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Rongshan - Luopoloing - Pingzhuang - Chifeng - Jalainur - Fuxin - Fushun - Liujiaxia - Sandaoling - Yongchuan

This is part two of my most recent China visit, covering the train to Manzhouli, Jalainur, Fuxin, Fushun, Beijing and between.

To return to part one, covering Rongshan, Luopoling, Pingzhuang, Chifeng and between, please click here

To continue forward to part three, covering Liujiaxia, Sandaoling, Yongchuan and between click here

03 November 2014

An awful night on the train, due to the incredible heat wave billowing out of the uncontrollable heaters and we spent much of the trip in shorts and a tshirt, whilst receiving strange looks from rail staff and fellow passengers, most donning thick arctic jackets. I even switched my hiking boots for my loafers, placing them carefully under the bed and exited the train at every possible station to cool down. Our train was made up of 25G class rolling stock and again hauled by a DF4D, the road number being unobtainable. Between Manzhouli and Qiqhaer, there were few points of interest in terms of working trains, with all passenger trains in the hands of DF4D diesels hauling either class 22 or 25G stock. Freight traffic was almost exclusively led (and sometimes also pushed) with HXN5 diesels.

Most of the sizable train stations had sidings with the usual maintenance-of-way stock including heavy cranes, self powered light cranes and rail cars.

Prior to Yakeshi, at Sangenhe, we spotted a siding with some very large and interesting looking cranes made of timber. A number of discarded green and gold passenger cars have been converted into buildings around Hulin.

One striking feature along the line was the architecture with clear Russian influences. Stone and timber water towers were prevalent in many of the stations we passed through and some of the station buildings, particularly at Yakeshi, were very beautiful. Much of the old line is still visible with mostly rotten track and tunnel portals relatively close to the new line.

Hailar is a very busy rail centre, with a huge amount of coal trains feeding the gigantic power station next to the railway station. Two DF4B's, one privately owned blue and cream example, #7668 (Ziyang, 1999) and #3794 (Sifang, 1993) were in operation with huge trains. Asides from a couple of DF5's for shunting and local workings, everything else was HXN5's, of which Hailar seems to have a large allocation.

Haliar's locomotive depot has been completely removed having succumbed to progress. Apartments now exist where the turntable, fuel tanks and tracks once were. Thankfully, they've left the old round house intact and incorporated it into the development. Archived Google Earth imagery shows construction over the old depot (4913'16.85"N 11943'38.83E) taking place sometime in 2012. A new turntable is in the smaller depot adjacent to the passenger car holding yards (4913'27.37"N 11942'31.50E), although this depot is not new in itself and it seems the one close to the station simply became obsolete. Another interesting building was the brickworks factory that appeared to be owned, at least at some stage, by the railway. The main building has a huge China Rail logo and a clear inauguration date of 01 July 1978.

Just past Jalainur, Steve spotted a number of plinthed steam locomotives in what we guessed was a Russian style theme park, which definitely required further investigation! We rolled into Manzhouli just after 3pm and nearly dead from heat stroke, left the train as quickly as possible. We bailed up a cab to take us immediately to the Manzhouli Grand Hotel for a cold shower, an early dinner and a good nights sleep. After completing the first two tasks on that list, I realized that I had left me beloved hiking boots on the train, which was already two hours into its return journey to Hohhot some two hours away. I made a mad dash to the train station in the hope that one of the cabin car attendants would have found them and handed them in, but to no avail. So after heading back to the hotel and having a good think about life, was able to find a shoe seller (aimed at Russian clientelle with more money than sense) and selected the most appropriate shoes I could find.. some furry boots made by Kajila Fashion Sport. Amazingly, they can be found on any of the leading internet search engines, albeit on Russian language sites. Faced with the prospect of trudging around in subarctic temperatures in my loafers, I reluctantly paid the over inflated price, even after explaining to the stubborn salesman that I wasn't Russian.

The hotel was quite good, again most things being in Chinese and/or Russian, and they gave us a room with a very nice view of the skyline which remained heavily lit until about 11pm and 99% of the lights you see in the photo above were very abruptly turned off. The same view from our hotel room is used in a very annoying Manzhouli tourist advertisement which is broadcast all over China on CCTV.

