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Harbin - Hengdaohezi - Jixi - Nancha - Xinglongzhen - Jiutai - Liaoyuan - Fushun - Nanpiao - Pingzhuang - Beijing - Kashgar - Urumqi - Sandaoling - Kunming - Yuexi

This is part two of my 2016 trip to China and covers Jiutai, Liaoyuan, Fushun, Nanpiao, Pingzhuang and between.

The other three parts are as follows:

Part 1 - covering Harbin, Hengdaohezi, Jixi, Nancha, Xinglongzhen and between - click here

Part 3 - covering Beijing, Kashgar, Urumqi, Sandaoling and between - click here

Part 4 - covering Kunming, Yuexi and between - click here

26 November 2016

An early wake up for breakfast and then train 4375 to Jiutai. With the south exit blocked off at Jinzhou, we had left with enough time to make it around the station, but finally located a poorly labelled subway that took us directly there. Train 4375, with DF11 0071 leading, departed on time just before 8am. The train was quite full compared to what I experienced the year before in summer. Between Kalun and Jiutai, the coal fired heater got blocked and our passenger car filled with thick coal smoke. The car attendant couldn't seem to fix the problem leaving many of the passengers with the impossible choice of dying from the cold by opening the windows or dying from asphyxiation.

We fought our way through the aggressive crowd of taxi drivers at the Jiutai railway station and picked up a passing taxi driver about a block away. By simply saying "Jiutai meikuang", he raced off and dropped us at the level crossing at a cost of less than 10 yuan. Jiutai had a light dusting of snow, but certainly nothing even close to what we had in Heilongjiang province. This was one of the only overcast days we had also, which was photographically worrying for the steam effects. We walked up to the yard where once again we were made very welcome by the security guards at the gate and were free to go where we wished, on the condition that they could take some selfies with us first! As per last year, 0515 is in the same sorry state as ever and 1407 is in reasonably good condition and was sizzling away outside the crew rooms. Curiously, the driving wheels on 1407 have been coated in exceptionally thick grease.

I was a bit resigned to my belief that the engine would just be idling away during our time here, especially with only a four hour window between our arrival and our train to Liaoyuan. I asked the crew if the locomotive would work today and to my surprise, one of the crew said "yes!" Less than two minutes later about 5 workers jumped on board and put on a spectacular steam show as she disappeared into the distance towards the exchange sidings. Steve and I grabbed our equipment and ran out of the depot in pursuit (but not before some more selfies with an arriving security guard) and agreed that we should set up in different locations to get different photos of this very rare occurrence. (we are not aware of any prior visitors having seen this locomotive turn a wheel since its existence was discovered some years ago).

Steve set up on the first corner out of the yard, on a slightly raised platform with some high rise apartments in the background, while I walked further down to the second level crossing. I decided to set up here as we were not aware of when the return would be and I was quite happy with the large embankments either side. I set the video camera up on one side and, when the time came, crossed the other side of the tracks for still photos. The straight section towards the sidings is about 2 kilometres in length so there would be plenty of warning to start the video and make it across the other side. After 45 minutes of waiting, the most welcoming sound in the distance of an approaching steam whistle sounded out. I was expecting a decent steam show as she approached, as the track looks deceptively quite steep, but is in fact almost dead flat and she coasted the entire way from when she was in view until she past by with three empty C type hoppers. Still, in this day and age, a moving SY steam locomotive is a moving SY steam locomotive and I was very happy to have seen 1407 finally working. I walked back to the yard to find Steve and head back into town, but not before I noticed I had lost the viewfinder off my DSLR which I knew had been getting weaker and weaker over the past few months. After a few final shots in the depot, we walked back to the level crossing to retrieve it, then got a taxi back to the town for some lunch before taking our next train.

Our train to Liaoyuan was aboard K7388 with a standard maroon and cream DF4D 0467. Even though this was a four hour ride during daylight, I had booked us in for soft sleeper class as it exceeded my 3 hour tolerance in hard seat! The entire carriage had only one other passenger, a young woman who had been assigned a berth in our compartment and had to contend with Steve and I constantly running in and out of the compartment from one side of the car to the other to photograph all the passing trains.

