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Last update January 2012


History of construction

The origin of the QJ is an American (Alco and Baldwin) construction of a 2-10-4 (Alco) and 2-10-2 (Baldwin) engine delivered to the Soviet Union in 1931. The Soviets copied and redesigned this engine type and partly in parallel built their own type FD 20 from 1931, an improved type called FD21 from 1940. Features added were Trofimov piston valves, an external main steam pipe from the steam dome to the overheater, and a vary large overheater. Then they again improved the design for type LV built in 522 pieces by Lugansk works from 1954 to 1956. Many of the American construction details were copied to the Soviet engines. The drawings for the LV were given to the Chinese during Soviet-Chinese cooperation in the 1950s, as the basis for construction. Additionally, the Chinese Railways bought about 1000 of the FD21 type in 1958 and 1960 after they were redundant in the Soviet Union. Chinese trial data for the FD21 mention an indicated power of 2390 horsepower, which is probably a spelling error and should be 2930 HP. In the Soviet Union, measured maximum power output was 3200 HP indicated.

Many features were copied from the Russian engines, which themselves had copied many of the American parts from 1931. For example, the brake system (Westinghouse), the air powered reverser, the stoker, the air operated firedoor, the back bogie with outside frames and the feedwater heater were all more or less copies of American designs from 1930.

The Chinese first tried to construct a 2-10-2 engine themselves. In 1956, the first prototype of class HP - "Heping" - "peace" was produced (not by Datong). This engine plus a few more were subjected to extensive testing, which resulted in a complete redesign of the boiler and parts of the motion. The 40 or so engines built until 1960 were rough riding and had bad boilers, thus they were not popular. The import of used Soviet FD21 was meant to satisfy the immediate need for stronger locomotives.

Datong locomotive works was built with Soviet assistance to produce the redesigned engine. It started production of HP-prototypes in 1959. The redesigned engine had much of the dimensions of the Soviet type FD21, but the boiler was a new construction. From 1964/65, Datong locomotive works produced the redesigned engine in batches. Now its class name was QJ - Qianjin - "Progress" - or literally translated - "March forward!". Rumors say the engines produced during the Cultural Revolution (1966 - 1976) were of low quality. Most of the engines with numbers below 1000 were withdrawn in 1991. During the 70s and 80s, in most years production was around 150 to 250 locomotives (see table below). The last engine was number 7207 which left Datong on Dec 21, 1988, marking the end of steam locomotive production there.
With the assistance of British engineer David Wardale, Datong also produced one prototype, number 8001, with a gas producer firebox. This engine was tested for a while at Huhehaote depot, but failed, probably mostly because of lack of interest in this improvement and lack of follow-up. They also produced one engine with gas firing, with an industrial gas producer in the tender. That engine was a complete failure and was soon rebuilt into conventional form and delivered to some industry company. The tender of it, plus locomotive number 8001, are on display at Datong works.

Datong locomotive works

Production of steam locomotives

1959 1
1960 7
1961 10
1962 0
1964 1 49
1965 55 31
1966 170
1967 139
1968 152
1969 201
1970 249
1971 265
1972 240
1973 266
1974 255
1975 223
1976 150
1977 158
1978 267
1979 310
1980 325
1981 218 19
1982 216 20
1983 218 42
1984 205 65
1985 214 62
1986 122 152
1987 32 251
1988 20 170

History of service

The engine was constructed for freight service with its maximum speed of 80 km/h. In theory, it driving wheels of 1500 mm diameter would allow for more, but the engine is too badly balanced to achieve this. Thus, the main service for the QJ was freight, all over China. In the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s, the engine could be seen virtually all over China. It took over services from smaller engines like JF first, then later replaced the Russian imports type FD, and it was allocated to newly built lines. But from the early 1980s, some of the existing engines were already being cut up while new ones were built.

The QJ also hauled a lot of passenger trains. With the general increase in weight on main line passenger trains, up to 18 wagons, the passenger engines with only three driving axles could not cope any longer. QJs took over. As far as the maximum speed did not increase above 80 km/h, they could cope. However, they were themselves replaced by diesels when speed had to increase to 100 km/h and more. Known passenger runs were Lanzhou to Wulumuqi, most of it double traction, the passenger trains on the gradient from Nankou to the Great Wall with QJ both in front and in the back, and the last express train to be hauled by QJ, train number 43/44 Beijing-Baotou-Lanzhou. Yebaishou depot hauled passenger trains on the lines to Chifeng, Longyuan and Fuxin still in early 1997.

The last express train to be hauled by QJ was number 993/994 Huhehaote - Dongsheng, hauled by Dongsheng based QJ between Baotou and Dongsheng until Nov 4 or 5, 2001. Still, in 2002 remains the long distance service on the Jitong railway, from Benhong to Zhelimu, a total of 945 km, hauled by 5 QJs in sections.