04 November 2014

The day started at 7am for us and, moderately refreshed from a more comfortable sleeping environment, we checked out and met up with the taxi driver I met the previous night and who I'd arranged to get us to Jalainur and back for the day. He seemed a little confused at first driving us to a museum, on the outskirts of Jalainur in the large Russian styled city we had passed on the train the day before. I showed him a couple of photos and then asked him to take us straight to Jalainur West railway station where we would walk to the mine, a little underestimation of the walkable distance involved in that! One of my contacts in China, had visited Jalainur only two weeks before us and confirmed there was one SY locomotive still in operation helping with operations to the deep mines. We walked south from the station about two blocks, then east meeting up with a siding marked on Florian Menius' excellent map of the network . The hike meant navigating around randomly placed German Shepherds and frozen spitballs, A semi-trailer tandem drive truck we spotted was missing one of its steerable wheels, but the driver was unperturbed and somewhat amused by us bringing it to his attention and drove off with his load of scrap metal. Standard.

A number of interesting pieces of rolling stock were around the depot area, including an old C65 hopper (1971) with added roof, customizable flat/tank cars and oxide colored KF60 self dump hoppers, but no SY. The staff in the depot were adamant steam had ended and we should go to the Russian theme park that we had seen on the way in. I was sceptical the reported working SY (#1618) would be with the ones we had seen there, as it was only two weeks since she was seen in steam, however we never heard or saw any trace of her for the entire day.

For those interested in diesel traction, we saw in operation the following mine railway locomotives: DF4DD's 0223 and 0287 - built by Dalian Locomotive Works (unknown year) and DF7G's 5223, 5203 & 5166 (Beijing February 7th Locomotive Works, 2010). I suspect 5166 is actually 5199 with fresh stencils over the last two numerals on all painted numbers on the locomotive, but the boffins forgot to repaint the glass number plates! Additionally in the yard, but presumably CNR locos were HXN5's 0047 & 0240.

The old brick washery/loading facilities for China Rail have been replaced by sky-blue concrete silos and were completed by mid-2011. An observation area was built with various concrete animals including mammoths which are heavily connected with the mine where some examples were unearthed. There are a number of memorials and statues as well, yet the whole area is suffering from severe neglect and abandonment, having a Chernobyl effect. It does, however, offer some excellent views of the pit. About 10% of the original locomotive depot in the pit remains. Coal is still being extracted at a moderate pace by trucks, but certainly not as dramatic as when SY's zig-zagged there way in and out of this massive hole in the ground.

On return to Jalainur West station, I noticed that one of the handles from my Manfrotto tripod had wriggled its way loose and disappeared, rendering operation of it useless. I retraced my steps (all 12000 of them in the most hideously uncomfortable shoes ever designed by humans), but never saw it again. Rather than walk back to Jalainur West station, we found the closest taxi we could back to our other taxi driver, who then took us back to the Russian park to see what relics had been parked there.

The Russian park, may not exactly be that. It's name is "New Jalainur" and it could well be a resort or another one of many cities that have gone from literally nothing to a large city in only a few years. Whatever it is, it is clearly aimed at attracting the Russians across the border. There is a huge new museum (more on that later), go-kart track, Ferris wheel - even a full scale replica of Moscow's St. Basil's cathedral! The city is still under construction, and they've also built a new working "steam" railway. This section of the park is still heavily under construction and I can only begin to imagine that it will end up being most tacky. It took us quite some time for our driver to find an entrance to the railway section, but we eventually found the main gate partially opened and we simply walked inside.

Now before everybody loses their minds at a new working steam railway in China, that's not really correct. What they owners have done, is build a large loop from old 40' sections, which I can only imagine is from old track sections from the pit (the dates stamped on the rails back up this theory). Despite being a new line, it is clear some of the sleepers are 'well used'. The locomotive itself is identified as X-180 and at first I thought this was the same X-180 Vauclain compound 2-8-0 that railway workers found buried for the past 100 years on the banks of a river near Shenyang and was consequently preserved. Alas.... it is a brand new locomotive that sort of resembles it, only its powered from the tender with electric motors which power the tender axles. This in turn pushes the locomotive. It pulls two brand new carriages, which are built to a very nice standard - particularly the interior. There is a builders plate on the locomotive marked "Hangzhou Trains Equipment Company Limited" with a website 'www.trainscn.com', a company that seems to build many of these trains for theme parks but also supplies SY locomotives for 'decorative purposes'. I really should give them a call.... There were many workers building some sort of platform in front of the locomotives, including a manager (the guy doing nothing!) who promptly started making a bunch of phone calls at the site of us, but ultimately left us alone.

