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Shenzhen - Yuancun - Ganzhou - Laocheng - Jinxing

My latest trip into China was the result of long trip to Hong Kong, where I was able to get away for three days into the mainland to go train hunting. My good friends Henry Tang and Rick Wong joined me. Our aim was to find the long believed abandoned Ganzhou narrow gauge line which was rumoured to have reopened as well as some mainline action on the Jing-Jiu line - a recently completed parallel line to the Jing-Guang line in an effort to ease traffic on the latter. This line had been electrified recently, however due to negotiations between Jinxing and Guangdong province over the power usage, was still supposed to be 100% dieselized.

This trip report contains only a sample of photographs from the trip, for a full selection of expandable pictures, visit the photograph galleries and check also the video galleries for relevant footage.

11 January 2013

I met up with Henry at Sheung Shui railway station at around midday, having spent the previous hour photographing various SS8, MTR & Ktt trains. We crossed the border rather quickly, as the security on the China side of the border were busy resting. Great to be back! We had lunch at Cafe de Coral across the road from Shenzhen station before taking train T102 (Shenzhen - Shanghai service) to Ganzhou. Our train was headed by DF11 0456, and asides from another SS8 in station, the only other trains to be seen were the CRH-1's. My attempts at photography on the platform was not challenged, but once on board our train, the staff took exception to the go-pro camera stuck on the side window. It was quickly installed again once the train started moving, the highlights of which you can find here.

Enroute locos seen to Dongguan were SS8, CRH1, a DF5, DF5D and DF12. At Dongguan East, a very rare DF4B with the styling of a DF4E (one of two built) was in the yard at the station with container train. A few DF4's on the line to Ganzhou, with DF11 and DF4DK on the passing passenger trains. As our train approached Longchuan in the dark, we spotted a passenger train pulled by with a brand new HXD3C confirming our fears that the electricity had finally been turned on.

We arrived at Ganzhou after a long smoky ride at about 930pm. Taxi driver took us to the Sheung Shui hotel located in the city center, a 4 star (by Chinese standards) affair. The driver thought it was quite acceptable to leave his 'for hire' sign lit up and offer rides on the way to the hotel. Henry's friend and fellow railfan Jia greeted us at the hotel around midnight. Jia is a Ganzhou local and would take us to the narrow gauge railway the next day. He was unsure if it was still in operation, but was aware it had reopened fairly recently.

12 January 2013

Early wake up and downstairs for a buffet breakfast with some 'interesting' items on offer, such as "children bowl cake" and a variety of 'bums', including "wholemeal bum", "minor cereals bum" and the unfortunately named "hopeless vegetable bum". I stuck to the toast. Rick Wong arrived and we headed off to the Ganzhou Highway Authority, where Jia had organised a car and driver for us. We took road 324 to Shangyou (same pronunciation as the steam locomotive type, but different last character), and then the main road north west as far as Yuancun. The Ganzhou forest railway was originally 80kms or so in length and primarily used C2 steamers and a handful of ZN120 industrial diesels - a six cylinder locomotive with three connected axles. The line shut commercially many years ago, but was partially reopened as part of a tourism push in early 2012 with a single diesel and a couple of passenger cars.

The road paralleled the narrow gauge line after a while, and the piles of sand and bricks strewn across the line were less than a welcome sight. When we arrived at Yuancun, we discovered the line had closed a few weeks before our visit due to lack of business. The ZN120 was parked out the front of the station with two passenger cars and a homemade bogie gondola. The locomotive was still wearing it's red celebratory ribbon on the front cowl. Some sleepers have been placed over the track at both ends of the loop at the station. The track for most of the line we saw looks in relatively good condition, apart from the previously mentioned piles of rubbish the locals have piled up on it. The rolling stock has certainly seen better days with the two passenger cars in decrepit condition, however the locomotive looks in very good shape all things considered and would probably need very little (if any) work to bring her back to life. The cab was locked and inside a pair of gloves, some unopened water bottles and the obligatory cigarette lighter were inside.

The station is in good condition also (at least on the inside) and of a particularly interesting design. The original narrow gauge herald is still bolted to the front. Much of the line remained unexplored, with the locals mentioning that the rest of the rolling stock was scrapped many years ago, contrary to recent reports from the 2012 report on the Ourail website which showed a few other freight car types looking forlorn and neglected in various sidings along the line. We decided however to cut our losses and head back to Ganzhou for some mainline action, after a typical long lunch at Shangyou first.

