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Steam in China, 11-24 November  2015

by John Athersuch

Jiutai, Wujiu, Fushun, Fuxin, ChaoQi (Dengfeng) and Tianjin

11th November

Arrived in Beijing airport and transferred to an Air China flight to Changchun. Picked up rail tickets for rest of trip at Changchun airtport station and hired a taxi to Jiutai. Stayed at the Xianglu Business hotel (+86 431 8219 3777) – very comfortable and extremely friendly staff. Life size effigy of Mao in reception! No English. Several good restaurants a few doors along. Negotiated a taxi for an early start the next day.

12th November - Jiutai

05.30 start from hotel. It had snowed the day before so roads hazardous. 15min drive to Jiutai mine. SY1407 in steam and moved to/from watering point but no work while I was there (6 - 9am). SY0515 partly dismantled as previously reported. Extensive mine electric system for spoil. Cable hauled wagons to top of spoil cone. No action around mine before 08.00 but very busy with trucks after 09.00. Received message that loco was working to exchange sidings at 14.50 just as I was leaving the hotel for Changchun so I missed it! Taxi to Changchun station and overnight train to Yakeshi.

13th -14th November - Wujiu

Arrived at Yakeshi and met by Mr Xiao (+86 139 4807 7630, +86 155 4008 9778). He knows everyone and everything and was an excellent driver. Found SY1546 in steam in the shed together with SY1134 and SY1225 cold and in reserve. SY1546 worked to the new mine (not visible on Google Earth but several km south of a junction near the Wujiu company “triumphal arch”) and took all day to fill 12 wagons as loader was faulty. Diesel DF4DD 0228 working presumably to the exchange sidings from the other mines (1 and 3). Stayed in Wuerqihan a 10min drive to the north at the Liming Hotel (no English), a hideous green building just opposite the marshalling yard. Weather not too cold and sunny in the afternoon but it snowed heavily in the night. VERY cold the second day. Same routine as the day before. SY1546 with empties to new mine and also a trip to mine 1 in the afternoon. Steam no longer goes to Meitian but smokebox first workings from new mine very worthwhile the wait. Diesel now takes fulls to exchange. Visited the electric 600mm line at mine 3, although being a Saturday it was not in working. Mine 2 is closed. Good restaurant overlooking the ash disposal point. At sunset a nightmare drive back to Yakeshi station on icy roads!

15th - 16th November - Fushun

15th - Transferred to Fushun via Shenyang. Stayed at the excellent Wanda Realm Hotel complete with Santa’s grotto! It’s about 200m north of the station. English spoken. Negotiated a driver (+86 156 9894 5693) for an early start the next day. 16th - 07.00 – left hotel and went straight to the famous crossing near Piaoertun and crossed the line to enter the stabling area via a gap in the wall. SY1633 and SY1634 were being serviced by the cooling towers. SY1630 cold in yard. I did not venture to the shed. Got in and out fairly promptly without hassle and returned to crossing where I was made very welcome by the female crossing keeper. In exchange for some photos of UK locos I am now the proud owner of various lapel badges and epaulets! SY1633 busy shunting and delivering wagons to various places. SY1634 in reserve. 2 diesels (GKD1A0219 and DFH5 0408 – contrary to Duncan Cotterill's report of 19th November on Steam in China it is still in use!) working up and down the line. Returned and spent the rest of the morning at the first crossing which was a better place for action. Things went quiet at 11.00 so I went to the see the electrics at the big pit. Guchengzi was a disappointment – too many poles and wires and not much action. The so called viewing area was officially closed for renovation but I got a ticket anyway and took the obligatory photos of the exhibits. Most views obscured by trees and bushes! Went to Donggang station where there was lots of action. I’m not an electric fan but I found it all very fascinating after all.

