Winter at Nanpiao, Jingpeng and Lindong
02 - 21 December 2003
Report by Duncan Cotterill
This report covers a 3 week trip to Nanpiao and the JiTong railway in December 2003. Our group of 4 (Jim Livesey, Peter Breeze, Robert Horlacher and myself) flew to Beijing on Lufthansa via Frankfurt. Arrangements within China were made through Sun Xiaolan of CLSLPA. Xiaolan accompanied us as guide throughout.
Beijing - Jinzhou(02 December 2003)
We took train K339 to Jinzhou Nan behind SS9 077, built in March 2003. Many more SS9 were stabled at the loco depot (highest number seen was 124) but very few were seen at work. Most of the passenger trains we saw had DF4B, DF4D or DF11 for power.
Between Beijing and Fengrun most freight traffic was SS1 hauled but east of Fengrun to Shanhaiguan, DF8B predominated. Around Shanhaiguan itself, there seemed to be more SS1 again. A few BJ and NY7 were seen around Beijing but both these classes seem to be getting quite rare now. Even the once ubiquitous DF4B are nothing like as common as they were a few years ago.
From Shanhaiguan to Jinzhou we took the new high-speed line but saw very little as it was dark most of the way. Jinzhou Nan is a brand new station on the new line several miles south of the city of Jinzhou and without any obvious public transport link. There were plenty of 3-wheeler taxis but few passengers off our train to fill them.
Nanpiao Mine Railway(03 - 06 December 2003)
Jinzhou was the base for our visit to Nanpiao. The journey by road to Banjita took less than an hour on the Jinzhou to Chaoyang expressway, a good road with little traffic. The contrast between Jinzhou, a modern and prosperous city with good hotels, and the Nanpiao area was very marked.
Like Tiefa, this system suffers from an excess of concrete poles. Both lines are seriously infested from end to end with as many as four lines of poles running close to and in parallel with the track. There are places where reasonable pictures can be taken but they are mainly around the mines rather than on the open sections of line. Even away from built up areas the scenery isn't particularly attractive and photogenic positions are difficult to find.
The whole area is dotted with small mines where coal is brought to the surface in cable hauled 600mm gauge tubs and unloaded for collection by road vehicles. In addition there are a number of deep mines which feed into the railway system. There appear to be two active deep mines at Zhaojiatun on the Linghai (Banjita) line, one adjacent to the railway and another some distance to the north with a narrow gauge electric railway connection. Further east, another deep mine at Qiupigou is also adjacent to the railway. Another deep mine is situated at the end of the line at Linghai.
The summit is a short distance to the east of Zhaojiatun. Eastbound trains face a short but steep climb while westbounds have to surmount a longer, slightly gentler grade. In addition to trains of empties heading for Qiupigou and Linghai, spoil trains from Zhaojiatun to the nearby tip also have to climb to the summit before branching off the main line.
On the Sanjiazi line a power station is under construction next to the line at Shaguotun but the rail connection is from the next station, Hongshila. There is also a rail served cement works adjacent to Hongshila station. Coal is brought in by road from local drift mines for loading at Fulongshan station. Fulongshan is also the junction of a disused line to a closed mine. Further west, next to Daguopu station, coal is loaded at Weizigou mine. Finally, at Sanjiazi, the end of the line, coal from a nearby mine is brought in by narrow gauge electric railway for loading.
There was no rigid timetable for freight trains on either line but the basic pattern was broadly similar each day. There would be two trips on the Sanjiazi line from Xiamiaohe to Weizigou mine or Sanjiazi and back and two trips on the Banjita line to Linghai and back. In addition there were frequent short workings from Xiamiaozi to Zhaojiatun and from Zhaojiatun to the spoil tip a few km to the east. A few trips worked to the mine at Qiupigou. The precise pattern of workings was different every day. Sometimes the morning Linghai train would follow the passenger out and sometimes it would only go out after the passenger returned. Sometimes it would run through from Xiamiaozi and sometimes it would work as a trip from Zhaojiatun after a long train of empties had arrived from Xiamiaozi behind a different engine.
It wasn't entirely clear where all the coal was going. Some was loaded into CNR wagons and interchanged with the state railway at Xiamiaozi but much of the coal went into wooden bodied internal user wagons indicting that it was probably used somewhere on the Nanpiao system. We did see loads from the Linghai line taken up the Sanjiazi line and empties from the Sanjiazi line taken back to pits on the Linghai route. Exactly why wasn't clear. The power station could be starting to build up its coal stocks although we saw no sign of this. The cement works didn't seem to be taking much coal either. Something to investigate on a future trip.
