Updated January 17, 2002
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Jitong line steam
This time I came from the USA. I flew from Vancouver, Canada and arrived Beijing at 15.30, after crossing the date line. I had started on October 19 morning and came to Beijing on October 20 afternoon. Strange thing to loose one day. The flight was a nice one, with view on the Alaska coast range, Mt McKinley and then snow covered Siberia. Flying in over northeast China, we crossed many dry areas. From the air you really see how dry it is around Da'an, Tongliao and Chifeng. This year it looked especially dry. Water reservoirs are far below the max. level, and around any water hole, you see a lot of sand.
Arriving Beijing the passport control and baggage service went very fast and smooth. I got changed my money (Norwegian Cash!) and went to China Air ticket office to get a flight to the west. No problem. For 1070 RMB I got a ticket to Lanzhou, and the plane left at 16.55. I even did not need to pay any airport tax, as I was in transit. However, the Airbus to Lanzhou was not comfortable. It looks like the Chinese aircraft for interior use are specially designed for smaller people. Anyway, few hours afterwards we arrived Lanzhou airport, and from there, I found an airport bus to town. This took an hour, on partially very bad roads. Obviously there is a lot of construction going on, but I was too tired to look. Slept most of the one hour drive to town. From the airline hotel I walked the about one kilometer to the station and checked into the luxury New Century Hotel right outside the station, for 268 RMB. This is luxury accommodation, and there are certainly cheaper ways to stay at Lanzhou. But it was nice to have some luxury after about 24 hours of flying. I went to the ticket counter, and got a shock: Next possibility to get a place on any train was the evening after. I bought a RW ticket to Jiayuguan for the night train the day after and decided to try my luck next morning. (YW and YZ were full).
In the evening there started one kind of trouble you have at luxury hotels in China. This repeated itself later at Yinchuan, Baotou and Huhehaote. At higher class hotels you have the prostitutes, and they do active marketing during evening hours. So from about 22 hours on, you can hear them phoning your neighbor room, then your room, and then the next one. The only way to get around this is to unplug your phone. But then, if you asked the reception for a wakeup call, you have to make sure they wake you up by banging on your door, not by calling your phone. Or you have an alarm clock (like I had). Anyway, when staying at higher class hotels I routinely unplugged my phone after this evening, a measure that saved a few nights sleep.
Lanzhou to Jiayuguan
I started early out. Chinese breakfast at the hotel (free) then
to the ticket office where they still had no ticket to westbound
trains before night.
Got a timetable, which was valid from - TODAY! Then I followed the
onto the platform. By playing naive and asking for access to make
I was allowed on the platform. Train number 193 at 8.46 was
leave first, but it did not come at all. So, I used my time to
the traffic. Lanzhou depot has a bunch of Datong 2000 built new
engines. Class SS7C
. Six axles, three bogies, the design a bit like the blue and
yellow DF4C of 4xxx series. The engines looked very pretty. They
pulled all the passenger trains from Lanzhou towards Xian as well
as the passenger trains to Wuwei. I saw a lot of them between
numbers 0020 and 0048; all depot Lanzhou, all built in 2000. (By
the way I saw locomotive number 0005 being constructed at Datong
in September 1996). This may mean the locomotive is now through
the prototype stadium and being produced in series. SS3B 5057
arrived with a train from Huhehaote. The freights, however, were
all served by old SS1 (12xx and 13xx series). The weather was
pleasant, but not far from zero this
morning. Finally, the 9.22 train to Wulumuqi arrived, a rake of 18
air conditioned cars. I showed my evening ticket to some of the
but was not allowed to enter. Even the chief conductor, the one
said he had no place. Finally, one of the YW conductors allowed me
looking at my ticket. I decided to not contact the chief conductor
in order not to be thrown off the train at the next station and
dining car. I got my second breakfast, then a beer. Staff was very
So, I sat in the dining car until Tianzhu. A good decision anyway,
dining car allows to look both ways. Only near Tianzhu, I was
the floor of the RW car at an open window. The train was not too
line is single track.
Up to Dahaigou, this line is mostly uphill at a grade of up to 12.5 per thousand (1 in 80). Before, at the time they had steam, the trains were single headed QJ, but this was hard work for the engines. Now most of the trains had either one or tow SS1. At nearly all stations, freight trains were waiting; most of them double headed. Outside it was time for the people to harvest. They were getting their vegetables, apples, and corn from the fields. But outside of the river valley, the landscape turned dryer and dryer. The snow covered Qilian mountains on the south side. It would have been extremely interesting to be here ten years ago with steam locomotives pulling all the trains. But this time not!
At Dahaigou they had a depot full of SS1, probably engines they use for the final ascent over the Qilian mountains to come right after. This ascent is mostly at about 20 per thousand (1 in 50), and the freights here are all double headed. It is 24 kilometers until the summit tunnel, which is at about 3000 meters above sea level.