Within the track circle, there are 10 SY's, all from the Opencast Mining Railway. Curiously, none of the locomotives that served the deep mines are here. They are all arranged in a semi circle, as if sitting around a turntable - which would make for a good viewing area if they built that! They have all been freshly repainted (to a surprisingly good standard) and all internal fittings still remain (with the cabs locked). None of the locomotives bare builders plates, apart from 1401 with a partial plate. Some of the engines still wear their separate number plates, but most are freshly painted on. Although it would be impossble to be 100% certain, I doubt that any numbers are fake - for such an exhibit, they could have applied any number they liked and gotten away with it. All of them have been given mock brass boiler/stack/dome bands as well.

Numbers of the locomotives are: 1619, 1617, 0795, 0614, 1258, 1496, 0682, 0613, 0957 & 1401.

Other equipment in the collection is the following:
* A pair of diggers (W-3 302 & 303)
* A pair of YZ22 green and gold passenger cars (no markings, but at least one built 1983)
* Z-152 steam crane (#1112)
* N16 flat car (#007, 1971)
* K13 hopper (no markings)
* A pair of KF60 self dump hoppers (# 293 black, 1973 & #4** oxide, 1973)
* Railcar (light blue, no road number - China Rail logo missing from radiator grille)
* Jordan spreader (no # - builders plates look freshly removed)
* SY (JF style) tender 1688.

Before wearing out our welcome, we headed back to the taxi driver and told him we were finished for the day, but he insisted we visit the museum, and I really must say it was worth merging three blisters into one. The museum is divided into five sections, unfortunately the one I was most interested in seeing - the Jalainur Open cast mine museum - was still under construction. There was a Soviet friendship section which was mostly photographs and some Russian household items, but the main section focused on prehistoric animals discovered once mining commenced in 1902. Uncountable artefacts have been pulled out of the mine since the early 20th century, including complete mammoth skeletons, a type of rhinoceros and countless other now extinct species. One hall has a collection of hundreds of different types of birds, wolves, fish and other animals that still inhabit the area nourished by the huge Hulun lake to the south. A skull from a Neanderthal dubbed "Jalainur man", was also on display along with a huge amount of hand tools. I was starting to feel like Jalainur man myself, after enduring a full day with my new Kajila Fashion Sports boots.

A more modern section had on display weapons, jewellery and clothing found in the mine from the Mongol empire period . This place is well worth a visit if anyone wants to visit Manzhouli. Hopefully someone can also prove me wrong with the end of steam at the same time.

Our train to Harbin (K7092) was led by yet another DF4D, #0400. This train was also a furnace, however, exhausted from the days walking in Manzhouli, I really don't remember much of it.

05 November 2014

Our train arrived in Harbin right on time at 0630, about half an hour after waking up in a pool of sweat. We went straight away to Harbin West train station for our high speed service to Shenyang (train G18), and while I would like to say we stored the bags and made the most of the six hours we had before boarding, we were both happy enough to lounge around the station and take it easy, giving my Kajila feet a break and Steve's fast depleting immune system time to catch up. Walking in itself was becoming a battle. Besides, we hadn't seen McDonald's for some time.... Lots and lots of McDonalds.

Most of the platforms at Harbin West are utilised by the CRH trains, CRH-3 and CRH380B being the most common types seen, but also the newer (and slower) CRH5A. Platforms 16 - 18 appear to accommodate the standard China Rail passenger trains, with three seen in our time there. One of these trains was made up of mostly YZ25DT stock, rated at 140kph. These cars used to form dedicated train sets with streamlined NYJ1 diesels at either end, but have found a new lease of life since the diesel sets were retired.

Our train to Shenyang North was with CRH380B #6336 and co. We attained a maximum speed of 305 kph for most of the way. The ride was very smooth and despite once again travelling VIP style, said style was never attained thanks to two of our travelling companions, one of which had a mobile phone with a ridiculous ring tone going off every few minutes followed by a five minute shouting match and the other who fell asleep and snored up until we reached Shenyang North. However we kept ourselves entertained by the announcements advising of the upcoming station, such as "Changchun Bei is coming", "Please be ready to get off" and "Please ensure to take orayorburongings" (all of your belongings), which amused our puerile minds for the duration of the journey.

