Industrial Steam Miscellany
09 - 29 February 2004
Report by Duncan Cotterill
With no forestry railways to visit this year, a trip to some of China's other industrial railways seemed appropriate. As with many recent visits, this was a complicated affair with people joining and leaving at various points. Peter Breeze accompanied me throughout. Bryan Acford and Ewen Brown joined us for Pingdingshan, Nanpiao/Huludao (part 1) and Tiefa before continuing to the JiTong line for a few days. We met up with Robin Gibbons for Pingdingshan and Nanpiao/Huludao (part 1) while Lindsay Groves joined us for Nanpiao/Huludao (part 1) and Tiefa. As usual, the arrangements were made through Sun Xiaolan of CLSLPA. Deng Feng accompanied us as guide, translator and general fixer.
London - Paris - Beijing(09-10 February 2004)
What an eventful journey. Thank you Air France, for making our lives just that little bit more exciting. After the computer system failing while I was halfway through checking in, followed by a delay of 1 hour to my flight from London to Paris because of a strike, what more could go wrong? The answer was plenty. Peter's flight from Manchester was delayed by almost 2 hours and he missed the onward flight to Beijing altogether. After a lot of argument, he was transferred onto the later Air China flight but his suitcase wasn't. It was over 48 hours before the two were reunited.
In spite of Air France's best efforts we both got to Beijing on the right day, albeit a bit later than expected.
Beijing Railway Museum(10 February 2004)
Quite a few new locos have arrived since my last visit in August 2003. The full list is:
JF 304, 1191, 2101, 2121, 4101, JF6 3022, JF9 3673, JF11 3773, 3787, JS 5001,
SL3 152, SL 601, SL12 890, RM 1001,
QJ 0001, QJ 0004, QJ 101, FD 1979,
KD5 373, KD7 534, PL3 51, PL9 146, KF1 006, GJ1019, No 0,
SS 1008, DF5 0007, DF4 0001, DFH2 0008, DFH5 0001, DF 1301, BJ 3003, NY5 0001, ND3 0001.
Surprising to see an ND3 here when the class appears to have been neither particularly significant nor successful. The lack of a DFH1 is still a major omission, especially when there appears to be one dumped at Shanhaiguan depot.
Beijing - Tongchuan(10 - 11 February 2004)
We travelled from Beijing Xi to Xi'an on train T55, the 16:10 to Baoji. Much to my surprise, it was formed of double deck stock, the first I'd travelled on in China. The sleeper compartments were cramped compared to normal rolling stock. The headroom between berths in soft sleeper wasn't much better than hard sleeper on conventional coaches and there was no room for luggage. Just as well Peter's bag had missed the flight!
SS8 0044 hauled us to Shijiazhuang but I didn't check the power after that. Most freight on the line south from Beijing was worked by SS1 electrics and an SS1 was seen on a local passenger as well. A couple of passengers at Shijiazhuang were seen with orange DF4B in charge.
One development of interest was the new overall roof at Beijing Xi. This is of the same design as that at Beijing, which I reported as being under construction in my December 2003 report.
Arrival at Xi'an was on time at 06:15 but it took another hour to arrange train tickets for our next overnight journey to Pingdingshan. In spite of leaving Xi'an at 07:15 by taxi, we were in Tongchuan, booking into the Red Rose Hotel by 08:45.
Tongchuan Coal Mining Administration(11 - 14 February 2004)
This was my second visit to Tongchuan. The first, in January 2000, was plagued throughout by fog and poor light. We didn't get a single shot in decent light. This time was quite different. Out of 4 days only one afternoon was partially cloudy. The rest of the time it was sunny. Not the sort of crystal clear sunshine you would expect at Jingpeng but it was wasn't bad. Temperatures were well above what we anticipated, starting around -5C early morning and rising to almost 20C in the afternoon. As a result, exhausts were a bit hit and miss after around 11:00 but that was probably the price we paid for the clear weather.
The pattern of workings appeared to be similar every day but it was never exactly the same. All the locos would be at Tongchuan Nan by 08:00 every morning and none would leave before 09:30. From 09:30 onwards, there would be trains of empties to the mines at 20 to 30 minute intervals. Generally, there were two or three diesel workings to Dongpo or Hongtou followed by one or two steam workings to Wangshiwa. From about midday the loaded workings would return to Tongchuan Nan. In the afternoon, there would be a similar pattern of departures to the mines followed by the loads returning but in a much less orderly manner.