Then came the horseshoe curves near Tianzhu. Still, even with electrified railway, this is impressing. A bit like the Gotthard line in Switzerland. A lot of traffic, and mountains all over, and fantastic engineering of the line with all its curves, tunnels, bridges. More than 40 kilometers steep downgrades (15 to 22.2 per thousand). It is a pity there is no more steam here! The line runs down until Wuwei nan, about 100 km in all, most of it on a river gorge with dramatic mountains around.
Wuwei Nan was reached, a large freight station with shunting. Here we met the single track line from Zhongwei, with its SS3 locomotives. But from Wuwei Nan to the west things go with diesel. The line towards Jiayuguan is double track; maximal inclines are about 12 per thousand. Freights are mostly double headed green DF4, trains estimated to be about 3000 tons, and passenger trains go with new DF11, most of them also double headed. Speed is generally high. The landscape is less pleasant, most of it flat, dry and stony desert. However, some places show apple and cabbage plantations. Otherwise, they grow corn. Very few trees, most of them planted near villages. Some rivers come down from the snow covered Qilian mountains in the south. Many places along rivers you can see large stone walls. So, sometimes, there must be enormous levels of water here! Near cities they were building, or had already built, many kilometers of high fences along the line. They seem to try to hinder people walking the line. Maybe this is the first preparation towards running trains at really high speed. Some places show that the railway has been rebuilt on a new alignment. When it cleared up a bit you could see snow covered mountains to the south. From Jinchang, the line climbs, mostly at 12.5 per thousand, for about 47 kilometers over the Longshou mountains. These mountains look more or less like dry stony hills. On the west side it is downhill for about 50 km also. Near Jiayuguan, the remainings of the Great Wall come into view. Most of it looks like a heap of clay, but the fort at Jiayuguan is restored.
I walked right out of the station, 50 meters to the left where there was a small ludian, clean, warm water (shower in upper floor), for 58 RMB. The only problem was continuous noise from locomotive shunting at the station.
2000 - 10 - 22
Jiayuguan - Jingtieshan
Here I was in order to have a look at the branch line to
was steam operated until a few years ago. I was prepared to see no
but you never know... It turned out the only steam at Jiayuguan
was SY 0117
shunting at the steel works. Jingtieshan has a large iron ore mine
branch line is built to get the iron ore down to the town for
It was no problem to get a ticket for the local train. The only
that the ticket counter employee washed her face and hair instead
tickets. So, it took some 10 minutes until I finally got a ticket,
price of 4,50 RMB. No problem to get on the train either. Well, no
from the railway staff, but there was this policeman. He was
comfortable with me. Took my passport and reappeared first five
planned departure. But it was OK for him that I was on his train.
them pictures from our Norwegian Mountain lines, and that probably
more comfortable. The line was totally diesel worked, by green
based DF4. But from a railway engineering viewpoint, and for
seeing the landscape,
it was well worth this visit. So, if you do not just look for
can spend a day on landscape etc., it is worth to go there! After
of the highest parts of the Qilian mountains, at 5500 meters, are
The train first started to the west, passed the depot (full of DF4, DF11 and DF4D) and then went around a curve into the steel works station. First here, a large crowd entered the train, bound for Jiayuguan most of them. The locomotive ran around, and we restarted opposite direction, now towards the south. We followed the Great Wall towards the mountains, passed the river gorge on an iron bridge just after Qiaoxi station (known from some photos in earlier books), and then entered the mountains. Speed was quite low. The line follows the river valley, and it is very visible that the river sometimes has large floods. Most of the mountains have absolutely no vegetation. The rocks are not quite stable, erosion is high. Higher up was snow. Lots of tunnels, bridges and abandoned villages (probably railway worker villages from the time they built the line). Speed was slow. The rails are often on wooden ties, fixed with nails; however, some concrete ties, too. The conductor opened the door for me whenever I asked for it. Here a picture just below Jingtieshan, with the iron ore mine. At Jingtieshan station there is only industry. The main iron ore mine is on the other side of the river. Small electric trains can be seen from the mine every five minutes or so. At the station, they have large iron ore silos, and they are building new silos and new tracks. The iron ore trains have 19 six axled cars, pulled by single DF4. Most of the incline was at 18 per thousand. This probably means that the whole line leads about 1000 meters up through the valley. At this station, everyone disappeared into waiting buses to Jingtieshan town, further up the valley. Even the conductors and the policeman just disappeared. I was left alone walking around and decided to go down the valley to the next station, have a look at the rocks, rock caves, the river etc. Nice to be totally alone in tremendous landscape . Just like walking along the FlÂm railway in Norway during winter months. I was welcome at the next station and the station master gave me tea, before I entered the train down again. The policeman was still there, and now a lot more friendly than before. One of the conductors sold beer, soup and other eating stuff, which was good, as I had not eaten anything at Jingtieshan. Otherwise the conductors had not much to do, and most were sitting together and playing cards. They told me there was no passable road from Jiayuguan, but there is a road from Jingtieshan towards Xining, on the south side of the mountains. If I have time after China Rail finishes off steam, this might be a good place to do come mountaineering.