The QJ's last real main line services on China rail with freight trains were Huhehaote - Baotou until 1997, Shizuishan-Yinchuan until 1997, lines near Mudanjiang, Jiamusi, Suihua and Bei'an until 1999. Autumn 1998 saw electrification of the line Zhongwei-Yinchuan-Shizuishan, and thus the last steam engines of Lanzhou Bureau finished their work. In autumn 1999, Harbin Bureau was steam-free. Some of its last QJ were sold to Jitong line. The last surviving QJ services on secondary lines were running until late 2001 in Shenyang Bureau. Depots were Yebaishou, Fuxin, Zhangwu, Dahushan, Da'an Bei, Jilin, and, until mid 2001, Baicheng. Electrification of the line from Shenyang to Harbin freed the necessary diesel locomotives to replace the QJs.

The probably last China Rail owned QJs are running in early 2002 on the branch line from Wuhai Xi to Jilantai, they are based at Linhe depot in the west of Inner Mongolia.

Since the end of the 1980s, second hand QJs were a popular tractive force for "joint venture railways", lines financed by both government and local money. A newly overhauled QJ came for 300000 to 400000 RMB, favorably compared to 4 million for a new diesel DF4. Thus, some local railways acquired considerable fleets of QJ. They are, amongst others: Sanshui-Maoming Railway (SanMao) in Southern China, Shuangyashan coal railway (Northeast), Shenhua Company with its line from Baotou to Shenmu (Inner Mongolia) and Jitong line . However, steam traction is on the decline even there: On the SanMao railway, they were largely replaced in 2000, on the other lines they are scheduled to finish service in summer 2002, only Jitong line remaining with 116 QJ in early 2002. They even build a new line from Sanggendalai to Xilinhot which is scheduled to be run by QJs.

There was a project at Datong in 1986 aimed at improving the deisgn of the QJ. The British engineer David Wardale led the effort. In April 1986, QJ 7036 was tested with a Gas Producing firebox, and later a specially manufactured QJ 8001 was used for tests. However, because the general trend was to get rid of steam, the tests and construction were never really finished. Read more in Davis Wardale's book "The Red Devil and other Tales from the Age of Steam", ISBN 0-9529998-0-3.

Technical data and description

Here are some technical data, comparing with engines from all over the world. The QJ data are from the 1987 book about Chinese locomotives in German. (or from the QJ operating manual)

QJ 25NC 26 043 012 498.1 Dovregubben

Country China S.A. S.A. GE GE CZ Norway

Design 2-10-2 4-8-4 4-8-4 2-10-0 4-6-2 4-8-2 2-8-4
Max. speed 80 100 100 80 140 120 90
Max. traction power 28000 (taken from diagram) 20600 23340 27380 ~17000

Weight engine 133,8 t 117 120 110,2 110,8 116,5 100
Friction weight 100,5 t
(106 t with friction booster)
75 75 95,9 60,4 74,4 62
Max. height 4,79 m 3,96

Max. broad 3,375 m

Length with 4 axle tender 26,023 m

22,620 24,130(5)
Length with 6 axle tender 29,181 m 27,9 27,9

Power at wheel base HP 2980
(best figure in tests:
2670 kW)
3037 4492 2120 2450
Best fuel efficiency (total) 8,42 %at about 1200kW output

Boiler Pressure 15 Bar 15,8 15,8 16 16 16 17
Grate area 6.8 m2 6,5 6,5 4,55 3,96 4,9 5
Boiler evaporation area 269 m2 314 288 237,7 206,5 228,4 256
Overheater area 144,1 m2 58,5 73,2 100 96,15 72,8 102
Cyl. diameter 650 mm 610 610 550*3 500*3 500*3 440/650 (4 cyl)
Cyl length 800 mm 711 711 660 660 680 650
Wheel diam 1500 mm 1524 1524 1400 2000 1830 1530

Tender weight 4 axle 87,6 t

54,1 t
Tender weight 6 axle 119 t 105

Coal 14.5 or 21.5 ton 18

Water 39.5 or 50 m3 47,7


steam consumption (best case) 6,7 kg/HPh
6,7 kg/HPh


Special is the relatively low boiler pressure of only 15 Bar. German engines used 16 Bar, American engines up to 21. Special is also the large overheater and large grate area. The grate probably takes into account the quality of Chinese coal.

The QJ, as the JS, has an external steam pipe from the steam dome to the overheater. It is located in the case above the front part of the boiler. This gives the Chinese engines their special appearance. Smoke deflectors were standard, but on some engines, high deflectors were used. The first engines, from number 0001 to 3602, were fitted with a four axle tender. From 1968, engines in the series 6001 to 7207 were manufactured with a six axle tender. However, recently, most surviving QJs have been fitted with the larger tenders. The total number manufactured is between 4712 and 4719.

