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Digang - Dangtu - Ma'anshan - Nanjing
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|15 December 2017|
My first day in Nanjing didn't go according to plan. I packed up my daily equipment and headed off to the elevator and almost made it to the ground floor until some interesting and very rapid digestive movements had me pounding on the button for the 18th floor again. I tried again about an hour later after taking some railway photos out of the window in the meantime, and this time made it halfway to Xiaoshi Metro station before a similar incident. It was becoming very obvious that I would not be able to be more than arms reach from a bathroom. This would see me lose one of the narrow gauges and I chose to strike off the 762mm gauge Yeshan Iron Railway running north of the city. This seemed to be the most threatened of the three remaining narrow gauges and I would have a small chance to visit at least a very small section of it the next day. My camera equipment was also happy to have a reprieve from the now moderate rainfall and I really couldn't complain about the view. During the day, I recorded almost one hundred trains and missed dozens more. There was a far higher amount of electrics than diesels, but a very good spread of different types were seen.
The CRH sets share the mainline with the contemporary trains until they cross the Yangtze River bridge. Five different types were seen, the most common being the CRH2. A real treat was finally catching the yellow CRH5J set slowly snaking out of the CRH yard. This eight car set is now ten years old and is a 250kph test train used for high speed rail diagnostics. Most of the carriages contain equipment to monitor Communications, signals, catenary and track. Two of the cars are for the crew.
Electric trains are the most common type of traction used on this section of line with HXD2B's being the only type seen on freight service. All units seen are Shanghai Bureau, Nanjing depot. An interesting note I saw in this region (including diesels) was all trains run with white and red marker lights illuminated. A military train was seen behind a HXD2B hauling mostly personnel vehicles.
Electric hauled passenger trains had a far greater range of models types, mostly the HXD types. The highlight of all of these was seeing decorated HXD1D 1898 "Zhou Enlai" running light engine into the locomotive depot after bringing in a train from Shanghai. The SS9G's were also a fairly common sight and it was really great to see two of the early SS9's both departing Nanjing for Beijing. Unfortunately both were seen at night and on both occasions, the photos came out pretty bad due to me experimenting with other night photography and failing to change the settings back!
On the diesel front, DF11's are the most common type found in passenger service. A solitary DF4D was seen coming off duty and a DF7C in blue, grey and yellow uniform was seen working the freight sidings towards the old Nanjing west railway station. A surprising amount of ND5's were seen. #211 seems to have two regular workings each day (this would be confirmed over the coming days), arriving from the east early morning, then heading back out a couple of hours later. This would be repeated in the evening with the train returning just before midnight. On its morning run on this day, a DF7C was included in the outgoing working but did not return and did not appear to be under power so was presumably just hitching a lift elsewhere.
In contrast to what I had seen however, the majority of ND5's seen were the later phase 2 models in the very good looking dark green and gold colors. A pair of westbound units were seen light engine and another pair heading a large military train of rocket artillery and support vehicles. From my altitude, I was able to see a number of rockets being transported inside standard C type gondolas away from prying eyes. Except mine!
As well as a decent mix of motive power, there were a number of interesting pieces of rolling stock seen also. One freight train had seven TKH class carriages. At least one of these, a TKW22B appears to have been converted from a standard YZ22B car, however the others including a TKH25B appear to be purpose built. The TKH class are very interesting being used in the civilian nuclear industry. From the research I've made, the passenger car TKH cars are used for crews to monitor the cargo being carried in the box car type wagons.
As for passenger cars, the majority of types were 25G, K and T stock. All 25K types are now in dark green and gold and only a select few 25G and 25T still bear their original liveries.
|16 December 2017|
Despite a rocky beginning to the day, I was certainly feeling a lot better than the previous one. Today I decided to start off my Nanjing tour with a quick visit to an area south of the city before heading off to the other side of the river to the old Nanjing Bei railway station.
I used the green Metro line from Xiaoshi station to (green line) to Wudingmen. From here, a ten minute walk to where the railway crosses over Qinhong road. I barely had time to bring my camera out f the bag before a south bound ND5 freight raced over the bridge. I walked north from here through a busy market which brought me out on the bank of the Qinhuai river where the railway crosses over a large plate girder bridge. This is quite a well known spot amongst local railway enthusiasts and for good reason as there are a number of excellent vantage points nearby.
