China Jan 28 to Feb. 11, 2001: Yebaishou, Jingpeng pass

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Updated January 31, 2002

Jan 28, 2001 Beijing to Yebaishou

No problem to get a ticket to Yebaishou on the train 2251 leaving 13.22. Soft sleeper 120 RMB. I slept most of the way, after an awfully long flight. Nice weather.
Locomotives observed in Beijing:
DF4 2595
NY6 0009, 0010 both in good condition, 0012 in bad condition in the depot. At least one NY locomotive looks like scrap.

DF4D 3003
DF11 0160, 0163, 0166
DF4 1937 Chengde depot
BJ 3289 shunting at Huairou
BJ 3088 Chengde depot with another BJ meeting us half way to Chengde with a freight. Other freights on the Chengde line with DF4B. It looks like the type BJ diesels are used more and more in less important duties. DF4B are taking over.
DF4 0707 and 0709 newly moved to Chengde depot.

Yebaishou: Tielu ludian near station does not take foreigners now. I went to Jian Ping Binguan in town, phone number 0421 7822800. No warm water during my stay here. Another problem was leaving the hotel early. I had to awake the gueard at the reception to get the entrance unlocked. No local timetable (with the "all station stopping" passenger trains for sale at Yebaishou station. But at least there was the sound of steam engines still working here, and the weather was not too bad.

Summary of activity at Yebaishou:

Still some few steam engines in use, in blended schedule with the DF4. No day with the same schedule. Fuxin based QJ still working into Yebaishou, at least two trains in daylight. One or two QJ work as helper engines from Yebaishou to Boluochi or Chaoyang and return light engine. They may actually go from Yebaishou into Boluochi two or three times in a day. DF4 are always first engine, and if second engine is steam, that engine works as little as possible, very often not at full power, sometimes not at all.

Also orange DF4 can be seen on freights.

One JS is shunting at Pingzhuang. On Jan 30 it returned to Yebaishou in a freight handled by DF4 + QJ + JS. Two JS shunting at Yebaishou.

Jan 29, 2001: Gongyingzi to Boluochi, on the line towards Fuxin.

Up at 5.00 , I walked to the station. I was there too early, naturally. Did not look closely enough at the departure table. The first local train to Jinzhou does not run through Gongyingzi, but through Lingyuan!

Many QJ steaming in depot, at 6.00 arrival DF4+QJ +freight from Chifeng, departure DF4 + freight to Chifeng. JS shunting at station. Light from 7.30.

Train at 7.50 to Gongyingzi. I used the soft seat, as this train was quite full. Cost 10 RMB extra. They serve free tea in the soft seat car!

At Gongyingzi it was cold. I used all my clothing (Norwegian railway winter dress, jacket, wool sweater, wool trousers, hat, gloves, and that made it livable. Later, at noon, I had to undress most of this!
I walked along tyhe railway line on the way to Boluochi. See the map.
The line starts upwards from Gongyingzi station at km 202, and runs upwards until km 194. Many double headed freights send one engine back to Yebaishou from Boluochi or Chaoyang. Best photo positions are just after the big bridge and in a curve near km 198, but also on the actual top, for trains from the other direction. Guards at level crossings here are not equipped with phones, so they don't know when trains will go. Thus, they just help people look out before crossing the rails.
In some greenhouses near the big bridge at km 200, they grow vegetables. They roll up the straw mats isolating them in the morning and roll them down in the evening, this even now in the middle of the winter!