Traffic was quite variable from day to day. Our first day saw four trains of empties steam hauled to Wangshiwa, the second day saw three and the third day only one. On the fourth day there was little traffic to Dongpo or Hongtou and one of the diesels worked to Wangshiwa with 22 wagons, equivalent to two JF hauled trains. There was only one steam turn that day as well.
We saw three JFs on line work, although only two appeared to be in use at any one time. The fourth JF still thought to be in traffic, JF 2113 was not seen. We didn't visit the servicing point at Tongchuan Nan where it may have been. All five of the diesels reported to be here were seen on line work, although only two or three appeared to be in use at any one time. The DF7B, DF7C and DF7F seemed to be used interchangeably. The diesels were regularly seen hauling 20+ empties out of Tongchuan while the JFs were stretched with 11 and usually had to stop for a blow-up at Baimiaogou. (This was the name we were given for the passing loop between Tongchuan and Qiaoziliang in 2000 and it was confirmed on this visit as well. The name Shijiahe appears to be erroneous.) Another diesel would probably finish regular line work for steam.
JF 2182, 2368, 2369, DF7B 3134, 3135, DF7C 5217, 5218, DF7F 7001.
A New Line?
We were told that the Wangshiwa, Hongtou and Dongpo mines formed the eastern section of the Tongchuan Coal Mining Administration. There is also said to be a northern section with a single large mine at Chenjiashan, some 30 - 50 km north of Tongchuan, which also uses steam. Whether this is one of the mines between Yaoxian and Diantou referred to by Bruce Evans in his January 1999 report is unclear. We only got this information a couple of hours before we had to leave for Xi'an, so didn't have time to investigate.
Passenger Service Alterations?
Our taxi driver told us that there had been no passenger service between Tongchuan and Xi'an since the Spring Festival this year. Although our source may be unreliable, intending visitors should take note.
Tongchuan to Pingdingshan(14 to 15 February 2004)
We returned to Xi'an by road and caught train 2204 at 20:59, direct to Pingdingshan. At Xi'an, an orange DF4B was seen leaving on a train to Taiyuan and an SS1 headed through the station on a freight. Most passengers on the main line were hauled by SS7D Bo-Bo-Bos or the more recent SS7E Co-Cos.
Pingdingshan Coal Co Railway(15 to 18 February 2004)
Again, this was my second visit to this large and busy industrial system. Although it was February, the temperatures here were well above zero most of the day, rising to 21 or 22C in the afternoons. The weather was generally sunny and very hazy although we did get one reasonably clear day. One day of the four was mainly cloudy. The high temperatures made exhausts very hit and miss from late morning onwards. Bryan, Ewen and Robin joined us at Pingdingshan.
Our driver here was provided by a local travel agency and was a graduate of the school of reckless driving. How we survived unscathed, I do not know.
The passenger trains ran to the previously published schedules and were always SY hauled during our visit.
As expected, the busiest places on the system were the west ends of Shenxi and Tianzhuang yards where trains of empties could be seen departing for the various mines on the system. On the branches leading to each individual mine traffic was, of course, much less frequent. Generally, at least one train would run to each mine in the morning and another in the afternoon but it was difficult to predict when each mine would be served. Compared to my previous visit, trains appeared to be longer with a single JS handling about 20 empties on the steeply graded line to mine 4. Trains up the bank to mine 1 could also be very long. On one occasion a very long train was seen hauled by a JS and the GKD3B and banked by two more JS. Trains of loaded oil tankers are also tripped to the depot on the mine 1 branch, often requiring the use of more than one loco.
Mines 8 and 13 appeared to be served directly from Pingdingshan Dong Yard (CNR) rather than Tianzhuang or Shenxi. The western end of the system around Baofeng was not explored.
One morning we went to the mine 13 branch to photograph the incoming passenger train. When we passed Qilidian, the junction with the Youzhou line, there was a long rake of empty wagons in the loop. While we waited on the branch, a few km away, much whistling could be heard from the direction of Qilidian. When we returned, the empties had gone. It is possible that they were simply parked there and then taken to another location on the Pingdingshan system. Alternatively, they could have been collected by Youzhou line locos and taken north. The presence of water columns at Qilidian may indicate that trains are exchanged between the two systems here although it would appear sensible for the Yuozhou locos to work the last few km to Dong yard and exchange traffic directly with CNR there.
