China Steam Tour October-November 2012

The Last Great Steam Show on Earth

Part 1

Completed: 30 October 2012

Beijing Prelude

Sishui QJ visit

Sandaoling 22 - 27/10 Baiyin 28 - 31/10 Part 2

I've produced a DVD of this trip and also of the many other trips  I've made to China from the 1990s to date. Click here to see the list of all my China DVDs.

Sandaoling spoil line No. 5 at Xibolizhan on 26 October 2012

all photos John Raby, 2012 unless otherwise stated

Beijing Prelude

On my first trip to China in 1980, I skipped the Temple of Heaven in order to see Chinese steam locos at FengTai marshalling yards. Today, with steam gone from the Beijing area and 32 years on, I had time to fit in the Temple of Heaven. Several things stuck me, the vast area within the walls, the numbers of local Chinese and tourists who go there and how sterile it is now that it no longer fulfills its original imperial religious purpose.

This is the most famous item within the grounds - the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests - and was suitably crowded.

I found one relative backwater towards the western gate.

Moat around the Fasting Palace looking towards the Divine Music Office.

Otherwise, I was interested to see two of Beijing's last trolley bus lines in action. Routes 105 (from the west) and 106 (from the east) both terminate at the north west corner of the Temple of Heaven complex.

Trolley bus route 105 operates these modern single units from the west.

Route 106 trolleys from the east are of the bendy-bus variety.

Turning circle for both routes - although this trolley seems to be operating 'off-wire' which I didn't notice when I took the shot. (Perhaps they have back up battery or diesel power?)

Trolley bus on route 105 at the start of its journey west along Tiantan Road.

Sishui Visit by John Athersuch and Michael Reilly 20 October 2012

Prior to the main tour John and Michael went off to see the last known working QJ in China now accessible by high speed train to Qufu East and then a 40 minute taxi ride. Michael had arranged official permission so they were able to see the loading operation with the QJ and diesel both in action. The diesel trips a full train of empties from China Rail, splits the train and then both locos slowly push half a train through the cement hoppers to load. The QJ works chimney to the loads and is best seen when it comes of the train. Previously owned by Dae Woo, the plant is now owned by a Chinese company CUCC. Without permission (obtained in advance), there is little chance that you will get a good view of the action unless you access via the back way, penetrate the site by about 1 km and avoid security!

QJ 7129 at the stabling point at 7:45. John Athersuch, 2012

Diesel and QJ slowly move the wagons as they are loaded with cement. John Athersuch, 2012

The QJ back at its stabling point having finished work for the morning around 11:30. John Athersuch, 2012

This 2012 tour duplicates some locations (Sandaoling, Baiyin & Fuxin) visited in September-October 2011. Please see for a comparison of then and now.

Tour itinerary
21 Oct Day 1. start of tour, overnight to Hami (aka Kumul) by train departing around 10 am

- Hard class sleeper from Beijing (all that was available) but on the direct train so arrived 28 hours later around 2 pm - a good, long train ride!

22 Oct Day 2 . Hami – Sandaoling by private bus

- Arrived around 2 pm and with a smooth transfer and hotel check in, we were out to Xibolizhan around 4 pm and had a good 2.5 hours looking into the western end of the pit (probably 9 locos visible) and then some sunset shots west of Xibolozhan which feature below. Of note since last year, they are stripping overburden from the rim on the south side (by train) and filling the central north bottom of the pit with spoil with trucks. There was one service train down in the pit and 2 working on the tipping lines relaying old track panels. It very busy on the spoil side of the pit and a great introduction to Sandaoling for the newbies. One loco was seen by the blue loader so some coal is being taken out as well.

JS 6224, 6209, (on the Jordan Spreader 04), 8077, 8080, 8089, 8076, 8081, 8195, 8167, 8190, 8173, 8040, 8368, 8225 and 8053 + 8314 and 8358 on trains to deep mines.
SY 1304 (on engineers working)
DF8B 0247 (working), 0248, 0249, 0250

Steam crane unloading track panels west of Xibolizhan

Jordan Spreader No. 4 (a change from last visit) heads off to work on spoil track 3 or 4. (Track 2 not in use.)

Sunset with Jordan Spreader No. 4 and JS '224' (aka JS 6224)

The train was about 2 minutes late for the optimal shot on spoil line 5 - by the time the loco got in front of the sun it was below the hill

23 Oct Day 3 . Sandaoling

Our first full day with time at Dongbolizhan and the cliff near Kenkonzhan in the morning and Xibolizhan in the afternoon. Early morning was cold but it warmed up and we lost the exhaust steam by about 10 am and it didn't really cool off before sunset. However, the potential for early morning and late afternoon photography and video was excellent and we overall we had a good day.

Morning line up at Dongbolizhan

Workers' passenger train

Approaching midday, it was too warm for steam

One SY remains in use.

Empty spoil train descends from spoil line 5 with the last train before sunset

24 Oct Day 4. Sandaoling

We had a mixed day with an excellent early morning start at the Xibolizhan for sunrise, shift change and the passenger train which also served the pit again (unlike last year). We also had a drive to Nanzhan and saw a JS head towards the deep mines where another loco on a train was visible. However, knowing how unphotogenic this working can be, we gave this up in favour of the east end of the pit. Unfortunately, in the afternoon, things ground to a halt. We walked into the east end of the pit to the waiting JS on empties only to find that there was no coal at the blue loader and it would be hours before any train moved. We abandoned this for a drive back to Xibolizhan where there were also minimal trains. This was put down to a safety check prior to the communist party conference in November! Pollution had built up and as the sun descended into the murk and with no trains moving, we came back for an early beer.

