On my fifth China-trip, which completed a half year staying in China in total, I was travelling for about 2 ˝ weeks with Eric Langhammer (Belfast) and 2 ˝ weeks on my own. I made the following observations:
18.02.1999, Dahuichang Limestone Railway
Very easy access to this nice little Railway. Go by metro to Gucheng Lu (the last but one station on the Line 1 in the West) and take bus No. 385 to the last station (Dahuichang). The line is just on the embankment/ hill left to the road. Fare is 1,4 Y.
Unfortunately, on this day was no traffic due to the Chinese New Year.
After about ten minutes journey by bus, I saw one SY shunting in the steelworks area. Besides, there was a GDR - built V100.
19.02.1999, Journey F.T. 439 Beijingzhan - Jiamusi
Despite the above mentioned New Year, getting a hard-sleeper was no problem. Qinhuangdao saw a SY hard working with a cement-train.
Haolianghe (between Nancha and Jiamusi) saw shunting QJ, besides this only DF4 - hauled freights. Nancha saw DF 1608 and 1925; Train 602 from Wuyiling was DF/DF-hauled.
20.02.1999 - 22.02.1999, Jiamusi area
I met Eric at the station, left my luggage at the Pafuer Binguan (clean double 120 Y) and we went to the depot.
As I know this depot from a former trip, I was very disappointed. Everywhere DF4 and DFH3 - diesels, the steam locos were put aside in a small area in the depot. Jiamusi has now only 20 QJ (as we were told by the staff). Shunting is done by GK0 - diesels.
The QJ works 100% of the freights between Jiamusi and Boli and few trains to Shuangyashan.
On 22nd we went to Shenjiadian (the fourth station on the line to Boli) by Pas 822 (leaving Jiamusi at 7:23) and back to Hengtoushan 10 km by feet. Landscape is lightly hilly and between these two stations is a summit. So, the QJ has to work a little. There are some photo-possibilities.
I noticed the following trains:
There is an unadvertised GK0-hauled passenger, times given are valid for Hengtoushan station:
5706 Jiamusi - Huanan 16:36
5707 Huanan - Jiamusi 7:24
Steam locos noted:
QJ: 2824, 3528, 6111, 6128, 6222, 6262, 6319, 6570, 6793, 6900, 6952, 6953, 6962, 6965 in steam;
3398, 6898 cold
In the depot steam-cranes Z151 724 and 909 working.
23.02.1999, Journey to Suihua
Because of the very little steam left, we went to Suihua by Exp. 268. From our window seats we saw the following:
Lianjiangkou: QJ shunting
Chenming: QJ 6901 shunting
So, these two QJ were the locos of two local freights, which remain the only steam hauled trains on the section Jiamusi - Nancha.
Nancha: DF5 shunting, DF4 and DF in the depot, no steam and no dumped steam loco.
Shenshu: In the depot QJ 6846 in steam, 8 other QJ not in steam, two of them dumped, others in good condition.
On the way we had a crossing with a tender-first QJ hauling a freight to Nancha.
In Suihua we checked in the obviously best hotel near the station, which was a very grotty and with 116 Y for a double an over-prized one. Anyway, the hotel corresponds with the whole station area (town?), which is one of the dirtiest I have ever seen in China. And the people....
One afternoon on the line to Bei’an saw the below listed trains:
13:00 NB freight with QJ 6986
13:30 SB freight QJ 6657 and 6833
Pas 777 Suihua - Bei’an with DF4 7421
16:30 SB freight with QJ 6918
17:15 QJ 3450 light SB
Surprisingly, we observed a QJ-hauled freight on the line to Shenshu (13:15)
24.02.1999, Suihua - Tongliao
We left this whole by overcrowded Exp. 280 to Harbin and F.T. 510 Harbin - Siping. For the last we were lucky to get a hard-sleep, because YZ- and RZ-seats were not available anymore. The YW-beds were offered on the platform by a railway-employee. They were a rest (unsold) allocation.