We visited the Ganzhou East locomotive depot after picking up a locomotive driver in the middle of town that Jia had organised to get us in and show us around. Again, the dreaded HXD electrics were ever present, but also a welcome sight of freight DF4D's, a DF4C in dark blue and a few orange DF4B's. The locomotives seen in the depot were as follows:

DF4B 021* (dumped), 2471, 2629
DF4C 4384
DF4DH 4097, 4104, 4110, 4129, 4154 (in shed), 4155, 4188, 4200, 4230, 4231
DF5 1595 (appears to be dumped)
HXD1B 0021, 0022, 0031

We had a tour inside one of the orange DF4B's and the DF4C including through the engine room and a brief crash course on how to start & operate it. The driver told us the DF4B's and DF4C's would be retired in the coming weeks.

Access to the depot was relatively easy having the locomotive driver with us, however a few eyebrows were raised (towards him) and the manager of the maintenance train took great exception to his crane been photographed. We promptly left that area alone and no further issues were encountered. Some interesting bits and pieces around the yard included a fuel bowser which appeared to be an old unit designed for cars! Curiously, the values are shown in English & Chinese displaying KG, Litre and Price. There was also an apparatus which we were told was used to test the power output of a locomotive. It looked like it hadn't been used for sometime and heaven help it if they decide to strap one of their shiny new 9600kw HXD1B's to it!

Next stop was to the now closed Ganzhou East passenger station, which is also the location of a rather large yard. We videoed a handful of passenger trains headed by DF11 and HXD3C electrics. The DF7C yard pilot stayed well out of range of our cameras down the west end of the yard. It appears that about 50% of the mainline traffic is already hauled by electrics. Darkness arrived early and we retired to the hotel.

13 January 2013

Rick arrived early and we got an early start for some select places on the mainline, first stopping at a large viaduct at Laocheng (google earth co-ordinates 24 41'03N 114 59'43E). The large bridge is the first one along the line in Jiangxi province when entering from Guangdong province and crosses the Laocheng river. At the base of the bridge of the south/west side there is a childrens park and a very steep stone stair case which eventually leads to a good observation area at the top overlooking the bridge, although the new overhead wires spoil the view to an extent. There is also a tall pagoda from which a very good view of the bridge can be seen, however we elected to go towards the line which gave a good view of the large bridge and also of a small bridge about 200 meters from the large one. The first trains were HXD1C with a RELS parcel train heading south, followed promptly by a DF11 with the SSPE (mail train) comprising of 16 XL baggage cars. Next was south bound passenger train with 18 25G passenger cars hauled by DF11G (although the number was too far away to read. A freight train with box cars heading north was next handled by HXD1B 0019.

We headed south for the next position along the line, stopping first at Yandunbei for lunch, this place being famous for hot springs. Busloads of tourists from China and Hong Kong visit daily. The restaurant owner was proud to show off his alcohol collection, one particularly large jar containing a full grown eagle with a cobra inside (see below). The owner who was a little more perceptive at seeing a foreigner guessed we were there to see the railway. After lunch, he offered to take us to the large bridge at Jinxing (Google Earth co-ordinates 24 30'45N / 114 58'11E). He was worried Rick's 4wd type vehicle wouldn't manage the road, and we soon discovered why. The road to this place is heavily used by trucks to various quarries, and as a result the narrow roads for the most part are in a diabolical condition. Perhaps suitable for motorcycle or tanks.

The village surrounding the large bridge was once also a tourist destination which ultimately failed (probably because of the road leading to it!) and many of the very old style houses appear to have been abandoned along the way. There does appear to be a lot of construction in the immediate area around the viaduct itself however, most likely due to the large quarries in the area, but thankfully much of the older historical buildings appear to have been left intact, many of which have some very old slogans painted on the fascia, including some of/concerning Chairman Mao dating back to the 1960's.

The railway bridge, like most of the large viaducts along this line are guarded by the military. The guard on this one was a little nervous is letting us take photos, but eventually succumbed to our madness and we managed about 8 trains from this location. Henry's locomotive driver friend was on duty that day and slowed his DF4DK down to about 40 kph for us before throwing on the power and blaring the horn making for some very nice video! After spending a few hours at this area, we all bundled into the car for the drive back to Dongguan and then the CRH1 back to Shenzhen.

Summary

Ultimately we failed in our quest to find the narrow gauge operating as well as beating electrification on the mainline. Nevertheless, we did have a great time exploring. It seems only yesterday we were cursing the locomotives that were replacing steam, only for us to do the same with the brand new motive power coming out now. The trick was to appreciate whatever China Rail threw our way, as I'm sure in years to come I will reminisce about those vintage HXD's!

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