Trains seen:
8.15 DF4 + freight WB
8.48 DF4 + freight WB
9.01 DF4 7369 (built 1996) WB light engine
9.20 DF4 7424 (built 1995) +freight WB
9.50 QJ 6226 Fuxin +freight WB
11.00 DF4 2185, QJ 6554 +freight EB, QJ working not too hard.
11.13 QJ 6990 Fuxin +freight WB near top
11.28 QJ 6554 returning light engine tender first WB
12.34 DF4 7453 passenger EB
13.15 DF4 orange passenger EB
13.25 DF4 7454 passenger WB
13.40 DF4 7322, QJ 6418 +freight EB. QJ working hard.
    The a rest, sleeping in the sun at line side...
14.30 Finally a steam only train! QJ 6554 + QJ 6990 +freight EB. Hard working. Slow.
15.06 DF4 2264 passenger WB
15.23 QJ 6554 returning light engine WB
15.38 DF4 green + freight EB
16.10 QJ 6418 returning light engine WB
Short break in Gongyingzi, buying fruit near the station, wondering what to do until there is the westbound passenger train to Yebaishou. Tangerines cost here 1 RMB per jin, Bananas 2,50...
16.40 QJ 6226 Fuxin arrives station Gongyingzi with EB freight. Shunting, continues eastbound 17.00, just after sundown. The locomotive looked badly maintained.
16.43 DF4 2185 (Dalian 1988) + empty C62 freight WB
17.40 DF4 2122 passenger to Yebaishou. Ticket 1,50 RMB. DF4 7455 (Dalian 1995) takes over in Yebaishou.

I went back to the hotel, after taking a photo of the photographer just opposite. He is taking pictures of people in front of some colored baloons he has put up in the street.

Jan 30, 2001: Yebaishou, Shahai, Shinao, to Chifeng

Passenger train 6.55 to Shahai, baggage deposited at hotel. An amateur theater group joined the train to Shahai. They looked just like taken out of a typical Chinese film.
Long stop in Shinao. No semaphore signals any more. Clay works in full action here, loading C62 cars.
Off the train at Shahai, 5 km after top of the line. The theater group from Yebaishou also went off the train. Nice to see them acting and drumming while walking towards the town. I went along the line back to the top which is at km 17.2. Not too hard incline from here, but near the top, after leaving the trees planted along the line up to 21 per thousand. A lot of smog generated from villages in the morning. The road here is still dirt road but looks like they will asphalt it this year. They have put new gravel on it. At the hills people were cutting branches off the trees, for firewood. I also found a few graves near the top. Cold morning, but during noontime I needed few clothes. It could be interesting just to walk over the hills here. Nice landscape!
The day turned out to be less interesting. Few trains had steam, all of them blended with diesel. And when a diesel was present, the steam engine was not working hard.

9.30 DF4 7455 (premium crew engine) + tender first QJ 64.. (number unreadable NB freight, steam not working much)
9.48 DF4 6193 SB freight 17 loaded coal cars
10.15 DF4 6194 NB freight empty cars and loaded COAL CARS!!! (both 6193 and 6194 Datong built). They transport coal in both directions!
10.51 DF4 7368 SB passenger
12.02 DF4 7367 + QJ 6416 SB freight. Coal, oil, and empty C62.
12.32 DF4 2271 + QJ 6418 NB light engine, QJ not working.
    Weather got warm enough to walk in T-shirt only for two hours.
13.28 DF4 7358 + QJ 6554 NB freight through Shinao. QJ not working.
    Shinao has centrally controlled switches and signals now, otherwise a nice old station, fixed up and painted well.
Downwards max. speed 60, readable on a round sign, black edge, white ground, about 40 cm diameter, down from station.
DF4 1649 NB passenger at 14.22. This got too boring. I decvided to return to Yebaishou.
Taxi to Yebaishou 10 RMB.
JS 8237 and 8238 shunting at station.
QJ 6226 departs with freight to Fuxin 16.45. Same engine as yesterday, on the same train as yesterday.
QJ 6677 Yebaishou banking a freight to Lingyuan (DF4 in front) at 16.30. However, while still in the station, the QJ did not work much.
16.30 arrival of a long freight from Chifeng with DF4 7476, QJ 6418 and JS 8236. It is a pity I did not get this train at the top...
16.15 DF4 7318 from Lingyuan with freight
Train to Chifeng at 18.13 with DF4, I slept on the train. As usual, the conductor swept the car floor before arrival at Chifeng, thus I got awake early enough to see a JS shunting and Pngzhuang. Chifeng Binguan, 160 RMB. Expensive but here EVERYTHING worked, and warm water was abundant.

This day gave no steam only trains, and whenever steam was involved it either worked not at all or very lightly.