During the ride, we saw a good variety of trains with a large concentration of the huge HXD3B electric locomotives between Changchun and Siping. Most passenger trains were behind HXD3D's and DF11's. I was very happy to (finally) see one of the very rare twin cab HXN5's departing Siping and my first sighting of the new HXN3B high horsepower shunting diesels which are set to replace the DF7C's in the next few years. The only locomotive types seen between Siping and Liaoyuan with the fastly fading light, were HXN3's on freight and DF11's on passenger trains.

When we arrived at Liaoyuan, we got a taxi to the Aolihua hotel, fairly close to the centre of the city. There was some confusion in the booking as they offered us a room with a queen bed. Refusing to play Steve's queen for the night, I got another room for myself. The catch was that they were internally located within the hotel with no windows. In my room, the coffee table was bizarrely sitting on top of the bed while some work had been done on the phone line and then forgotten about. The main problem though, was the heat which was hotter than a Swedish sauna (but only 5C according to Steve's thermometer blah, blah, blah). I immediately removed my three jackets and attempted to reduce the heat with the remote control, but that only turned on the television. Steve found the heat unbearable and we were left with no choice but to change rooms to ones with windows. We were then given a 10 minute lecture from the hotel staff that this would cost another 10 yuan each per room, but honestly I would have paid another 1000 just to have the luxury of a window. Of course, when we got upstairs, we both had a room with two beds in each one, defeating the need for separate rooms, but at least Steve had a reprieve from my snoring which is apparently louder than a HXN5 diesel in notch 8. These rooms were seriously overheated, but mercifully the windows gave way and a few minutes later, we were back to a temperature able to sustain human life. We went out in search for some dinner, but only clothing shops were to be found so we hailed a taxi driver and asked him to get us immediately to the closest Kun Der Gee (KFC) for some western comfort food. Along the way, we drove through an accident scene where a lorry had struck and killed a woman with only a small white handkerchief placed over her face and a steady stream of blood flowing into the roadside drain, putting a sombre mood over the meal and the rest of the day.

A list of the locomotives seen and/or photographed in Jiutai and between Changchun and Liaoyuan is as follows :

SY : 0515 (dumped), 1407

DF4C : 4342, 4361, 4409, 5102
DF4D : 0206, 0467
DF5 : 1690, 1692, 1852
DF7C : 5359, 5394, 5502, 5506, 5520
DF7G : 5074
DF11 : 0067, 0069, 0070, 0088, 0286, 0443
DF11G : 0126, 0177
HXN3 : 0078, 0090, 0132
HXN3B : 0076, 0078
HXN5 : 0328, 0478, 0544
HXN5 : 2048 (twin cab variant)

SS9 : 0018, 0035
SS9G : 0058, 0070, 0086
HXD2 : 1335, 1377, 6071
HXD3B 0191, 0271, 0307, 0312, 0321, 0337, 0359, 0447, 0482, 0453, 0478, 0491
HXD3C 0003, 0230, 0404, 0542, 0897
HXD3D 0119, 0199, 0201, 0220, 0225, 0233, 0353, 8009, 8020

27 November 2016

Liaoyuan was added to our trip after I got curious when perusing Google Earth and found the unmistakable shape of an SY steam locomotive sitting in the depot to the north of the town. I couldn't find any reports of any locomotives, although I found a few Liaoyuan SY's noted on Duncan's locomotive list. Liaoyuan city (previously known as Xi'an until 1952 when it was changed to avoid confusion with the larger Xi'an in Shaanxi province) lies between Meihekou and Siping. It used to have a thriving coal industry, however most of the mines have since shut and the extensive industrial lines and systems have largely been removed. It is now supposedly the world's largest manufacturing center of socks, but I digress. Only one of the remaining coal mines is serviced by the standard gauge railway. Another smaller mine utilises a 600mm narrow gauge system.

