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CHINA TRIP REPORT OCTOBER 2007
Jalainur, Jixi, Huanan, Tiefa, Huludao, Zoucheng, Pingdingshan.
My last trip in China had been in August 2005 and I was able to see the last QJ between Daban and Chabuga. When a few days after, steam service was replaced by diesel, I thought that there were no more reasons to go so far to see a steam loco.
But day after day, with help of ďSteam in ChinaĒ Yahoo group, it was very easy to convince myself that there was still something that deserved to be seen.
Of course I began to look for places to see a lot of steam, then places where steam is going to finish and places where the last QJ were still in service (or better in steam).
Locations are those you can see under the title and excluding Tiefa are all new for me. It is easy to understand that such a tour needs many days and, if like me you donít speak a word of Chinese, needs a good guide who can bring me in good places. I do not know if I spent too much but Iíd like to know opinions from other people: the whole trip in China cost 1532 euros with all transfers, hotels, meals and taxi for 20 days. With me there was Enrico Brovarone the only other remaining of an original group of 4. As a general note for those interested in the steam situation, I can say that I found no changes from the latest reports this year with QJ at Pindingshan on October 31 being still all in service, so it seems me to be impossible that they will finish in November.
It takes time to arrive here: I left Venice on Oct. 12 at 15.50 and arrived in Beijing the day after at 12.05, then flight to Harbin and from there night train to Jalainur where I arrived at 10.05 (a little late) on Oct.14.
Figure 1: First loco seen in Jalainur
For information I took with me all possible reports and for this one I refer to the F. Menius map of January 2005.
Just after 10 minutes I saw the first SY at the level crossing of line from mine to Dongfanghong yard. We parked our taxi near the washery and from there I was able to see other 3 locos shunting in this yard.
After half an hour we decided to leave this place and we asked to go to the open mine. With surprise, our taxi brings us after only 300 m to the north limit of mine. First view is incredible, we was unable to move for more than ten minutes: steam locos everywhere, we was not able to count how many they were, surely more than 15. The sound of a train is mixed with other 2 or more trains and your eyes are not able to follow all trains moving.
At least we decided to begin the visit and all the afternoon was spent near the border, to understand the service and the lines. Light was not so good so we decided to have a look from other place. We drove in direction of Dongzhan and than in direction of Nanzhan but some 5 km before road finished and our driver said that to reach Nanzhan we must go from opposite side. By the way east part did not seems interesting if also the railway to CNR yard is there and quite often is possible to see some train moving.
At five in the afternoon we decided to leave and go to Manzholi where our Hotel was. Surely a good one, in an interesting town with good restaurant but at 40 minutes from mine that means no breakfast in the morning if you want to see sun rising.
Oct. 15: Wake up at 5.50 just in time for a silhouette near level crossing. Sunny day.
Figure 2 No breakfast
After this we began our work: one hour for each level.
On first level there are 6-7 tracks of which 2 are going down, 2 up and other are dead traks; than they became 4 in front of control office station and still became 2 in the west side of pit to allow contemporary presence of 4 or 5 trains. At 7 we saw a passenger train with 2 coaches and two locos at each end, at 7.30 as on previous report, first loco with half train leaved and after 5 minutes leaved the second.
Figure 3: first passenger train
In this half an hour we had the possibility to take a lot of pictures of normal trains that here are all with wagons in front of loco.
Figure 4: Push pull train
Traffic is very heavy with loaded trains going up with lovely sound and great steam cones variously tilting back depending on speed of train. On other track empty trains came down to be charged on lower levels.
From first level we leaved some half an hour late but in search of an easy way to go down to second level we spent an other half hour watching all around and taking pictures at trains all around.
Figure 5: Big pit
Second level is not so interesting, there are only two tracks to reverse direction (take a look to the map, trains make a zig-zag service to go up and down in the pit) but it is necessary also for us otherwise seems impossible to reach directly the forbidden coal reloading on third level.
Forbidden because in reports is written so and a strange signal with a crossed video camera made us understand that in this place it is better to leave cameras in our bags.
