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Steam in China, Feb-March  2016

by John King

Sandaoling, Shibanxi, Jiutai, Fuxin, Pingzhuang

The initial intention of the trip was to see the remaining steam action at Sandaoling, Baiyin, Jiutai, Wujiu, Fuxin and Pingzhuang, however with the news that Baiyin had dieselised we took in a short visit to Shibanxi instead. The trip was organised through Jun with Zebedee at Shibanxi. Just prior to departure news came through that there had been heavy snow at Wujiu and the mine and system had been closed down until April. The time was spent at Fuxin instead. We flew into Beijing the day before taking flight CA1269 to Hami on 23rd Feb. This arrives in Hami around 1250 and enables you to be at Sandaoling mid afternoon.

Sandaoling, 23-27 February 2016

Arriving at Sandaoling we visited the No2 Mine, where a run round has been installed enabling the empties to be hauled tender first to the mine instead of being pushed as we saw in 2014. JS 8366 was being used for this duty throughout our stay. Four locos were being used for the coal operation from the pit to the washery with morning shift change at East Yard (Dongbolizhan). They were JS8081, JS8167, JS8197 and JS8225. Most mornings there was a full train at the shift change which went off to the coal yard beyond the locomotive works. One of the locos was used for the ‘passenger train’ running light engine into the pit returning later to duty on the coal trains. The same locos were used each day we were there, one occasionally being taken off for other duties.

In an unusual operation JS8190 went light into the pit and returned banking JS8225 on a train of 14 empty air dump gondolas, one gondola was in front of the train engine, JS8225. Another train of empties out of the pit to workshop area consisted of a flat car, box car, work car, two gondolas with cabins and about 8 air dump gondolas. The coal operation was busy in the mornings after shift change with 3 – 4 trains out per hour. After 1330 there seemed to be a period of inactivity until 1500 -1530 when the action started up again. On one occasion one of the locos, JS8167 was shunting the dead engines in the scrap compound. Eventually it turned out that they were removing the air dump gondolas from the yard to the works yard. The dead locos moved were: JS6206, JS6209, JS 8078, JS8080 and JS 8194. Other locos identified in the scrap compound were: SY1593, SY1718, JS6203, JS6208, JS6224, JS8040, JS8077, JS8173, JS8222 and JS8368. JS 8384, loco only, is stored at the east end of the works in poor condition, along with the frames of an unidentified JS class.The same engine as before, JS 8167, was also seen with the steam crane, numbered 64, at the east end of the works and wagon works where, along with a rail mounted diesel crane, it was lifting the air dump gondolas off their bogies. The bodies were being scrapped but the bogies were being saved. Nanzhan yard had 3 engines in steam at various times for shunting the washery loader and the sidings. Locos seen were JS8190 and JS8314 and what appeared to be JS8053 (it has a yellow cylinder / drum on the tender, the only one thus seen) with another, JS8366 working the trains to No 2 mine. JS8190 was also engaged in other duties around the workshops on occasions.DF8B diesels handle the trains to the new mine and to the China Rail interchange as before. Nos 0249 and 0250 were identified and two others were seen outside the diesel depot. The workshops were visited and two locos were in steam in the running shed, JS8089, in for washout and JS8358, reportedly the works pilot. A steam crane was also in the running shed but not in steam. The main workshops were empty and everything had been tidied away. Two Spreaders were besides the works. The wagon works were empty with no activity. The decline in workshop activity and the fact that the JS class locos are now about 30 years old and near the end of boiler life doesn’t bode well for the future of the operation. It was not possible to get a definitive answer regarding when steam activity will cease with anything from the next Chinese New Year to 5 years being stated by various workers! We left Sandaoling on 27th Feb for train T296 2008 Hami to Lanzhou arriving 1020 on 28th Feb. Taken by car to the airport, a long ride, to catch 3U8570 1345 flight to Chengdu, arriving 1520.

