Jingpeng, Lindong, Pingzhuang and Yuanbaoshan
21 November - 08 December 2002
Report by Duncan Cotterill
Flights London - Beijing and return were with Scandinavian via Copenhagen. I have to mention that the service on SAS was superb, far, far better than I’ve experienced on recent flights with British Airways, British Midland and, worst of all, Lufthansa. Arrangements within China were booked through Sun Xiaolan of China Liaoning Steam Locomotive Photography Association. Xiaolan accompanied us throughout as guide.
Beijing (21 November 2002)
After arrival, we went to the railway bookshop (8 You'anman West Street, Xuanwu District, Beijing 100054, Tel 010 63549466) not too far from Beijing Nan station. It has been suggested that they no longer stock books about steam locomotives. This is not strictly true. They may not offer steam locomotive manuals for sale but there are a number of books about steam locomotives aimed at the enthusiast market, notably "A Survey of Steam Locomotives" priced at 88 RMB and "A Picture Album of Steam Locomotives in China" priced at 240 RMB. Both titles are dual Chinese/English language and illustrated.
I had hoped that a new edition of the rail atlas would be available but nothing has been published since the 1997 version.
Beijing - Chifeng - Reshui (21-22 November 2002)
We travelled to Chifeng on train 2189 at 16:32 from Beijing Nan. The only observations of interest were around Beijing Dong where a DF4B (No 1754 I think) was seen in the blue/cream livery usually carried by DF4C and DF4D. An SY was seen in a yard nearby, not in steam but obviously still a working loco.
At Chifeng we were met by driver Liang from Shenyang and taken to the Post Hotel, Reshui, arriving at 06:10, only 3 hours after getting to Chifeng. The road between Chifeng and Reshui gets better every year.
Ji-Tong Railway, Jingpeng Area (22-26 November 2002)
Nothing exceptional to report.
Traffic levels were down on previous years with an average of only 3 westbounds and 3.5 eastbounds over the pass in daylight during the 5 days we spent here.
Timekeeping of eastbound trains was particularly erratic. Although most workings from Haoluku took 3-4 hours to reach Shangdian, some took well over 5 hours and others barely 2½ hours. Eastbounds were more consistent with virtually all taking 3 to 5 hours to make Shangdian.
Apart from one day when there were no less than 5 westbound light engine movements, we saw no light engines. The practice of dropping an engine off an eastbound at Shangdian to assist the following train up from Jingpeng was only seen once.
The weather was remarkably kind to us. Temperatures were cold but only about -10C to 0C. The usual westerly wind blew but only very lightly and it was often still for the crucial first couple of hours. Although there was little wind, there was enough to blow the local pollution away leaving the light amazingly clear. All that was missing was a deep covering of snow!
In spite of the lack of trains compared to previous visits, there was no shortage of locomotive variety. In less than 5 days, we saw 25 different QJs in traffic including QJ 6851 reported as being in store and QJ 6978 & 7137 which normally work the Daban-Chabuga section.
Ex-works QJ 6849, a Baiqi loco, was seen dead in the consist of a westbound freight one evening, separated from the train engines by about eight wagons and with its rods in the tender.
QJ 6110, 6230, 6274, 6356, 6517, 6577, 6630, 6638, 6735, 6760, 6763, 6828, 6851, 6878, 6882, 6978, 6981, 6986, 6998, 7009, 7012, 7040, 7041, 7137, 7143.
Daban Depot Quickie (26 Nov 2002)
Seen in Daban Depot from the main line at 14:20: QJ 6274, 6301, 6630, 6853, 6992, 7040.
Ji-Tong Railway, Lindong/Chabuga Area (26-30 November 2002)
The line was noticably busier in daylight hours than on any of my three previous visits with an average of 5 westbounds through Lindong each day. The mornings were busiest but there were a reasonable number of afternoon trains as well. Eastbound traffic levels were similar with a good spread of trains throughout the day.
As at Jingpeng, the weather was remarkably good with gentle breezes instead of the strong winds expected. There was a little high cloud on occasions but bright sunshine predominated. Temperatures remained below zero but were never really cold.
One notable aspect of operations on this line is the speeds at which freights run on the less steeply graded sections of line, such as Yamenmiao to Diaojiaduan. QJs aren’t generally regarded as being fast runners but they really fly along here.
On previous visits, most trains have been handled by Daban locos with only the occasional Chabuga engine appearing west of its home depot. This time, almost a third of the locos seen were Chabuga based machines. The eastbound morning passenger, 6051, seemed to be a regular Chabuga turn with QJ 6751 appearing 3 days out of 4. Quick turnarounds were common, for instance, Daban engines, which arrived at Chabuga around 11:00, would often be returning west by 14:00.
Daban-Chabuga Locos Seen:
QJ 6356d+, 6478c, 6576d, 6632c, 6639d, 6751c, 6778d, 6891c, 6978d+, 7037d, 7081d, 7119d, 7137d+.
"c" = Chabuga Loco, "d" = Daban Loco, "+" = Loco seen both sides of Daban.
Chabuga-Zhelimu Locos Seen:QJ 6729.
Chabuga Depot 11:00 28/11/02:QJ 6632, 6891, 7010, 7049, 7119, 7163, 7164.
Ji-Tong Railway, Jingpeng Area (30 November - 04 December 2002)
In contrast to our earlier visit here, eastbound traffic levels were well up, with an average of more than 5 trains each day climbing the hill in daylight. Coal traffic was particularly heavy with many block coal trains and virtually every train contained some coal wagons. Westbound traffic levels were similar to before with about 3 trains per day in daylight. There were several westward light engine movements and a few eastbound trains dropped a loco at Shangdian to return light engine to Jingpeng and assist the next train to the summit.
