Coal mine railways near Chifeng

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Last update Oct 02, 2011

This page is based on information from Simon Colbeck, Duncan Cotterill, Bernd Seiler, Ronald Olsen, many unnamed contributors and myself.

Map of the area

Pingzhuang mine

This coal mining system consists of a large open cast mine and several deep shaft coal mines nearby. The mining system seems to be relatively modern, well run and econimically viable. The town of Pingzhung is, as of autumn 2002, nicely decorated with many flowers and quite clean. Pingzhuang Binguan is a nice hotel, of better than average standard. Good food. Phone number 0476 3510789.

The total number of employees is 30.000 in all coal mines of Chifeng area (8 mines), in Pingzhuang mines alone 4.000. Coal is sold to Chengde steel works, Chaoyang, Chifeng and Yuanbaoshan Power plant.

The open cast mine was opened in 1958 and it still has large reserves. It is electrified using East German 1500 V DC BoBo-engines. Some were dumped at the same place as the KD6. For every ton coal mined, they need to transport 4 tons of stone. In September 2002, they operated 9 stone trains in the deep pit mine. The layout of tracks in the deep pit is as a spiral, about 10 km from the bottom up. The electrical trains are equipped with a conductor car with semaphores on top of it, seemingly giving the conductor a way to signal when the train is pushed. Some steam locomotives work in the mine, mostly with a flat wagon and a crane. Their task is track relaying when the platforms on which the tracks are situated, must be retreated. A stone train carries about 300 tons of stone in 9 wagons. Stone is deposited in the northern end of the deep mine, as well as about 10 km south of it. Before they started mining in 1958, there was a mountain about as high as the pit is deep above the pit.

Additionally, there are four deep mines north of the center. They are served by steam locomotives pulling or pushing empties from the washery and getting loaded wagons back. This operation uses rather long trains, resulting in few but hard workings. Loading of coal is at the washery, the station being called Zhuang Mei Zhan ("Coal Loading Station") (see map). In a total of three tracks, coal is loaded into wagons using a pulley system. Stone is loaded in two additional tracks, using side tip wagons. These are equipped with one extra air hose, in addition to the brake air, for operating the tipping mechanism. The coal is transferred to CNR at Pingzhuang Nan.

Locomotives are not as clean as in Yuanbaoshan. They face both ways.

The Vice president of this mine is Zhang Guang Wei, mobile phone number 13904762669. He was very positive to our visit and interest in the mine. The Party information secretary is Mr. Wang Yue, also very positive and definitely non corrupt. The best you can do is bring back or send photos you have taken of their system.

Locomotives seen in early March 2002:

JS 6401, JS 5758, JS1001

SY 0766, SY 0517, SY 1085,SY0 400, SY0304,SY 0798, SY1083, SY0271,SY 0746, SY 1025 all in steam plus SY 1007 dead on shed.

KD6487, a very "chinesified" KD6 dumped in a locked compound next to electic depot

Locomotives seen in end of September 2002 and later:

JS 5702 with high deflectors, 5758, 6401 with large deflectors, 6402 (?)

SY 0210, 0304, 0400, 0766, 0916 in shiny condition, 0942, 0943, 1007 dead, 1083.

Steam works track laying trains in the open cast mine plus a one coach passenger train down the hole. In addition trains from and to China rail station and to and from the deep mines. The coal washery is seemingly the highest point of the system, with locomotives working hard from both sides into this point.

Map of the Pingzhuang system from Duncan Cotterill, Oct 2002:

There is a brewery on the map ("Shue Wi Pijiu Chang") very near the opencast mine. People know the brewery and this makes it easy to ask the way. Farmers grow hops nearby ("Pijiu hua"). If you can get a cab here everything else is self explaining.