They dropped me off at the steelworks (SY 0117 was shunting there) and I got a taxi to the well known Fort, which guards the western end of the Great Wall. They are fixing up the area and turning it into a tourist center. Some snow-covered mountains were visible even towards the Northwest. The Fort is built of bricks, and maybe partly of just dried clay. I got apples. oranges and pears nearby, which was my diet on the way (short of the dinner taken at restaurants. No foreign tourists here, only Chinese, guided in groups.
Dinner at a small restaurant near the station. The problem is: if you go alone, you have a hard time eating the large dishes they serve you. I did it wrong again, ordering two things where one thing was enough. Anyway, good food for a low price. I got a RW ticket for the number 146 leaving 20.32 train to Wuwei, no YW available. This train had 3 RW cars, out of 18 air conditioned type 25 cars in total. It arrived with Wulumuqi based 1999 built DF4D 0421, and continued with Jiayuguan based 2000 built DF11 0236 to Wuwei Nan, from where it continued with Lanzhou based 2000 built SS7C 0048. I went to bed right after departure and was waked up 10 minutes before arrival Wuwei Nan at 3.00.
Daytime with light was from 7.30 to 19.00.
Wuwei Nan to Yinchuan
The station attendants did not want me to stay at the platform, so I sat in the waiting hall from 3.00 and slept /read. No toilets available, but a kiosk sold food and drinks. Temperature outside and inside about 5 degrees C. There was only one train towards Zhongwei, at 8.16. No problem to get a YZ ticket. But also on this train there was a policeman who was not too comfortable to have me on board. He was a bit scared of me taking photos, but did nothing to prevent me. After all, foreigners should have been here before. The line was completely worked by SS3 electric engines. It runs through a lot of dry terrain. Now and then sand dunes, camels, and sand control measures along the railway. They dig down straw in checkerboard fashion to halt the sand. The line is single track, speed not too high, and this train stops everywhere. Obviously most of the passengers were railway employees. From Gantang the line is double track, and follows large curves down to Zhongwei. Gantang depot was full of SS3. Zhongwei depot has a few DF5, DF4 and otherwise lots of SS3. In the afternoon a sandstorm started, and sight became more and more restricted. As there was no train to connect towards Yinchuan, I took a three wheeler to the bus station. He drove through some small streets where people were threshing grain. I just reached a bus to Yinchuan. However, it went very slowly out of town, trying to find more passengers. Out of town the driver sped up and drove like a pig, like most bus drivers do. However, sight got very bad, and soon everything tasted like sand. (Later I learned that this day brought rain to the Baotou area). The farmers were transporting enormous loads of straw on their small tractors. Along the street lots of newly constructed luxurious gas stations. But we needed four hours to reach Yinchuan. I went into expensive Kaida hotel right alongside the bus station for the night and unplugged my phone. Some Taiyuan based business people invited me for a nice dinner. Somewhere here there is a silicium carbide factory importing raw material from Norway. High tech industry...
Yinchuan to Wuhai, Branch line Wuhai Xi to Jilantai
Up at 4.15, wake up by the floor guard (phone was unplugged), then taxi to the station which was 15 km away. Train 2004 at 5.10 to Wuhai. The train came by SS3, and it was electrified until Shizuishan. Some green DF4s visible outside, no steam at all. From Shizuishan Baotou based DF4C. More or less desert along the line. I wanted to have a look at the branch lines from Wuhai. Steam lingered around at the Wuhai Xi depot in the form of 3 JS and 2 QJ. The JS are probably shunting the branch lines to all the coal mines and other industry here. At Wuhai, I met QJ 7053 heading the mixed train towards Jilantai. According to staff, there is no steam on the line leading east into the mountains. So I immediately jumped on the mixed towards Jilantai. More about the Jilantai branch here . This was the first steam for me on this trip, and the line is really worth a visit! But steam will end next year.
I used the hotel right outside of Wuhai Xi station, 50 meters to the left. I do not remember the price, but it was less than 100 RMB. Warm water available, even if a bit low pressure, clean room. Service minded staff, no problem to leave behind baggage next day until after 12.00.
Branch line Wuhai Xi to Jilantai, to Baotou
Up at 7.30. Freezing temperature. I walked along the line to kilometer 6.5. This morning was cold, about freezing point, and light wind from southwest. Good for steam on the photos. I could have taken a taxi to the main road towards Yinchuan and have saved 4 kilometers out of this, but walking here left me all alone and with a nice view on the mountains, desert and the coal mine. This morning gave real action, as the mixed train was extremely heavy, with 11 ballast cars in addition to the passenger and water cars. They told me it was 900 tons, but it might just as well have been 1000. This was too much for the QJ 7056, and in the curve at km 6.5 it stalled. I got a two hours action as they tried to restart, the firemen shoveling sand on the rails in front of the slowly moving engine. I helped a bit. Railway staff was very friendly, and they wanted me to join the train. But not today. It took two hours and several new starts until the train made it to some longer stretches of straight line where it could pick up speed. Obviously, the trouble was not lack of steam, but lack of friction. QJs are not good at pulling in curves.