Summary of seen engines near Yebaishou:
QJ 6416, 6418, 6554, 6677 (The first three horrible, the last one relatively clean) all Yebaishou depot
QJ 6226 and 6990 Fuxin (dirty, almost unreadable numbers)
JS 8236,7,8 Yebaishou, relatively clean.
DF4 1649, 2122, 2185, 2269, 2271, 6193, 6194, 7318, 7319, 7322, 7358, 7367, 7368, 7369, 7424, 7428, 7453, 7454, 7455, 7456, 7475, 7476

Jan 31, 2001: To Daban

I walked to the bus station. This is not easy, as every taxi would stop and ask me to take the taxi... Luxury bus at 7.40 needed only 3 hours to Daban, 28 RMB. The new road was finished now. Problem: They show crime videos and have the sound too high. Ear plugs from the airline were good to have. At Daban center, a theater group was palying and dancing.

Summary Jan 31 to Feb. 7

Special situation with freight traffic: The line between Huhehaote and Baotou was blocked by a serious accident in the end of January and the beginning of February. This led to very low traffic level until Feb 2, with up to 20 QJ parked at Daban depot. From Feb 3 traffic "exploded", especially westbound. They transported long trains of empty C62 cars westbound, most of them single headed, and often one train every hour, sometimes even every 40 miutes. Eastbound light engines were common view until Feb 9. Some westbound trains had max loads of 2300 tons. They still transport hay to this region, as there is a shortage after the dry summer. Sometimes they ran a westbound freight every 40 minutes.

One day was used for line photographing near Gulumanhan and Chaganhada. Taxi =300 RMB. Near Chaganhada at km 666 is a large bridge in a 6 per thousand incline. With a good taxi driver you may reach km 665, by driving in the fields. The day ended by chasing QJ 6301 in the afternoon and evening sun all the way from Chaganhada to Daban. The train stopped for meeting trains at every station. A new interesting angle for videotaping was chosen by placing the camera between the rails.

There is also a new road bridge just east of Daban station, from which photography is good. No problem chasing trains eastwards. You will meet them again after a few kilometers and then near Gulumanhan if you have a taxi available here.

Temperatures were all the time between minus 20 and 30 degrees centigrade. Sometimes there was wind, sometimes not. One day had a light snow fall all over the line from Daban to Haoluku. Photography along the Jingpeng pass with light snow was extremely good.

Staying most of the time at Daban, I used the diesel express train to return in the evening. The soft seat car was quite empty most of the time. However, on every other day the return from west would have to be oin the steam train overnight. The way to do this was to take the diesel express west all the way to Sanggendalai, and there board the eastbound steam train and get a bed. Upon arrival at Daban, the first thing to do in the morning was experiencing the start of this train at sunrise.

Locomotive crews had a lot of struggle during this time with frozen coal, freezing water pipes between the locomotives and tenders, and iced engines. At some places along the line, snow had piled up and had been cleared away, seemingly having been removed by shovels. However, some snow was still laying high and a bit rolling down on the rails. This resulted in slipping if drivers were not very careful. It also looked like the last daylight train arriving Shangdian from west was always very heavily loaded. Speed below Shangdian was often down to a walking pace or less.

A few News about maintenance of the engines at Daban

They have about 200 people working in the workshop. Some of these are former engine drivers. The job at the workshop seems to be popular, as it means less time from home, more regular working hours. Engines get a boiler washout about every 4000 to 5000 kilometers. (The number named varies considerably between every time I visit Daban). Not only the boiler is washed then, but the whole engine is more or less cleaned, and a lot of small repairs and scheduled checks are done. At least one of the engine crews will participate in the job. The driving rods are removed and (magnaflux-, the white powder) checked. Every 8000 km they change the piston rings in one piston or valve gear.

An engine runs between 9.000 and 10.000 km every month, and between 80.000 and 1000.000 km every year. There is a major repair at a workshop like Sujiatun every two years.

Jitong engine roster see here. (Daban still has 44 engines, Chabuga 15. There is not much new.)

New engines in use: 6981, 6986, 6905
6998 and 6301 have a working stoker (however 6301 just got it blocked by freezing coal)
Locomotives waiting for repair: 6844 (repaired in 10/2000), 6984, 6925.
Locomotives in scrap line: 1760, 2388, 2706.