On this line on some sections the electrification poles were already erected, but wires were not installed. How many diesel DF4 will be set free if works are finished? This is finally the very end of steam in China and I fear not only at China Rail. To many older diesel (e.g. DF1-3 ) will then be available for local railways.
Changchun: QJ 3389, 3179 in steam, JS 5673 for scrap
Siping - Tongliao by Fast 683 Jilin - Tongliao.
Zhengjiatun saw about 20 QJ, all dumped, no steam. The depot seams to be closed as the whole roundhouse area was full of dead locos.
A day only at the station and marshalling yard (because of bad weather) saw the following:
Tongliao - Xinlitun freights are still QJ. It seams that dieselisation has not continued. I feared that after my visit one year ago (see my last trip report).
We had some difficulties with local police as we had considered to take a photo of an QJ-hauled freight in the marshalling yard and they made us leave the area.
Otherwise, taking photos in the passenger station (e.g. of Pas 712/713 or /711/ 714, Ji-Tong-Pas with QJ) was no problem. Please could any photographer bring pliers to cut a whole in the mash on the pedestrian bridge? Or you need a ladder, chair or something else....
Unidentified train Beijing - Qiqihar was DF11 0099 hauled.
Ji -Tong - Line QJ: 6478 (with Pas both days)
DF4: 0444, 2192, 6505,
26.02.1999, Journey Tongliao - Galadesitai by Pas 712/ 713
This was the most crowded train I have ever experienced. Due to the beginning of the semester at Jining University, hundreds of students were travelling on this 5-coach-train. Getting a sleeper was not possible and because we were getting in the train just after its arrival from Jining, we were lucky to have window seats for the 11 hours journey. The way to the toilet was a dream the whole journey and getting off the delayed sardine-tin in the darkness needed half an hour.
27.02.1999 - 04.03.1999, Reshui and Jingpeng-Pass
Dozens of times reported, this is really the best of steam in China today. Due to this fact we spent a lot of time there and we had a good one, despite weather conditions were not the best at any time.
We hired a taxi (Tianjin Minibus) for 200 Y each day. The only interest of the driver was the money, but he did his job and was very reliable. He was organised by the Electric Power Company Hotel-staff. Double room was 100 Y. We were the only guests in the hotel the whole time, what explains, that warm and boiled water was not always available and the room was badly heated. After Eric had left I changed to the Posthotel (Single 100Y), which offers a better service.
Taxi driver Wu Guo Li, I recommended him in my last report, is temporarily not available. He is imprisoned for six years because of business in maiden trade, what I was told by some natives. -Friends come and friends go. And everything in China changes so quickly.
Timetable is available at every station on the line, but the staff at Galadesitai is not so friendly. Shangdian is the best place to get the times. Ask also for remained and delayed trains from nightshift.
Traffic levels vary from day to day. I had the following number of trains during daylight: (EB/WB)
02.03.: 5/8 (a lot of trains delayed from the night)
04.03.: 0/2 until 11:00
There are light engines (about 2 everyday from Daban, but never from Haoluku).
Steam on the Ji-Tong-Line should remain another 8 to 10 years. They have about 110 QJ, 60 of them in Daban. 8000 workers are reliable for the transport tasks (told by officials).
There are a few other sections on Ji-Tong-Line which will be worth visiting. Short before Tianshan (Chabuga) there is a nice section with a big bridge. The line climbs between deep cuttings. Tianshan is a big city, a hotel and taxis will be available there. We went through the Daban - Galadesitai section after sunset, but it is understood, that there are also some nice photo-possibilities.
Getting a map of this area is not possible. The only map (Tactical Pilotage Chart, published by the US Defence Ministry) I could get was published 1996 but does not include this line (but all electric wires, smokestacks etc.).
I left Reshui at about 11:00 by an overcrowded bus to Chifeng (fare is 30 Y, journey took 4 ˝ hours). There is a bus-service about every hour between 7:00 and noon.