Immediately across the other side of the river is a multilane level crossing on Daming road. The level crossing hut has a large TV screen for the public with a live feed showing where the trains are between Nanjing and Wuhu. This became quite a helpful tool in deciding where to be for any given train, even though there is plenty of notice given from the ND5's 3 chime Leslie air horns which are utilised very liberally by the crews.
I spent a little over two hours here capturing five freight trains all with early ND5's on point. Most trains were mixed freight, although I again found the same rail train that I had seen in Ma'anshan a couple of days ago. These trains are classified as T11BK and comprise of a number of crew cars and up to 31 modified flat cars that carry rails 500 meters in length. A loaded train can carry enough rail to lay some 14 kilometres of track. These trains were developed by Shenyang Rolling stock work in the late 1990's to assist with the contruction of China's high speed rail program.
While I could have spent the entire day here, I had a long list of things to do and time was running out so I pressed on towards the old Pukou railway station (also known as Nanjing North) on the other side of the river, using a taxi to get me to the Zhongshan ferry terminal. On the meter this was about 90 RMB, obviously more expensive than public transport options, but much faster taking into account walking times and working out the bus system.
Getting onto the ferry is very easy, simply walk in the terminal, insert two RMB into the slot and walk on board. Ferries to the other side are very cheap and frequent. The bottom level is used by scooters/motorbikes and the upper deck for passengers. The ride across the river takes about ten minutes or so to Pukou wharf and the railway station lies directly opposite. Watching the underpowered scooters and motorbikes attempt the steep ramp off the ferry was particularly amusing!
The streets surrounding the station are very beautiful, with features reminding me of what China used to be like on my first visits to the country some 18 years ago - large oak trees line the streets with old grey brick buildings either side. Elderly people smoke pipes on the sidewalks and tiny convenience stores under slowly disintegrating concrete & brick apartment buildings are still busy trading goods. Many of the buildings date back more than a hundred years and most are still in original condition for now, unusual for China.
Pukou railway station is very historical, originally constructed in 1914, but rebuilt after heavy bombardment in 1937. It was the largest station on the Tientsin- Pukou railway however it lost its significance after the rail ferry was made obsolete with the opening of the Yangtze River Railway bridge in 1968.
The station has not had a passenger service for many years, however one of the platforms is now being used to load freight wagons from a local factory and other rolling stock is stored in the platforms. Access onto the platforms is forbidden, at least officially.
Around the old passenger exit point at the left, the old turnstiles and handrails still painted in old fashioned light blue with the paint fading and dust and leaves covering everything. Some of the old waiting rooms can be seen into, with rows of chairs stacked on top of each other. The main station building is currently storing a large amount of old billboard advertisements from what appears to be from the 1930's and 1940's marketing alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate. Many of these are worn and decayed indicating that these are most likely original pieces.
Sadly, on the right hand side of the station many of the older ancillary railway buildings are being 'restored', which for people unfamiliar with China, means tearing them down and rebuilding them in a similar style, but nothing like what they used to be. Modern building materials for roofs such as sheet aluminium are used, together with LED lighting, aluminium windows frames, etc. By following the alley way at the right of the station, I found a large level crossing with tracks leading towards the old rail ferry loading point. Many of the tracks in the area are still used, chiefly for containers which are loaded onto barges to serve industry up and down the huge river.
Shunting work is done by either a DF7C or an ND5 diesel. As my luck would have it, I had the ND5 on this day, one of the later phase 2 machines in dark green. It made a number of passes through the level crossing in a short period of time splitting a long train of container flat cars and JSQ6 automobile carrier cars into the various sidings.
This crossing must be very frustrating for the few motorists and hundreds (literally) of motorbikes as the train slowly pushes a long rake of wagons through. A bridge has been fairly recently built for pedestrian traffic at the same level crossing and this gives a very good view into the mouth of the yard, although it is fitted with very tall and annoying green mesh fences (a telephoto lens works fairly well through this however).
In the freight tracks to the west of the level crossing is a superb 1960's era concrete crane structure which was used to load a variety of cargo into wagons onto trucks. It still retains all of its original signage and features, although it has clearly not been used for many years and is now used as a car park. A number of sidings on the south side of the station are still used also, but I left these unexplored.