Easy to say but difficult to do.
So walking here and there we was able to take some picture with no one that take care of us, still we waited a train to be emptied and a maintenance train to complete his shunting.
Light was very good and it was a pity to go away when it was about 11.00.
From there we walked along tracks until a reverse point that is some half km distant.
Here we understood the difference between the trains: coal ones are with wagons behind tender so that they can be pushed in the shed where they are unloaded; spoil ones are with wagons in front of loco.
From this moment most pictures and video were made of coal trains.
Coals trains are loaded in lowest level, spoil trains can be loaded on different levels and this means that there are intermediate levels.
Tired and hungry, at 2 in the afternoon we decided to return back leaving other places for another day.
In the way back I asked to charge my battery in an office near coal reloading and all people was very friendly and no one told me anything while taking pictures until when I disappeared to people view for a personal business. When I returned on place, a man clearly made me a sign to go to him.
No problem, he made me understand firmly but also gently that I could not stay there anymore.
So I took my battery, put in bag my camera and took slowly the way back to the taxi.
In half an hour I arrived to first level where I met my young guide whom I asked to get information of what just happened.
After another half an hour she came back telling me that that man wasnít there any more but other people said that in that place it is not allowed to take pictures.
Figure 6: forbidden place
Figure 7: sunset
Oct 17. Cloudy, in Daquio station we were asked not to take pictures, later we knew there was a meeting of railway officers.
So as alternative we visited local workshop were 4 loco was in light repair.
At midday it has began snowing and we was forced to have some relax in a restaurant.
Later returned to Daquio at level crossing beforeans after station.
Last picture in late afternoon on east side of pit with a good sun.
This time I took numbers of locos that are the same you can see in other reports, but I can say that in Jalainur totally I saw 29 loco in service. This means that this is really a great place for steam, for me it is a paradise and surely deserves a visit.
Figure 8: last light before sunset
In the evening we took night train first to Harbin than to Mudanjiang and from here with bus to Jixi where we arrived at 16.00 on Oct 18 just in time for a short visit to local workshop with 4 engines there.
Oct 19. This location has been chosen because Bernd Seiler said in his report of Sept. 2007: ďAll I can recommend is to go there soon, very soon.Ē. Originally I programmed there 2 days but after the first I decided to add one because I really wanted to see all the possible there. It is really difficult to understand something of this location if you do not spend there at least one week, and with maps from different reports it is possible to have an idea also on second day.
But we had a guide so wake up at 6 and first we went to Nanchang where from 7 to 7.30 locos (4 seen) go to stabling point for coal, water and begin their service, later, still in Chengzihe system (look at Bernd Seiler map of Oct 2002 for names of locations), we went to Dongchang where we spent 2 hours watching trains going and arriving (6 locos). At 10 we were at the summit before Xingua. Here there is a control place to set a point to a higher track where wagons are pulled to be unloaded. Weather was really bad: snowing, windy and cold, that morning I felt pity for a poor SY coming from Xingua that after four attempt was not able to reach the unloading point, every time passing on that switch faster and faster but useless because 20 m after it begun to slip, slip and slip: no ways to go on. At least, it stopped snowing and the five wagons arrived at the top of the hill.
Figure 9: second attempt
I left this place decided to come back before leaving Jixi, too dramatic this situation, I was eager to see it once again.
Figure 10: Beichang
In the first afternoon we were at Beichang where also we had not so much free time.
Before it was too dark we went back to the level crossing of Dongchang but here we made a mistake. Thinking to have a better view we went up to the second floor of a house in the corner of level crossing. When we were there train was leaving but its view was covered by the office of level crossing attendant.
Oct 20. In the morning we have gone to Hengshan where we saw one SY waiting for service but 2 diesels shunting. After one hour we are is still waiting, so we move to Herdaoezi. Here also no steam, so we try in Jixi Xi but because of heavy snow they tell us there are problems with trains. In the afternoon it continued snowing, we changed location and tried at Didao where at least we found 3 locos and good traffic, just before it become dark.