Chifeng: very good single room for 120 Y in a hotel situated on the main road to the city-centre, left hand side, the second one at the first crossroads.
05.03.1999, Journey Chifeng - Chengde
I took direct Passenger 716 via Longhua. Not crowded and cheap. (dep. 6:10/ arr. 12:35 )
Beside this new train on the Longhua - Chengde - line there is also F.T. 573/574 running over this connection. The last mentioned train is DF4-hauled, the other trains (716/715) and the unadvertised locals 57xx are BJ-hauled.
On the steelworks branch business as usual. (Take bus No. 5 from the main station up to the first station behind the railway bridge (Gao Miao).
I stood in Jingcheng Fandian, situated next to the station, turn left, single = double = 100 Y, clean, breakfast offered at 7:30.
SY: 1522, 1726
JS: 5616 (?), 5720 (?), 5728, 6216
08.03.1999, Dahuichang Limestone Railway
Second attempt: Between 14:00 and 16:30 this was a busy double-tracked narrow gauge Railway, but with a lot light engines in both directions (why?).
There are two good spots in afternoon (section from a hill just after the depot) and at the level-crossing.
A nice railway, not spectacular, but if you have some time in Beijing you should visit it.
The department-store at Gucheng Lu offers yoghurt, milk and cakes at reasonable prices.
The cheapest accommodation in Beijing is offered by the Jinghua Fandian (Nansanhuan Xi Lu). It is the backpackers place and has 4-bed-dorms for 35 Y and very good service (Internet-Cafe e.g.) Take the always crowded Bus 17 from Qianmen. There is a bus directly to Beijing Xi Zhan (West station).
09.03.1999 - 10.03.1999 Beijing - Jinchengjiang
I travelled by K5 (the cleanest and most modern train in China I ever had) to Liuzhou in hard-sleep. On the way, Anyang depot saw JS 8086 under steam in very good condition. Zhengzhou saw something unknown steamy shunting.
After a break of about 3 hours I took crowded and dirty F.T. 487 to Jinchengjiang, where I could get a Lüdian-Single for 16 Y with in-room showers, situated just next to the station. Go straight, cross the road, just behind the first shop to the right.
A bit further the next shop sells German Holsten beer for 3,5 Y. What a surprise in this not even well-known place.
10.03.1999 - 13.03.1999, Jinchengjiang - Pingzhai
In Jinchengjiang I concentrated on the local branchline to Pingzhai and Shangchao. Unfortunately, the Mixed runs to unfavourable times:
998: Pingzhai - Jinchengjiang 10:40
997 13:45 Jinchengjiang - Pingzhai
The journey takes about 4 hours.
That means a journey on these trains is hardly possible (Anyway, I was not willing to stay one night in the nowhere).
But everything else of this line is fantastic:
The traffic is 100% JS and frequency is not bad. And there is a timetable for the freights what makes photography much easier.
The trains start at the China Rail station, the line runs about 2,5 km on an own track next to the mainline to Guiyang. After a L/C it turns north and after another kilometre there is a new station. Construction of this Jinchengjiang Xi Zhan has not finished yet. The station consists of a station building, workers dorms, electric signals, short platform and....
...a brand-new turntable, two new water-columns and other steam facilities!
The next 5 km is very photogenic with the typical Guilin-like mountains. There are a lot of photo-possibilities around, offering two days photographic work (if you have good weather-conditions). Access is a bit difficult because there is only a dirt road, but you can walk. Or take a taxi...
After this section (the village is called Beihuan Yi Hao, that means Bei Huan (street) number one, or, but I am not sure, North Ring road number one) the valley becomes wider and the main road from Jinchengjiang joins the line. I did not investigate further but it seams that landscape is not so good the next kilometres. There is a very frequent minibus service on the main road.
