China Feb 13 to March 2, 2003: Zhundong, Jitong tielu

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Arrival Beijing 12.00, Taxi to China Rw Publishing Office, 2-7 factory and Dahuichang and back for 450.

More info about Dahuichang can be found from the following link: http://Steam_in_China/dahuichang/dahuichang.html

Nobody at Dahuichang. Looked around in the works for 30 miutes until someone came and requested money. Thus I moved out. The narrow gauge railway looks as decrepit as ever before, but locomotives 3 and 4 waited for service in the evening hours.

Dahuichang works has a web address:,
Address: Beijing Fengtai area DaHuiChang Lu 88,† Telephone: 010-83874411 (switchboard) †Fax: 010-83879145 †††† zip code: 100074

Text from their web page: «The Beijing Beijing Steel Corporation building materials chemical plant is situated at the Beijing western suburbs Fengtai area within the boundaries, subordinated the Beijing Steel Corporation main corporation, The works started in 1954. Staff is more than 1200 people, the factory district area 2200000 square meters, the is one limestone mine, annual production of limestone is 800000 tons; They produce lime for using in metallurgy, building, calcium hydroxide, calcium carbonate, clolonite and other products.

This factory has 10 kilometers of railroads and is connected to the China Rail lines to Beijing.

Back to 2-7 factory where newly repaired JF 2446 shunted. They invited me into the cab, stopped then at a sunny place and asked me to take photos there.

Flight to Huhehaote in the evening, ticket 500 Yuan, airport tax 50 Yuan. I slept in TaiYuan DaJiuDian, single room 188 Yuan, everything worked and warm. Few other guests.

14. 2. 2003 Huhehaote - Zhoujiawan

Visit to Jitong headquarters to discuss some matters. The locomotive roster can be found <a href=»../jitongtielu/jitonglocos.html»>here</a>. Jitong got its first QJs 1994 from Jining - Erlian, depot Saihantala, for use in work trains etc.
Just now, every year they train 15 new locomotive drivers.

I met the dispatchers. They described their job as merely tracking the train movements on the railway. Basically the procedure is as follows: China Rail informas Zhelimu and Benhong stations a while before a freight arrives there for Jitong line. They in turn phone dispatchers at Daban and Baiqi stations about these trains. (From China Railways magazine I know that the China Rail schedule is updated typically every three hours because freights run unreliably). Dispatchers at baiqi and Daban set up the timings for these trains, maybe after first having a cenference with the depots. The timings are approximate and are drawn on the diagram scgema by pencil and ruler. They have a sheet for every 24 hours, with the passenge rtrains put in first, and then they put the frieghts in between. The depot dispatchers in Daban and Baiqi decide which engines and crews are going to run these trains. If engines are lacking, they decide on light engine movements, and probably rearrange train timings to make locomotives available. Baiqi and Daban also have regular conferencing in order to exchange trains at Haoluku. The final step is that Daban and baiqi inform the dispatchers at Huhehaote, who more or less just track what is going on. The people in Huhehaote are also informed baout which engines are ready every day for which section, which are washed out, repaired or in reserve. It looked like the Huhehaote dispatchers just track what goes on and that the depots decide what to run and when.

Evening bus to Zhungeer. The bus station at Huhehaote is right outside the railway station on the right hand side of the railway station place. A bus to Zhungeer leaves about every 25 to 30 minutes. 1/2 hours extra waiting at start (do buses always run half an hour late?), then 3 hours ride. I went to Xi Yue Xiang Jiudian, tel 0477 4222119, besides the bus station, 20 yuan for a good room, but only cold water. They own a very good restaurant in the door besides. The young girls who serve there get 400 Yuan per month. None of them had middle school, as middle school costs 2000 - 3000 in school fees per year. Local police people had a dinner and proposed help with 4WD cars.

15.2.2003 Zhundong tielu

Motoche from hotel to station for 5 Yuan. An extremely bumpy ride! Much better to walk! 7 QJ in the depot. 8.27 QJ 6995 + 6827 light engine eastbound. In the depot were QJ 6907 and 6563 being cleared. Driver of 6907 invited me to join to Xiyinghe and back, he said we would be back in the evening. We went light engine 9.30. I fired part of the way. They have more lump coal than other places in China. In Fuxingcheng we took water, arrived Hushi 11.30, turned the egnines on the triangle, got water, removed slag, ate in the dining room at the station. Good food, clean and new facilities. The whole station is fully automated and centrally controlled. I was shown the signal room which had excellent equipment, well mounted, clean and tidy. German standard. The weather turned warm, and our crew had no plan, we just waited. This was like the end of the world.

