bridge in Diaobingshan while a Chinese family plays on a frozen pond below. (15/1/2014)
 

Locomotives in steam:
KD6 #487, SY #1770, SY #1772

On January 17th, our group flew from Shenyang to Urumqi and took the usual sleeper train to Hami Nan where we were met by Mrs. Guli. There have been a few recent reports from Sandaoling, but I'll give a brief summary for you here. The spoil trains were not running, however the spoil locomotives were all in steam at Xibolizhan. The reason for this stoppage was a lack of spoil for the month of January. The mine is removing most of the track out of the West Pit for a major blasting operation. In February after the blasting in finished, spoil trains should resume. Meanwhile, the spoil locomotives are being rotated through the coal train circuit to keep them in good running condition. In fact, the coal train locomotives changed on a daily basis while I was there.

 

JS 8225 storms uphill past JS 8077 on the coal line out of the East Pit. (19/1/2014)
 

However, the coal trains were some of the busiest ever. Multiple days, we saw 20+ trains come out of the East Pit hauling coal, and it was an amazing show with three or four locomotives running daily. In addition, Erjing and Yijing were very busy, according to Jun this was the busiest he had seen the surface mines. The new mine is currently sending coal to Erjing, where it is loaded by a bucket loader, creating even more traffic at the mine. At one point we saw three locomotives loading trains at Erjing! Overall, despite the lack of spoil trains, it was still an amazing visit to the steamiest place on earth.

JS 8077 leads one of the many daily coal trains out of the East Pit (18/1/2014)
 

An unidentified JS leads a Nanzhan bound train at sunrise. (21/1/2014)
 

I spoke to several people around Sandaoling about the new mine, and the line is supposed to be in operation in October 2014, using about 6 JS locomotives for operation. Given the constant truck traffic from the new mine to Erjing, this should be a busy line.

Locomotives seen in steam:
Nazhan: 8314, 8358, 8366
East Pit: 8027, 8076, 8077, 8080, 8173, 8194, 8195, 8225, 8368 (some of these were also seen at Xibolizhan under light steam).
Engineer’s Trains: 8040, 8080 (one day only), 8167
West Pit: 6209, 8078, 8081, 8190, 8197 (these locomotives were only seen in light steam at Xibolizhan).

All locomotives were JS, no SY’s were seen at all.

Ben Kletzer

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