After the train disappeared into the mountains and desert, I walked back to the hotel and station. (By the way, the grade finishes some place between kilometer 10 and 15). Map . JS 8265 was shunting there. The crew invited me on board and wanted me to move the engine, but I had no time... In the depot were QJ 6829 and JS 8332(?)
I had to leave by the 13.40 train to Baotou. Now, in the afternoon, it was warm enough to just wear a T-shirt. People wondered if I was not cold. It helps to show some Norwegian winter pictures then...
Florian Menius was at Wuhai Xi later, at the end of 2000. See his report here . He reported little traffic and problems with the railway police at Wuhai Xi station.
I took an RW ticket to have some luxury, which was fine. Only one other passenger in my compartment, a NON-SMOKING Chinese engineer! Until Wuhai the train was slow, but then it sped up. The double track line had welded rails most of the time. We crossed many water channels. They are irrigating heavily here. Some places they were growing wine grapes. However, as soon as we got more distance to the Yellow River, it turned immediately dry. And the mountains are without any vegetation.
Linhe depot has rows of dumped QJ and JS, but there was at least one JS in steam. I saw JS 8017 and QJ 7058 (?) dumped. QJ 6762 was steaming along with a work train. No idea what other services might be steam here. Maybe shunting. Wulashan had a small depot, which looked like it still might service steam engines. Side tracks to industry here.
The line to Baotou is flat, two tracks, and no sign of any electrification (in conflict with the Quail atlas). Landscape is very dry, and here and there it looks like irrigation has left salt on the acres. Railway repair gave us some delay. Operation of both passenger and freight trains is in the hands of Baotou Xi based DF4C (blue white), most of them in the 4xxx series.
At Baotou, it was dark. But a JS came across on a ring line train. I walked straight from Baotou Dong to Xi Hu hotel, about 300 meter straight out from the station on the main road, right side. A sign shown in English calls it "West lake hotel". 117 RMB per day in a single room with two beds. Two very good but comparatively expensive (25 RMB per meal) restaurants next door.
2000- 10- 26
Baotou and Xiang Sha Wan
I was up early in order to take the first counterclockwise train along the ring line to Erdaoshahe. In the first car very few people were present, so I could open the window in order to hear the sound. Very short stop at Erdaoshahe, and here it was still too dark for a photo. I walked back towards the Shiguai line and got a good video of the passing 6.53 to Shiguai train. Even with the new timetable, everything seems to be the old with the JS and the timings. I saw no ring line train with diesel during my two days.
From Erdaoshahe, I wanted to go to Wanshuiquan Nan to see the Dongsheng train (timetable ) (Pictures ), but this turned out to be more difficult than expected. The nearest road crossed the line a kilometer east of Erdaoshahe. Passing buses would not stop and the taxis were full, for about 15 minutes. The level crossing guard invited me into his cabin, as it was very cold. Finally a taxi arrived and drove me to Wanshuiquan Nan, along a newly built road, which will soon connect Baotou with the Yellow River Bridge. They are constructing a new bridge over the railway at Wanshuiquan, (this was not easy to pass for cars just now) and a new Yellow River bridge. The new road is OK, nearly no traffic, as it is officially not yet open, but here and there the road ends and you have to wind your way through dirt roads. I was dropped off at Wanshuiquan Nan, just in time to get into position for the Dongsheng passenger train in the rising morning sun. It left with full steam. QJ 3068 was shunting, and another QJ waited in the depot nearby (west side of station).
I then took another taxi from here to Xiang Sha Wan. Sorrily, the road to the Yellow River bridge from here is awful, and took too long time. So before the new road is finished, chasing the train from here is not feasible. By the way I saw two ring line passenger trains passing Wanshuiquan with steam.
Just before Xiang Sha Wan (Sounding Sands Gorge) I jumped off and walked the line to the large bridge where I spent the day before noon. The trees on the inside of the bridge have grown considerable, making photos from the tunnel side more difficult. There was a safety guard at the tunnel entrance, as there were people working in the tunnel. We had a nice time together, as he was informing me in due time before trains would arrive, and he even operated my video camera. I got to learn some Chinese from him. The tourist center at Xiang Sha Wan with the cable car was operating, but no visitors. The railway man told me it was mostly intended for the local Chinese people, and quite popular. They have a hotel, but that is only open during dummer. I walked past there in the afternoon, on my way to Shabazi. This took about 100 minuets, along the partially dry riverbed. A lot of vegetation in the riverbed! Nice walk in about 20 degrees temperature, only in T-shirt again. The coal trucks drove towards a mine about 10 kilometers farther south. Near Shabazi came QJ 6018 with empties northwards. (Short turnaround, as it passed Xiang Sha Wan at about 10, and now it was only 14.30). It took water there, so I got another possibility to photo it. It waited for the express to Baotou and then went off with real heavy action. QJ 6346 had headed the morning passenger train to Shenmu Bei, and now returned with the express to Huhehaote. Railway workers were repairing track number 3. They had an interesting railcar. Just a little platform, four seats, and a small motor.
