I arrived Beijing
on SAS flight, had my baggage and passed customs in less than 30 minutes.
Airport bus to town (railway station. Had my baggage in a locker in the soft
class waiting room. This time there was a lot of police around in town, more
than I ever have seen before. No explanation, no trouble for me either. Just
strange. Then to China Railways Publishing Office, to check the availability
of books. They have some new nice picture books, one about the modern China
rail, for 450 RMB, one history of steam locomotives. Even the safety and
signal book is on sale, as well as a Chinese - English- Chinese dictionary
of railway terminology (a Russian and German one also). The Bachmann shop
nearby was, however, closed. Had a trip on Tiananmen square, where they
flew kites as always. The internet cafe in the old station building at Qianmen
square was fine. Good computers, fast access, good keyboards. I headed to
Huhehaote on K 263. It had NY7 0015 as its engine. Even with the station
electrified, there are still no electric locomotives to see. A lot of DF4D
and DF11, amongst them DF 11 0128, 0143, both Beijing depot.
There was one problem with the soft sleeper, unexpected: The loudspeaker in the compartment could not be switched off. The volume was far too high. But luckily they switched it off at 22h, on again at 7.
When leaving the train I saw the second unit of the diesel train to Daban waiting at the station. The driver knew me and wondered if I would like to have a cab ride... But not this time. After some food I headed to the Jitong line administration where I spent the day.
They currently own 115 or 116 QJ, 6 DF4D, 2 sets of diesel motor units. Chabuga has 19 QJ (2 dead), Daban 53 QJ ( 8 dead or stored), Baiqi 43 QJ (14 dead or stored) and 6 DF4D. (In the numbers, QJ 6354 is not counted, but it should be shunting at Benhong.) In the operation office they know exactly who is driving which engine where. Actually they duplicate the information every depot has locally. Number of freight trains per day is about 15 in every direction. They say traffic is increasing. Several stations have got new tracks, and four stations are new from this year. This should improve performance, as trains have shorter waiting times for crossings. They also confirmed the working scheme between Jingpeng and Shangdian, where one engine often goes back to Jingpeng to help the next train over the pass.
They had internet
access on a computer, but my site was not visible this time, timed out.
Slow connection probably. They told me they sometimes got international
web pages, most of the time not.
I took the train at 18.34 to Baotou. However, Huhehaote has no tickets for this train. Thus I entered the station with a platform ticket. About half of the seats in the train were empty, as people were leaving the train at Huhehaote. I sat in the hard seat part. The chief conductor had finished selling tickets, so he told me to buy a ticket in Baotou, after travel. I so did. But nobody cared.
At the station there
were the usual engines and trains. Lots of DF4B on freights, both single
and double headed. DF4D mostly on passenger trains. A DF4B on a two coach
DF5 1566 (Huhe)
DF4B 1406 built Dalian 1987, (Jining)
DF4B 3955 built 1994, (Huhe)
In Baotou no sign
of steam. I used XiHu hotel, as before. 116 RMB, warm water available,
really warm. However, there was construction going on in the street below
from 3.40 at night.
Weather was bad today. But I was up early, not seeing it. It started to rain as I entered the bus, then was thick fog on the way to Dongsheng, to end up with heavy rain when I was at the large bridge near Aobaogou.
I thought I did something smart by taking the first bus to Dongsheng. The first bus was scheduled at 6.20, but left at 6.10, without the usual slow driving through town. At the yellow river bridge we met the endless column of coal trucks heading north. It is still the old road, the new one still being constructed. Many cars had no light in darkness, dangerous driving. Driving was quite fast until Singing Sands, then came a short stretch of new road upslope, still quite good, but then we entered the construction area. The old road was completely destroyed by construction work. Our bus hit some stone and broke the springs for the back axle. We humped on at 5 km/h and our driver searched for a workshop. Finally he found one. No information about how much time this would take. "Just wait". I finally decided to take one of the minibuses around there. The bus has cost 12 RMB, I paid another 10 for the minibus, who then took on a lot of other people and headed along the new road, through construction and all, on the wrong side, to Dongsheng. The motor was a bit out of order, and my heart was beating hard every time we had to climb a hill and there seemed to be no power. But somehow we got over the hills. Full speed down helped in climbing the next hill etc. We finally made it, about half an hour after the express train had been into Dongsheng. With another taxi, I found XiongPeng Dajiudian, a brand new hotel about 1 km form the station. Their phone number is 8323636, and they were friendly and efficient. There were not many guests. All things worked, and there was a lot of warm water. They even dried my clothing in the evening, when I was wet through after heavy rain. Their official price was 180 RMB per room per night, but they only wanted 75. Introductory offer?
