China Report February - March 2015
11 March
12 - 14 March
15 - 22 March
28 February - 2 March
4 - 8 March
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28 February 2015
A good first afternoon at Baiyin where the sun came out briefly. We bumped into Ben and several Chinese gricers and were told that the steam heat season will finish on 5 March. This is similar to last year and earlier than the arbitrary 15 March end date to the 15 November - 15 March steam heat season. As always, it depends how cold it is. It's been a mild winter again. Of course, we never know whether there will be another steam-heat season.

Two locos in steam and both in use. 1047 on the passenger (number to be double checked) and 1581 on the shunt. The standby loco was in use for the first time today in 6 days (according to Ben) to shunt from the new siding north west of Gonsu just under the road bridge at the west end of Gonsu taking the loaded train through Gonsu and then to the south. The load in builder's materials bags is not know but large quantities have been delivered to a new yard and transshipment could take days/weeks. There was one full cycle - load wagons from road trucks loaded from the stockpile using two mobile canes one to load and one to unload, deliver load to the factory by train, loco returned light engine to Gongsu, then returned later to collect empties and start the cycle again.

The passenger train comprised 6 coaches and the loco was in good condition and worked hard. It was running to time or slightly early. Arrival at the halt below Shenbutong was just after 15:40.

Freight was slightly up on my November visit, one diesel trip worked a few wagons to Sanyelian between the passenger's up and down path and returned light engine. Having the second steam loco working makes everything more interesting. There is apparently a third steam loco ready to be fired if required.

However, the imminent end of the steam passenger for the season means that we got here just in time. By summer, they could be down to no steam locos in use again.

On 1 March, the railway was busy but only one steam loco and 2 diesels doing the work. 1581 was in steam on standby. 1047 on passenger and shunting.

On 2 March, the official re-opening after Chinese New Year took place. Some movements yesterday were to get things ready for the restart. 1047 on passenger and back again on the duty loading and unloading of the builders bags for transfer to a factory inside the complex (as on our first day). This was a diesel turn yesterday. 1081 inside the depot still in steam and 1583 near the coaling tower in steam on standby. So, a record (for recent times) 3 locos in steam but only one doing anything.

So that's it for Baiyin for this trip. Depending on your interpretation of the Wolzstyn operation - Baiyin is the last real standard gauge steam passenger train in the world! And today with 3 locos in steam it was impressive. But 3 locos in steam really only meant one in use and the standby loco being rotated. In the works 1013 was having no work done on it. And in a few days, the steam passenger will finish until either around 15 November or never. We never know for sure. In a month or two, Baiyin could be all diesel again.
Note: 3 March - another Chinese enthusiast has quoted 15 March for the end of the steam passenger for this season but also that it will be diesel next winter. We shall see.