We began the day in the top end of the city, taking a taxi from our hotel to the locomotive depot with relative ease and asked the security guard if we could take some photographs of the dumped SY in the yard. He was happy for us to enter and we found SY 0938 in one of the tracks adjacent to the shed. A worker clearing snow around the shed told us steam was retired in 2003 when the fleet of DFH5 diesels arrived. It is in extremely poor condition, as one would expect it to be being left outside for the past 13 years, and many of her fittings have been removed. There was no sign of any of the other Liaoyuan locomotives. Also dumped were a number of lesser seen coal hoppers including timber side C62M's, steel C65's and the more common C62's and KF60's. A steam crane is pushed to the rear of the yard but was impossible to reach with the shrubs that have grown around her. DFH5 #0303 (Sifang 1983) was shut down outside the shed. All of Liaoyuan's diesels are painted in a rare orange and yellow livery, rather than the typical dark green/yellow that most of the class wear.

The worker then took us into the locomotive shed where we found DFH5 0302 (Sifang 1980) undergoing an engine rebuild. The workers seemed happy enough for us to loiter about, until the security guard from the front gate entered and started getting nervous about us hanging around. Before long he asked us to leave the shed.

We left the shed and the guard retreated to his much warmer hut (probably set to 5C). As we were about to walk out, a third DFH5, #0305 (Sifang 1983), arrived light engine and the locomotive assistant, unlocked the gates, set the road and shut down next to #0303. This one has a slightly different colour scheme to the other two locomotives and being very fond of these lovely little diesels, had no choice but to walk back and get a photo of both of them togetherfurther annoying the guard.

We then made for a smaller coal mine that I had discovered near the depot on Google Earth, which appeared to have a small narrow gauge network. We entered from a side gate and made some friends with the workers before being given the all clear to take photos. This is a deep mine and it appears the wagons are moved around by hand and/or a winch system. A small twin axle diesel locomotive was spotted, but was off the rails under a shed mixed in with a huge amount of other mining equipment. Of the two shafts, only one remains in use. We saw no coal making its way out of the shaft, however there was obvious signs of recent use and some of the wagons were receiving repairs.

Next location was to the larger coal mine, but we were too late to watch a departing train and although we tried to get some photos of it passing through the large road/rail roundabout with a huge statue of Chairman Mao in the centre, the strong sunlight was working against us and we were unable to get any satisfactory photos. From here we took a taxi to a siding which I had also found on Google Earth and showed some rolling stock within, however on arrival, there was nothing to be found. With our railway objectives all but concluded and with plenty of time to spare, we decided to head out to the Liaoyuan Miners Tomb, a museum/mass grave dedicated to the miners who were enslaved and in many cases worked to death under Japanese occupation.

The museum is approximately three kilometres from the CNR railway station and has only been completed for a few years. We found the museum to be completely deserted and locked up, however a young staff member who had spotted us opened the main building and turned on all the lights for us to peruse. The museum is well laid out and, not surprisingly, has a very strong anti-Japanese sentiment. It contains a huge amount of artefacts, including some railwayana such as old Mitsubishi locomotive builders plates from engines used in the mine. Behind the museum are some magnificent gardens, which are impossibly beautiful in winter with the fresh snow fall, but hides a very sad and macabre history. A number of small huts with glass walls are randomly placed around the grounds containing skeletons of some of the miners. A larger pavilion has been built over a mass grave and holds the remains of some 130 - 150 exhumed skeletons lined up in three rows. Towards the end of our self guided tour, we visited a cemetery where those who survived their horrific ordeal are invited to be buried once they pass away.

Just over an hour later we headed back to town with a couple of friendly museum workers in their brand new Honda. After a couple of minutes on the rough road and wondering what was smacking into the back of our heads, we noticed a rifle on the parcel shelf and wondered what we had got ourselves into. They dropped us off at Liaoyuan train station where we had lunch. With little reason to stay in Liaoyuan and a very tight schedule between our Liaoyuan - Meihekou & Meihekou - Fushun trains, we decided to take a much earlier bus to Meihekou instead.