14.00: QJ6573 down from Xiyinghe with 25 loaded wagons.
14.409 QJ 6613 up from Zhoujiawan, and it went up to the mine at 15. 15.40 next empty train with 7054 (Giesl ejektor) and 6759. The locomotives turned and we coupled on the train. But they somehow decided else, and at 16 we ran up without the cars. Xiyinghe is just an enormous coal loading palce with many sidings. Container cars with small containers and two water tank cars wer parked. We got coal from a bulldozer, the drivers chose which coal. The shunting for a while, and we went down with a train and an empty water car. 17.37, arrival Hushi 17.46. We romoved the water car at Hushi. Further at 18.10, full steam before Fuxingcheng, especially in the 1500 m long tunnel 2. Fuxingcheng 19.08. One hour waiting there for another westbound train, too long to fit into the siding, maybe more than 50 wagons?. Departure at 20.08 not too much work until Haizita, but the real hard work until tunnel 1, 830 m. Full steam there. 6563 with its Giesl ejector made a real volcano of its chimney.
I alighted at Zhoujiawan eastern station entrance, where the shunted to. No problem to follow the rails while there was full moon. 3 DF4B og 2 SS3: 0666, 0674, in the city depot (DaZhun railway). This was just behind the hotel.

16.2. 2003 Zhundong tielu

8.20 QJ 6565 and 7058 westbound light engine. 75 full coal cars were parked in the station.

Locomotives seen on Feb 15 to 16: 6555 and 6944 dumped in depot
6563, 6565, 6573, 6613, 6759, 6827, 6907, 6995, 7054, 7058, 7067 in use.

I needed 1 1/2 hours to walk the line to the top at km 9, then through the tunnel to km 12 and back through the tunnel. There is a niche every 80 steps. Some wildlife, rabbits and big birds, but no trains. Farmers partly live in homes dug out of caves! 15.30 QJ 6613 light engine westbound. 16.30 QJ 6563 and 6907 light engine westbound.
I gave up and went to Huhehaote, as eastbound traffic would probably come during the night.

Huhehaote Wang Fu Fandian besides the station for 100Yuan. They had a good buffet dinner, so you did not need to know what the things were called, just point on what you liked best....

17. 2. 2003 Huhehaote - Baiqi

Light snow, up to 5 cm most of the time. Jitong train 997 to Baiqi. The conductor girls had a problem keeping their faces straight. They have to stand along the train, but kept smiling at me.
Three times triple headed freight came against us, two triple DF4B, one witha brand new DF5 or DF7. Maybe new engine to Wuhai Xi. The train had more passengers now than before. They served a warm dinner at Benhong.
In Benhongwere QJ 7052 og 6987, and passenger engine QJ 6633, in Shangdu was a steamer and inSanjiehaizi came QJ 6764. The train policeman slapt most of the way. Very short visit to Baiqi depot, as the driver of QJ 7140 immediately invited me to join them eastbound. I did not know it was light engine, but firing was OK, for practice. A very rattling engine. We lost a lot of coal from the tender at speed, probably to the joy of the coal scavengers along the line.
A very nice and heavy train came against us at Xihuerqing, hard working QJ 6568. This was the only good looking Baiqi engine I saw this time. I went with 7140 to Sanggendalai to catch mixed 48001 back. But that one was cancelled in October. Sorry. So this became the ultimate nightly taxi trip home to Baiqi. The lone stranger in the lonely landscape on a way not cleaned from snow, sometimes through deep snow, some trucks blocking the way here and there, ... Never again.
But the driver can be highly recommended:  He Jing Hong, Citroen number H 00108, mobile phone 13947942606. He was a safe driver in such difficult conditions. I slept in Tiedao Binguan near the depot.

18.2. 2003 Line photography east of Baiqi

An extremely cold and clear day with excellent photography, lot of traffic but not much wind.
Trains worked extremely hard and slow both west and east of the summit at km 222. Photography for eatbound trains is best in the curve right after Baiqi. Near the pass it is difficult to get height or avoid poles. However, the pass ist good for westbound trains, even if they come on a straight line. If you have a car you may also take photos of westbound trains at a level crossing near Xihuerqing. I got both A 201 and A202 in daylight, with 9 green 25-cars each, and QJ. QJ 7088 on A202, 6965 on A201. There was an oil train to Xilinhot with DF4 9516, another ordinary blue white engine, and the diesel express to Xilinhot. There also came the China Rail train (736 I think) from Xilinhot with diesel. All else was steam. But the Baiqi engines all heavily leak steam. They are in not such a good condition as the Daban engines. Moving along the line was a bit heavy, due to snow.