I finally reached Dongsheng station at 11, and there was steam: One train came in from north, another one left, accelerating hard. Then another one from south had stopped at the station entrance and started just as I arrived there, followed by a southbound one. All with QJ! I then headed south along the line, towards the bridge at km 107. Weather was too dull for photography, but video was OK. I got the first 4000 tons train working hard upwards in the curve above the bridge. It had started raining, and the rails were wet. Some slipping. Sitting at the bridge was not that easy, as the dogs from the nearby house started barking every time they saw me. Anyway, next train was a disappointment: 2 DF4, no helper! And immediately after the two came down again with empties... But these were the only DF4 seen here. It started pouring down, plus hard wind, and with a temperature of just above freezing it turned cold. I headed up again, to get the last up-train just before entering Dongsheng. Hard working. You could see the fire in the engines responding to the exhaust beats! At the level crossing km 102 were several taxis, waiting for passengers. I took one back to the hotel. Had a nice dinner, as the only restaurant guest, watched by about 20 waiters waiting at every ones table. The hotel had opened in October. I slept from 20.00
Dongsheng 11.15 QJ 7053 with Linhe depot codes arriving from north (I saw that engine in Wuhai Xi Oct. 2000), QJ 6567 heading north with 4000 tons train.
They checked the brakes on the southbound train for 10 minutes.
11.39 another 4000 ton-train having stopped at the south entry pulled in with QJ 6307 (overhauled in 99), Giesl ejector, 6088, 6740 (overhauled in 99).
11.53 QJ 6740 + 2938 tender first southbound.
12.50 QJ 6452 + 6287 tender first southbound.
13.15 near large bridge: QJ 6179, 6194, 6740 4000 tons train northbound.
13.45 diesel motor unit northbound
14.15 QJ 6169 + 6088 southbound
14.30 DF4B 9497 + 9498 northbound with 50 C64 cars with coal.
15.20 QJ 6404 southbound without train
15.50 Passenger train southbound with QJ 6863 (6063?). Driving really fast.
16.53 both DF4 with empties southbound.
17.30. Last light. QJ 2938 + 2977 + 6404 with 4000 tons train up at km 102.
Nov. 4, 2001: Shabazi, to Huhehaote in the evening.I slept , not hearing my alarm clock. Up at 6.50, taxi to station, bought some eggs and cake and soda from hawkers around the station. Nice sunshine, temperature just below freezing, no wind. Plan was to take the train to Shabazi, then walk to Xiangshawan, and from there take the evening train to Baotou. However, they told me that Xiangshawan (Singing sands station) has no train stops in winter. Thus, the trip got a bit amputated. Weather was nice, and after a while quite warm and enjoyable.
Dongsheng to Shabazi was 3.50, RZ to Baotou was 15. The express even had
clean windows. There was a diesel shunter at the power station at Dalateqi.
Nice run into the sundown at Baotou station. Then, diesel took over. They did not sell tickets longer than Baotou. The reason was: Baotou sells the places, and the train got absolutely overfilled. 100% on RZ and at least 120 % in YZ. Thus, from Baotou to Huhehaote I had to stand in the gangway. But nobody to sell a ticket...
They had DF4D at
Baotou for the expresses: numbers seen are 3105, 3150, 0550.
DF4C had the freights. Seen: 4327, 5320.
In Huhehaote a local train with two passenger cars and DF4B 3126. The same locomotive had this two car train next morning.
In Huhehaote I used Wang Fu Fandian, out of the station, first road 100 meters to the right. 109 RMB, even room number facing the station. Even here in Huhehaote there was more police visible than usually. But again, they were not interested in me. To telephone I had to use a public phone outside the hotel. My mobile phone did not get connection until Jingpeng.
Nov. 5, 2001: Huhehaote to Baiqi
I headed right on the DMU train (997 to Daban) without breakfast. Got a lot of fruit and soda with me instead. No problem to get a RZ ticket to Baiqi. 84 RMB. The little shop on board provided me with enough food later on. East of Huhehaote, and even after Jining, the mountain tops had snow. The car was quite cold, but a conductor changed that after I asked for warmth. On the other hand, the YW car was overheated. They still have these nice ladies for conductors. Friendly staff!
The landscape looked as dry as ever. Here and there railway construction. Maybe a few new shortcuts to smooth curves? Some new sidings under construction along the line to Jining.
To Jining, everything
DF4B 7057 Huhe,
6005, 7157, 6109, 1473, 7161, 3953, 7304, 6031, 7167 all Jining.
DF4D 0550 premium engine from Huhehaote.
At Benhong was a large pile of coal, then a QJ at the depot and one waiting with an eastbound freight. Snow after Shangdu. Stone walls against blowing sand and snow on the north side of the railway everywhere there was a cutting. Fruit plantations after Shangdu. Most of this is treeless country, quite flat. Only near Baiqi some hills.