Mixed train 998/ 997 consists of 7 coaches and some coal-wagons (one day saw no freight wagons) The coaches are: 1 XL (Baggage), 4 YZ22 and 2 YZ32. The last ones are former KCR (Kowloon-Canton-Railway)-coaches with two doors in the mid of the coach, typical commuter-coaches with wooden (hard-)seats.
The days I saw the following trains (times between Jinchengjiang station and the first 8 km, NB means towards Pingzhai, SB towards Jinchengjiang):
The 16:30 freight seams to be coming from the Sancha-branch (see below).
The weather was not the best. Little rain in March in the south does not mean sunshine (this rule was valid for the whole trip in the south). But at noon the sky became always brighter, so photography was not impossible.
This branch line is worth visiting. Reliable traffic in fantastic (world-famous) landscape and steam for the next years. I will come back!
Locos on the branch noted:
JS: 8283, 8284, 8290, 8373, 8375, 8376
The mainline: Pilot in Jinchengjiang station is DF5. Freight on the line towards Guiyang is DF7D (doubles) green and orange, DF1-3 for local freights (doubles). East of Jinchengjiang all traffic DF4.
DF1-3: 1866, 1908, 1909, 1925, 2161
I left this place by Pas 832 to Liuzhou. This train was DF-hauled.
On the way we crossed DF4 and JS 8375-hauled freight. I guess this train is from the Sancha-branch and is going to the Pingzhai-branch.
Yemao saw a 2-6-2 under steam, number was 0214. I guess it was YJ 0214. It was shunting with three coal-wagons. Loco was in very good condition without deflectors. There is a branch to the north. It disappears behind a bridge under the road.
14.03.1999, Laibin - Heshan
Laibin is situated south of Liuzhou and can be reached easily by south-going trains. In Laibin the local line to Heshan branches off to the west.
The previous reported Mixed is cancelled. Instead there is a two pairs passenger service. The train consists of two motor-railcars (normally used for maintenance works) and a YZ-coach between these two cars. The YZ is modernised and very clean, all vehicles orange-red/ grey levered. The fare is 6 Y one direction.
A very impressive journey on train 921 was going through nice landscape reminds me to Italy or Spain. Up to Qiaogong it is mostly flat. After Baiheai karst-mountains approach and for a short time the line joins a fantastic deep stony river valley. The line goes further through these nice mountains and rural areas with idyllic small stations. Short before Heshan station the depot is situated to the right followed by a small marshalling yard and a nice station area. Some short branches lead to different directions. Heshan seems to have some small coalmines and the most freight-traffic has its origin on this place. So much the worse, the station Qiaogong is now only a stop without points, on other stations all tracks except the main track were rust. Heli has a coal-loading, in Baiheai branches a line off to the west.
The passenger is very important for the natives and local traffic, but only few people were going through to Laibin.
The freights are 100% JS, but traffic restricts to two pairs. There should be five JS under steam. The depot Heshan saw besides one dumped JS and three dumped JF in very bad condition.
The day saw the following situation:
9:30 arrival Pas 922 in Laibin
10:30 arrival long coal-freight from Heshan in Laibin, after that shunting in the fenced in and guarded loading-facilities.
12:00 departure Pas 921 to Heshan (with the visitor on board), arrived 13:45 in Heshan
13:50 arrival JS-freight in Heshan (from where?)
Journey back to Heshan on Pas 924
In Heshan still shunting of the morning JS, departure with a freight to Heshan after 18:00
A nice railway but unfortunately very little traffic. It is worth spending one day by travelling on the passenger.
JS: 5186, 8286, 8354
railcars: 884, 885
The mainline sees mostly DF4 with some DF1-3 on local freights.
On the way back to Liuzhou I watched tender-first SY 1667 with a northbound freight in Fenghuang at 18:30. I guess this loco is reliable for the traffic of the 2 (or 3, like on Quail Map shown?) branches. SY 1667 was in very good condition.