Pictures (by Johnathan Allen, see Steam_in_China NEWSGROUPS -Photos section):

Yuanbaoshan system (Yuanbaoshan Meikuang tielu)

This is another mine system near Chifeng. It is also owned by Pingzhuang coal mine administration. In autumn 2010 diesel and JS worked. The center is at a station called Xi Zhan (West station), where also the depot is located. All locomotives face north. The line serves a number of mines, a power station, a cement factory, some other industries and two exchange yards with CNR. One, Anqinggou on theTongliao line and one on the Yebaishou line. However, traffic to and from CNR seems to be low, as most of the coal goes to Yuanbaoshan power plant.

The center of operation and the depot is at (Yuanbaoshan) Xi Zhan. There are coal loading facilities (some coal is shipped to there from the mines by lorry), and cement loading facilities.

Traffic is difficult to predict, short of the mixed trains between Xi Zhan and Fengshuigou. The station master of Xi Zhan decides how trains will run. But he never knows it far in advance. The best time for asking is at 7 a.m., when the shifts change. The power station will not inform the station master of Yuanbaoshan Xi in advance, when they deliver empty wagons or need loaded ones with coal. When they come out (with one of their own GKD1 diesel locomotives) the station master has to react and supply new coal for the power plant. The line to Fengshuigou is more or less flat, the lines to Majiawan in the south-west and the line to the northern mines are steeper. Beside Fengshuigou four mines at the northern line are served by the railway: Erjing, Sanjing, Sijing and Xuangan. The missing Yijing mine is closed. There is also an open cast mine, but most of its coal is transported by blue trucks. Some of the coal is loaded at "East opencast loader". On the line to Anqinggou is the station Gongjiezi zhan. This station was the starting point for a closed line which branches off east of Gongjiezi zhan.

The Yuanbaoshan mine system was planned with much more exploration than it has at present. Because of problems with the ground water level the system never gained the planned extension. A conveyor system was installed from Xuangan to the power plant just south of the Yuanbaohan Xi station. Because of the lower quantity of coal the railway is still in use and will remain the main transportation system for the future. Due to the low level of coal exploration the railway staff is paid very low in comparison to the standards of other systems. Given this it is quite wonderful how the railroaders care for the railway, keep the locomotives in very good external condition and are friendly to foreign visitors. 

The scenery is pleasant. An asphalt road follows fairly close to much of the line to Fengshuigou and there are good spots with distant mountain backdrops, with cables out of the way. The large viaduct has potential also for linesiders. However, this part of the line is quite flat.

Map of Yuanbaoshan

This is the map of the Yuanbaoshan system by Duncan Cotterill, Oct 2002.

Traffic pattern

A twice-daily passenger train with 5 YZ22 cars operates from Xi zhan to Anqinggou as a mixed. In the morning this train leaves Xi zhan at 07.00 and crosses the bridge shown at around 07.20. It returns to Xi zhan at 10.30. Its destination is Anqinggou. The afternoon train leaves at 15.00, but runs only as far as Fengshuigou, and returns from there at 17.00, to Xi zhan 17.30. (Working time at the coal mine is 8 to 16.30).

The power station itself is worked by diesel locomotives (one being GKD1 4008). Between Xi zhan and the power station is a modern town, including the (above standard) power station hotel just in front of the power station itself, and a swimming hall. (Power stn hotel: = Yuan dian Binguan __µÁ±_¼ð. 162 RMB per night, good and clean rooms and always warm water. Phone 0476-3596275, post code 024070. In the evening they play loudspeaker music and have different colored water fountains in front of the power station.

Yuanbaoshan is an older town north of Xi Zhan. There are many buses to and from Chifeng.

Empties towards west leave Xi zhan tender first to the station "Majiawan" where the JS runs around and charges the bank. The climb up to the mines is very steep and sometimes trains may stall. Traffic is small and difficult to predict. However, it seems that a train leaves Xi zhan around 8.00, returning at noon, and another train leaves in early afternoon.
On the north side, the main line runs downwards towards the large bridge first. There i s a siding to a low productive coal mine near Yuanbaoshan. Another siding leads to an oil storage. 2 km after Xi zhan is a disused three track station called Gongjiezi. Here are two sidings to mines or industry. The train then stops on the line about 1km before the bridge. After the bridge the line turns upwards in forest with and S-curve to a level crossing just before Fengshuigou with another passenger train stop. From there 1km straight line to Fengshuigou with a large coal silo and loading facility. This mine generates 2000 tons coal every day and most of the coal of the system. By the way here is a narrow gauge 600 mm 550 V DC electrified railway serving a nearby quarry. All this is easy to reach from the level crossing south of the station.