Figure 11: Didao
Oct 21. At last sun! We have only some hours in the morning so we go again to Dongchang where we are sure to find something moving.
Figure 12: Dongchang
At midday we took a train to Linkuo from where we saw an SY shunting probably in Didao system. From Linkuo another train to Huanan.
Oct 22. Early departure from hotel and first picture before Xiahua,
Then from Tuoyaozi it is impossible to go on by taxi but also is impossible by motorcycle, so we decide to go to summit walking on the railway. It is easy to say and if also is a really beautiful sunny day after two hours we are not yet arrived. Walk on snow is very hard and difficult, we are afraid not to arrive in time so after horseshoe curve we stop to wait train coming up. Before the train, the railbus arrives and leaves there two Japanese. One hour or later the train arrived.
Figure 14: near summit
Later we walked until summit and than down to catch double hauled train that is arrived after a lot of time, in fact it was already after 12 and sun passed on other side so that picture was totally against sun. It was good for loco coming back tender first. Please donít think too badly of me but after 8 km walking on snow and water inside my shoes, I completely avoided to choose other place to take pictures.
Figure 15: Too light train for two locos
To come back we decided to catch railbus and surely I can say that never money was spent so well and really I think that 100 Yuan for 4 people is not too much.
On the way to Huanan we tried to see what there was in Xiahua, we were lucky, a train was ready to leave with last light of afternoon.
Figure 16: Xiahua
Oct 23. After our previous experience we decided to go by railbus to Li Xin.
At half past five departure from hotel to catch the morning train coming from Tuoyaozi, and these has been the best moments of all day, we find train just near the same place of day before but it was a little earlier and not having to walk we follow it until Huanan to see it shunting and waited railbus departure.
Figure 17: Xiahua on the other side
Figure 18: arrival at Huanan
Figure 19: Shunting in Huanan
We catch railbus in Xiahua and had an exciting travel to Li Xin. Just after departure a window was falling away, it has been arranged on its place with plastic tape with all passenger interested but not at all worried. Travel has gone on jumping as on a rodeo horse but this did not disturbed four people playing cards.
At Lin Xi nothing to do while waiting some two hours before train arrival, than half an hour of good time with two trains shunting before going back with railbus again.
In Huanan we saw third loco shunting in depot but we had no possibility to go in so we useless waited it comes out to prepare next train for one hour when was time to leave.
Huanan surely is a place where to stay a longer time but I had other places to see
And next time (if still there will be service) I must program four days as minimum.
Figure 20: Lin Xi
Oct 24. We arrived here at 1 in the afternoon and took a room in a new beautiful hotel just in front of station of Diaobingshan, from our room was possible to see steam loco in the station, a very nice place to stay. Here we remained only one night because I had to return to original program. Unfortunately first day we had bad weather and the train to Faku in the afternoon was diesel hauled.
Oct 25. We had some sun so we tried a different location than usual Diaobingshan station, at 12.58 a passenger train leaved Daming made me think that in Tiefa there are many places that can be interesting.
Figure 21: Daming
In the evening with taxi to Tieling and just before we have seen an SY pulling a ballast train in a new a great yard, I suppose this loco is from Tiefa but I had no possibility to see its number because we were late for our train.
Oct 26. I decided to visit Huludao to have another location before going south of Beijing and because Duncan Cotterill, in his report of February 2004 wrote: 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.
At 7.30 we gone at the interchange yard where SY 1415 was standing in steam with no apparent service to do, we immediately decided to go to summit where we arrived half an hour late just in time to see confused in the morning haze a never ending column of smoke. The scene was exactly as before described plus fireman on the boiler of JS 8207 helping sand going down. We arrived when spectacle was at its best but nearly ending, we also had time to see the train after summit and later at the level crossing near point A on the map of Louis Cerny report august 2003.
