The International Steam Pages
The YuDan Narrow Gauge Railway
Wilson Lythgoe reports on his visit to this diesel powered narrow gauge railway in Henan Province, China in April 2011. Paul Crooks reports (30th August 2012) that the railway has now CLOSED. See pictures below.
The YuDan Narrow Gauge Line was last mentioned in SY Country back in November 2007. At that time it had a daily passenger train said to be the farthest one can travel by ng in China and a number of freight trains. All diesel of course....
Then early this year, purely by chance, I found an internet report by some Chinese Railfans of a visit to Xuchang in October last year and it seemed as if the railway was still operational and passenger train running. As an added bonus this report had a picture of the railway station with a sign above it that translated to 'Small Train Station' and with that in my possession all the hard work was done!
I worked out by flying from Chengdu to Zhengzhou, rather than taking the train, I could gain the day and a half I needed to visit the railway and possibly ride the passenger. Zhengzhou Airport appeared to be midway between Zhengzhou and Xuchang with a regular bus service to Xuchang so that was a plus. Xuchang being the only major city on the railway and where I presumed the where the main depot to be.
So having settled into a hotel near the China Rail station mid afternoon I got a cab to the 'Small Train Station'. The picture off the www worked a treat. The station turned out to be only a ten minute walk from my hotel so this was the last time I needed a taxi in Xuchang. On arrival the situation did not look promising.....sure there was a station and tracks but no one was around and it all looked very desolate. There was a very faded poster on the wall though showing train 101 would leave Xuchang at 07.00 arriving Dancheng at 1300. Train 104 would depart on the return trip an hour later arriving back at Xuchang at 20.00 but there was really no sign that the railway was operating at all.
I spent the rest of the afternoon inspecting the station yard and nosing around the depot area. The yard contained a row of battered 'Huanan' style coal wagons, a carriage that looked as if it had been in an argument with a truck and a railcar probably belonging to the track maintenance gang. Hooked behind the railcar was a flat wagon with some garden benches on it....maybe the makings of a tourist train? According to the maps and information I had, back in 2007, freight traffic was originating from anything up to 70 kilometres west of Xuchang and then passing through Xuchang on its way east. Now the railway had been pulled up immediately to the west of the station. The next block along had already been converted into car parking and beyond that empty ballast curved away into the distance between apartment buildings.
In the other direction towards Dancheng the track was still in situ and I found what was obviously the loco depot. A number of diesels stood outside in an area that seemed to be part of a panel beaters yard. Behind that a number of locked sheds where I was able to peer through cracks in the doors. All up I reckon there was fourteen engines around the place with none looking as if they would be operational and still I hadn't seen anyone who looked as if they worked for the railway.
It all looked sufficiently interesting though for me to decide to turn up at the station next morning on the assumption Train 101 would run and too take along enough food and drink for the day just in case........
By 06.30 the carriage attendants had unlocked their two cars, shortly after an engine arrived from the depot and all stood ready waiting for passengers and the 07.00 departure. As well as the carriages there was a van upfront and an open wagon trailing....these were used for any freight offering and passengers' larger items. And most importantly by 06.45 I had a ticket to travel.....25Y for the 165 kilometres to Dancheng!
Two and a quarter hours and fifty six kilometres later Fugou was reached. The carriage attendant yelled something out and everyone started leaving the train. I grabbed the camera and exited as well only to find apart from myself all were heading off to the loo!
The substantial station building at Taikang (left). A lot of the stations were major buildings although either derelict or fast becoming that way. Surprisingly we stopped at most stations to either pick up or set down passengers and at all stations there was someone with flags to signal the train through. Freight being unloaded at Huaiyang (right). The two people closest to the camera are train crew: on the left a carriage attendant and standing beside her the travelling maintenance man. His job seemed to consist of checking for hot boxes each time the train stopped but will always be remembered for attempting to change a light bulb on the return journey and plunging both carriages into darkness for the last two hours!
The trailing wagon and scenery typical of which the train passed through all day. There were never many passenger onboard with most people only travelling a stop or two. Only myself and the crew seemed to be travelling the entire distance.
Dancheng at the end of the line. The entire train runs round a triangle then all the crew head off for lunch somewhere. I wasn't quick enough to work out where they went as was too busy with the camera and had to rely on supplies bought from Xuchang. On the way home the open wagon was in use for part of the way. Seen here as the train leaves one of the more substantial station yards behind.
The next morning at Xuchang all is ready again for a repeat of the previous day. It's the same loco and loco crew but interestingly the train consist is a different set from yesterday.....now I wonder where yesterday's set is?
During my time here trains 101 and 104 were the only trains seen. Apart from Xuchang there were no freight wagons at any of the stations and no sign of any freight waiting to be moved. The branches north from Weiying and south from Huaiyang both appeared well rusted and not to have been used for some time. I doubt if the line has much of a future...................
I then took the bus up to Zhengzhou planning to spend the next few days visiting the Xingyang Brickworks Railway. Recent reports had said operations had been resumed.... but all was at a standstill. That's life.