November 2014
11-17 November
Sandaoling - This Page
18-22 November
23 - 26 November
3-5 November
6-10 November
These boxes are hot links. Click on them to go to the reports.
Sandaoling 16 November

We arrived two days earlier than planned after leaving Rongshan early.

Australian enthusiasts met today report 10 locos seen in steam and one 62xx loco placed in store while they were here.

Locos seen today

8081 passenger and odd jobs, 8190, 8167 both on coal train, 8173 coal trains in the morning, 6209 engineers train?

8081 took 6209 and steam crane down to coal at the blue loader mid morning.

New line reported by Xibolizhan train controller testing 40 wagon train diesel hauled!

According to company manager met at lunch:
Open cast has 3-5 years left
New line will be steam until 30+ wagon trains are needed then diesel haulage
Company has sufficient no. of diesels, 4, to do this
Low Coal price will not affect operation as it's providing work in troubled minority area

17 November

8081 on passenger through pit to Xibolizhan. Passenger will be cancelled soon but still needed to take open cast railway mine staff to Xibolizhan. When their jobs are transferred to deep mine company, this will finish. This month?

One line through pit to Xibolizhan still open. Second line out at Xibolizhan cut, all other tracks on west side in pit removed, all lines through Xibolizhan remain in place. Xibolizhan control box still in use.

New line testing 50 wagon train with diesel around 17:00! These are loaded trains and depend on the new mine producing enough coal to load the train. This is looking bad!

All new line info from Xibolizhan control

6204, 8053, 8366, 8089, plus 1 more JS working at Nanzhan

DF8B 0247, 0248 and 0249 in use to China Rail and testing the new line to the western mine.

There will be a similar tour in February - March 2015
Click for the Sandaoling photo folder on Flickr
18 November

We rode the workers passenger train to Xibolizhan with 6209 in charge the right way round for the return chimney first. It carried very few workers but stopped at the control offices before and after the blue loader, the blue loader itself and Xibolizhan. The doors are no longer welded shut on the non-platform side. We then went to check the new line to Shadunzi and found a level crossing about 1/4 of the way to the mine on a long straight which appeared to climb to the mine. The new line is single track. A phone call established there were no trains expected. On our return to Xibolizhan, we found the passenger train had returned to remove furniture from the offices. The handover from open cast to deep mine company is imminent. When that occurs, the steam-hauled boxcar passenger will be replaced by a railcard from Nanzhan.

Lunch in warm, sunny weather overlooking the east end of the pit. After a long time, one loco moved away from the bucket loader but stayed down the pit. A second loco and train, came down, loaded and eventually came out of the pit to the coking plant(?) via Dongbolizhan.

The washery eventually restarted and we had an afternoon of regular traffic to both locations with 3 locos in use. The PW train went down propelled by 8081, probably to coal at the blue loader.

We walked via Dongbolizhan to the railway between the workshops and the coking plant before being told that walking through and taking photos in this area is not allowed.

It turned a bit cloudy but we watched a hazy sunset from the rim of the pit by the exit of the motorcycle trail from the control center near the 4 coloured light signals in front of the blue loader. Something to try again with a proper sunset.
19 November
To Dongbolizhan for 08:00 to see which way the loco on the passenger was facing (tender to the train) then round to Xibolizhan to catch it arriving and departing. Clouds obscured the sunrise so we need to do it again with better weather.

Xibolizhan control said that a 20 wagon train steam hauled was at Shadunzi waiting to return. It was around 09:00 but we waited until 14:00 before it finally came tender first. As one of the first to witness steam on the new line, it was probably worth the wait but I would want more regular trains including some chimney first before I would want to do it again.

Then by the back route south of the pit to Dongbolizhan. This route is still open from the entrance to the pit at Xibolizhan although there are lots of dirt road junctions and plenty of chance to go the wrong way. In the middle of this section, where the old line from Dongbolizhan (now severed) joins the new line, is a passing loop or siding controlled by coloured light signals.