Locomotives seen as follows (March 2002):

JS 6254, 6544, 6249, 6249, 6250, JS 6266, JS8418, JS8216, JS 8218, in depot.

JS6066 dumped.
In September 2002: JS 8216 with large deflectors, 8218 without deflectors, 8249 and 8250 both with large deflectors, 6544.

The line has its own fleet of C64 wagons marked "YM".

Autumn 2010: JS 8419 + one more.

John Ruby from early May 2002:

The crews are exceptionally welcoming here. I was immediately offered a ride on JS6246 with coal empties which left Yuanbaoshan at about 07:45. This went towards Anqinggou. At the mine station Fengshuigou, JS8418 waited with the mixed train. I returned with JS6246 at about 08:30 with 27 loaded coal wagons. We arrived back at Yuanbaoshan at 09:15. JS8415 arrived back with the mixed (7 YZ passenger cars only) at 10:30. Nothing much happened until the afternoon. (Seems to be the typical operation pattern (H.S.) In the mean time I was offered an excellent lunch by crews of 6246 and 8418. They certainly get good and plentiful company food, even sharing with an extra body much was left. Then a two hour siesta on the footplate of 8418!

The office here had a fleet list which also showed JS 6245/8216/8218 and 8246 as being here but these were not seen. A compound next to the coaling point contained a shed and dumped JS6066.

Report from Ronald Olsen (Ou Zhu Wang and Mike LaPlante (Lao Mai Ke) October 2002

We discovered a restaurant and bathhouse that is superb. From the road bridge over the railway walk away from the power station (southwestwards) about 250 m, when you see the first paved road to the right it is just then on your left. Look up, it has a big billboard with the name "Hou Che Tou Mei Shi Cheng" and two young ladies on it. The sign is to the left of the depot entrance road. In this building is a very fine and spotlessly clean restaurant with excellent helpful staff, I suggest the Jian Jiu Toudou Pian (peppers with potatos and oil) and Kung Pao Ji dian. Excellent, best ever in China. But the best was yet to come. They have a bathhouse in the back, where you can have a HOT gushing shower, a soak in a large hot tub, a steam sauna, all for Y15. There is also a masseur that we highly recommend. Just what we needed after 20 hours of hard seat travel to arrive there. After, you can watch DVD's in a padded recliner, sipping the drink of your choice and getting a 20-minute foot massage. We had the full Monty and it cost us Y170 for two for the evening, and it was well well worth it.

We found the locomotive crews very friendly, had a ride to CNR exchange and back, hauled 3000 tonnes + (40 loaded gondolas) what a sound! We were invited into the depot were we saw freshly overhauled JS 6246, hadn't even been steamed yet. We found the whole operation to be very clean, from locos to repair building to freshly painted station. (Hans Schaefer: In end of September even a lot of flower beds around there!)

The branch up to the coal mine is quite steep and well worth taking pictures. There is a crossing just below the crest where the cement works are. Excellent photos here.

We had a taxi driver new to gricing but took to it well, cooperative, safe driver but can move quickly when needed, fair price, nice man all around. His taxi is spotlessly clean. His name is Zhang Zhen Telephone # 13947607858 We told him that we would mention him to other steam-loving foreigners.

If you ise any of these contacts please mention us ! Ou Zhu Wang and Lao Mai Ke. (I am 2 meters tall thin MeiGouRen ("Ou Zhu Wang Liang Mi"), they will remember us. Thanks !)

Ron Olsen and Mike LaPlante