At Baiqi straight to Tiedao Binguan, a nicely renovated hotel at the depot entrance. I then headed into the depot and was received very friendly, guided about half an hour and then left alone for walking around until sundown. Got a meal in a side house to the hotel, together with the hotel employees. Had a good night with steam whistles all around.
The depot had about
6 or 7 engines under steam, amongst them 6854, 6855, 6912, 6997. PLus all
the dumped or stored ones. Depot staff told they are intended for Sanggendalai
to Xilinhaote. My theory is that at least the locomotives with numbers below
6000 are just dumped. They did not look too well. It also looks like somebody
has thrown stones into the windows of all the engines. Let us hope they will
really use them when Xisang line opens.
Nov. 6 Baiqi, to Sanggendalai
at east end of the station. The passenger to Benhong headed west with QJ
7141 when it was still dark. Two morning trains had a hard time climbing
the slope east of Baiqi. Real hard work, and good light. Very good morning
location. Eastbound trains have a 6 per thousand slope against them for
about 5 km, then as steep down again into the next station. A good position
is right at the station entrance, and one more about one kilometer farther
east, after the curve. Walking back from there it was tempting to try a shortcut
right over the grasslands, but a river gorge stopped me.
However, west of Baiqi came nothing until 14.30, when I already waited at the station with my stuff. There is a water reservoir just outside the depot on the west approach. Again, I saw the flights to Europe crossing over here. Then eastwards by the diesel train. RZ ticket only sold on the train. The line to Sanggendalai has more curves and some trees and sand dunes. Two good areas: One station east of Baiqi, and one before Sanggendalai. At Sanggendalai was QJ 6353 shunting oil cars before dark. Station master invited me in and then showed me to the presumable best hotel outside the station: Hengli fandian. Three rooms only, but clean. No water (got a water bottle). Toilet = "Go somewhere into the terrain". Outside are a lot of drunk people. Not a good place here.
Nov. 7, Sanggendalai - Xilinhot - Jingpeng - Daban
First I had a trip
around the depot under construction. Nobody there at 7, the construction
workers only arrived near 7.45. Most of them were carrying shovels and
pick axes. They lived partly in improvised shelters around the depot. The
layout was that of a typical steam depot. A train passed by from east,
but without steam. It seems to be very flat around here.
Some people were laying rhombus formed stone patterns along the new line, they said it was to protect the line against sand storms blowing the earth away. They unloaded ties at the station, and loaded them on trucks heading 80 km north to XiMa.
Most depot buildings were up, including a maintenance hall. But most of the tracks were still lacking. They were working on the concrete structures of the inspection ditches, and of the ash pits. A steam crane was parked there, but not under steam.
Got a taxi to Xilinhot, actually a man driving back his taxi. He wanted 120, I paid him 150 and asked for a few extra stops on the way. we headed north along the new line, see my report . Most scaring was the roundabout where the Jingpeng road and the Sanggendalai road meet just outside Xilinhot: People do not drive round they way they should do, but take the shortest way, even if that is against the circle. (By the way a few days later at Daban, there was a police post checking this up. The fine was 50 Yuan).
Xilinhot is a modern
town, 101.000 inhabitants, but kind of faceless. Nearly all buildings seem
to be modern, and some streets with old small houses are being torn down
and rebuilt with blocks. I got a bus further to Jingpeng. Just east of the
town, coal seems to be just under the ground. Lots of small mines, probably
with only a few people working each one. They were all producing small amounts
of coal and packed them on trucks. Some of the coal was used locally in
brick works all around the place. Then came long rolling hills, not much
vegetation. After 80 km the road to Da Li Hu, the famous lake and summer
tourist spot. But all this is closed in winter. After a while we passed a
large windmill farm, and nearby some iron ore mines, probably the ones they
will use Shangshuitou station for. The road was good, and the bus running
fast, nearly no villages on the way, only when nearing Jingpeng.
As we were nearing Jingpeng I stopped the bus at the large railway bridge and walked the line into Jingpeng. Two trains came up and one down before it was dark. The large bridge is good for afternoon light. It was impossible to wade through the river here, but there is easy access to the bridge with stairs. Even at Majiazi it can be nice, with desert and mountains in the background.
From Jingpeng I took the diesel express train to Daban, where I was awaited by Heliwen of Daban depot. This time I went to the railway hotel. It was 64 Yuan per night, but warm water was probably only 30 degrees at its maximum.
Summary Nov. 8 to 16I was at Daban, working on engines. One day at Lindong, one morning east of Daban station, one day in the workshop.