Shibanxi, 28 Feb – 1 March

We arrived at Yuejin in the evening to find a coal train leaving behind a steeple cab electric. Shortly the last tourist train arrived and headed for the depot at Shixi. There is steam and electric action on the line between Shixi and Yuejin with the local passenger trains from Shixi to Huancunjin and the steeple cabs on coal from the colliery in Yeujin to the power plant at Shixi. There are 3 local passenger trains each way, each day and up to 6 tourist trains interspersed between these starting about 0930 if sufficient traffic is around. The weekends see more tourist train activity. All this adds up to a good deal of action and plenty of opportunities to photograph the line. Mifengyan can be a good spot if you just want to take in the action of trains arriving, locos running round and departing. There is a small, open air museum at Mifengyan with static locos, a crane and some wagons. Locos are SY0516, on a small stretch of standard gauge track, C2 09 and one of the two diesels. There was also a works train in the tunnel at Bagou with operators repairing the tunnel ceiling by standing on one of the coaches. There is one of the diesels at Bagou and, in a small shed, an electric mine loco. There is also a battery electric loco / tram type set up with two open carriages, presumably for tourist use. The rape seed was just coming into flower and the weather was warm and sunny. The tourist train stops by the lake near Jioba, where the train backs up and runs past whilst the loco is blowing off enabling a rainbow to be glimpsed as it passes. Ok not ‘real steam’ but a bit of fun anyway!Four C2’s were in steam on trains, 10 (in green with 14’s tender), 16, 17 (works train) and 18. Steeple cabs 01 and 03 were noted. There were other C2’s and steeple cabs in the depot at Shixi but this was not entered. All in all the steam activity meant it was a worthwhile trip and the local passenger and works trains are still genuine steam turns. We returned to Chengdu for the night at the snappily named Airport First Class Cabin Large Hotel and caught flight CA4189 at 0805 to Changchun, arriving 1150 on 2nd March.

Jiutai, 2 March

We arrived at Jiutai Mine by car in a snow storm. SY1407 was parked by the main gate in steam. It had moved earlier that morning from deeper in the mine but was now stabled for the day. SY0515 was also there out of use and being cannibalised for spares. It appears that the morning is best for the SY activity and it takes wagons to the china rail interchange every few days. Back to Jiutainan for train C1220, 1457 to Changchun, a high speed train. From Changchun caught train G384 1644 to Shenyangbei, another high speed train. Taxi to Fuxin and the Huamei Hotel for the night.

Fuxin, 3 - 8 March

To the shift change spot by the level crossing in the morning. There were four SY’s in steam at the morning shift change over: SY1320, SY1378, SY1397 and SY1818. Two DF5b diesels 0068 and 0080 were also present. The colliery at Wulong was closed for a holiday according to staff so there was no activity there after the empty wagons had been shunted out on the first day. The winding gear was seen to be used occasionally so, perhaps, some maintenance was being carried out. The workshops were visited and work is still being carried out on SY’s. SY1396 – with Zhu De’s face on the smokebox door and SY1210 both undergoing major overhauls. SY1395 was in for washout and SY1319 was ex works waiting to go back to traffic. The paint shop area beyond the works contained DF4 6155 and 2 x DF5b locos. The guide stated that most of the staff were on a diesel maintenance course. SY0911 was withdrawn in the works yard. Weather on the visit varied from dull and misty, through snow to bright sunlight. The SY’s were employed on the spoil and fly ash trains from the old, furthest away power plant at Chengnan and the mines. Coal working from the Wangying Mine was diesel hauled as was the spoil from there to the yard by the stabling point. SY’s take over from here up to the tip. On 5th March one of the spoil trains derailed at the level crossing by the old Japanese buildings. This blocked the way to the tip and the spoil was then taken down and tipped in the old open cast working. By the next day operations were back to normal and the fly ash and spoil was being taken up the tip as before.On the 6th there was less activity in general and when the depot was visited at servicing time SY1818 had been stabled there for most of the day in steam. There were two locos stored serviceable but cold, SY1195 in the yard and SY1460 in the repair shed. The carriages have now been moved from the compound and stored in the factory area to the west of the entrance of the depot, along with a withdrawn steam crane. Withdrawn locos in the compound were: JF508, SY0076, SY0127, SY0319, SY0391, SY0576, SY0770, SY0941, SY0989 (with damaged cab of SY1378) and one other SY, possibly SY0036. Generally the closure of Wulong mine limited activity and it wasn’t as busy as previously or as reported by others. Still if you’re prepared to travel around it still makes a worthwhile visit and the line to the furthest power plant gives opportunities for double track running. Left by minibus to Pingzhuang at about midday.

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Pingzhuang, 8 March

Arrived Pingzhuang at about 1600 to find no activity at the mine at Gushan Erjing. Drove to the washery and service area at Zhuangmei where DF4 6087 (green) was waiting to take loads to Pingzhuang Nan. DF4 1251 (orange) was stabled there. After a short while the diesel departed and SY1487, in good condition, arrived with loads from the direction of Wujia. It passed Zhuangmei and headed for the mine at Gushan Erjing where we found it taking water. Once the tender was replenished it shunted some empties and headed off in the direction of Zhuangmei. In the evening we caught train 2560 from Chifeng overnight to Beijing behind DF4D 0031, arriving on the 9th March where we transferred to train Z97 to Hong Kong. If you would like any more info then please contact me at johnking@burwains.freeserve.co.uk.

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© 2016 John King