There appear to have been no significant changes to the steam fleet since September 2002. We saw all of Pingdingshan's locos with the exception of JS 8065, which could have been outstationed at Baofeng. QJ 6450 was in steam on shed but was never seen outside the depot. It may have been a standby engine. QJ 2035 and 6450 have swapped tenders so 2035 now has a 12-wheeler and 6450 an 8-wheeler.
Locos appear to be used interchangeably most of the time, irrespective of class. The passengers were always SY but the other SYs worked turn and turn about with the JSs, QJs and GKD3B.
The diesel, GKD3B 0003, is a Co-Co hood unit from Ziyang works. It is not owned by the railway but has been on trial for around one month and does appear to be capable of shifting really substantial loads. Of Pingdingshan's steam locos, only the QJs come close in terms of pulling power. This has to be about the ugliest diesel I've ever seen. Whoever designed it obviously had the classic EMD hood units, such as the SD40, in mind but didn't realise that the reason for the low short hood is to allow the crew to see out. Unless Pingdingshan recruits drivers over 9 feet tall this won't be possible.
JS 5644, 6253, 6429, 8030, 8031, 8054, 8057, 8062, 8120, 8122, 8338, QJ 2035, 6450, 6813, 7186, SY 0758, 1002, 1209, 1687, GKD3B 0003 all seen working.
JS 6225, 8068 being overhauled.
JS 6252 dumped.
We saw two locos belonging to the Yuzhou operation. QJ 6786 was on shed one morning. QJ 6690 was being used on our first day as if it was a Pingdingshan loco, tripping empties from the washery at Tianzhuang and returning with loads. We didn't see it at all on subsequent days.
Yuzhou line locos QJ 6690, 6786.
Pingdingshan to Jinzhou(18 to 19 February 2004)
We travelled by road to Zhengzhou passing the Xuchang narrow gauge line on the way. A diesel hauled narrow gauge coal train was seen and photographed just outside Xuchang.
There is a direct train from Zhengzhou to Jinzhou but due to the archaic Chinese reservation system, we couldn't get sleeper tickets for it. Trains were all very busy as the end of the Spring Festival travel season dragged on, so we didn't dare risk getting sleepers on the train. Instead, we were persuaded to catch train 2554 to Beijing because it started at Zhengzhou and soft sleepers would be available. They weren't and we ended up in a crowded, dirty, hard sleeper instead. Little of interest was seen en route.
From Beijing we continued on train T11, the daytime Beijing to Shenyang express via Tianjin, hauled by DF4D 3023 to Shanhaiguan and an unidentified DF11 onwards. The train was composed entirely of double deck stock. Unlike the sleepers, the double deck seating coaches are comfortable.
The vast majority of freight traffic seen along the entire route was hauled by DF8B diesels. DF4/4B/4C were also seen in reasonable numbers. A handful of (Jinan based?) ND5 were active around Tianjin. On the electrified section from Luanxian to Shanhaiguan some SS1 were also seen. DF7/7B/7C handled shunting and local freight duties in most places. Only around Huludao (Jinxi) and Jinzhou were DF5 common. A number of DFH5 were seen around Beijing and Tianjin and a DFH2 was also at Tianjin.
Passenger trains were hauled by a mixture of DF4/4B, DF4D and DF11. There didn't seem to be much logic to which trains got which power. Our "T" train only warranted a DF4D west of Shanhaiguan while some lowlier trains got DF11s. There appeared to be a dumped DFH1 at Shanhaiguan depot.
For the next nine days we travelled around Liaoning province by road. The Beijing - Shenyang expressway and connecting roads make this a far easier and quicker way to get around than by train. We spent four nights at Jinzhou followed by two at Tiefa then another two at Huludao before returning to Jinzhou for the final night.
Nanpiao Mining Railway(20, 22, 23, 27, 28 February 2004)
This was my second visit to this system as well. Again, the weather was mixed and warmer than expected. Fortunately, the temperatures were still low enough to produce white exhausts all day. I've added a Nanpiao Map showing station names.
