The International Steam Pages
Notes - Steam in China Part 4
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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For other tales in this series see:
Yebaishu - Chifeng line - part 2
The mid-afternoon highlight was passenger train 453 from Jinzhou to Chifeng. This gave a chance to photograph in the lower section of the gorge, and see the train depart from Shinao station. Downhill freights would exit the tunnel then shudder to a stop at with brake blocks smoking. After the brakes were charged freights would travel the short distance to Shinao station where there was often a cross. This was 2nd January 1997.
The QJ on 453 had a lengthy train to contend with and worked hard to lift the train upgrade from Shinao; the views at this location were superb and the afternoon light was often good. I had plenty of time to reflect on what I had seen during the lengthy trek to the car, made awkward by the many layers of clothing needed to stay warm.
Most freights were doubleheaders, but there was a semi regular evening train which was tripleheaded. I saw tripleheaders on each of the lines, they were used to exchange pilots and reduce light engine movements. This was an afternoon freight leaving Shinao on 2nd January 1997.
QJ 3353 (the regular engine on 453) climbs away from the tunnel and catches the glint on the curve leading to the summit, 30th December 1996.
On a day of howling winds the passenger approaches the remote summit road crossing on 1st January 1997.
Following the passenger the final photo possibility at the summit was Yebaishou bound train 1778. We joined other fans who had formed a gallery. Those with videos had the best chance of success as the sun sank rapidly. During our wait the temperature plummeted. After, we scurried back to cars which had their engines running to stop freezing.
There was no social life at night, unless you included a walk in full winter gear along the frozen streets to a grim café. A plastic curtain provided a “private room” for six heavily dressed fans to squeeze in. The food was excellent and cold beers brought in from outside were well received!
The Chaoyang line featured a climb from Gongyinzi, located in a river valley. All freights had to be double headed, the lead engine being cut off at Bolouchi, the station on the opposite side of the summit. This was train 222 climbing from Gongyinzi on 31st December 1996.
S bends were frequent in the climb to the summit making the line a video favourite. I obtained some lengthy sequences as heavy coal trains weaved their way past. A morning passenger train from Yebaishou and an afternoon working downgrade gave some variety.
On the Bolouchi side of the grade, QJ 6486 powered past in the background being some stunning red earth colours; in the distance limestone cliffs could be seen, 11th December 1996.
For a beginner in China, Yebaishou was an action packed location.