I saw the lines timetable at the station master office. In principle, a freight is scheduled every 90 minutes, and up freights are taking water at Shabazi for 30 minutes. But they do not run every train every day. The locomotive driver from 6018 told that there are no immediate plans to replace steam. Let's hope that. 6018 had a stoker. I also saw that many of the cars this railway is using are used only here, they carry the initials of the BaoShen line. Some of them are C50 cars with glide bearings! Soon another southbound train arrived with QJ 6247, and I had to board the passenger to Baotou (headed by 6169) in the last evening light. In Baotou, I took the (delayed) train from Wuhai Xi to Baotou Dong, and I saw one of the JS headed ring line passenger trains starting at Baotou main station. All in all a quite good day! And sunny good weather without wind.
JS seen in use: 8005, 8328, 8009, 8320, 8279
QJ seen in use: 6247, 6248, 6287, 6018, 6863, 6243, 6169, 6346,
Baotou to Huhehaote
This morning I had finally adjusted to Chinese time and chose to let the 6.30 and 6.53 trains go. Instead, I took a taxi to Wanshuiquan Bridge to get the two ring line passenger trains passing there. The first was about to stop and had shut off steam. The second had steam but no sun, and the weather turned gray. DF4s rumbled past at high speed with freights. I took another taxi to the Yellow River, along the new road and some local roads at the end. From the River Bridge, I walked towards the railway River Bridge, through the fields. No problem, as everything was dry. The passenger to Dongsheng came along at good speed and with good steam, but no good light. I then decided to look at the bridge itself. There was a guard. He invited me into his house to warm me up but he did not want me to walk the bridge. So I stood there and got a northbound and a southbound freight, and later the southbound express. It turned out that the guard gets coal for warming in the winter, but at this time, he collects coal along the line. So, I used some of my spare time to collect coal while looking for another photo spot. After the express, I got a bus from the Road Bridge and went into Baotou Dong depot. There is still the entrance to the rails one block west of the station. No more QJs at the depot, but according to staff the JS will last one or two years to come. Staff was collecting grass and rubbish and burning it between the rails. A JS was shunting at the yard. I then left, bought some fruit and took the afternoon train to Huhehaote. Nothing special. Only in Huhehaote, a JS was in steam at the depot. I have no idea what service it does; at least the local passenger trains were diesel.
This afternoon and evening I visited the management of the Jitong line. Their administration office is just a few blocks east of the railway station. They showed me the operation central. It turned out they are quite aware of the popularity amongst western tourists. I told them if they want to earn money from us, it depends on services provided. Services could include cab rides, depot visits, providing the timetable, allowing to use the conductor car of freights over the pass etc. And I tried to make clear that they can only expect tourists until the day they replace steam. There is probably not much else Western tourists would like to come for.
They explained the diesels to be in Baiqi because of a water shortage. They have to transport at least some of the water from 90 kilometers distance. This year had a terrible draught and made things worse. Baiqi has not enough water for both steam locomotives and the town. Just now, they have two DF4C. As to Daban, they said they had no intent to buy diesels, as there is water all other places than Baiqi. Let us hope that! They also intend to run the new Xilinhaote line with steam, from 2002.
From their computer, I tried to download some of the Internet pages telling about what we visitors do at their railway line, but all this timed out. It seems like Internet services in China are a bit slower than Internet services at home. But they have at least a working email connection: Mrs. Sunyahong is an English-speaking secretary who can answer questions, but she is no railway specialist. Contact: email@example.com .
It was interesting to see the operation center in Jitong railways. They obviously had an open phone line to Daban depot while I was there, and the man in Daban was dictating the planned schedule for the next day, including which locomotives were intended to take which trains. A few days later I stood besides the other man at Daban depot. He got a phone call from Zhelimu before with announcement of which trains would have to be run, and then he figured out which engines to send. Well, the whole planning is done manually, with several people involved. Very different from our computer integrated planning systems. One of the facts is therefore, that locomotive drivers never know exactly when their next shift will start. They are told a certain point of time where they have to ask at the operations office for their next service.
I took in for the night at Wang Fu hotel outside the railway station, 50 meter straight, then 100 meter to the right. 100 RMB for a room where everything worked, even hot water in the bathtub! From the station, I could hear the sound of DF4s and sometimes a single steam whistle, probably from a shunting JS.
Huhehaote to Daban
Today I could take the new diesel train.
Timetable. This was a really good thing to do. It is
comfortable and fast. Speed is not so very high, but there are few
stops. The train is built this year by
Sifang Qingdao works, it has, in every end, a 1000 HP Caterpillar
motor with transmission to the outermost bogie, and one more
diesel engine for the air conditioning and heating and light.
There are a
lot of imported parts. The total weight is 375 tons (told by one
of the service
people, but this sounds too heavy). I had a cab ride from Jingpeng
The driver ran the car by a joystick. Very low noise level both
passenger department and the cab.
Composition is as follows:
Motor car NY1J - 4007B RZ (Motor room and some RZ seats)
RZ25DT - 1002 (Car with only RZ seats, 2+2 arrangement in groups by four seats)
YW25DT - 6012 (Car with YW, but here only two beds above each other, open to the gangway like in other YW cars, but very much more space)
YW25DT - 6011 (like the other one)
YZ25DT - 3029 (YZ car with a small kiosk with microwave ovens to cook meals. Seat arrangement 3+2)
NYZ25DD - 3030 (Motor car with some YZ seats).