They have three more diesels now, DF4 9516 to 9518, all looking like the other DF4D. In principle they could run everything diesel between Baiqi and benhong, if they ran the diesels a bit more. If they ran them with four crews each, they could put in more kilometers and probably run 600 kilometers a day. However, the DF4 are run like steam enegines with three crews each and run in between the steam engines, thus they are underutilized. They run as much as a QJ, only putting in an extra day every month when the QJ would have boiler washout. Jitong railway is planning to finish steam on Baiqi to Benhong this year.

At 21.05 train 6051 (50 min late) to Daban. 10 cars. The train was in Daban at the correct time!

19.2.2003 - 28.2. 2003 Daban - Jingpeng - Haoluku - Daban back and forth, working.

I got my usual room in the depot, greeted the people, and at 11 left again.
7009 (+6763) to Jingpeng. Empty coal cars, light train. The engine had a good boiler, easy to fire. Good for the first real work day, for exercise. Emergency braking just before Jingpeng, as a little girl tried to cross the line just in front of us. To our luck she had escaped unhurt.
Dinner with the drivers in the little station restaurant near the water column. We got the same food every coming day, it is made of primarily local raw materials, but good.
My plan was to return with K 997, and as we were late I had to leave here. At the station was a doctor waiting to go to Haoluku: He rode by freight train caboose, like many others. It seems to be the normal way of transporting people to Haoluku.

Another day 7009 had problems with slag: new coal! Thus coal is of varying quality even if it looks the same!

Yet another day there was a fireman exam. After that the fire was a mess at Linxi. They had to get rid of the slag, and part of the fire went down the drain, as the grate did not close again, so only half the grate was covered with fire at the end. It took half an hour until that engine had steam again.

Yest another day the showel was loose, and on one engine the firedoor would not open. Repairing the showel and then getting hte firedoor open again took more than five minutes, whereafter steam pressure was down to 10 Bar and remained there for a long time. All kinds of small trouble.

Sometimes heavy trains, sometimes light ones. The empty coal car trains are about 1000 tons, the heaviest drag was 2350 tons. With that load up from Jingpeng, we had a hard time pulling through the curves and tunnels above ErDi! Optimal driving was needed to keep the train moving, with a lot of sanding, opening up steam on the short straights and closing down a little in the tunels and curves.
Fire difficulties sometimes lead to only one engine working for some time, while the other one is cooking water. Maybe it is frustrating for photographers to see one engine shutting steam completely, but of there is too much slag, you sometimes have to save steam... One day the driver saw photographers, and decided just there to shut off steam for a while, letting engine number 2 do the work alone. Another driver did the opposite: On Feb 27, he opened up full steam and 50% cutoff every time there were people along the line. That was on QJ 6230 with 6763 as second engine. Does someone have a photo of that day?

On 20 Feb a little encounter with the mafia at Simingyi bridge: The mafia came, but the driver Zhang Wen Zhong definitely did not want to transport me in his new and clean Mitsubishi 4WD number D 20814. He got scared as I climbed in, dressed in my oily and coaly work dress. A photo of their car is now on my web site. Finally a minibus taxi came and transported me to Linxi, but needed more than one hour on this bad road. Two trains came westbound and made the trip slower... From Linxi another taxi for 80 to Daban depot.

A good way to go to the depot when arriving Daban with the passenger train is hitchhiking with the engine. However, you have to be fast out of the train then! Some engines had up to 15 people standing in the cab, all of them railway workers. Thus, from the station to the depot there was no firing. There is less hitchhiking with the engines the other way around, however.

Yes, and there were the coal scavengers at Linxi station: They creep below the engine and scrape away the coal on the tender coupling. Some drivers were chasing them away as fast as they could. Some drivers just let them get the coal. Poor people! Once we cleaned the back end of the tender from all coal dust lying around there. The scavengers were happy for this: Bags of coal dust!

And then all the photographers: They tend to be at the same places every time. You see a bus or taxi, and then after we pass they speed along. Soon after you see them again. I think they have never seen as many laowei as this winter.