No major differences to previous reports. Passenger trains ran according to the timetables previously published. We did get a parallel departure of the afternoon passengers from Xiamiaozi one afternoon but on two others when the conditions were right, i.e. the Linghai train was a few minutes late, both trains left at different times. It seems you have to be very lucky to get both trains leaving simultaneously. The morning passenger to Linghai ran very late one morning, arriving at Zaojiatun just before 10:00. The loco came off, shunted some wagons under the loader, went back on the passenger train then continued towards Linghai. The reasons for the late running and the shunting were not apparent.
There did not appear to be any fixed pattern of freight workings. The Sanjiazi branch would typically only see a couple of freights in daylight. On one occasion, the first of these didn't leave Xiamiaozi until midday. The power station at Shaguotun appears to be commissioning and is now taking coal deliveries. These can be from Weizigou or from the Linghai line collieries. They do not appear to be building up a stockpile and only seem to take as much as they can accommodate in the bunkers. The "disused collieries" at Zaojiatun and Fulongshan are actually cement works. The Fulongshan works appears to be operational but the branch to Fulongshan station showed no sign of use.
The Linghai line saw much heavier traffic. The downside was that the BJ spent most of its time working freight between Linghai and Zaojiatun or Xiamiaozi. Fortunately, traffic was heavy enough to allow a significant level of SY working as well. The BJ was seen once on a Linghai passenger but never on the Sanjiazi line. Zaojiatun was usually quiet when we arrived around 07:30 but up to three locos would arrive by 08:30 and the next two hours would usually be very busy. In addition to acting as a staging point for empties heading for Qiupigou and Linghai, Zaojiatun continues to generate regular trains of spoil which are taken to the nearby tip. The trains we saw were always hauled up to the tip, never propelled. Once at the tip, the wagons were propelled the last few meters to the dumping area.
In general, there were 5 locos working, including the BJ when it was available. On our last two days, the BJ wasn't seen and 5 SYs were in use. There was no sign of the mysterious second diesel "1013" or of SY 1075. We did not visit the depot.
SY 0366, 0638, 0973, 1017, 1092, 1299, 1478, BJ 3241 all seen working.
Huludao - Yangjiazhangzi Limestone Railway(21, 26 February 2004)
This was the only line I hadn't visited before. On the first day we were here, it snowed heavily. The snow started to melt then froze solid leaving all the roads around Huludao extremely slippery. We saw numerous road accidents in a very short distance as we struggled to find a viable route back to Jinzhou. Traffic wasn't being allowed to join the expressway due to the conditions and our guide had to negotiate for us to be allowed access to get back to our hotel. At one point an articulated lorry jacknifed a few yards in front of us. Our driver did very well to stop in a controlled manner.
Not much to add to previous reports. Photographically, the line is nothing special. There are some pleasant spots but none that are really exceptional.
The real attraction is the way that loaded trains are worked. Fourteen loaded wagons is the absolute maximum a JS can handle and fourteen loaded wagons is what they regularly haul. After surmounting the initial short climb out of Yangjiazhangzi, the train is allowed to roll and gets up a good speed on the downgrade. By the time it reaches the foot of the next climb, chasing seems pointless as it's so far ahead of you and going so fast that catching up appears to be impossible. However, the climb is long and steep and by around 2 km before the summit, speed is down to walking pace. The last couple of km are sheer unadulterated slog, requiring a great deal of skill on the part of the driver to keep the loco from slipping to a stand. It's a great spectacle and well worth seeing if you're in the area.
There appeared to be two trains each way in daylight. Apart from that, the line was not being worked in accordance with previous reports. Trains were not being operated to a reliable timetable. On one day, the morning train from Huludao was at Yangjiazhangzi by 07:30, several hours ahead of the expected time. Locos were not being turned at Yanjiazhangzi as the turntable was out of commission. They were still being turned at Huludao, presumably due to the layout of the unloading facility. This made it very difficult to predict which way the next loco from Huludao would be facing.
On one of the days we were there, the morning loco took 14 loads over the banks to the intermediate loop then returned light to Yangjiazhangzi for another 14 loads before continuing over the relatively flat section to Huludao with the combined trains. The afternoon empties were much more reliably timed reaching the main summit between 15:00 and 16:00 each day.