Shenyang hosts a fantastic array of motive power, and it was great to see some locomotive types I never thought I would after nearly a decade ago. Shenyang depot presented us with SS9, SS9G, ND5, DF4DK, DF11, DF11G and the newer HXD3C & HXD3D electric locomotives - including the prototype in a snazzy orange livery.

With only an hour and a half to get from Shenyang North railway station to Shenyang railway station (both shown above respectively), we headed straight for the taxi rank, arriving half an hour before boarding began for our third train (2258) in 24 hours to Fuxin, where we would spend the next three days. We were in hard sleeper class for our three hour journey (more room for baggage) and our train was made up of 2014 built 25G class rolling stock. On arrival we made for the Kevin International Business hotel (with the most Aussie name I've ever seen in China), which had undergone a major renovation recently. It turned out to be one of the best hotels I've ever stayed at in China with friendly and professional staff and clean rooms. Initially we had only one night booked here due to Ctrip saying the hotel was fully booked for three nights, however the hotel said there was no problem staying for the extra two nights as well.

06 November 2014

We had breakfast in the Kevin, which was quite good. Unfortunately one of my large molar teeth had split the previous night and I began my diet of Ibuprofen, consisting of 4 x 400mg tablets a day (double strength). We were getting steam withdrawal symptoms after missing the expected SY's at Pingzhuang and Jalainur, but being exhausted and (me) in excruciating pain from walking on dead animals and now my tooth, I wasn't expecting too much from Fuxin. The most recent reports from Fuxin indicated that the engines had been turned (the locos were facing the same direction from all the recent reports I'd seen, so maybe this change had been very short lived). As it turned out, it was a fantastic three days here and I would certainly not hesitate in going again. Fuxin had always been one of those systems that had escaped my itineraries over the years and after seeing what we did, I really can't think why that was. Our first day was spent between Pingan and Pingan mine, a very small section of the overall network, but quite busy with a number of train movements.

The weather was excellent, perfect sunshine and chilly, but just enough to only warrant one jacket. I decided to ditch my Kajila Fashion Sports and switch back to the cursed loafers and after a pleasant five minute walk from the Kevin towards the mine railway, we were greeted with the superb sight of SY 1396 rolling over the road bridge. 1396, like all the Fuxin SY's are kept in extremely good condition, and it appears the crew take great pride in keeping their machines clean. This was also the first steam opeartion I've seen that employ CCTV cameras on their locomotives! After trying our luck at the Pingan crossing, we were promptly shooed away by the gate keepers and not willing to play a game of cat and mouse with them all morning, we headed towards Pingan mine. As we got back to the road underpass, SY1395 Zhu De was in the shed steaming away. I set up the video camera at the point where the line splits towards the pit and waited for the first train to pass, which took some time. During the wait, Steve had gone for a walk towards the pit and subsequently missed the train - SY 1359 working very hard to push five seriously overloaded hoppers and a caboose, shaking the video camera as it passed, despite being some five meters away from the track. This was perhaps worse than it would have been, thanks to my (now) half-arsed tripod.

I started to move towards Pingan Mine and caught SY 1378 returning light engine to the yard. Steve was heading back and was just able to catch this one. When he finally caught up to me, we carried on only as far as the junction towards Wulong mine, deciding not to exert ourselves due to a suspected onset of a cold (that never eventuated) and me nursing what was left of my feet. The next train up was DF5D 0065 with a sizable train of 28 C type hoppers on the way to Wulong mine.

We started to head back to the large level crossing between Pingan and Pingan mine, getting SY1359 returning from the spoil dump. Before reaching the crossing, we again got 1359 charging the hill with a fresh train of loaded spoil wagons in the same time it took us to walk less than a kilometre.

The gate keepers here were refreshingly very nice and were very grateful for some photos and Australian coins, a big change from the guards at the yard crossing we visited earlier on in the morning. The track leading up to the spoil dump is on a curved gradient and is strongly reinforced with other pieces of rail. The crossing here is very busy with a constant stream of large trucks, most of which were (over)loaded with coal driven at an inappropriate speed over the speed humps. This gave a constant supply of dust to contend with, and kept the two crossing cleaners very busy. A number of trucks had some very interesting loads, the one in the picture below was mine equipment, however I was unable to determine exactly what for given my appalling lack of mandarin vocabulary.

