FolkestoneJack's Tracks

A morning in Zhalai Nuoer

Posted in China, Zhalai Nuoer by folkestonejack on February 20, 2009

The atmospheric stabling point at Zhalai Nuoer was the next sight on our itinerary. The icicles on one of the stationary locomotives here provided visible evidence of the cold – though, that was already all too apparent in other ways!

Frozen

After a spell at the stabling point we headed back out after the control office passed on a rather strange tip off of a diesel hauling four steam locomotives. This prompted the thought that the end of steam might have arrived sooner than anyone had imagined. We headed out to spot overlooking the line and instead saw two diesels hauling a coal train with a steam locomotive at the tail. It transpired that this strange sight was one of two tests today to see how the new diesels would cope with the normal load for a steam locomotive. Today the tests failed, but the writing was clearly on the wall for steam.

After the disconcerting sight of the test we headed back out to a farmstead on the line to Tiebei which provided an interesting contrast between agricultural and industrial China on the margins.

A steam hauled freight train passes a farmstead on the line to Tiebei

A steam hauled freight train passes a farmstead on the line to Tiebei

If the future was to be found in shiny orange diesels then the past was equally evident on the streets of Zhalai Nuoer, that is, if the number of horse drawn coal carts around was anything to go by. At one location on a street corner we came across a row of such carts which made an impression on two minibus loads of foreigners. I’m sure the locals thought us all quite bonkers as we descended en masse for a photoshoot…

Street scene in Zhalai Nuoer

Street scene in Zhalai Nuoer

A spot near the washery at Dongfanghong was the final glamorous location for the morning. The washery made an impressive backdrop and after a few shots of the SY at the heart of this industrial site we gathered on a frozen pond to capture the beast in full flight. However, the expected departure never materialised – the injector had frozen and no amount of steam could clear that.

SY at Dongfanghong

SY at Dongfanghong on 20th February 2009

I was a bit nervous about standing on a frozen pond until it was pointed out to me that the ice was at least a metre thick and unlikely to melt until May! It was a strange experience nevertheless and one that I never felt entirely comfortable with, like walking on thick glass with a polished surface ready to catch out the unwary.

As mornings go, it was remarkable – so many steam locomotives in such a short space of time and there was a gritty sense of reality to the experience that you just never see on a preserved line or railtour. Remarkable as this morning was, it was nothing compared to the afternoon’s pilgrimage to the open cast coal mine at Zhalai Nuoer (also known as Jalainur). After all, it was photographs of this steam paradise that had lured me here in the first place…

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