All Jitong locomotives have now got automatic train stop (ATS) and the whole line is fitted with it. The equipment looks like the German INDUSI and works a bit like that. But the magnet is active even when the corresponding signal is green. A horn starts sounding in the cab and the driver must press a button. This happens four of five times. Thus, it seems to be mostly a check that the driver is awake. The magnets are fitted on the left hand side of the tender between the bogies.

New Year traffic: During the Chinese New Year the passenger trains at Jitong ran with ten cars west of Daban (3 sleepers), and 9 cars (2 sleepers) east of Daban. Shunting done during stop at Daban station.

Summary Feb. 7 to 9

Visited the Jingpeng pass. The usual good action here. Few foreigners seen. China Railways Publishing House had a crew of photographers at the pass, with heavy professional camera equipment. Maybe they think about publishing a book?
The last evening light is on the approach to Liudigou, the 1.5 kilometers down from the station towards km 502. The sun disappears at 17.00
The first morning light was observed just above the school at SiMingyi, ideal for a morning up train at 8.00
Snow was partly deep, partly nonexistent, temperatures unknown, but the wind quite strong. Full mountain equipment needed for protection. I even bought a face mask in Reshui! On eastbound (lee) slopes, in some places had a lot of snow. Some of that was dangerous for avalanches.
All the animals are still outside grazing during the day. Thus, even now, it was possible to photo trains with horses, goats, sheep or cows in the foreground.
One train nearly stalled in the third Erdi tunnel on Feb. 9 afternoon. It was heavy and had QJ 7137 and 6633. The latter one is a Baiqi passenger engine, probably on its trip to Daban for repair. Speed was down to centimeters per second. After that train passed, I jumped on it to get through the tunnel. It took an awful long time, getting slower and slower, but then, finally, it picked up speed again, so I had to leave it.

One evening I was invited by a farmer collecting coal along the line, to his home in SiMingYi. They had the typical layout, a large room unwarmed when you enter, to keep tools and equipment. The actual living room is partitioned into two, by the large bed, called "kang". This bed is warmed from an oven in the middle of the room. On the floor they had a basket, and in it a two days old lamb. As it was Chinese New Year, they had baked some nice little cakes, fried in oil and dumped into sugar. Very good stuff with hot water or tea! These people, as other farmers in the same area, were extremely friendly. They wonder why we foreigners come there. So the explanantion was "because of the fire dragons". Well, for them the engines and trains are a constant source of coal to be collected along the line. They offered me all kind of food, but as it was getting dark I had to leave. (After darkness it is very difficult to get any transport along the road, as there are less cars and they do not as readily stop as during the day). This time I was lucky getting a lift by Mr. Li from Linxi who was driving a small japanese group. We came to Shangdian as two light engines were pulling in, and were invited to ride down to Reshui. The cab was full of big bags of merchandise. For the Japanese, this was quite an experience, but they got dirty.

People from Jitong line management (chief of locomotive operation) told me that steam is planned for another five years to come. Let us hope this will really hold!

Because of Chinese New Year, the tour back turned into a mess. Our plan was to catch the diesel train from Reshui to Jining Nan in the evening of Feb 9. We were two people, and actually did this. However, the train was absolutely full, even overfilled. The conductor asked us to leave the train in Jingpeng and wait for the steam train. About 50 people left the train there. We decided to rather sleep in Keshiketeng Binguan and have a nice night, and go to Beijing via Chifeng.

Feb. 10, 2001, Jingpeng to Beijing

Bus at 6.40 towards Chifeng via Reshui. This bus ran extremely slow, maximum 50 km/h, to Reshui. (There is a later bus going directly, arriving earlier!) Very cold still. Much ice on the road until Yuzhoudi. After that speed increased. Arrival Chifeng about 12 h.
No tickets whatsoever for any train available at Chifeng. Even the black market was dried up. Thus we made a quick decision and jumped on a sleeper bus to Beijing at 14.30, paid 65 RMB. Dinner stop at Chengde one hour late evening, arrival Beijing XiZhiMen 1.40, to Jing Hua Fandian by taxi. Sleeping bus was ice-cold, but otherwise not too bad to travel, sleeping or half sleeping in the bunk. But they had not only sleeping passengers, the whole aisle was filled up with sitting people in addition. In Beijing it was still freezing.