JF Vital Statistics

JF Class 2-8-2s

jf_88-37-07JF 830 must have been close to 50 years old when it was photographed shunting at Baotou steelworks in 1988. Many JF finished their careers in industrial service.

The JF mikado is undoubtably one of the most significant classes in Chinese railway history. Introduced in 1918 by the Japanese as they consolidated their hold over Manchuria, the JF became the standard freight loco in the north-east. The railways of Manchuria played a pivotal role in the rapid industrialisation of Japan in the run up to WWII. With few raw materials of their own, the Japanese were reliant on coal and ore from the mines of the north-east to fuel their heavy industry. The effectiveness of the JF as a heavy freight loco was critical to this effort. Later, the Japanese war machine relied on the railways to keep its forces supplied as they progressively overran the rest of China. Many new JF were built during this period to keep the supply lines running.

Following the Liberation in 1949, the construction of the first locomotive without foreign involvement was viewed as a significant step in the development of the "New China". That first locomotive was a JF and over 400 more were built after the class was adopted as the standard freight design by the People's Republic. Production ceased at the end of the 1950s but a few JF remain in traffic in 2004, no less than 86 years after the first of the class were steamed.

The original batch of JFs were built by ALCo from 1918 for the South Manchurian Railway, which classified them as MiKa-i. Further locos of the same design were built in Japan for the South Manchurian and Manchurian National Railways. Around 140 had been built before a modified design was adopted in 1935. The boiler was shortened, the heating surface reduced and other minor changes were made. Some publications refer to the new design as JF1 class but the JF classification is usually taken to refer to both the original and modified designs. Almost 2000 locos had been produced to the new design by Japanese builders and at workshops in Japanese occupied China by the end of the war. Further locos may have been supplied from Japan as reparations after the war.

jf_89-32-06JF 2422 was one of the later members of the class, probably built in 1956. From the early 1980s to the early 1990s it was shed pilot at Changchun and was paired with an unusual short tender to allow it to shunt the roundhouse. The tender was converted from the bunker of a scrapped DB2 class 2-6-4 tank.

The numbering of JFs inherited from the Japanese occupiers isn't strictly chronological. Each railway administration had its own range of numbers for each type (wheel arrangement). South Manchurian engines carried numbers in the range 1 to 500, Manchurian National had 501 to 1000 and the occupied areas of northern China 1501 upwards. These running numbers were retained for the JF class when the all-China numbering system was introduced in 1951. Locos of the original design were numbered JF 1 - 70 and JF 501 - 574. JF 71 - 73 were non-standard locos with a high degree of superheat built in 1936. From 1935, deliveries of the modified design to the SMR filled up the range 74 to 500 while those to the MNR occupied the range 575 to 1000. At the same time locos numbered from JF 1501 upwards went to the Japanese controlled areas northern China.

By 1949 most of the number range from 1 to around 2020 was occupied although no locos have been reported in the ranges 348 to 500 and 1332 to 1500. Chinese sources indicate that approximately 1400 JF were inherited by the People's Republic but some locos must have been destroyed during the war.

Production restarted in 1950 with a batch of locos assembled largely from existing components. The first of these, JF 2101, emerged from Sifang in September 1950 and is preserved at Beijing Railway Museum. The first locomotive to be produced entirely by the Chinese was JF 2121 which left Sifang in December 1952. Another 454 were built by Sifang, Dalian and Qiqihaer before production ceased. According to Chinese sources this was in 1960 although the highest numbered loco reported, JF 4101, carries 1958 plates. Again, the number of locos reported to have been produced does not tally with the number range occupied, so there must be gaps. No locos have been reported in the JF 2465 - 2500 range.

Locos numbered from 4001 upwards are thought to have slightly longer valve travel, a feature which was incorporated into the next development of the design. The JF's rolling chassis was mated with a new boiler design, heavily influenced by Soviet practice, to produce the JS class 2-8-2.

Tracing the history of the Chinese built JFs from reported builders details isn't easy as there doesn't appear to be a consistent pattern. Two examples of this confusion are JF 2113, which would appear to be one of the locos assembled between 1950 and 1952, and JF 100, which should have been pre-war, yet both carry 1957 plates. It is possible that renumbering or boiler swaps may have been occurred over the years. Several instances of renumbering or non-standard numbering are known. Wuhan Iron & Steel appeared to renumber every loco it got its hands on so JF 101, 102 and 104 are almost certainly renumbered. JF 5701, seen on the Fuxin Colliery system in 1995, was well outside the known number series for reasons unknown. JF 7001, Mudanjiang Works Pilot, was said to have been assembled from spare parts.

As would be expected for a standard design, JFs were in widespread use over the whole Chinese system from Heilongjiang to Hainan. Most spent their entire lives on the national system but a reasonable number migrated to industrial service in later years. Few Japanese built locos remained in active service after 1990 although JF 508, which should have been one of the earliest, was reported in use on the Fuxin Colliery system as late as May 2000. Whether this was the real JF 508 or a later loco renumbered is unknown. The final reports of locos working on the national system were from Hainan in 1996. Elsewhere, Changchun and Zhangjiakou both kept their JF working into 1994. The very last survivors were all industrial locos; JF 2113, 2182, 2368 & 2369 at Tongchuan were all reported in traffic during 2004 and JF 2368 lasted until March 2005. JF 2446, at February 7th Rolling Stock Works in Beijing, was last reported in service in March 2007. Remarkably, JF 886, built in 1936, was restored to working order at the Beipiao Mining Railway in 2006 and has recently been reported as stored in working order. Several more are preserved including no less than 5 locos at the Beijing Museum.