15.03.1999, Liuzhou steelworks
One day at the marshalling yard saw very busy shunting on the branches and the yard of this steelworks railway. Three or four SY could be observed at any time in the yard with a lot of trips either to the China Rail station or to different facilities of this confused network. Between 11:30 and one o’clock all five SY gather at the stabling point for a break. Staff is very friendly and a driver invited me to ride on the cab. Access to the marshalling yard is no problem as well to the works, which are situated just behind the stabling point. I went a bit further into the steelworks area but I felt unsafe and on the way back a guardian was surprised and not so friendly looking at me. So I had no problem but you should ask for permission to go inside the area.
Anyway, sit at the stabling point in the shadow of a tree and watch the bustle is a nice waste of time.
The following locos were seen in use under steam (in brackets: builders date, Tangshan works)
SY: 0148 (5.69), 0318 (1.71), 0505 (5.72), 1411 (11.85), 1504 (11.86), 1584 (10.87)
and at the workbench: SY 0506, 0983
The steelwork is situated at Zhegujiang (first station in direction to Guilin). There is a bus service from Liuzhou centre. Take bus No. 1 or (but I am not absolutely sure) No. 18 up to the last station. After getting off, turn round and some hundred meters away you will see a railway-bridge crossing the street. Climb up and you will find this little paradise.
My last destination San-Mao-Rly was reached by Fast 605 Liuzhou - Maoming, one of old non-air-con-coaches consisting train.
16.03.1999 - 20.03.1999, San-Mao-Railway
As I was told that the passenger from Maomingdong to the east should have been cancelled and I had intended to visit the Nahuo - Bajia section, I decided to go to Nahuo by local bus. This started just at Maomingdong station, journey took 3 hours. After arrival in Nahuo I was told that the station is 6 km away from the town and it seemed that there is no hotel in this whole, I took the next bus to Bajia station.
I found the in an Internet-report mentioned hotel, situated about 500m back to the city on the right hand side. Clean room was 50 Y. There is an in-house-restaurant otherwise there is hardly anything available in this another whole.
The station Bajia was very busy at this time. As a pilot project, in the signal box of this station was installed a new digital computer-based signalling-system (Vital Processor Interlocking System) by the Alsthom-Joint-Venture Company Casco from Shanghai. Four very friendly and fluently English-speaking Chinese engineers and their staff were reliable as well for this project as for the signalling facilities in the newly-built station Mawenzhai, which is situated at km 297,5 between Bajia and Reshuidong. In the future the station-master-assistants in these two stations will sit in front of computer-screens instead of the replaced robust signal-box-facilities. What a surprise. - In the moment nobody of the workers should loose his job because of the new technique. But in the future?
By the way: The whole line is built in very high standard and is very well maintained. It is nice to see such a railway in China. No comparison to the bungling you can visit everywhere in China.
Very friendly station master of Bajia confirmed the news that San-Mao has bought 24 new Dalian-built DF4. Delivery shall begin in July and continue to the end of the year. At the time I was visiting this line, two China-Rail DF4 were running for testing purposes.
Bajia is situated at km 294, the very pleasant section begins at km 302. So I went either by feet to this area or (normally by bus). Get off after the pass at the small railway-bridge crossing the road. This is km 300. At km 301 and 302 there two short tunnels. Just now begins the nice section with five viaducts and cuttings what offers you some days of photographic work.
During the days while I was staying in Bajia, in the evening I took any vehicle coming the way in direction to Bajia. One of them was a VW-Taxi. Despite the to-high price I was glad to find such a nice car and got in which was my fate. The young driver did not know the road and the curved dangerous pass. The street was wet and he too fast, he lurched and skidded and crashed into the wall. Of course, I did not have fasten my seatbelt. I was hurled against the seat and against the mash between the two seats in front of me. But I had big luck. Except a painful bump and broken glasses nothing has happened to me. The auto was now not mobile anymore. After a senseless discussion with the driver to call the police I resigned and went the 6 km back to Bajia by feet with the intention to go to the police. I did not find the police-office, and after I had completely noticed that my damage was not so big and I did not want to bear discussions and problems with the police for hours and hours, I resigned. These are the situations in China where you feel very lonesome and helpless. What a new experience of life.