One loco came round the curve from the coking plant and workshop back to Dongbolizhan and we had a good view down on this from the dirt track. We then drove to Nanzhan and the improved dirt track towards Beiquan mines. With two steam and one diesel down this branch, we waited again for a train but gave up at 17:00 and went down the open pit for the sunset shots.
20 November
As long as there are no problems at the Blue Loader or the washery, the line out of the pit at the east end at Sandaoling provides regular 13-wagon, chimney first coal trains with three locos in action with a train roughly every 30 minutes with dead periods after shift change 8:30 (first train around 10:00) and in the period roughly 12:30 - 14:30 when the crews have lunch. Two locos serve the watery while the third serves the coking plant via Dongbolizhan and the curve to the workshops followed by a reversal. Seen from the rim or from down the pit, this steady stream of coal trains represents the best standard gauge steam thrash left in the world and it is still stunning just to stand there and watch and listen to these trains. Some trains are driven especially hard and today two out of three drivers were giving it full wellie! Best seen and heard either where the up and down line split leaving the signals after the Blue Loader or at the bottom of the final slope out of the pit where the sound really echoes. Only one more afternoon to enjoy this on this trip as we head out late afternoon in two days' time.

We have had 5 days of this and especially on the two days with clear skies leading to great sunset shots, this alone justifies a trip to Sandaoling.
Sandaoling summary
Open cast - up to 3 locos on coal trains, trains every 30 minutes, 2 to washery, 1 to coking plant. 1 loco on pw train
Coal will last 3-5 years
Passenger train will finish end November

Deep mines
Restricted access to Nanzan, Beiquan mines and Shadunzi mine
Long infrequent trains to Beiquan, diesel may be used, top and tail possible
Long, infrequent test trains running to Shadunzi, over 24 wagons will be diesel
Balloon loop at Shadunzi is visible from outside the mine
Better road access to Shadunzi is via main road to Urumqi but distant from line

9-10 locos in use, full number list not available due to restricted access at Nanzhan.
No locos in works in late November
Ex-Xibolizhan locos are now in the secure compound near the works
21 November
The group started the day either riding the passenger or photographing it at Xibolizhan with 6029 in charge. It still looks good arriving and departing out of the sunrise but only 2 staff got off and only 1 got on. The key role remaining is the train controller for test trains from Nanzhan to Shadunzi. No news of any trains to Shadunzi this morning so we went to have a look at Beiquan and got lucky with a train from Beiquan Erjing mine. After 6 days, we have now seen steam trains on all of the lines on both the deep and open cast mine systems apart from Nanzhan to China Rail which has been dieselised for some time.

JS 6204, 8053, 8366, 8089, 8358 working at Nanzhan. We can add the last number having seen this loco taking 20 wagons to Beiquan before lunch today.

The weather clouded over so after lunch the group asked to be dropped at various places from the washery to Kenkongzhan. It was our last afternoon for glint shots and silhouettes in the open cast pit but it didn't look like it would happen. However, around 17:00 the mountains of Tienshan were clearly visible and then the sun came out so we did our best to include the mountains in with footage of trains leaving the pit at Kenkongzhan.
22 November

Summary of locos in use:

JS 6204, 8053, 8089, 8358, 8366 plus 1 working at Nanzhan.

JS 6209, 8081, 8167, 8173, 8190 working at Dongbolizhan

Excellent sunny day with a clear sky all day. I video-ed the passenger train between Dongbolizhan and Kenkongzhan while the group rode it. The mountains were visible with just a touch of cloud on top.

After a brief spell at Nanzhan, we heard that a 20 wagon steam-hauled train was due to leave for Shadunzi. So we finally got a chimney-first train on the new line from Nanzhan towards Shadunzi approaching the summit of the climb to the new passing loop between Nanzhan and Xibolizhan. A fitting end to our 7 day visit here. 10 wagons only could fit in this loop at at the moment so it would only be suitable for a coal train passing an engineers train or a railbus. When the line is fully operational, this will be a control office along with Xibolizhan between Shadunzi and Nanzhan.

So now it's on to Baiyin.
One of the tour participants Peter Hackney has provided a link to his Flickr photos of the trip. Click this box to see them.