23.2.2003 Daban hanging around

6301 went to the works in Tonghua for intermediate repair (Jiaxiu). The cab was rebuilt into a living quarter with two beds (planks), a little oven, and food and blankets. Rods and coal were off, the locomotivge had the sign: 168 t, 50 km/h. Thus my favorite locomotive disappeared this time. A few days later, QJ 6878 was in the same state and went east for repair n a freight train.
I found that eastbound trains got about 7 tons coal per engine, westbound 8 - 9. They measure this by the number of showels of the coal crane. It is 1250 kiograms each.

I bought another pair of glasses at the optician in town. The optician has served me well for years. He makes good glasses in half an hour. I was lucky buying them, as Ouzhuwang broke two lenses on two different days. Thus returning from China I still had one pair of galsses...

The photo shop, however, is not good. They develop the film well, but to get good pictures you have to tell them the settings for their machine, standing behing them.

They had bicycles in the bike shop in town. A good one with gears costs about 700 Yuan. Maybe next time I have my own bike here.

The level crossing crossing guard at Haoluku is 72 years old, still working. His little granddaughter showed me her schoolbooks, how she learned pinyin and Hanzi. Most of the texts are rhymes. They served me salt tea with milk. Not bad, especially after a hard day with work. I got an excellent video shot taken by the little girl, of a train starting towards Baiqi, with enormous steam plume and thunder. But she felt so big and educated as I could not read much of her schoolbooks!

One day I took train A 201 from Haoluku back to Daban. Soft Sleeper! Luxury! There were even taxis at Daban station upon arrival in the middle of the night and I thus came back to the depot easily. (but they took double price at that time). Another evening I was in town too late and had to walk back all the way. Absolutely no taxis out on the road. But nice starts and absolutely dark night. You never have the stars likie this in Europe!

28.2. 2003 Daban depot, 7009 boiler washout and repair

Interesting work. 25 people take of virtually everything, check and build up again. Like ants all over the engine. I had the chance to go into the smokebox, firebox, and see a lot of things going on. They did about what we normally do ever year in a museum locomotive. In one day! Even some new rod bearings were mounted. All rods and a few more parts were checked with magnaflux, and they repaired a lot of small stuff which had accumulated during the month of service. And in the evening a new locomotive leaves the workshop...

From here back to Beijing no problems. In Beijing there were the two model shops, and I got the last QJ 6800s they had this time. Maybe I will rebuild one into a Daban engine.

In the evening Ouzhuwang and I had a trip to the fruit market. The seller asked where I was from. I answered «from Norway» and he answered «good you are not a bad American». He got a lot of trouble explaining when Ouzhuwang said he was from the US :-)

And then we went to the acrobat show in Chaoyang theatre. It is a real treat. Jinghua Fandian arranges the driver and all! I have never seen as many people on one bicycle as in this show! Definitely worth a visit.

My wife is a Psychiatrist and Ouzhuwang asked for  her professional opinion on what could be done about this obsession with steam locomotives ("absolutely no cure")? NO, there is absolutely no cure! Being away from the engines for too long time leads to really depressing symptoms. Work at the museums railway helps a bit. And she whill definitely not come to China with me, because I will not go to much else than steam engines. If we go to Beijing visiting places I will always think I should rather be at Dahuichang...


Jitong line has much traffic just now, and their engines at Daban run a trip to Haoluku at 24 hours or less time distance. The extreme was only 18 hours turnaround time. Not bad for freight engines! Most of the times they had no spare engines in the depot. They were considering to steam two of the stored engines. As always, nobody could tell about the future of steam, but it looks like Baiqi to Benhong is going to finish this year.

Railway workers are selling souvenirs of all kinds, and even cab rides come at a price (I never paid anything, as they consider me to be a fellow worker). In principle it is forbidden to have foreigners in the cab. Some station people report to managers. Thus the crew will want foreigners to disappear at certain places. If they take money, part of that is to cover the risk of the fine. With the low pay they have compared to us, I think it is more than fair that they try to extract money from rich people along the line. I was quite «done» after nine days of work out there, and thinking about the pay that would have given me if I was an ordinary worker I just have to honor them. The more they earn from foreigners along the line, the better!

There is one thing I do: Daban depot gets a sum every year to plant trees. Maybe a few more people may want to join in, paying for new trees at more places along the line. Get a forest on hills along the line called up with your name!