KD6 Vital Statistics

KD6 Class 2-8-0s

kd6_84bw-97-01KD6 478 was in service at Fushun's opencast coal mine when it was photographed on the last day of 1984. The loco has gained an extended chimney, a larger cab and has had it's air pump relocated from its original position on the smokebox front. Otherwise, a number of S160 features are identifiable, not least the distinctively shaped cylinders and the tender.

It's certainly not obvious at first sight but China's KD6 class locos are USATC 2-8-0s, sometimes referred to as class S160. Over 2100 locos were produced by ALCo, Lima and Baldwin for the US Army Transportation Corps during WWII. They were used in the UK initially and then moved to mainland Europe after D-Day in support of the advancing allied forces. Some returned to the USA after the war while many remained in Europe, working for up to 30 years on the railways of several countries. A number were supplied to China by UNRRA shortly after the war.

The KD6s were modified after arrival in China, gaining larger cabs and new chimneys more suited to the generous Chinese loading gauge. Some locos were more extensively modified, such as KD6 487, pictured above, with JS style chimney cowling ing and smoke deflectors.

kd6_96-142-11KD6 487, the last working example, was more extensively modified. It sported a larger dome/sandbox, chimney cowl, repositioned air receiver, new footplating, steps and buffer beam and smoke deflectors in addition to the modifications seen on KD6 478. The cylinders give the game away though. The loco is seen shunting at Pingzhuang opencast mine in November 1996, shortly before it was withdrawn from service.

It's unclear how the locos were used during their first 40 years in China but, by the time western visitors started reporting sightings in the 1980s, most seemed to be employed in the coal industry in Manchuria. They were then old engines by Chinese standards and virtually all were retired by the early 1990s. Their replacements were often newly built SY class 2-8-2s. One loco, KD6 487 remained in service at Pingzhuang until the late 1990s.

Only two KD6 are known to survive although one is no longer a KD6. KD6 463 was shipped to the UK and restored to it's original state as USATC No 5197. The story of the other loco is a remarkable one. KD6 487 remained at Pingzhuang until late 2004, out of use and slowly deteriorating at the back of the electric depot. Then news began to emerge of a most unlikely plan. The loco was to go to Tiefa where it would be returned to working order and used on special trains. Nothing like this had been done in China before and many observers were sceptical. But it happened. In early 2005, KD6 487 returned to service on the Tiefa system and was used on a number of occasions. It has since been taken out of regular traffic and only ventures out on special occasions, such as starring as a film extra. In between outings it is usually on display at the mining company’s museum at Daqing.