JS 6243, 6307, SY 0513 woking. JS 6305, 8207, SY 1415 cold.
CNR Huludao to Weizhangzi Line
This lightly trafficked secondary route parallels the limestone railway for most of its length. I couldn't find details of the passenger service in the CNR timetable but there is at least one daytime passenger in each direction, a Jinzhou to Yebaishou and return service hauled by a standard DF4B. The train from Jinzhou passes the main summit around 10:15 and that to Jinzhou around 14:45. In addition there was a westbound freight, also DF4B hauled around 11:30 both days. On the 26th only, a DF5 worked pickup goods went west at 13:30, returning at 15:45. The CNR line appears to have been built after the limestone railway and uses heavier civil engineering with more cuttings, embankments and bridges. Photographically, it's a much more attractive line but is, unfortunately, devoid of steam.
Tiefa Mining Railway(24 - 25 February 2004)
We had originally planned to spend three days here but this reduced to just over one day due to bad weather delaying our arrival from Jinzhou and causing us to leave early as well. The one full day we were here started off dull and overcast but quickly cleared. By the afternoon, it was so clear that we could see a steam hauled coal train approaching the power station at Tieling from the hillside above the tunnel on the Faku line, some 40 km distant. The following morning was dull and overcast again with snow and strong winds. By 10:00 we were on our way back to Shenyang. I've redrawn my Tiefa Map to show the new roads in the area.
Coal and passenger traffic were heavy. Late afternoon at Huirang was particularly impressive as a procession of loaded coal trains followed each other at close headways. The basic traffic patterns were largely as reported before. There was one important difference though. Freight traffic on the Faku line was much heavier than expected. We saw 4 or 5 return workings in daylight on the 24th, including one double header. Many of the trains were composed of power station hoppers. Passenger trains appeared to work to the previously published timetable with the exception of one Diaobingshan to Daqing train, which ran earlier. 307 was seen leaving Diaobingshan at 08:54 instead of 09:14.
The system appeared to be 100% steam worked during our visit. The only diesel seen was the CNR pilot at Daqing, DF7C 5187.
JS 5029, SY 0393, 0435, 0665, 0860, 1147, 1255, 1412, 1683, 1749, 1751, 1767, 1770, 1771, 1772 were all seen working. The JS has lost its builder's plates so it's difficult to confirm exactly how old it is.
Shenyang Railway Museum(25 February 2004)
After abandoning Tiefa due to bad weather, we visited the new Shenyang Railway Museum at 301 Shuangyuan Road, Dongling District, Shenyang, tel 024-24781711. Admission was RMB20 per person.
The museum is situated to the east of the city, outside the built up area, next to the Botanical Garden. The locos previously kept at Sujiatun have been nicely restored and transferred here. They are now displayed under cover in an airy roundhouse inspired building. As well as the locos, the museum has replicas of three early locomotives and a series of informative displays covering the design and development of steam locomotives and railways in China. Most displays are in Chinese, English and Japanese languages. Unfortunately, photogaphy is not allowed.
Locos: PL1 220, DB1 28, SL5 292, JF3 2558, JF2 2525, FD 1227, SL7 751, ST2 22, JF6 3329, SL8 815, DK5 250, XK13 3858, GJ 1038, JS 5003, QJ 1316.
Overall, this is a fascinating collection of largely unique locos displayed in a very attractive manner with excellent supporting material. The Beijing and Shenyang collections complement each other very well. Highly recommended if you have time to spare in Shenyang.
Bryan, Ewen and Lindsay continued from Shenyang to Lindong and Reshui.
CNR Shanhaiguan - Shenyang High Speed Line
We travelled alongside this line on the parallel Expressway on several occasions. Only a handful of trains are booked to use the line at present and those that we saw were hauled by SS9 electrics. We also saw a 6 car high speed EMU, which appeared to be on a test run.
CNR Harbin - Shenyang - Dalian Main Line
The Shenyang ring road runs alongside the north - south freight bypass for several km. We saw numerous freights on this section hauled by twin unit SS4G? electrics. The only diesels seen were some DF4 around Zhuanwanqiao, presumably used to take trains to and from Shenyang Xi yard.
Previously Undiscovered Narrow Gauge Lines?