The weather remained generally favourable with clear skies, good visibility and light winds most of the time. Temperatures were below zero but not extreme. About 24 hours before we left, the weather changed. It became warm and hazy at first before the wind strengthened and swung round to north-north-westerly. The temperature dropped significantly at the same time.
QJ 6110, 6230, 6274, 6356, 6517, 6577, 6630, 6638, 6735, 6760, 6763, 6828, 6851, 6905, 6878, 6981, 6986, 6998, 7009, 7012, 7040, 7041, 7112, 7137, 7143.
The Jingpeng Photo Mafia
Our guide found the mafia waiting for her one evening and was forced to pay up but these scumbags did not appear to trouble independent groups travelling without a guide.
Pingzhuang Colliery Railway (05 & 07 December 2002)
In October, we found the lack of activity here frustrating. Nothing has changed. We spent the whole day around the washery area on the 5th and saw only two loaded trains. One train ran in the middle of the day when the light was head on. The other didn't stop and had shut off before reaching the washery. The trains of empties were all tender first.
On the 7th, an SY was nicely posed under the washery loader when we arrived at 11:00 but otherwise there was only one train of empties before we left at 14:30.
We had a quick look at the opencast mine area. When we stopped at the level crossings near the brewery to see which locos were in the permanent way yard, we were quickly moved on by management. While nobody seemed concerned about our presence in the washery area, the opencast side of the operation seemed much less welcoming.
JS 5758, SY 0271, 0304, 0400 (cold), 0766, 0916, 0942, 0943, 1007 (dumped), 1083.
Electrics: 6784, 6789, 7331, 7336.
Yuanbaoshan Colliery Railway (06 & 07 December 2002)
Initially, our reception here was rather cool. Apparently some visiting groups have behaved badly and caused the railway's management to turn against gricers. Their principal concern is that westerners are behaving unsafely on the railway and they don't want the hassle of someone falling under a train. Please remember that we are extremely privileged to be able to visit operations like this in China. It is a privilege, not a right, so treat the Chinese management with respect or nobody will be able to gain access in future. It only takes a few irresponsible people to spoil it for everyone else. We wouldn't have the same access to mine railways in the UK or Germany and if people aren't careful, it will be the same in China as well!
In early October there were only 4 locos in steam. This time, there were 6 locos working.
The complete listing of locos is: JS 6066 (derelict), 6245, 6246 (recently overhauled, cold), 6544, 8216, 8218, 8246 (overhauled, cold), 8249, 8250, 8418 (cold, unused for some time).
JS 6246 was away being overhauled in October and appears to have gone into store on its return. JS 8246 is in excellent condition but with a layer of dust over it's otherwise immaculate paintwork. It appears to have been unused for a year or so. JS 8418 was outside the shed, complete, but looking rather forlorn. Hopefully, it will be restored to full working order.
GKD1 4009 was working between Yuanbaoshan Xizhan and the power station. It appeared to be identical to the previously reported 4008.
There were more trains than in October with two locos working trips to Yuanbaoshan CNR and the branch from Majiawan. As well as the mixed to Fengshuigou, there were additional freight workings on the north line as well.
Contrary to Bernd's October report, the opencast mine is operational. We were able to look down into the hole from above and saw the coal being extracted by massive mechanical shovels working down below. The mine appears to be quite productive but much of its output is transported away by the ubiquitous blue lorries. There are no railways in the pit itself but a conveyor leads from the mine to the silos at the "East Opencast Loader" (the place I called mine 3 on my October map). This conveyor should not be confused with the abandoned installation nearby.
My guesses at mine numbering in October were incorrect. Mine 1 is actually the disused pit I called Mine 4. Mine 2 is the one I called Mine 1. Mine 3 is the previous Mine 2 and the "East Opencast Loader" is what I called Mine 3. There doesn’t appear to be a pithead here so all the coal must come from the opencast site via the conveyor. An updated map will be produced when I get time.
Also contrary to Bernd's report, Gongye station is fully operational, serving as a passing loop and giving access to a couple of industrial plants on the west side of the line.
On the 7th, we arrived at Xizhan to find JS 8218 derailed on the crossover at the east end of the station, completely blocking access to the power station. Our vehicle was also in trouble with a severe coolant leak, which would have taken at least 3 hours to fix. Fortunately, Xiaolan had the situation under control and within 45 minutes we had another vehicle to take us back to Pingzhuang. We called in at Xizhan later in the afternoon to find the loco back on the shed and only the damaged track to be repaired.
Chifeng to Beijing (07 – 08 December 2002)
We travelled on Train 2560 from Chifeng to Beijing Nan. Nothing of interest was seen.
Of all the many trips I've done to China, this was one of the very best. We had almost perfect weather on the Ji-Tong line. It was cold enough to give crisp white exhausts all day but not so cold that leaking steam was a problem. There was enough wind to clear away the local pollution but not enough to blow the exhausts around wildly, cause dust storms or produce a severe windchill. The wind direction was predominantly westerly or even south-westerly, making the usually difficult morning shots possible without being wrong at other times of the day. Most of all, the trains ran when we wanted them. At Lindong, there was a good spread throughout the day. At Jingpeng, whenever there was a gap in eastbound traffic, there always seemed to be westbounds around to photograph.
Traffic levels on the Ji-Tong line seemed to be quite variable from one week to the next. They probably always have been but with most people spending only a few days around Jingpeng, it hasn’t been particularly noticeable before.
After so many trips when we've had to fight against bad weather and inconveniently timed trains, this was absolute paradise. Long may it continue!