By the time we arrived in Meihekou, the sun was setting which left no time for even a brief visit to the Meihekou mining network so we killed the time in a large multi-level shopping mall next to the station. The view is quite good from the upper levels overlooking the railway station and allowed us to see a number of dumped locomotives behind the station, predominantly DF4C and DF5 types. HXN5 appear to be the most prevalent form of motive power for freight trains around Meihekou with passenger trains seen behind DF4D, DF11 and DF11G. The depot holds a large amount of DF4C. Our train K7376 from Meihekou was hauled by DF11 0071 and we checked into the fantastic Wanda Realm Fushun hotel, indulging in room service and finally a good night sleep before our big day in Fushun.

A list of the locomotives seen and/or photographed in Liaoyuan is as follows :

SY : 0938 (dumped)

DF11 : 0071
DFH5 0302, 0303, 0305
XK06-002-00185 : no # (600mm narrow gauge)

28 November 2016

A big day for us at Fushun today. We decided not to visit the working SY steam locomotives at Piaoertun, with the belief that we would be able to find more SY's in steam at Pingzhuang, and instead focus on the incredible electric network instead. First off the bat, we visited the mining museum at Guchengzi, with our taxi driver getting lost. As Fushun was still fairly fresh in my memory since my 2015 trip, I was able to guide him back to the museum with little fuss. The museum remains unchanged, however the small Russian rail crane I found has been removed and a huge electric excavator is currently being installed in its place. There are some worrying cracks in the tiles around the areas of the outlook. I would hate to be standing on there when it gives way! After a quick walk around to see the exhibits and with a haze cloud obscuring the bottom of the pit, we left for Guchengzi, just opposite the museum.

Guchengzi mine is definitely quieter than my last visit and many 3 unit 37E1 Skoda electric locomotives and ED85's are now stored in the sidings adjacent to the washery. We also found a second old style spreader built in the mid 1930's, identical to the one in the museum as well as other freight wagons including some of the rarer D4 class drop bottom gondolas. There were four locomotives in use, two articulated ZG150-1500's and two ED85's. All locomotives are still in the traditional dark green livery and all locomotives have had the beautiful old style headlights replaced with multi-LED type.

We decided to try and push our luck and enter the station itself and when that didn't look so crash hot with the sun in the wrong spot, walked into the yard itself. Being under the wires in good light and away from most of the concrete masts, I was able to get some really nice shots of the shunting movements. We were never asked to leave here, in fact the loco crews seemed more than happy to have us around, however after nearly 90 minutes of the recorded voice blaring out over a loud speaker at the pedestrian crossing to warn of an impending train on a 5 second loop, we decided to move off on our own accord and head to the eastern end of the west pit.

The view from the here was no better than what we saw at the museum outlook as there with strong winds kicking up a huge cloud of dust. We decided therefore to cross the road to join up with the railway and then walk the line up to Donggang, which I had missed on my last visit. As we crossed the road we saw one of the mining railways DF5 1065 in a beautiful dark green livery with a train of C type coal hoppers cross the road bridge and head towards Fushun city.

These two lines seemed to be a lot busier than other parts of the railway and we had just set off up the line when ED85 1212 approached with a workers train including two white painted timber box cars carrying explosives. This was the only ED85 locomotive we found on this section of the railway with the rest of the heavy trains of spoil for the dump being handled by the larger articulated ZG150-1500's and 37E1 Skoda's. All trains seen were 14 cars in length with the end wagon having a hut for the guard, much like Sandaoling's operation, only a lot more modern and painted in either bright blue or orange. We spent a couple of hours at the top of the hill at the level crossing where we had the vantage point of two lines converging plus the yard in very good light. One 37E1 seen, #1522, has a large brass decorative plaque with a flag and an inscription of (translated) "Communist Pioneer". All locomotives are in excellent condition and it's nice to see the operation as busy as ever.