The train had a max. speed of 120 km/h. Max. speed on the Jitong
5 km/h more than for steam trains.
It ran quite smooth. Acceleration was not very high, but the comfort definitely better than in most Chinese trains. Air condition like in the 25 series of cars. Toilets and washing facilities were clean. The conductors had THE advanced communication system, with tape, CD and DVD players. A GPS based public address system displayed the next station name. They display some English text, but that is more CHINGLISH.
Otherwise, the conductors were very young girls (18 to 20) from along the line, some from Baiqi, some from Jingpeng, some from Daban, who were both good looking and very friendly. Not only friendly to me, but also to their Chinese passengers. Some of them speak a little English. They have newly designed uniforms, a bit like the Swedish X2000 attendants. Even a new Jitong logo, a circle with "JT" in it. The whole outfit tastes like European Intercity. In every car is a booklet where you can write your comments! After Jining one attendant came round and sold warm food. Otherwise, there was the kiosk in the YZ car. At Shangdu, they changed locomotive drivers (they are two people in the cab). The train was still attended by four engineers or workers from Qingdao (this was also in Feb. 2001). They expressed their distaste for the steam engines seen along the line. Not modern! They would follow the train for about eight months. According to them, another ten trains of this kind are operating in Harbin bureau. Jitong line has only one.
The conductors have a work schedule of two days on, two days off. The sleep either between Huhehaote and Shangdu or between Daban and Shangdu, and serve on the other part. Drivers also change at Shangdu. The schedule for the conductors runs for 2 weeks this way, 2 days on, 2 off, then they are on railway school at Daban, learning safety, signals, and smaller repairs of this train. They have a work contract for five years.
Anyway, it was a good ride to Daban, where I arrived in the evening. I would use this train more during the next week, to return from Haoluku to Daban. (Instead of waiting in Haoluku for the eastbound passenger at 2.20 at night, I took the diesel train to Sanggendalai and returned by the steam hauled passenger train from there. That gives a good night's sleep! - However, I found that most passengers in the RZ car were Jitong employees. Also elsewhere in the train there were still not too many passengers. (In the New Year traffic on 2001, the train was totally full, however!)
Freight trains along the line were steam hauled all but one, and
I only saw one of the diesels. At Benhong were a few QJs in the
depot, and Baiqi was full of engines (6032 on the scrap line,
however). Just west of Baiqi is a large horseshoe curve, the line
going upwards towards Baiqi. This may
give some good photo positions. Baiqi depot has a large blue
hall, which is visible from far away (and even the plane to
many places they have stone walls along the north side of the
line, to protect
against blowing snow in the winter.
2000-10-29 until 11-4
Daban - Chabuga - Daban - Haoluku - Daban
I did what I had come for, again. Driving and firing the QJs. The trouble was, that one of my teacher drivers left the same night to Haoluku, so I was pulled out of my bed already at 1.15. This was the start of a hard week, where I followed three different locomotive crews. Typically when one crew ended service, I continued with the next crew. However, from West to East I normally took the passenger train, as that run only has an incline from Jingpeng to Shangdian, and everything else is just rolling down. I had a few runs to Chabuga from Daban, too, and sometimes returned with the passenger train, sometimes with another crew on another locomotive. In all, I slept as much on the passenger train as in the depot. Work was normally to fire the engine at the steepest upslopes. This is easier than firing at less steep slopes, as the engines use less steam and thus need less coal. When a QJ runs at 50 km/h or more and full steam is used, it is nearly impossible to keep up with the demand of coal. A stoker would be a good thing then! At speeds like 20 or 30, however, things are easier, even if they need a lot of coal. However, at speeds below 25, the QJs are not easy to drive, as they tend to slip. This is a major problem in curves and on the points, when leaving stations. There are two driving styles, and both are applied by different drivers. One is to get as much power out of the engine as possible. This requires constant vigilance, because of slipping. The other style is to let the engine work at a lower throttle opening, where it works mostly by itself and needs very little intervention. Then driving up the Jingpeng pass is slow, but it works fine.
Another problem is the constant bouncing of some of the engines, which have not had a recent repair. Probably the axle bearings are then worn. This makes firing at speed extremely difficult. You need a fairly good balance. Even the Chinese firemen sometimes miss the foot pedal that opens the fire door when they want to throw a shovel of coal into the fire. The other action is driving the engine, which I did mostly in upslopes. I do not know the brakes well enough to feel comfortable with them. The main problem being that I do not know if they are exhaustible. Driving is normally done by the rule that steam is never opened up fully, as that is bad for the bearings. They rather use 40% cutoff or even more. But one driver used full throttle and low cutoff. It was especially fun to drive the engine when it sped along in an upslope at speeds of 50 to 60 km/h with a lighter train. Then you really feel that this is powerful! When the incline is steep and the speed low, they never drive with full steam. They rather give half steam pressure and a cutoff of 50%. Some drivers, especially on the second engine, look nearly like they sleep while being in the drivers seat, but the locomotives, even if they slip a bit, normally pull through without further intervention. (Drivers do not sleep; you can see this as soon as more serious slipping occurs!)