Figure 22: near summit
We arrived at interchange yard in time to see JS going to service point and SY shunting to prepare next train of empty wagons and taking away loaded ones. Later JS went to be turned and immediately gone on other side of empty train ready to leave. Fast back to our taxi to run soon away, we arrived in time to level crossing and than on the way to Yangjiazhangzi we had time to choose two places before train stopped at summit for 10 minutes of relax. In Yangjiazhangzi after shunting the loco pulled some ten empty wagons in a near factory and disappeared for a couple of hours. When it came back with loaded wagon it has been turned on turntable we decided not to take pictures of departure and this has been a mistake because it leaved immediately and we had no time to see it at first summit. On second one (the hardest) we arrived ten minutes before but we loose time to choose a good place, it was better to follow it for last half km so that we could have seen the whole spectacle. Remember if you stay there one only day as we did.
Figure 23: On turntable
We finished our day in the same way as we did in the morning.
Oct 27: From Huludao we left in the evening at 19.30 and arrived at Zoucheng next morning at 8.15, after leaving luggage at hotel we began our search for the last QJ. From last report of Bernd Seiler (September 2007) we hoped to find 3 QJ but when arrived at stabling point near Dadongzhang we did not find any loco, only a man told us that a steam loco has gone to power plant. We went there but we were not allowed to enter, our guide went in and said to have seen a steam loco inside.
Figure 24: Our first QJ
Then we went to nearest station to wait for this loco but after 2 hours nothing happened.
At least (it was already 3 in the afternoon) it was told us that a train was coming and in fact it was so. The train arrived from opposite side than expected and passed without stopping toward power plant. I was QJ 7126, with a long train of loaded wagons, surely more than 40, which quickly passed with no visible effort. In next hour two trains arrived from power plant, one with QJ 7189 that leaved there empty wagons and later7126 again that directly gone to Dadongzhang. We went there to see the two loco in stabling point and ask information for next day service.
Figure 25: QJ 7189 begins a new day of service
Oct 28. This morning at 7.30 we see QJ 7189 (that during night has bee reversed) leaving stabling point to begin a new service, and after few minutes QJ7126 going with a long loaded train in direction of a nearby colliery. After some picture we go again in search.
We come back to town and in a connection to a big steel work we find another QJ in steam. It is 7072 waiting orders that donít seem to come because driver went away probably for rest.
Figure 26: spoiling steam...
Figure 27: from inside QJ 6938
After this we went back to hotel to have a rest because our train to Pingdingshan laved at 23.30.
Oct 29. This place has been choose to finish with a good quantity and quality of steam and in fact we was not at all disappointed but we find there what expected and also and extra hope: steam seems not to finish so early, probably still 2 years or more from the words of a young boss that kindly to let me visit work shop he gave me his safety hat.
Inside there was two JS one for small repair one for big and it seems such work was programmed for all locos. Outside many JS waiting in steam and a QJ (6450) cold but in good conditions plus a couple of SY ready to exit for service.
Figure 28 : New life for a JS
Here, just out of shed there is a yard with a lot of steam working so that you can spend here a day without never getting tired. Trains arriving, leaving and shunting make this place impossible to leave, if there was a sofa I really could stay there from morning to late evening.
Figure 29: A place where enjoy steam
Oct 30. Two days passed also visiting lines to different mines and following passenger trains, surely in Pingdingshan there no time to spoil.
Figure 30: while waiting passenger departure
Figure 31: a passenger departure
Oct 31: this day has been dedicated to find last QJ in service and as in reports we find in total 4 locos in steam on the line to Youxian; one working between a station and a mine others in yard of Youxian.
Figure 32: QJ 6650 waiting for shunting
Figure 33: 3 QJ ready for service
Between these QJ 6690 was freshly repaired and looks very shining and asking to local railway personal they told us that it was repaired only a week ago in Pindingshan and they suppose steam will work there until Pingdingshan workshop will assure locos repairing.
Figure 34: Still a long life for this QJ
To complete as better as possible this trip, driver of 6650 kindly invited me to drive his loco.
Figure 35 : me driving a QJ
What else? Go, go and go. Chinese steam is still a real and great steam, so do not hesitate choose one place or more but go and enjoy this beautiful country and his lovely people.
2007 November 11 sandrovgt@yahoo.
© 2007 Sandro Vigato