The next place to tick off for a visit was to the e.m.u. depot I had visited earlier to try and find the ancient Japanese passenger set #101. After a long walk back down the tracks to the main road, we found a taxi whose driver hadn't a clue what I was talking about, so I asked him to take me to the old power station. He was a little surprised at my request, but took us on board anyway. I guided him through the streets to where I entered from on my last visit, but after the level crossing, he pointed to a large blue sign and told us he couldn't go any further, so we decided to walk the rest of the way instead. The scenery had changed substantially with all the small houses and shops completely bulldozed into the ground. Those blue signs which I couldn't read were installed periodically along the walk towards the depot. I found the track that led into the depot, but to my surprise, the track simply stopped and literally disappeared down into the pit! After a bit of head scratching, it became obvious what had happened, there was a massive landslide which had destroyed much of the village in the area. So much so, that the main road I had walked along last year had also collapsed. Fortunately the official entrance was still in place, but all the multistorey brick buildings had been destroyed and entire area has now being condemned (those blue signs I later discovered saying "no vehicles past this point"). The official entrance to the depot is now abandoned so we walked inside with no problems. The rolling stock in the sidings closest to the pit have been shifted further north and much of the concrete floors, fences and buildings have very severe cracks with the threat of collapse at any time. The news article I had read a few months back claiming Fushun was sinking 30cms every year were suddenly starting to seem correct (although this particular part had sunk almost 10000cms!).

During the shuffle of rolling stock, to my delight, two more Japanese sets have appeared! These must have been stored in the sheds or elsewhere on the network during my last visit. The sets are not complete, but have the Motor cars and are numbered 102 and 107. 107 was locked with a very rusty China Rail padlock and chain, but I was very happy to find no such restrictions on the doors of 102! I was up in a flash photographing the amazing timber interior and driving cab.

We then decided to make our presence known and once again, were made to feel at home and photograph all the serviceable locomotives stored in the depot. The doors to one of the sheds were open and inside was the unique orange painted DF5 diesel, one of at least three on the Fushun mining railway. Fortunately we also found Japanese set 101 on the northern most siding, so if there's another slip, she will be the last to fall in! There was a bright yellow P60 box car in front of this set though which restricted photography, but I am happy that she is at least safe. The modified KY sets are still there, as well as the streamlined set and the rebuilt Japanese 2 car set.

The other major discovery was of a ZG100-1500 #618. This is a non articulated electric locomotive about the size of an EL-2 or ED85 and presumably uses the same technology as it's big sister, the ZG150-1500. Although quite a dumpy looking machine, being the first time I had seen one of these, it fascinated me more than anything else in the yard. I'm not aware of any other examples on the mining railway (or anywhere else in China for that matter). The extra thick paint on the factory plate made the date extremely difficult to decipher the build date, but appears to be June or August 1986.

There were also a handful of ZG150-1500's and ED-85's which appear to have been there since my last visit over a year ago, however the 37E1 Skoda's I had seen have disappeared. I noticed also outside the depot there is a passenger station on the rail line which backs right onto the depot. It is called "Che Ku Zhan" (translates as "car storage station"), which may be useful for taxi drivers. The sun had now disappeared behind the horizon and we made the long walk back towards town.

After dinner we collected our bags and went to Fushun train station, a very handy 2 minute walk from the Wanda hotel. D8140 is one of the few trains that still stop at Fushun, with most services using the much larger Fushun North railway station instead. The train was a new CRH5A set numbered 5044 and in 50 minutes, we were in Shenyang for an evening train to Jinzhou for the Nanpiao mining network. At Shenyang, I tried to take a few photos on the platform, but we were accosted by China Rail station staff who wanted to move us on as quickly as possible. After fumbling around for my ticket and the ticket for K7362 to Jinzhou, he was at least nice enough to take us straight into the terminal, saving us the agony of having our bags go through security again.

A list of the locomotives seen and/or photographed in Fushun is as follows :

SY : 0628, 0715 (both preserved)

DF5 : 1060, 1160
DF11 : (2 unidentified)

37E-1 (Skoda) : 1513, 1515, 1519, 1521, 1522, 1525, 1535, 1536, 1542, 1545, 1551, (~5-6 unidentified)
ED85 : 1137 (preserved), 602, 605, 1205 , 1206, 1211, 1212, (2 unidentified)
EL1 : 1707 (1 unidentified)
ZG100-1500 : 618
ZG150-1500 : 027 (preserved), 131, 132, 134, 148, 153, 615, 620, 627
HXD3D : (1 unidentified)

(electric multiple unit)
Japanese Set : 101, 102, 107
Japanese Set (modified/rebuilt) : 1271
KY Class : 115
KY Class (Streamlined) : 802
KY Class (Modified) : 801, 805, 807, 808, 809, 810
CRH5A : 5044