Locos seen: SY 0366, 0638, 0973, 1017, 1299, 1478 plus BJ 3241
All these locos were seen working and all the SYs faced chimney first towards Linghai / Sanjiazi. We did not visit the depot so the status of the other SY cannot be confirmed. Each day 4 SY and the BJ would be turned out. The SY worked passenger and freight trains while the BJ was only seen on freight workings.
The passenger service was as previously reported. The table below is based on information from Roger Blundell's report with additional data courtesy of Fu Jie of CLSLPA. This ties in with Rob Dickinson's recent map although some of the names are different. Some of the stations shown are simply halts with no facilities. Linghai, Qiupigou, Zhaojiatun, Sanjiazi, Weizigou (adjacent to Daguopu), Fulongshan, Hongshila and Xiamiaozi all have passing loops at least. All the passenger trains we saw were steam hauled. The afternoon simultaneous departure from Xiamiaozi is really two separate departures a couple of minutes apart. You would have to be lucky to get a simultaneous departure.
|Huangjia (Nanpiao CNR)||0617||0637||0941||1445||1735||1750||?||?|
|Huangjia (Nanpiao CNR)||0622||0642||0945||1446||1740||1755||1955|
Nanpiao to Lindong(06 December 2003)
We left Nanpiao by road around 10:00 and arrived at Lindong around 18:45 inclusive of an hour's lunch break, a stop for petrol and a very cautious start from Nanpiao due to treacherous icy road conditions. The route was via Chaoyang, Pingzhuang, Chifeng, Wudan and Daban. Nothing of railway interest was seen.
Chabuga - Lindong - Daban Area(07 - 13 Dec)
We spent 5 nights at Lindong and 2 at Daban. Most of our time was spent in the area between Chabuga and Lindong although we also ventured east of Chabuga on a few occasions and spent some time in the Gulumanhan area while based at Daban.
Westbound trains were few and far between with an average of around two workings per day in daylight. Eastbounds were much more frequent, averaging four per day. Much of the traffic was coal heading east in 834xx numbered trains. A typical 24 hour period saw 8 westbound and 11 eastbound freights according to the train register at one station. As a result some eastbounds were double headed while other locos worked back to Daban light engine.
East of Chabuga freight workings were around 50% diesel. The all stations passengers were still steam hauled. West of Chabuga was 100% steam except for the Tongliao - Huhehaote DMU workings. The DMU was running on alternate days, odd dates from Huhehaote, even dates from Tongliao.
West of Chabuga: QJ 6125, 6351, 6631, 6632, (6764), 6778, 6825, 6884, 6911*, 6978, 6984, 7010*, 7037, 7049, 7063, 7105, 7119.
East of Chabuga: QJ 6580, 6632, 6729, 6853, (6998), 7104*, DF4 0444, 0544, 0549, 0568.
The diesels are 1983 or 1984 built DF4 lettered for Shenyang bureau, Tongliao depot. We saw 4 of the 5 locos reported to be in use.
Chabuga Depot, 14:30, 08 Dec 2003 (all locos in steam).
QJ.6478, 6632, 6911*, 6984, 7010*, 7037, 7119.
* = passenger loco, () = loco en-route to/from works.
Cold and clear with gentle breezes instead of the usual howling gales. One day was cloudy from start to finish but otherwise clear bright sunshine predominated.
Daban Depot(10:30, 12 December 2003)
For the first time in several trips, the wind was favourable for a visit to Daban depot. We spent a couple of hours photographing various QJs being prepared for their next duties.
QJ 6351, 6577, 6639, 6751, (6764), 6773, 6778, 6825, 6828, 6851, 6882, 6986, 6992, 7063, 7081, 7105, 7112 all in steam. QJ.6385 boiler washout.
QJ.6125, 6301, 6349, 6356, 6358, 6375, 6388, 6517, 6572, 6638, 6795, 6844, 6926, 7164 stored. QJ 7164 appears to be ex-works, the rest look dumped.
() = loco en-route to/from works.
Daban - Jingpeng Area(12 - 20 December 2003)
Apart from the first day in the Daban area, we were based at Reshui and spent our time covering the line between Linxi and Jingpeng.
In contrast to Lindong, there were few eastbounds here but a healthy flow of westbounds. The average day saw just over 3 eastbounds and between 4 and 5 westbounds in daylight. On the worst day, there was only one eastbound train up the pass in daylight. There were even several eastbound light engines for balancing purposes. On most mornings there was an eastbound through Shangdian between 30 and 60 minutes before sunrise then a gap of 3 to 4 hours before the next. There were similar gaps in westbound traffic at times.
There was only one instance of a single headed train and only one loco ran back light engine from Shangdian to Jingpeng to assist a following train. In addition to the usual 228xx and 441xx train numbers there were 834xx trains running west and 861xx trains running east. These appeared to be mainly coal traffic eastbound and empties westbound. Many trains ran in 2 sections so consecutive trains would have the same number with a suffix denoting the individual sections.