The next days (possibly forever in China) I avoided fast cars and preferred slow busses with experienced drivers. What could we learn from this incident? Be very very careful in the choice of your transport vehicle. My accident could have been worse and the medical care is not the same like in western countries. And nobody will help you. - And: Use a safety belt if there is one!
I was told that the above-mentioned passenger train is still in service and decided to go to Maomingdong. Going to different places every morning by this train is very comfortable.
Pas 762/ 761 consists of a QJ and 2 YZ and 1 YW-coach, is very dirty and normally for the railway-workers. Tickets for normal passengers are sold in Maomingdong in the waiting room, in Nahuo at the ticket window and otherwise on board.
Not all stations east of Bajia are listed.
The best section in this area is between the above described km 302 until Reshuidong. Another top-spot is the long viaduct just east of Nahuo station and few possibilities between this viaduct and Reshuidong. The rest between Nahuo and Maomingdong is really uninteresting.
The traffic is quite reliable and there are a lot of trains. Noted (only freights) between about 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.:
Times are given between Bajia and Nahuo. This is a section of about 25 km. So the times are roughly times and vary.
San-Mao is at the moment one of the very best you can do in the world to smell the steam. Busy mainline traffic, hard-working QJ climb up to the near Reshuidong situated summit, southern green landscape and very easy access to the line. What do you want more? Go now, this paradise will be faded in only 3 months.
The weather was a big problem also in March. As this period sees normally less rain, the most days were cloudy at temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees (centigrade). But everyday I saw the sun or at least the sky became brighter so that photography was not totally senseless.
In Maomingdong I stood not in the big Maoming Dasha (what is much overprized) but in another hotel, situated 200 meters further at the same road (turn right at the first crossroads). Very clean and new single room with air-con was 70 Y. This hotel was planned as a very big and expensive one. But construction has stopped. You have to take a small entrance door and you stay on the sole finished second flour. The rest dawns under a thick layer of dust.
Officially there is no Asian-crisis in China. But e.g. this whole station area is one of the reasons. Much to big built, skyscraper ruins and empty expensive hotels. And some of the few shops are again closed. It is not enough to built a new railway and hope that the businessmen from Hongkong and all over the world will come with their money to invest. - The same with the Express trains on San-Mao. I took the direct Exp. 278 from Maomingdong to Shenzhen. It was about 40% sold. What a wonder! Yingwo-bed was 282 Y for this journey. In comparison to China Rail-prize (approx. 120 Y), this is more than double prize for nearly the same standard.
The last 2 days were spent in Hongkong with shopping (Cameras and lenses could be still half prize in comparison to Germany!) and relaxing (Is this possible in this city?). Accommodation was the famous Chungking Mansion what is still an experience.
Flight-Check-in can be done just in Central next to the Star Ferry Pier. So you can win some hours for loosing some more money in the shops and restaurants. I went to the Airport by the Airport-Shuttle (70 HK$), which brings you to your destination in about
What a trip full of new experiences. It was one of the best trips I made in China. And it was not the last. You can still explore unknown steamy lines, predominant in the south and Central China. But otherwise: The China-Rail-steam will be dead at the end of the year. Definitely! But a lot of local lines remain and a lot will be built in the next years. Why could there not be only one sole new steam-worked line? Everything is possible in this country of contrasts. - And have you ever seen such a big country with so much similarities, so less distinctions everywhere?
At this point I would take the opportunity to mention the book ‘ Mit Volldampf durch China’ (Brandenburgisches Verlagshaus) with some fantastic photographs of Eric Langhammer and text by Torsten Sewing. Unfortunately, it is published only in German language but it is worth having a look, to remember and to see, what all has gone in the last years. And it is a book about us, the crazy steam buffs....
Thorge Bockholt, Dresden
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