The third kind of work was in the tender pulling coal forward. This has to be done after passing Reshui and not far after Jingpeng again, as there is not enough coal in the front of the tender to feed the coal pusher (and two engines had a defect coal pusher). Work in the tender is hard, and dusty, but standing out there and shoveling coal is also fun. You have one hard working engine in front of you, one behind you, and you are in the open air!
There are three crews to every engine. Crew one works from Daban to either Chabuga or Haoluku, crew two takes over and returns, and crew three brings the locomotive out there again. This means that between services a crew will have about 24 hours rest at the other end of the line. And they are not completely sure when they will return, as delays may occur. To me who wanted to optimize my schedule I combined the schedules of three crews and three different locomotives. This brought some days with 15 hours of locomotive driving, but also odd times to do this. And sometimes I had to jump off in the middle of the line to return with the next crew on another train.
Every trip ended with getting new coal (Don not remain on the engine because of the dust!), and then cleaning the wheels and the motion. Sometimes we even had some diesel oil to clean the motion! This was new to me, as before they had not! Most meals were eaten in the depots, and their excellent shower facilities were good to have.
This week they had a shortage of engines and thus had one engine going back and forth between Jingpeng and Shangdian, where some trains continued single headed into Daban.
One special thing noted during these days were the enormous amounts of hay transported by rail from some place east to stations along this railway. This summer has given extremely little rain, and there is a shortage of food for the animals around here. Thus, they are transporting whole trainloads of hay into this area. This means that westbound trains have a higher load than they normally would have. But oftentimes, they loose weight during their transport. Typically, at every major station they shunt out between five and ten carloads of hay. This is then unloaded by scores of people, who then load it on trucks (and these loads look precarious! Anyway, the whole area is dryer than normal this winter.
Finally in the evening I left for Reshui by passenger train. I was one of only two people leaving the train there and walked through the night towards the town. Checked into the railway hotel . There was moonshine and still weather. In the room everything worked. Warm water, bathtub.
Jingpeng pass, linesiding
I was out at 6.30 just before sunrise. You never know. According to the schedule obtained at Daban depot the evening before there should be lots of early morning trains. Actually, it turned out that the whole schedule was changed, probably because the first of the westbound trains was so heavy. For photo positions see here .
At 7.30, the first train came down. Finally at 8.30 steam was visible from the East. But it turned out to be just two light engines. At Reshui, they played a Wiener Walzer on the school loudspeakers so it was hearable all the way up to level 3! I gave up waiting and went down to Reshui, had a look at the Sunday market, and then took at minibus to Shangdian. The stationmaster knew me from the day before when I had jumped off my last locomotive trip and returned to Daban by the passenger train. No problem to get the timetable, it promised action for the afternoon. Straight down again by minibus, and then fast walk up the line to level two, as there was smoke east of Galadesitai. A very heavy freight came up. I got some photos from far above level 1, with the train on the River Bridge, and then it went slowly on to SanDi. No problem to walk to my position at km 506, where I intended to have some photos on the high dam before turning into level 3. However, the train stopped at km 507. Suddenly three whistles from the first locomotive, then stop. Engine trouble or did they hit an animal? I decided to go down to them, to have a look at the trouble, but obviously, they were starting again. After a few tries, and some pushing back they succeeded to slowly move the train again. But QJs are not good for pulling in curves, so this was very slow action. They advanced at a pace like a pedestrian, spinning often. But they made it! A lot of steam, and hard action! I ran up to the well known level 3 position to get another shot after the train left the tunnel. Had to wait quite some time! They were spinning several times in the tunnel, and I feared they would never emerge from there. This is hard for the crew, especially on locomotive number 2. Air in the tunnel gets soon bad with two engines. But they finally emerged and slowly moved on past me. The firemen working in the tender pulling coal. On the train a lot of blind passenger waved to me. This train was good for about an hour. I heard it for another 45 minutes until it finally reached Shangdian.
Then I walked down between the tunnels, and very soon, the next train appeared here. However, light was not too good. But this curve is a good position in afternoon light. I passed the lowest tunnel, and there was the next train, a light one, advancing up the pass. This one really sped on, and I got it passing in the cutting at 506,5. Even if it was fast, two fast moving and steaming QJs are good to see.
Three trains right after each other! I walked down and got a taxi to bring me to SiMingyi. Two trains were waiting at Shangdian, but eastbound trains were already on the way down. However, I had barely time to climb the hill at the big bridge before train number 2 came down, and at Xiakengzi it stopped for an eastbound train to come. This one was heavy again, and good to hear all the way from Jingpeng. Two English people turned up, too, with the taxi driver Mr. Li from Linxi. He has been in this business for three years and has a new Hiace minibus, European comfort. His phone is 0476-5321362. I joined them and got another shot of the up train just before Shangdian. It was headed by 7143 +7138, the last engine from Baiqi! All in all this was a good day, even with the slow start!