Daban - Haoluku Locos:
QJ 6385, 6577, 6630, 6735, 6751, 6760, 6763, (6764), 6773, 6808, 6828, 6851, 6876, 6882, 6905, 6925, 6981, 6986, 6996, 7002, 7007, 7009, 7012, 7030, 7040, 7041, 7112, 7137, 7143.
() = loco en-route to/from works.
The absence of QJ 6110 was mystery. It wasn't at Daban but we didn't see it in use either. As an oldie, it would be unlikely that it was in works. It would have been possible for it to avoid us if it had been working the passengers between Daban and Haoluku but otherwise, I would have expected to see it if it was around.
The weather was very mixed with more cloud than usual and often a strong north-westerly or northerly wind which made conventional photography very difficult before midday. This wasn't as serious a problem as it sounds because there weren't a lot of trains around at this time. Temperatures in the region of -15 to -20 C were experienced on several mornings, rising to around -5 to -10 C during the day. There was a thin covering of snow in the area between Xiakengzi and Shangdian but elsewhere it had all blown away. Several light snowfalls occurred while we were there but most of the snow disappeared very quickly.
The Journey Home(20 - 21 December 2003)
We travelled by road to Chifeng then caught train 2560 overnight to Beijing. Nothing of interest was seen en route. Flying out of Beijing, we took a more easterly track than usual getting excellent views of the Beijing - Chifeng line skirting the reserviors east of Miyun. The air was very clear as we flew over the JiTong line somewhere east of Baiqi and an eastbound steam hauled freight could be seen heading for Haoluku while a westbound waited in a loop.
Nanpiao was interesting but I would hesitate to say that it's better than Tiefa as has been suggested. The two systems are very different in character and both have different attractions. Nanpiao has a gritty old industrial flavour while Tiefa gives the impression of prosperity. Both systems do however suffer from the same generous provision of lineside concrete poles. Tiefa has clean engines and more intensive services while Nanpiao's locos are universally scruffy but they are thrashed on the steep grades. As far as scenery goes, Nanpiao is much better but it's difficult to get a good scenic phot because of the ever-present poles. Any suggestion that any part of the Nanpiao system is remotely like Jingpeng is totally ludicrous. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed visiting Nanpiao and I look forward to going back for some of the shots I didn't get this time. There are good opportunities for photography in a fascinating industrial environment but don't expect anything that rivals Chengde steelworks or Tongchuan scenically.
The partial dieselisation of the JiTong Railway's Chabuga to Zhelimu section is disturbing but until we know why it happened it won't be clear if it's the forerunner of more widespread dieseliation or not. The railway certainly lost no time withdrawing most of it's older locos. Of those over 20 years old, only QJ 6125, 6351, 6385, 6478, 6577 and 6580 were seen in steam. QJ 6125 must have gone into store almost immediately after we saw it working a Chabuga - Daban freight and QJ 6577 and 6580 probably survive because are only just 20 years old and appear to have been overhauled recently. QJ 6351 may be old but it goes like a rocket! The sight of it at speed between Yamenmiao and Diaojiaduan was one to be savoured. Ironically the DF4s which have displaced the older QJs are also around 20 years old.
We were told that Chabuga to Zhelimu would be 100% diesel from the beginning of 2004 and that Daban to Chabuga would be next. It was also said Daban would receive it's first diesels during 2004. This information came from a single member of railway staff and was not confirmed by anyone else. It may or may not be accurate.
Apart from the lack of trains, it was business as usual at Dabaliang. There is a new concrete pole line running just below Simingyi viaduct which makes some shots difficult and a new high voltage line crosses the railway near the low viaduct west of Galadesitai ruining the picture there. In spite of this and the problems we had with the weather and the lack of trains, it's still a magical place.
Photographically, the trip was very worthwhile as I hope you'll agree the accompanying photos confirm. Nanpiao was a new location with new and different opportunities, the shots around Lindong and Gulumanhan were among the best I've taken there and the combination of few trains and unhelpful winds at Jingpeng required a different approach resulting in some very satisfying pictures.
It was good to finally meet Hans Schaefer at Daban and see Alan Beard again at Reshui but we were surprised how few other gricers were around during our visit. We saw nobody at Nanpiao, Lindong or Chabuga and only a handful at Jingpeng.
The NiMH AA batteries in my S2 performed well in spite of the low temperatures. I found I was getting the battery low indication after around half a day's intensive use but the camera continued to work perfectly for some time after that. Eventually the battery flat indication would come up but the camera still worked at this stage. I didn't tempt fate by continuing to use the batteries beyond this and changed to a fresh set at the first opportunity. On the quieter days a single set of batteries lasted all day.