The boiler is good, having been specially designed by the Chinese, not copied from earlier (Soviet) designs. It has a combustion chamber as well as four water pipes in the firebox and a large overheater (Schmidt type A). The minimum inner diameter of the boiler is 2100 mm. Some engines had a Giesl ejector, but no obvious system can be seen in this. Giesl ejectors were never systematically installed. The grate is made of toothed plates and all of it can be shaken using an air operated cylinder, in four different sections. This greatly reduces manual work in fire cleaning. The boiler level was reduced from the original prototypes by 80 mm, to allow a higher chimney. The main trouble with the boiler is breaking firebox stays.

The valve gear is of type Walschaert, with Trofimoff type piston valves incorporating an automatic bypass function. Some bearings of the valve gear as well as the front end of the connecting rod are roller bearings, but all other bearings are gliding bearings.

Cylinders and frames are made of steel castings. The main frame is 140 mm thick. Cylinders have a diameter of 650 mm, but the valves are only 300 mm, probably a bit small.

The engine is primarily constructed as a freight engine to work heavy freights on fairly level routes at moderate speeds.

Extensive mechanical lubrication is used. There are two oil pumps, the right one for cylinder oil, the left one for axle oil.

Some equipment is redundant. For example, the engine has three water pumps, two electric generators, and both horn and whistle.

The main trouble with the engine is that it is in most parts a copy of an American 1930 engine, not State of the Art of the 1950s or 1960s. With the Russians copying the design first, and the Chinese copying the Russian design, things have not always improved.

The worst thing is the balancing of the engine and under-dimensioning of axles, rods, axle and crankpin bearings and crankpins. There is heavy wear on the bearings, and the engines use a lot of oil. Not long after being repaired in the workshop, they start running very rough, hunting and bouncing along the line. The wheels are not cross-balanced either. Life on board at speed is not quite nice. This is very detrimental to the enginemen's comfort and to the fittings on the engine and in the cab. Most cabs show a lot of improvised repairs after things have worked loose. Most crews do not use full steam pressure and low cutoff driving in order to reduce the forces on the bearings and with it the wear and tear. The power of the cylinders at low speed is still far above what can be transmitted by the driving wheels. Thus, below 20 km/h, the engines will often slip. Sanding gear is fitted, but working on too few wheels.

The QJ was originally equipped with a stoker. However, in many depots stokers were not maintained. Thus, these machines were and are to a large degree hand fired. An about impossible task for such a large grate area and a boiler allowing to produce up to 95 kg steam per square meter and hour. Typically two firemen work shifts of 10 to 20 minutes firing the engine. This can be done because most of the time the engines do not work at full power output. The tender also contains an air-operated coal pusher, a half meter diameter steel cylinder moving 0.9 meter back and forth in the middle of the coal tank. It pushes coal from farther back to the front of the tender, either on the entry holes for the stoker, or nearer the fireman's shovel.

There are three water pumps: one small lifting injector (right side) and one large nonlifting injector (near driver seat), and a feed water heater pump (handles on the right side). The warm water pump is fitted under the smoke box and is often leaking, leaving a characteristic strain of ice on the locomotive front in winter. The feedwater heater is used only when the engine is working continuously. The large injector is only used at the top of grades just before the train starts running down and the water level must be increased fast. Steam pressure invariably goes down when it is used.

Most auxiliary machinery is pressured air operated: The cutoff, the whistle, there is also an airhorn, the cylinder valves, the coal pusher, the grate shaking, the sanding.

Friction can be improved by changing the axle weight: The driving axles get an extra ton of weight, while the other axles get less. There is an air cylinder doing this.

The brake system is Westinghouse type ET6, a not gradually releasable, exhaustible type.

The experimental QJs

QJ 7036 (formerly fitted with GPCS system) converted from and to standard QJ. Last reported on the Daba to Guyaozi system and probably still intact and maybe still in service.

QJ 8001 is in the Datong museum (I saw it there in 1996). It would seem possible that it may follow some of the other locos to the Beijing museum, unless Datong now has an affection for it that it didn't seem to have at the time!

QJ2 0001 confirmed by David Wardale in his excellent book "The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of Steam" as having been rebuilt to standard form and sold to an industrial railway in 1992. This must therefore be QJ 7291 (if there is ever such a thing as must in China). QJ 7291's present day crews must be glad that it is now a standard QJ: in its previous incarnation as a gas producing and burning engine their Datong predecessors seem to have had a good day if they got home alive!

(Roy Bowden, 2004)

More info

A diagram of tractive effort versus speed is here.

A diagram of power versus speed and boiler stress is here.

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