Almost as soon as we reached the crossing, SY1378 was bringing a train of loaded spoil wagons to the spoil dump, this time loco leading (tender first). This was the last train we saw heading in that direction for the rest of the day.

The sun was starting to set and we managed to get SY's 1359 and 1378 returning with their hoppers, plus DF5D 0065 returning light engine from Wulong in quick succession. After waiting for almost an hour, we eventually surrendered and headed back into town for a well earned hot meal and took a three wheel taxi from the crossing into the middle of Fuxin.

07 November 2014

We started the day at the mining museum, held up at the level crossing with SY1320 working hard up to the spoil dump on the way. The museum has some very nice exhibits, similiar to what we found in New Jalainur city. Sadly they are all starting to decay, however they are in a more or less original condition. The center piece is a large grey and black digger (#99) with Russian script "y3tm" and CCCP (Russian Cyrillic abbreviation for Soviet Union) on both sides. Other examples include spreader #202 (Dalian, 1959), SY1395 (should be 0939 - Tangshan, 1974), EL1 #028, bore driller #09, KF60 self dump hoppers #1638 & (?) and a pair of cabooses #12 & #13.

El-1 #028 is a fantastic looking locomotive, the only other one I saw was in February 2006 at Hegang, albeit briefly. These are massive articulated electric locomotives on three bogies (B-B-B configuration).

During our stay here, we had to dash to the level crossing that runs across the entrance of the museum a couple of times to be able to catch SY1378 putting on a great smoke show with a train of C type hoppers and again light engine. After we had finished at the museum and setting up line side, not a single train showed itself (the level crossing staff here were not exactly friendly either) and after an hour of waiting around, made our way back to the depot area.

We decided to head back towards the depot where there seemed to be enough action to keep up entertained, and we weren't disappointed! We walked from the level crossing between Pingan and Pingan mine towards the locomotive depot and stopped short on top of the road underpass, where there was a nice concrete clearing, which gave us a nice vantage point and kept us out of sight of the authorities. The first train was railcar #04 with a flat car mounted crane, followed by SY1460 light engine, which quickly disappeared into the shed where SY1395 was the previous day.

The highlight of course was seeing SY 1395 "Zhu De", now most likely the last working fully decorated steam locomotive in China. She is kept in extremely good condition. The portrait of Zhu De on the front has been wrapped in plastic, and is surely the pride of the fleet. Like 1460, she also entered the locomotive compound and remained hidden behind some buildings for the rest of the day, but not before we were able to take some nice photos of her. Well, at least I could. Steve decided to video her moving past us and ended up having some technical difficulties.

SY1358 was next to pass with a tender first train to the spoil dumps. This place was great for video, with the locomotives working hard up a gradient on a gentle curve whilst trying to gain speed, although not in the best light during strong sunshine. Trains are generally fairly short, between five to eight cars. A second rail car, M-01, also made a few runs past our location with a D5 class (#005) whale-belly flat car.

SY1319 made her first appearance to us, storming out of the locomotive compound with a great show of steam. What we lost at Pingzhuang and Jalainur was certainly being made up for here! A number of other trains also headed up to the spoil heaps with the diesels being kept busy in Wulong yard, well away from us.

Other locomotives/trains to pass us (some more than once) were SY's 1319, 1320, 1359, 1378, 1396 and DF5D 0080. One of the more interesting trains had a very old C50 timber/steel type gondola #99306 on the rear. This car was empty, asides from the guards riding inside and appears to be used as a caboose.

08 November 2014

Next morning after checking out of the Kevin and leaving our bags there, we made our way to Wulong mine. This appeared to be an excellent choice for our last day with SY1320 and 1359 double heading light engine. They separated before entering the mine yards, and for the next hour, were constantly shuffling wagons back and forwards through the yards, sometimes simultaneously.

Contrary to David Thomas's report from April of 2014, we had no issues with the crossing staff and they were happy for us to utilise their guard huts for photos. We stayed here for a couple of hours, myself making off with nearly 300 photographs. While we could have easily burned the rest of the day with all the action going around, we still had one major item on our Fuxin list left which would require most of the rest of the day - the spoil dump itself.

