23.9.2002, by Hans Schaefer
Dahuichang limestone railway is far outside in the southwest of Beijing at the foot of the mountains. Bus number 385 and 356 end there. It can be reached by bus from Gu Cheng Lu station on the Peking Metro. Take the 385 or 356 bus to the end for Dahuichang. It will drop you off right in the middle of the railway, which will be due south of you, a few tens of meters away. If you get off at the next-to-last-stop, and look straight south, the loco shed and works will be down a road, maybe 30 meters away or something. There is a map on Rob Dickinson's page but I couldn't find it again. The report is by Rob himself and is dated December 2001, Beijing and Dahuichang. The map is by Andreas illert.
There are two lines: standard gauge from the lime works to CR, worked earlier by a YJ and now SY0251; and 600 mm narrow gauge, double track, 1.5km long, between the limeworks and a quarry/mine, worked by 4 C2 class 0-8-0s. The narrow gauge line is used to haul limestone from a quarry into a cement factory. The line has right hand drive, instead of left hand in China Rail. Only two of the locomotives are in use at any time. The limestone wagons are small carts with wheels about 25 cm in diameter, and very short between the axles. They go unbraked.
Operation goes this way: Up the right rail with empty wagons, stop at the top, then push wagons standing there from the train before forward over a switch, stop again. Uncouple wagons behind locomotive, push further wagons in front of locomotive over the switch. Then pull out these wagons into the other track over the switch, then push them into the loading tunnel. They are then uncoupled and loaded using some pulley system. The locomotive then takes the loaded wagons downhill the right hand side rail. Wagons have no brake. This makes the wagons stand in some strange positions in the rails on the way downhill, while only the locomotive brakes. The whole operation is a bit like a model railway with steep downhills, and the corresponding accidents when something derails. In general the way they use the engines is very much model railway like: Full steam for every movement, and full brake when braking. It looks fun!
The limestone comes from some higher level up the mountain and falls into some large pit, under which there is the tunnel where the wagons are loaded.
In the factory, they will charge you a fee for looking around. Outside, there are absolutely no hassles. Unloading in the factory is done by letting one and one of the wagons roll on a platform which can rotate. The wagon is rotated upside down and emties itself into a lower area. It is pushed out of the device by the next wagon arriving. When enough wagons are emptied, another locomotive takes them up again.
Rumours earlier in 2002 spoke about an imminent closure of this operation. All workers asked in October 2002 said they knew nothing of an imminent closure, even if both locomotives, rails and wagons look very tired.
The level crossing in the middle is only closed for downhill trains. The guard gets a phone call from above when a train comes down. His work is from 9 to 17, thus on some days they may actually work before noon. Typical working hours are, however, during the afternoon!
The up-rail has some small devices to derail wagons which might uncouple during a train move: A small piece of rail, like the inner part of a switch, is lying against one rail, pulled there by a spring. Effective if primitive!
The afternoon we were there, there was full activity with trains up every ten or fifteen minutes. One downhill train derailed with the tender at the level crossing and was rerailed by driving upon stones laid between the rails. After a few tries this succeeded and transportation continued.
Dahuichang means "Big Cement Factory". The whole area is called by this name.
Very friendly workers, but if you want to enter the factory, they will charge you money. The locomotives several times put grass on fire along the line. Sharon fruit plantations above the level crossing. Farmer sold us fruit.
The guard finished his job about 16.30, after the locomotives returned back to the factory and the railway shut down for the evening.
The main line to Taiyuan is nearby, and we saw some SS1 and SS3 along there. On the main line to Shijiazhuang we saw SS8 pulling double deck trains.
The photographer for China Rail Publishing House, has put some photos of this railway on his homepage
One of the pictures shows Ronald Olsen and Mike LaPlante helping to rerail derailed wagons.
Dahaichung narrow gauge - C2 04 nears the top of the line with some empties as 02 overtakes running light engine. December 2001
Dahaichung narrow gauge - C2 04 at the level crossing. December 2001