29 November 2016

We took train 4252 to Nanpiao from Jinzhou, the same train I used last year. This train is no longer published on the China Rail timetables, nor can it be booked on the online China Rail ticketing service, however I had a few of my local contacts check for me if it was still running prior. Tickets must be purchased at Jinzhou railway station and costs 3RMB to Hunjiang or 4RMB all the way to Nanpiao. Our train of five YZ25B coaches was hauled by DF4D 0284 in almost new like condition. A very interesting DF7G 5091 (built 2005) was seen shunting at Jinzhou painted in the common orange and white DF7C livery, rather than the usual gold and red. On arrival at Nanpiao station, we crossed the tracks to watch the locomotive switching ends, but after spending too much time waiting for it to depart, entered into the mining railway. Operations on the mine seem markedly down compared with my visit earlier this year.

A few engine movements were seen in the mining yard with the DF5's, but unfortunately the BJ class was shut down. DF5 1055 was the first train out of Nanpiao with a rake of ten empty coal wagons down the south line towards Sanjiazi however we decided to head up to Zaojiatun to try and find the narrow gauge back in operation again. Having learned my lesson from walking all the way Zaojiatun earlier in the year and to spare any further inner thigh chafing, we asked the driver of the rail car if he would take us with him and he was all too happy to oblige. This short 10 minute ride saved us nearly an hour of walking and turned out to be a real highlight of the day. It rode the tracks in a spectacularly violent fashion with the wooden benches twisting and slapping the walls. Crazy amounts of diesel and cigarette smoke filled the cabin and the motor was deafening (although we were able to make out the occasional crunching of gears from the three speed manual gearbox and the deafening shrill of the air brake above it all.) I'm sure this would sound like a ride from hell to most people, however to Steve and I it was a dream come true and an experience we won't forget in a long time! After dropping us off, the driver shunted the railcar into a siding. DF5 1357 approached from the north with a rake of loaded coal hoppers. It stopped at Zaojiatun and added more loaded coal hoppers to its consist before setting off to Nanpiao.

From here we headed towards the wonderful little 600mm narrow gauge line and followed the line up to the mine after finding a hole in the fence. Initially we stayed around the entrance, however we were made very welcome by all the staff we encountered and after a few handout photographs and some Australian coins, we soon had free reign over the mine.

We found five electric locomotives on site - two (#2 and #3) working coal trains to the unloading point at Zaojiatun, another two idle (#1 and #4) and #5 running works/supply trains through the extensive track network. Another couple of electric locomotives were found dumped and in pieces.

Interestingly, this was one of the busiest coal mines we had come across since we arrived in China with a team of workers repairing rail wagons and a steady supply of coal leaving the mine. A return journey for one of the narrow gauge trains taking about 1/2 an hour.

After taking in as much as we could from here, we set off on foot back to Nanpiao for a visit to the locomotive depot. DF5's 1030 and 1156 were on site with 1156 receiving repairs. Since I visited in April, she has been adorned with some cab-side flag decorations inscribed with (translated as) "Communist Party Pioneer", although a bit tackier than the usual three dimensional brass types common with decorated locomotives.

The new railcar I found last year is still sitting in the same position as my last visit and appears to have not turned a wheel in service yet. The converted Z152 steam to diesel rail crane was in the shed, but the decorated BJ class diesel locomotive 3342 was now in the heavy overhaul shed finally beginning her full restoration back to revenue service. While the mining railway has enough motive power already, only the BJ class is able to work on some parts of the network, for example the spoil dump line, due to its much lighter weight. BJ 3290 is in very poor condition and still sits outside the shed but is still relatively complete. The wagon works had only a single C62 coal hopper inside awaiting attention.

With the sun setting and the wind/cold increasing rapidly, we decided to take a bus back to Jinzhou rather than wait another couple of hours for the return train service which would have been in the hours of darkness anyway arriving just after 5pm. I had intentionally booked two nights in our budget hotel so we could repack, have a shower and relax in our room rather than stink out the waiting room in the freezing cold Jinzhou station for six hours. After a well earned dinner (incorporating a missed breakfast and lunch) we tracked back to Jinzhou for the overnight train K7363 from Jinzhou to Chifeng.