After getting up close and personal with the ND5 while it made a number of shunts, I continued north towards the Yangtze river bridge. This required walking through some very old style villages through very narrow streets. Eventually I came across some more old tracks after entering an industrial yard on the bank of the river and I could quickly make out the remains of the old railway ferry loader.
I tried to find a way onto the old structure without entering another active industrial yard, but soon came to the conclusion that there was no other way. I quickly found a small track leading onto the deck which is used by some farmers to access their micro fields. I noticed a few signs which I presumed were to keep off it, but later found these were a warning about leeches!
This 200 meter long structure is made up of four steel truss sections. These spans were actually built in Middlesbourgh, England in 1933 and then disassembled and shipped to China. The deck is made from some very solid timber beams, still in surprisingly very good condition. At the far end is the old control block, however my access here was thwarted by a very grumpy (and untethered) German Shepherd! Like most other things here, everything is still in the condition it was when abandoned, including the old communications tower with the very old style radio transmitters and antenna still in place.
Being winter, the daylight was running out fast and it looked like I would have no time to visit the Yeshan Iron ore narrow gauge to the north of the city. This was one of the lower priority items on my list as there are many recent news stories that show the mine and station at Yeshan appears to have become more of a tourist attraction with bicycle powered rail carts for rent. I still deemed it worth a visit had I had the time, as there were a few other things of interest I would have liked to have seen, a C2 steam locomotive and the old 762mm gauge diesels. A point of note, it looks like the line may not have finished its industrial purpose just yet as one of the major river bridges looks like it is getting rebuilt on Google Earth ( 32°15'33.25"N 118°46'15.63"E ) . This line has been rumoured to have been threatened for some time, however this level of investment suggests there may still be a little life yet.
I spent my remaining hour of daylight on the bank of the Yangtze river to photograph the trains make their way over the extremely impressive Yangtze River Bridge. This mega structure was completed in 1968, making the old rail ferry obsolete. It was an engineering marvel and a source of great pride in China, with its likeness often used in propaganda, postage stamps, food coupons, etc. The lower rail deck spans over 6700 meters and carries traffic for Nanjing-Xian, Beijing-Shanghai, Nanjing-Qidong and the Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu high speed railway. Unfortunately for me, the bridge was closed to pedestrian and road traffic and was having its upper deck rebuilt. The huge concrete statues at each end were covered in scaffolding and a lot of construction equipment could be clearly seen. Rail traffic was still open, not surprising given its importance and was extremely busy at that. In one hour, twelve trains were seen with much the same type of traffic as seen from my hotel window - HXD2B's, HXD3C, HXD3D, HXD1D, SS9G, etc. One nice surprise was a DF8B diesel behind a HXD2B on a regular freight train, most likely on a transfer. The sun fell very quickly and with no taxis in the area, probably as a result of the bridge closure, there was no way I would make it to the narrow gauge line before night fall. Instead I set off on foot to the closest Metro station to get back to the hotel, meeting up with Rickly Wong very late in the evening.
|17 December 2017|
My first day with my mate Rickly out on the mainline. After Rick had his inital China Rail fill from the hotel window followed by a muffin & coffee from the downstairs Starbucks, we were off in a Didi car (think Chinese Uber) to the southern suburb of Nanjing called Guxiong. Guxiong can be found on Google Earth at coordinates 31°55'12.21"N 118°39'21.06"E. The station no longer sees passenger service. There is a small curved freight yard and a number of small industries which are still actively rail served. Just north of Guxiong, an industrial branch line peels off the mainline to the east and then south to some privately owned mines.
We arrived at Guxiong station and found a nice location on a platform just north of the station. The strong light favoured south bound trains and we were not waiting long before our first freight train arrived from Wuhu and held in the passing loop and only minutes later, a south bound train shortly thundered through with a mixed freight train. We saw a total of four ND5 powered freight trains in a very short amount of time.
One of these trains removed two chemical tank wagons from the front of its consist and shunted them into the siding, partially obscuring our view. The conductor told us in no uncertain terms to stay off the tracks after he suspected we would try and reposition in front of these new obstacles! Another train had some interesting TP64G box cars, rebuilt from standard P64's and used in special carrier service, often using a suspended load system to transport sensitive freight. They lack the side hatches of the P64's and are equipped with large roof hatches, roof mounted vents and walkways. ND5 0260 is currently based at Guxiong as a yard shunter.
