The International Steam Pages


Case Notes - Steam in China Part 2
The Chengde steelworks line

Terry Case writes about his travels for steam. Further tales will follow from time to time covering more of Australia, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan.

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The steelworks line trains were single headed out of Chengde station yard, across the river bridge, then ran through the crowded town to a small yard where bankers waited to be attached.

A JS crosses the bridge, behind it you could observe the rare appearance of steam on the CNR line to Longhua, 23rd January 1997.

A SY crosses the frozen river water as people skate and play, 23rd January 1997.

The steelworks line trains were single headed out of Chengde station across the river bridge, then ran through the crowded town to a small yard where bankers waited to be attached. The final 3km being on a 30% grade was often completed at walking pace, the noise from the exhausts echoing from the cuttings as the engines slowly slogged upgrade. Sometimes trains stopped short of the tunnel to allow the engines time to recover and charge the brakes for the equally steep descent to the steel mill.

The line featured some tremendous views and sharp grades, in the winter months 3 locomotives were assigned to each train, usually a single header with double bankers, but sometimes double-headed with a single banker. Most trains to the steelworks were limited to 10 or 11 wagons, made up of loaded coal wagons, sometimes supplemented by tanker wagons and boxcars.

The steel mill owned a fleet of SY and three JS 2-8-2s purchased from China Rail, (a fourth was purchased in 1997). JS 6217 was seen at the banker station where a crewmember snatched a quick break, 28th December 1996.

I had found the crews de-icing the engines using flame torches prior to this energetic departure by a SY with its JS bankers, 23rd January 1997.

This JS works past the water tower and its bankers are digging in, 28th December 1996.

About halfway up the hillside having passed the water tower a SY and JS combination head a mixed load towards the summit, at the rear another JS was banking, 27th December 1996.

JS and SY bankers are working hard to keep the train moving, 28th December 1996.

Clear mornings at the summit gave a chance to include distant hills in the shots, by 11.00 the pollution would obscure them, 3rd January 1996.

We were keen for an early start but found due to a shift change the first train to reach the summit was usually around 10.30. We spent time on the Longhua line but had no luck getting steam on the branch passenger which by this time was generally hauled by a diesel.

A SY approaches the summit, 27th December 1996.

The rear of a train disappears into the summit tunnel, this was some of the best action in China and could be reached using a local bus, then walking back downgrade to the town for afternoon glint shots on the bridge.

On the opposite side of the hill there were some equally challenging grades, this SY is being eased as it approached the tunnel, 27th December 1996.


Rob Dickinson

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