A list of the locomotives seen and/or photographed in Nanpiao and Jinzhou is as follows :

BJ : 3197, 3290 (dumped), 3342
DF4D : 0048, 0284
DF5 : 1030, 1055, 1067, 1156, 1357
DF7C : 5361
DF7G : 5091
Railcar (old) : 101
Railcar (new) : no#

HXD3C : 0332
CTY8/6 (narrow gauge) : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

30 November 2016

We arrived in Chifeng half an hour late just after 7am, but still had enough time to exit the station and leave our larger bags at the left luggage counter before boarding our connecting train to Pingzhuang. This was aboard train K7384 led by DF4DK 3100 and in an amazing stroke of coincidence, travelled in the rare soft seat class passenger car RZ25B #110908 - the exact same car in exactly the same seats as we did two years before! The locomotive up the front was DF4DK 3100. This train used to stop at Pingzhuang Nan, which I had hoped to alight from, but now only stops at Pingzhuang. We would discover later in the afternoon, much of the township around Pingzhuang Nan is now completely abandoned which suggests why most trains no longer stop here.

At Pingzhuang we met taxi driver, Mr. Sheng Hai Jun, who knew exactly why we had come to Pingzhuang. He speaks very basic English and is able to read Pinyin - so a printout of Duncan Cotteril's map proved ample (thanks Duncan!). For those who wish to utilise his services, he can be contacted on 137 89591970. We started off at Sanjing, to find it active, although there was only a single KF60 hopper in the sidings. With no trains forecast (according to the rail worker at Sanjing), we made for Zhuangmei.

The depot gates were locked and no rolling stock asides from a handful of ballast hoppers were seen. In the yard we found orange livery DF4B 1251 shut down and SY 1764 in steam. The driver babysitting the SY was happy to have us on board to keep warm for a while. He was unsure when he would be called to duty, but said the train would he heading to Pingzhuang if at all. We met Jun and Trevor Maxted's group here who were lucky to see a handful of movements the day before, but had yet to see any movement at all today.

During the wait for the SY to move, we decided to check the pit and explore a couple of the sidings between the washery and the pit. We found a pair of orange cabooses (01 & 03) and a grumpy security guard who told us in no uncertain terms to sod off (although I managed to get a couple of shots before he came barging out of his hut). A now disused yard (old electric locomotive depot?) contained another yellow caboose and a pair of old green coaches. One of the large roller doors to the shed was open, however we didn't explore further. All tracks around the pit have been removed, with the only evidence of its railway history being a handful of signals and the odd concrete sleeper half buried in rubble. A handful of excavators and trucks were at the bottom of the pit, although not working.

We then made for the bridge near Pingzhuang Nan where we again met up with Trevor's group to find a new coal yard had been 'built' both sides of the bridge since our last visit, which had all but eliminated the famous view from here. We waited here for nearly three hours with no action asides from a HXN3 shunting coal hoppers in and out of Nan yard. Trevor & co. decided to try their luck at Liujing where a string of loaded hoppers were waiting for pick up, however we had exhausted our time here and walked to Pingzhaung Nan station for a hard seat trip back to Chifeng behind DF4DK 3307. We then had dinner, collected our large bags and took train K980 to Beijing East behind DF4D 0123. We had intended to use a more convenient train to Beijing North, but as my luck always seems to go in China, said station was undergoing a rebuild and all Chifeng - Beijing trains were being diverted. Thus ended the whirlwind tour of the north east, visiting ten locations in eleven days utilising eighteen trains. All at 5C...

A list of the locomotives seen and/or photographed in Chifeng & Pingzhuang is as follows :

SY : 1764

DF4B : 1251
DF4C : 4358
DF4D 0123
DF4DK : 3100, 3307, 3308
DF5B : 1693
DF8B : 5759
HXN3 : 0036, 0059, 0065, 0182, 0214, 0215, 0232, 0233, 0253
HXN3B : 0044

Continued in part three - Click here!

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