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Steam in China, 28 February- 13 March  2015

by Roger Croston, photos by Ralph Montagu

Baiyin, Sandaoling, Fushun, Fuxin, Pingzhuang

Railway guide Liu Xuejun.

Parts of this trip were filmed for incorporation into a report on Chinese steam made by the English language Beijing bureau of Al Jazeera, for which see the following websites:

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153280808808690

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfrzeckKaVg

http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2015/04/china-steam-trains-approaching-final-destination-150404092530882.html

And with incorrect captions:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2015/04/pictures-china-steam-trains-150404045242590.html

Baiyin, 28th February - 2nd March.

Locos seen working:- SY1047 SY1581 SY1583 SY1581 cannibalised SY1013 in workshop in same spot as in 2014 and not being worked on.

One loco (number not recorded) ‘stuffed and mounted’ in a new mine museum opposite the main mine complex entrance near to the Mosque at the edge of the city. Surprisingly there is still just about enough shunting and freight work to fill in the gaps between the steam hauled passenger trains. The morning passenger train did not have a banking engine as it had had this time last year. Several steam freights were seen working up to Sanyelian as well as moving sulphuric acid tanks around the yard next to the depot and down to the copper smelter. A newly refurbished factory and siding towards Baiyin City occasionally hosted steam hauled freights picking up one ton bulk bags of minerals, which were taking about four hours to be loaded by crane from a very wide, bright, white, new concrete loading area. It is reported that recruiting staff is becoming difficult due to very low wages (circa £25 a week), and low desire to work on steam locomotives. On 2nd of March a phalanx of several (maybe five) Chinese Dragons visited the offices at the depot in a very colourful and spectacular, all too short-live, dance and display for the managers and administrators, to bring the celebrations of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival to them.

Sandaoling 4th - 8th March.

Locos seen working in the pit:

JS6190, JS6209, JS8081, JS8167, JS8173

Locos seen working in the yard:-

JS8053,JS8089,JS8314,JS8358, Plus one more JS reported working.

Working JS locomotives have been reduced from 19 a year ago to 10, with five of them working coal trains out of the mine, with a further five working the marshalling yard. A further two engineering trains were reported serviceable. Four JSs were under repair in the workshop; one of them stripped down to the frames for a full rebuild, namely JS 8197 with JS8366 under heavy overhaul and JS6204 and JS8167 awaiting repair. The 16-mile track proposed in March 2014 has been built to the new deep mine, but the expected use of steam on it failed to materialise. Operations with steam immediately proved uneconomic, with diesel traction capable of hauling double length trains compared to steam; presumably running through to China Rail Interchange without requiring a loco change in the main marshalling yard. Only one such train was seen at West Station, which has now been decommissioned due the demise of spoil trains and all spoil lines now lifted. The long spoil train ramp out of the mine is already buried under 70 feet of rubble, as spoil is now backfilled within the pit. Therefore it was no longer possible to see the occasional spectacular “Roman Candle” of bright pink sparks towering up dozens of feet into the air from loco’s exhausts as I saw in 2014. This can be seen only by lucky chance and good fortune as it is dependant on a loco working hard uphill when being heavily fired. An attempt to see it as locos worked loaded coal trains at night up the ramp to the washery was made without success. However, our small party was invited into the signal box (very well heated), by the signalman who had seen us stumbling about in the dark and who wanted to show us the workings of the signalling mimic board. Loaded coal trains ran frequently out of the open cast pit. A few trains were seen running to and from the deep mine at unpredictable times. Ralph Montagu by careful observation has noted that the “Blue Loader” coal goes to the main Washery and the big lumps, loaded by diggers, are sent to behind the “coke / gas works” and to a different tipping area. The two “Jordan” stone ploughs are now to be seen in storage next to the workshop.

Reported by others as dead or stored: JS6203, JS6205, JS6206, JS6208, JS6210, JS6223, JS6224, JS6225, JS6259, JS6261, JS6430, JS6436, JS8027, JS8040, JS8055, JS8077, JS8078, JS8080, JS8188, JS8189, JS8193, JS8194, JS8195, JS8221, JS8222, JS8368; SY0092, SY1304, SY1593, SY1718, SY1720, SY1729; Steam Cranes No.2, No.5

Fushun Steelworks 9th March.

SY1630 dead in yard, SY1632 in steam, SY1633 in steam

Steam is working alongside diesel at Fushun. Access is via a long muddy, narrow road which follows the railway. By crossing the tracks and walking for a couple of hundred yards you can get into the depot where there are two gaps in the steelyard’s brick wall. Loco SY1630 is closest to the tracks and was dead and covered in a light coating of snow. Both SY1632 and SY1633 were simmering in the depot, mid morning with no work to do. The whole steel mill is in a very rundown and dilapidated condition indeed. We were able to wander around and take photographs and were told by the workers (who did not object to our presence), that one loco was expected to work after lunchtime, which it very suddenly did, catching us unawares. It ran out onto the mainline to do some shunting in a section of the steel mill about one mile away and then returned to depot. As we followed it back in, an official on a balcony shouted at us to clear off. He seemed to have no objections to the two Chinese photographers, but pointing a jabbing finger at me and shouting loudly, it was clear that foreigners were a different question and he said that foreigners needed a letter of permission from the steel mill’s office. We agreed to leave immediately and departed on good terms. Having already photographed everything of interest, we did not bother to go for a permit and headed off to Fuxin.

Fuxin 9th - 11th March.

Locos working:-SY1195, SY1210, SY1376, SY1378, SY1396, SY1460, SY1818, General Zhu De

In workshop:-SY1319, SY1320 stripped down for overhaul, SY1359,SY1376

Dead in compound:-SY0036, SY0076, SY0127?, SY0391,SY0576,SY0770,SY0911,SY0941,SY1378. Plus two unidentifiable.

All the usual frequent workings, plus the occasional train which loads coal part way down the open cast pit. Plenty of trains running up the spoil heap, with the digger knocking the dampened fly ash out of the trucks as they tipped. At the stabling point, one unfriendly young worker had the unpleasant habit of shoving and pushing photographers if they got to close to him. The best way to deal with this was to ignore him, say nothing, and stand your ground. The small Taiping depot above the pit has closed entirely and all the tracks have been lifted.The three dead locos that had been there for years have gone.

Pingzhuang 12th - 13th March.

Locos working:- SY1441, SY1443

Steam has made an unexpected welcome return to Pingzhuang, the depot having been fully dieselised in the summer of 2014. SY1441 was seen working a loaded coal train of 31 wagons with an approximate all up weight of 1,800 tons to China Rail interchange late afternoon of 12th of March. Both locos were on shed / working at night and as well as the next day. One diesel was working to China Rail interchange.

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© 2015 Roger Croston