The dump was famous up until recently for the trains dumping loads of fly ash from the power station which would generate a gigantic cloud of dust. Sadly this was ended after complaints were made about the pollution, with the powderous load now watered down prior to being dumped.

Due to my inability to walk, I initially made it only half the way up, stopping outside a guard hut half way along the line while Steve continued to the top. There was a lull in activity with no trains coming through for almost an hour and eventually got motivated enough to continue and catch up with Steve at the top - partially because the guard was a little psychotic, frequently kicking the door hard open on his hut and screaming across the valley, totally unaware of my presence.

As soon as I made it to the summit, SY1319 was approaching with 5 KF60's on the lower level, which appears to be where the more rocky spoil is dumped. At this time of the day, the lower levels are in very bad light.

With our train to Shenyang departure time fast approaching and little else going on, we started to head back down, but didn't get very far before SY1319 stormed up the hill with five KF60 hoppers for the upper levels where we were.

She didn't take too long for her to offload, and quickly rolled back down the hill to the mines. We also got SY 1359 prior to the ascent to the tip with a train of severely overloaded KF60's, which stopped right in front of us. They offered to take us back up to the spoil tip, an offer that I would have no problem accepting usually, if we weren't being so pushed for time. I was able to scramble on board for a few minutes, before they had to move on. The departure was unspectacular, but she struggled to slog her train up the steep hill to the tip, with constant wheel slip. I can't recall the last time I saw one of these locomotives working so hard.

We got back to Wulong yard, where there was no shortage of taxis at the gates (predominantly three wheelers). SY1396 was working the yard now and after a few shots, we left to pick up our bags and get some dinner before moving on to the station to get our train (7561) back to Shenyang hard seat class.

The train was quite empty and we made some good friends on the way back with plenty of curious passengers taking photos of us on their mobile phones. When we arrived back in Shenyang, we checked into the 1912 hotel directly opposite the train station. This hotel has very strong ties with the railway since it was built in, yes... you guessed it - 1912. The corridors are lined with very old black and white photos and the rooms are very clean with a strong retro look. If it wasn't for the rude hotel staff, I'd even recommend a stay here.

09 November 2014

We checked out of the 1912 early morning and stored our large bags at the Fushun Railway station as the 1912 refused to store them for us, a new experience with Chinese hotels!

Our train (4293) to Piaoertun for Fushun, was a short 6 car passenger train comprising of a brand new 2014 built HXD3D with 25G stock. Our car attendant was a fellow train enthusiast and was very interested in our travels, nearly wetting himself with glee when I gave him some photos of Australian trains.

Most of the trains seen as we left Shenyang were in the hands of DF4C's with freights and DF4D's on passenger trains. One of the freight trains, comprising of grain hoppers had a few L17 hoppers in the mix, a freight car type I'd long thought to have been retired. Steve made the sighting of QJ 6757 in a park out of Shenyang - photo quality not the best, but looks to be quite accessible (4145'32.17"N 12322'08.62"E). There also appears to be a second QJ (6770 according to Duncan Cotterill's list about 300 meters west of this one).

On arrival at Piaoertun armed with Michael Reilly's satellite view map of the area, we found the level crossing of the old steel works, accidentally walking into the works at one point, before being given the directions for the public road. As we walked out, an unmarked police car slowed down towards us, but thankfully they only wanted a bit of a look and see of the foreigners and quickly drove away. Piaoertun is a large suburb of Fushun, probably not a choice place for a family holiday. For the aviation enthusiasts amongst you, there was an Shijiazhuang Y-5B (Chinese version of the Antonov-2) slowly flying circuits around the city (registration B-8223).

While walking towards the level crossing, SY 1630 passed before our eyes and we quickly hurried to the tracks. She had disappeared into one of the sidings. We headed up the line towards the stabling point, but stayed where we were after we saw one of the workers make a beeline for the phone. This place has had mixed reports of the reception of foreigners taking photos and content with our vantage point, had no wish to be removed from the area. Before SY1630 made a return pass, orange industrial diesel GKD1A 0219 came trundling past with a fairly long train of C type hoppers.

1630 then pulled out of one of the sidings with a very interesting train comprising of some of the most twisted, deformed and severely damaged wagons carrying scrap metal. 1630 herself kept in immaculate condition. The last report of 1630 was she was cold in the loco area, so I'm guessing she had been freshly out-shopped. She entered another siding to pick up another "modified" C30 class (very rare!) hopper loaded with huge slabs of steel.