Reshui - Chifeng - Beijing
This morning the wind was howling. They had arranged a taxi for 6.45, which came at 6.30. I intended to go to Simingyi, but there was a train waiting at Shangdian, so I jumped off there and went to the west end of the station. Extremely cold wind! A lot of steam with this train! I intended to walk the upper part of the west ramp, so I decided just to walk and not get the schedule today. So, I walked down the line to have a look. Ice-cold wind against me, growing stronger. The sun did definitely not warm. Finally, at the bridge leading over the road, where the trains turn from level 1 to level 2, I got some shadow from the wind, with some donkeys that had the same intent. A train came down and the driver on the first engine knew me, braked down to low speed and asked if I wanted to join them. Nice guy! But this time I was linesiding! Next train came up soon with a lot of steam, and the wind blew it right up. Good action. A taxi then brought me up to Shangdian where I got the train once more, working against the light. Another minibus brought me down to San Di. Now the wind was so strong it started to blow sand. Visibility decreased. I decided not to wait on level 2, but to walk down to the hotel. In the riverbed, I was now and then totally blinded by the blowing sand. I soon got a taxi down to Linxi, where I caught the bus to Chifeng. A crowded minibus for 25 Yuan, but it soon got less crowded. I slept most of the trip, which took only three hours! From Chifeng to Beijing I had the 20.20 train. Tickets were not available, but I got a YW for 80 instead of 73 outside the station. I waited in the cellar of Chifeng station. There you can wait for 2 Yuan extra pay, either watching TV, or drinking tea. They let you go to the platform before they open the other gate, so you do not go in the crowd. The train got a delay of one hour right outside Beijing, but we had a long stop near the depot which let me have a good look at all the parked diesel engines. The future of China rail... Our scheduled arrival was at Beijing Nan 6.43 (not Beijing Bei!) The train also stopped at Beijing Dong before arriving Beijing Nan.
I left Beijing with the afternoon flight to Copenhagen. The last steam seen was a QJ steaming into Baiqi station from the west. There is a large horseshoe curve, very photogenic, and the depot has a blue roof, visible even from 10000 meters altitude.
Lanzhou depot locomotives:
SS7C, all seen built in Datong 2000. This is a six axle three bogie electric engine for passenger trains. They were observed on trains between Xian-Lanzhou and Wuwei.
Seen numbers: 0020, 0025, 0027, 0035, 0048
I saw one old DF engine, in good shape, either DF1 or DF3, one of these early double engines of Russian look.
SS3B 5057 (depot?)
SS1 1231, 1352, 1359, 1373, 1380, 1381
Dachaigou depot, near Tianzhu, on Lanzhou to Wuwei line: The depot was full of SS1, probably for double heading of trains over the inclines near Tianzhu.
Wuwei to Jiayuguan
Freights with double green DF4, passenger trains with double or single DF11.
DF4 1832, 1834, 1836, 3658 built 1992, 3949, 6114, 6116, 6118 supershine,
6126, 6430, 7004, 7014, 7181, 7431 (depot sign, where seen, looks like Jiayuguan)
DF11 0194, 1098, 0200, 0203, 0214, 0225, 0232, 0236, all depot Jiayuguan, all built in 1999/2000.
DF5 1342 at JinChang,
DF4D 0421 depot Wulumuqi, built in 1999, seen with passenger train 246 arriving Jiayuguan from west. More DF4D observed in Jiayuguan depot
Jiayuguan to Jingtieshan: Green Jiayuguan based DF4.
Wuwei to Zhongwei to Yinchuan to Shizuishan: All SS3. SS3 0074 (passenger Wuwei-Zhongwei), 0280, 6066 Wuwei, 6068 Wuwei, 0437 Wuwei, 0391 Wuwei, 0345, 6047, 6058 with train 43/44, at Gantang lots of locomotives in 6000 series,
DF4 6145 at Zhongwei, 6114 seen at Yinchuan, 4199 and 4338 both from Baotou depot seen at Shizuishan.
Shizuishan to Baotou
All trains with Baotou based DF4D
in 4xxx and 5xxx series. The line is double tracked
and partly welded rail.
DF4 3379 Huhehaote, 6104 Huhe, 7165 Huhe, 7289 Baotou, 7291, 95, 99, 7300 all Huhehaote,< DF4D 0524 (Huhehaote) with train 1484 Baotou-Huhehaote
At Jining depot masses of DF4, all green: 6003, 6156, 6157, 6440, 6449, 6030, 6031, 6038, 7156. The 6xxx locomotives were seen to be of Jining depot.
Observation of serviceable locomotives:
DF4 0003, a DF4C of blue yellow design like the 4xxx and 5xxx series
DF11 0051, 0143, 0160, 0161
DF10F 2001, 2003
NY6 and NY7: 007, 005, 010, 009, 0026
At Beijing Nan a double deck train looking like the german ICE passed towards Beijing. I could not see any more detials as I was in a crowd.
Some DF11 already had a very bad painting status.