We walked up a bit further up line to the small river bridges crossing the Banqiao river, passing through a very old, charismatic and sadly condemned village, due to be pulled down in the coming weeks to be replaced with more new bland concrete condominiums. A few ND5 freighters moved through here including a north bound phase 2 ND5. Unlike my previous days on the mainline, today we were getting an almost 50/50 mix of both types of ND5.
We were also very lucky to catch a non-ND5 freight, which asides from the DF4B seen in Wuhu, would be the only one I would see on the China Rail mainline in my entire time here. This one was being hauled by a very rare DF10DDB class diesel, my first time to find this type. I am not sure the differences between a standard DF10D locomotive, most likely some engine tweaks.
After Guxiong, Rick summoned another Didi to move us further up the line to Youfanqiao. Youfanqiao is also the end of the red metro line (line 2), although this will change shortly as it is due to be extended all the way to Ma'anshan once the current China Rail lines are realigned out of Nanjing city limits.
During the planning phase of this trip, I had tried to book into a small hotel here positioned between the railway line and the highway. Some of the rooms on the third level have rooms with a superb view overlooking the railway as it crosses the Qinhuai New River. Unfortunately being a foreigner, they would not allow me to make a booking and I would later learn this kind of hotel is for 'gentlemen' and was usually booked on an hourly basis. Still, we found some great spots on an adjacent pedestrian bridge where we found a DF4D leading train K34 and another couple of ND5 freighters. Rick and I headed back to town for lunch, an almost unheard concept for me during my Chinese railway expeditions! We spent the rest of the daylight hours where I had been the previous day around the Qinhuai river bridge.
I was more than happy to spend more time here after my luck yesterday and this was a must for Rick to see during his brief visit. It turned out to be a good idea and we had arrived at an extremely busy period. We barely had enough time to change to different locations around the bridge and level crossing before another train was upon us. The sun was already getting low, but the afternoon light provided us with some incredibly satisfying shots. We had dinner in the upmarket '1912 Nightlife District' in a fantastic BBQ restaurant before retiring for the night. Rick was to catch an early morning flight and I would have a long day on the narrow gauge to the west of the city.
|18 December 2017|
Unfortunately on this day I woke up a little late. Probably a culmination of being absolutely exhausted from the week that had flown by and still recovering from my previous ailments. By the time I checked out of the hotel, it was already 10:30 and I headed straight for the green Metro line from Xiaoshi to the connecting station with the purple line at Jiuhuashan for the terminus station of Xianlinhu. This took more time than I had anticipated as every second train was terminating at the station before to shunt out, being the end of the morning peak. Of course Murphy's law was smiling upon me and by the time I arrived at Xinlinhu, it was already past midday.
Finding the narrow gauge line was extremely easy, as it runs right next to the Metro line and with no fences or other obstructions, I was walking along the line within a minute. My plan was to walk to the unloading point at the northern end of the line, and then make my way across to the 762mm gauge line to Baohuashan to photograph the narrow gauge trans running through the town. Ultimately this would not work out as the distance to walk just to the unloading point at Qixia took much longer than expected.
The Jiangnan Onoda Cement company runs a 900mm gauge railway, a very unusual size for China. It runs for approximately 10 kilometres from the unloading facility at Qixia to the quarry at Cishan. At the 6.5km mark from Qixia, a competing cement railway owned by the Anhui Conch Cement Company passes underneath, a 762mm gauge line operating JMY380 diesel hydraulics. The 900mm line is electrified with a 750 volt over head system, but they also use a fleet of diesel locomotives. Their bread and butter locomotives are ZL40-9 electrics, four axle machines with centre mounted cabs. They also have a smaller fleet of ZL20-9 twin axle electric locomotives and some industrial diesels built by Dalian. A (incomplete) list of their locomotive fleet is as follows, albeit with much data missing :
All elderly diesels are now dumped in various degrees of condition and there may be others along the railway that I didn't observe. The only two diesels remaining in use are the Dalian built GKD5's. The GKD5B #13 is the usual locomotive on the workers passenger train usually, however this was not seen as I had arrived too late and would make the return trip after I left. The other diesel, GKD5C #12, is used in conjunction with the ZL40-9 electrics. I would only see one working behind this locomotive heading to the quarry with a train of empty hoppers.