17th - 20th November - Fuxin

Early start on 17th to Fushun North and onwards to Shenyang and Fuxin where I arrived just after lunch. Dumped my stuff at the comfortable Huamei Hotel which is 5mins walk east of the station and took a tuk-tuk to the depot and within 30 mins I was watching Zhu De being fed and watered in the sunshine. There was a flurry of steam activity at the stabling point which due the incompetence of my tuk-tuk driver I mainly missed. SYs 1359, 1320, 1397 and diesels 65 and 80 all busy. The next day I was met by Mr Gu (+86 137 0418 3757) who had arranged access to the shift change line up at the stabling point (for a fee of course!). SY1210, 1320, 1359, 1395, 1397 and 1818 were present. DF5D 80 was parked on turntable line and not the short branch by the crossing which is now open to traffic (I think it was previously closed off?). SY1195 and DF5D 65 were seen in action later. No news from the workshop. Managed to knacker my right knee so rest of trip taken at half speed! Got to a vantage point south of the point where the line east from Wulong yard crosses the main road. This overlooks the new tipping line in big pit but it was too smoggy to be impressive. Waited for the train of empties to depart up the ramp - which was impressive. Another new feature (for me anyway) was a rake of empty coal wagons going up the main tip. These were left in a new siding between the Wulong tip crossing and the brakesmens hut and were filled by a front loader from piles of coal. Drove to top of spoil tip to view tipping from afar. Met up with John Parker on 19th who happened to be in the same hotel. Together we investigated the line to beyond Chengnan which was clearly in use despite numerous "meios" from crossing keepers! We established that some branches may have occasional use. On 20th visited the compound at Sujiawan south of the big pit where there is a very busy electric system (tower and low profile mine locos). Drove in without being seen but the driver got a roasting from security on the way out! Hung around Wulong for a couple of hours. Drove to top of spoil tip. Ash is dumped but very wet so no cloud and has to be dug out by a front loader. Met Duncan Cotterill and Peter Breeze on the way down. By car to Jinzhou South and a train to Beijing and a night at the Zhongan Hotel (small and friendly with a good restaurant) near the Main railway station.

21st November - Chaoyanggou

My next planned venue had been Baiyin but the day before I got news that four brand new diesels had arrived there the previous week and that steam had officially finished. I decided (partly because my knee was still giving me a problem) not to go and to substitute an alterative. Met Jun (friendctsjun@aliyun.com) at the hotel at 05.00 and took a taxi to Beijing West for the high speed train to Zhengzhou South. Here we negotiated a driver for the day and sped off towards Chaoyanggou village in Dengfeng township. Mr Ding (+86 136 3380 8400) is a good driver and now knows where to go! Chaoyanggou is the terminus of the once extensive 762mm gauge ChaoQi network which extended some 200km to the East. Operations on this line apparently ceased some years ago but recent reports indicated that a new tourist service was planned for the 60km from Chaoyanggou to Xinzheng. Despite tinted windows and thick fog which meant I couldn't see more than a few yards we found the correct location. A large yard with a three road shed and traverser, a turntable, freshly laid track and a number of locomotives. A newly painted C2 (cab no. 001) was in the yard together with two diesels numbered 3801 and 3802. Inside the shed were the frames, wheels and cylinders of another C2 which was actively being worked on. In addition there were two further diesels (numbered ?3817 and ?3823). No. 3826 and another derelict diesel were parked up at Chuankou, the next station to the east. There is speculation that the C2s came from Yinghao but the numbering of the diesels suggests (by reference to Pritchard, 2005) that they may be from this line. The intention is to have a tourist operation up and running by May 2016. The C2 (001) has apparently been steamed and the two diesels (3801 and 3802) looked serviceable. I examined the track (which was relaid in 1986 on concrete sleepers) at several locations along the way and it seemed to be in good condition and probably just needs clearing of undergrowth so the tourist enterprise my soon be a reality. There is also a standard gauge line serving at least one power station and in at least occasional use on approx the same overall alignment and another SG line to the north which may still be in use.

22nd-23rd November - Beijing and Tianjin

After the planned trip to Baiyin I had intended to go to Sandaoling however, with no improvement in my knee I decided to abandon that leg (excuse the pun) of the trip. This left me with some spare time so I purchased tickets to/from Tianjin the next day. It snowed heavily today. On 23rd I took a taxi at 05.00 to Beijing South station and a train to Tianjin. Then a taxi to Beichen Lu where I walked (slowly) towards the stabling point just off Chaoyang Lu. The snow made for a more pleasing backdrop than the usual dusty industrial wasteland. Here at 8.30 SY1534 was in steam with SY1007 cold. It left at 09.30 went down the line with a rake of empty wagons did some shunting and returned to the compound at 11am work done for the day! I returned to Beijing.

24th November

- BA flight back to London from Beijing

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SY1524 in the snow at the new depot at Tianjin Heavy Machinery on 23 November

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© 2015 John Athersuch