Just after sunrise, a train of empties heads for the pit.

The passenger train from Dongbolizhan arrived around 9 am.

Later in the morning, we walked closer to the excavator loading the overburden on the pit rim.

In nice light, JS 8080 waits to drop down to the blue loader (and they were expecting a long wait).

25 Oct Day 5. Sandaoling

Dongbolizhan early morning followed by a workshop visit and then another walk down from the east towards the blue loader in the afternoon. This was slightly more successful than yesterday as we saw 2 loaded and 2 empty trains before sunset but action was slow because the washery was full. We surmise that they were waiting for wagons from China Rail.

The passenger train loco waits on its train before sunrise

Sunrise at Dongbolizhan

JS 8368 in the workshop seen through the hooks of a steam crane

As close as we were allowed to get to the blue loader

26 Oct Day 6. Sandaoling

We planned to spend all day at Xibolizhan but the day started cloudy and windy so we had a rethink late morning which led to a drive to the deep mines at lunchtime but the cloud cleared and the wind dropped and we finished the day as planned at Xibolizhan.

Morning line up in cloudy, windy conditions with 7 locos on spoil trains and JS 6224 on the Jordan Spreader hiding to the right.

One of two locos at the 2nd deep mine - JS 8314

The 2nd loco JS 8358. We have seen 19 JS and 1 SY in use and 2 more under repair.

Loco heading out on spoil line 1

While the permanent way gang watch on, JS 8077 returns from spoil line 4

Spoil line 5 which rewarded me at the end of the day not with a train but with this. (The spreader spent a long time up this line early afternoon but all spoil trains took line 1-4 all afternoon!)

27 Oct Day 7. Sandaoling – Hami by private bus overnight to Lanzhou by train

Morning at the west end and afternoon at the east end before a 17:30 departure for Hami

Spoil train starting its climb to the reversal in the pit.

Spoil train exiting the pit following the reversal.

Track workers replacing sleepers on the line to the washery.

New sleepers arriving by motorcycle.

Train passing the p-way gang.

Coal empties waiting to drop back into the pit.

Smokey exit from the pit.

By the time it reached the lip the smoke was fading.

28 Oct Day 8. Lanzhou – Baiyin by private bus

A late arrival in Lanzhou meant we had to rush to see the afternoon passenger train to Shenbutong. We didn't make it! You could also blame the stop for the excellent Lanzhou beef noodles but we probably wouldn't have made it anyhow. Instead, we spend the afternoon at Baiyin Gongsi marshalling yard where 2 SY and 2 diesels were quite active shunting. The Shenbutong passenger arrived back at 17:30 and we stayed until the departure of the 18:25 passenger to Shenbutong. Loco numbers were:
SY 1581 Shunt, SY 1013 Shunt, SY 1047 Passenger service, GK1C 0427 Shunt, GXD1A 0206 Shunt

SY shunt returns from the east factory sidings.

Return passenger train arriving at Baiyin Gongsi.

With sunset at 18:00, the Shenbutong 18:20 arrival was at dusk.

Just before 18:25, waiting to depart for Shenbutong.

29 Oct Day 9. Baiyin

Our first full day at Baiyin saw the Shenbutong passenger and freight to Shenbutong steam and the passenger to Sanyelian diesel.

Morning passenger to Shenbutong.

The passenger train passes the freight at Liugongli station.

Stored in the works was SY 2008 (renumbered for the Beijing Olympics and still with the Beijing Olympic logo above the headlight) and SY 1470. SY 2008 looked the most likely spare loco for the 3 working locos. In the other section of the works, one loco was under heavy repair and SY 1067 was parked near the coal loader and being cannabilised for spare parts.

DFH 5 0117 appeared today. This is an early (hydraulic?) diesel from the 1970s.

Warm sunshine and a lack of shunting activity late afternoon led to a quiet drink beside the line (John, Gareth and Richard posing.)

Evening passenger to Shenbutong leaving Baiyin Gongsi at 18:25.

30 Oct Day 10 . Baiyin

Our last full day in Baiyin. We went up the valley in the morning and waited after the Shenbutong passenger for the freight wshich came shortly after the passenger returned to Baiyin. At lunch we had a look at Baiyin Town station and after a further session up the valley with both the Shenbutong and Sanyelian passengers steam, we finished at Baiyin Town station.

With sunlight just creeping into the valley at 08:10, the Shenbutong passenger passes Sanyelian smelter.

Seen slightly higher up, the loco is worked hard towards Shenbutong.

Steam freight to Shenbutong passes under China Rail coinciding with a DF4 on a freight.

Lunchtime at BNMC company's Baiyin Town station with a China Rail passenger heading east from Baiyin West station.

SY 1047 has run round and waits to depart on the 18:15 train to Shenbutong.

That probably ends the selection of photos from Baiyin. Unless I get anything really good on our last part-day tomorrow, the blog will continue on a new page after we have had a day at Pingzhuang on 2 November.

31 Oct Day 11. Baiyin – Lanzhou by private bus, overnight to Beijing by train

Part 2 continues on a separate page

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