The only other train we saw was DFH5 0408, which pushed four flat cars slowly past us. The first three short BW class flat cars each carried a dozen ingots which gave off a shocking heat wave. An ancient N6 class flat car was put between these cars and the locomotive acting as a heat barrier.

After a lull in proceedings and being told there was not much to happen over the next couple of hours due to lunch break, we made our way back to Piaoertun, satisfied with what we had got. The pedestrian bridge crossing the mainlines to Shenyang gave a good vantage point, if not for the jungle of overhead wires. All the trains we saw were freight, with Datong and Ziyang built DF4C's and a few HXN5's.

As the train service (4298) back to Shenyang (North) was cancelled a coupled of weeks before our visit, we took a taxi back to Shenyang, not noticing that it had been reinstated (still as 4298), but with the change of only stopping at Shenyang which would have suited us better! For future visitors here, you've got it easier still with the introduction of high speed services now between Shenyang and Piaoertun at good spacings during the day. Getting the bags from Shenyang station was a debacle, and finding a taxi even harder with the first 20 refusing to take us using the meter and quoting us clearly ridiculous prices to get us to Shenyang North for our train to Beijing, but we made it eventually and boarded K54 in luxury soft sleeper class for the non-stop service to Beijing. Our car was very new (2013 built) with two beds, an armchair and a private bathroom. Other amenities included a shoe shine kit, valuables safe, electronic door entry (with the on board replacement tickets), televisions and a power outlet, but the most welcome part was the thermostat control that actually worked and was immediately turned to its minimum setting.

10 November 2014

Finally a decent night sleep on a train! As a result, we woke up rather late - at Beijing Dong station, with the car attendant banging furiously on the door to swap our tickets back to the paper versions. There was just enough time after getting our bags organized to photograph the locomotives at Beijing depot as we passed by, a great place for finding some very rare locomotives. We coasted past the depot at about 60 kph and was able to get DF4B (light blue 1499, orange, #2276), DF4C's (#0003, 0004, 4402), DF4D (#0069), DF7C (#5612), DF11 (#0011, 0035, 0073, 0129, 0159, 0314, 0316, 0418),SS8 (#0037, 0080, 0106, 0121), SS9G (#0081, 0095, 0117, 0179, 0180), HXD3, HXD3C (#0595, 0738, 0941, 0970, 1006), HXD3D (#0199, 0247) and some of the rarer classes such as DF10F (#0001), DF11Z's (#0001, 0004) and DF12 (#0002). (plus another 30 or so locomotives with undecipherable numbers, but of the same classes as listed above).

This was more or less a travel day for us, with only 5 hours between our next train (Z55) to Lanzhou. There were a couple of things we wanted to do during this time, the first being a quick visit to the Forbidden city so Steve could get his photo with Chairman Mao's portrait, unfortunately arriving too late for the raising of the flag in the square. Security levels in Beijing are very high at present, with armed guards on most street corners around the square and railway stations. the forbidden city itself now has a huge maze of barricades and security screening including X-Ray scanning for bags and an intense pat down (which can be quite pleasant if you get in the queue with some of the prettier security girls).

After the square, we got a taxi to a model shop which is incidentally only a block away from Beijing West railway station. We arrived just before 10am with the shop opening hours of 10am, but after 1030 rolled by and making a call from the pamphlet I had, the owner said he was 'taking a holiday today'. Great!

Beijing West station has some superb Engrish in the bathrooms (which had to be stealthily photographed for obvious reasons). Once on the platform, our locomotive hadn't yet coupled to our train (HXD3D 0068). The staff were permissive in letting me photograph some of the other trains from the platform, the coolest being DF7G 5035 with her huge brass plaques on the side of the cab - with the slogan of " Worker Pioneers".

Once underway, there was about three hours of sunlight left. Trains seen between Beijing and Taiyuan with trains mostly DF4B on freight and SS8 on passenger. Shunting locomotives were mostly early DF7's. The highlight was seeing 8G electric locomotive, a double unit vintage with a strong Russian design in the large freight yard just out of Taiyuan station. Most of this class has already been withdrawn, one being in the museum in Beijing which we saw in November 2013. Too bad it was too dark to photograph this one.

Continued in part three - Click here!

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