The line is quite busy with trains every half hour at least and even more towards the unloading point with the constant push-pull shuttle train as well. The line has some excellent photographic potential including China's (and perhaps the world's) only narrow gauge crossing of two independent lines and a very nice long concrete viaduct. Unfortunately I would miss this due to time constraints, however will definitely return for another visit in the future. Taxi's are very difficult to come by out here, so having a private car for the day to explore or even the Chinese Uber service DD, would be very helpful in maximising time.
The shuttle train operates from the unloading point to another gravel loader only one kilometer down the mainline. This service runs constantly (except during lunch hour) and is loaded by a very tall concrete silo. These shuttle trains run with a single ZL20-9 electric locomotive on each end and interestingly, it appears only one of these locomotives is working at any given time. Watching these little locomotives exit the yard is a great sight with a constant stream of sparks flying off the pantograph and electricity between the locomotive and the overhead.
The future of this line looks very promising with a good maintenance regime and the acquisition of brand new locomotives, unusual for narrow gauge, however as we all know, things can change very rapidly in this country.
I heard from the staff that the other 762mm gauge line is still working well "at the moment". By the time I had finished up at the unloading point at Qixia, the sun was already setting and with no taxis or public transport to utilise, I had no choice but to walk back to Xianlinhu. I decided against heading to the other system in case there was a similar story with taxis as I had to be back at the airport by half past six.
The walk back proved to be a very busy time for the railway with no less than eight workings seen. To end the day on an even better note, I witnessed six Xian H-6 strategic bombers fly over head towards the bomber base to the north east of the city. These were licensed copies of the Tupolev 16 bombers and the examples I saw still had the navigators window in the front and what appears to be a newly fitted pod under the fuselage. Numbers for the aviation geeks amongst us as follows; 21012, 20516, 20610, 20619, 21016 and 21015.
Despite my best efforts, I made it back to the airport about five minutes too late for my reservation and the hotel cancelled the booking. They refused to honour the same price despite there being a large amount of rooms available.
|18 December 2017|
China Eastern flight MU765 back was uneventful and after flying out over Ma'anshan over the large open cast iron mine where I had visited less than a week before, nothing much was to be seen out of the window due cloud cover. This cleared towards the end and we got some very nice views of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Another trip done and dusted.
Digang - A very enjoyable visit to this little railway with an unusual gauge, relatively high traffic levels and great staff. Challenging to visit due to the very small daily operating window.
Dangtu - Enough mainline action to keep any self respecting diesel enthusiast entertained! Plenty of trains on an interesting railway, although threatened with the rebuilding of the line in the next couple of years that will see it bypass most of Nanjing as well as being duplicated and electrified. This will be the end of the ND5's which have already been given a slight reprieve with delays due to the aforementioned construction works. Oh, and Dangtu has the best police in the world!
Ma'anshan - Not enough time to visit everywhere I wanted to in this massive railway hub. The iron mine had the unfortunate rail stoppage, but one could spend a week here at least exploring the railway. Staff are quite happy to have people walking around at will, although exercising common sense will help preserve this current attitude.
The steelworks seems to have softened it's tough security stance of yesteryear, however one still gets the sense they are being constantly monitored and to tread with caution, trying to be as invisible as possible. There are more lines than one can imagine and a very interesting array of motive power and rolling stock.
China Rail mainline is much the same as Dangtu, although more difficult to find good photo locations.
Nanjing - The Nanjing to Wuhu line in Nanjing has some very excellent viewing areas from public places. The diesel line to Wuhu has a very large amount of level crossings and a few decent bridges as well. The outer suburbs are better than the city center with much easier access plus some passing loops and other industrial railways.
On the Shanghai-Beijing line, I was blessed to have such a good hotel room as most places are obstructed by tall fences and buildings. This line is extremely busy and of course the large Yangtze river bridge, that was closed to people and vehicles during my visit, is a must. There is also a huge amount of railway history throughout the city. I have heard the old Nanjing West Railway station (unvisited) is to be converted into a new railway museum in the next couple of years and should be worth a visit.
My biggest regret during the trip was being only able to visit one of the narrow gauges and even this felt rushed. I believe I made the right decision in visiting the 900mm gauge line out of the three and I will certainly try and include the other two in a future trip if that eventuates. Unusual for winter, I was also challenged by the weather gods. All my previous winter trips have been dry with excellent lighting for the most part. Nevertheless, I had ticked off the main objective in finding ND5's in service, probably for the last time and everything else was a bonus.
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