Between Jinzhou and Panjin, the expressway traverses an expanse of flat coastal plain and salt marshes. This area appears to be criss-crossed by a network of narrow gauge railways. The expressway crosses over at least four lines. We saw two loaded trains, both hauled by small diesel locos. From a distance, they looked very similar to Cuban sugar cane trains, but they may have transported reeds harvested from the marshes. Although the chances of steam being used on these lines is minimal, they would be fascinating to investigate further. Any takers?
Jinzhou to Beijing(28, 29 February 2004)
We travelled overnight on train 2590, the 20:58 Jinzhou to Beijing. The spotless, comfortable soft sleeper and friendly crew were a complete contrast to the similarly numbered but grotty 2554 from Zhengzhou. Nothing of interest was seen.
Beijing to London(29 February 2004)
Once again, Air France displayed gross incompetence by managing to delay our departure from Paris by 45 minutes because the plane was at the wrong terminal. Then their baggage mishandlers in London managed to lose 60% of the passengers' baggage between the plane and the arrivals hall. That took another 30 minutes to sort out and I missed my train home as a result.
We almost didn't go to Tongchuan. I'd received (inaccurate) information that steam had finished before Christmas, so it's only thanks to Alexandre Gillieron's report that we reinstated Tongchuan into the itinerary. I'm very glad that we did! These 50 year old dinosaurs have been living on borrowed time for several years. After my January 2000 trip I thought they wouldn't last the year. Four years later, it looks just the same. It has to be doubtful whether they will last into 2005 but I hope I'm wrong again. The information that there is steam at Chenjiashan also sounds worth investigating.
Pingdingshan was disappointing. Like Tiefa, it isn't a particularly attractive area and without white exhausts, the afternoon pictures tended to look a bit flat. Hopefully the diesel won't be the first of many. Although it was on trial and was obviously being pampered by manufacturers representatives, it didn't seem entirely trouble free and the engine was being laid into with a large hammer at one stage. With a bit of luck they'll break something important and send it back.
Nanpiao was enjoyable as before. This system has a certain "something" about it, which makes it very attractive. Perhaps it's all the shunting which seems to be required. At Pingdingshan, empty wagons go in at one end of the loader and loaded wagons come out of the other. Then an engine comes along and takes them away. Very efficient but not very interesting. At Nanpiao, each wagon appears to require shunting from one place to another and back again, often several times, before loading is finished. All this activity makes for more interest. The second diesel reported here doesn't seem to have made an appearance. Has anybody seen it working or just as a pile of bits in the works?
Huludao didn't inspire in the same way. Seeing a loaded train struggle to the summit was impressive but difficult to photograph. We cut our visit short to return to Nanpiao.
Tiefa was impressive for the volume of traffic if not the scenery. The additional workings on the Faku line are really good news as this is the one line which has good scenery. The reports of a DFH3 working here are puzzling. Why would a prosperous operation like this buy a second-hand, superannuated, express passenger diesel? I would have thought a new DF5 or DF7 would have been more appropriate.
On the main line front, much has been said about the number of DF4 displaced by the Dalian - Harbin electrification. The introduction of large numbers of DF8B on Beijing - Shenyang route freights will have also released large numbers of DF4. Whether any of these make their way to the JiTong line or other remaining steam operations remains to be seen. They have certainly replaced many of the DFH3 and BJ diesels which were so common only a few years ago. We didn't see a single DFH3 and the only BJ we saw move was on station pilot duties at Beijing.
This was my first trip for several years which didn't include at least a few days on the JiTong line. It's true that none of the lines visited compare with Jingpeng for scenery or spectacle but industrial railways are fascinating in their own right. I enjoyed the trip very much and I think it generated some very worthwhile pictures in spite of fairly indifferent weather for much of the trip. Would I do it again? Yes, but I need another fix of double headed QJ action first. Fortunately Bruce Evans, Louis Cerny, Bernd Seiler and others seem to be discovering new steam lines faster than the diesel manufacturers can eliminate the ones we already know about. I'll probably pencil in another industrial bash for next Spring.
Thanks to Peter, Bryan, Ewen, Robin and Lindsay for their company and good humour, to Sun Xiaolan, Deng Feng and driver Liang for making things work on the ground, to Alexandre Gillieron for the vital Tongchuan report and to all those who share information on their new discoveries with the rest of us.