FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam ends at Baiyin

Posted in Baiyin, China by folkestonejack on November 22, 2015

The latest update from China on the SY country website has brought the news that steam has now officially ended at Baiyin following the recent purchase of four diesels.

Farewell to Baiyin

Farewell to Baiyin

It’s a sad, if unsurprising, loss to the much diminished list of steam locations in China. The beauty of the line at Baiyin was that its steep gradients still presented a decent challenge for SY class locomotives and this was packaged within the beautiful arid setting of the loess mountains.

I was lucky enough to get a little taste of this on two trips to Baiyin in 2009, though it’s frustrating to see how many opportunities I wasted as I look back through the photographs that I took at the time!

Gallery: Baiyin in 2009

In search of a view

Posted in Baiyin, China by folkestonejack on December 11, 2009

A small illustration of the lengths to which a photographer will go to for a good shot… on this occasion a few of us climbed to the top of a hill at Baiyin to get a shot of the morning freight.

The view up to the hilltop...

...and the view looking down

I’m not sure that I really did the spot justice in my photographs, but it was an incredible view nevertheless.

In the evening we drove out of town into pitch black darkness on the bumpiest road I have ever had the misfortune to experience, seemingly into the middle of nowhere. Eventually a gloomy building appeared on the horizon. Welcome to Baiyin’s main line railway station…

Different perspectives

Posted in Baiyin, China by folkestonejack on December 10, 2009

A curious breakfast of spicy noodles, fried eggs and coffee… whilst being strangely of the conscious of the toads watching us from a tank in the corner of the room. It is safe to say that neither we – or the toads – wanted to see them turning up for breakfast!

As I’ve been to Baiyin before I was keen to find new perspectives for my photographs but that wasn’t difficult as there are innumerable places of interest along the road to Dongchanggou. I can’t claim to have taken any mastershots but I was happy with the pictures I ended up with.

More photos from Baiyin

Lanzhou to Baiyin

Posted in Baiyin, China by folkestonejack on December 9, 2009

Arrived in Lanzhou at 11.47am after an overnight journey on a soft sleeper from Hami, whereupon we jumped aboard a bus bound for Baiyin. Arriving in mid-afternoon we managed to get some interesting shots of the workers on the line at Liugongli and the afternoon passenger trains back to Baiyin.

Arrival in Lanzhou

Snow in Baiyin

Posted in Baiyin, China by folkestonejack on February 25, 2009

Awoke to find light snow in Baiyin (a relatively unusual occurence in these parts, as the arid landscape confirms) but this had dissapointingly not made its way to the upper reaches of the line when we got there. And then with perfect timing, a blizzard arrived along with the freight train – making for a wonderful opportunity to capture the combination of steam and snow.

Snow in Baiyin

Snow in Baiyin

The rest of the day had its moments, particularly as we explored the area around the depot in Baiyin and stumbled on the walled compound of JS class locomotives (a type I have not seen in steam). We took our lunch in a small restaurant at the entrance to the depot before making our way back out to the line in the afternoon. A loco turned up at the same time as yesterday but not banked this time. Never mind, it was worth a try!

Mural of factory workers in Baiyin

Mural of factory workers in Baiyin

At the end of our final day in Baiyin we headed out by bus, bound for Lanzhou. We arrived in early evening and enjoyed a meal at a local restaurant before heading to the station where the delights of a soft sleeper compartment on train K120 awaited us. It would be my first experience of a sleeper train in China…

More photos:
Gallery: Baiyin

The moment I discovered I am not a mountain goat…

Posted in Baiyin, China by folkestonejack on February 24, 2009

There are many ways to spend time but three hours perched on a hillside in Baiyin waiting for a freight train is probably up there with the strangest of them! I had a good chat with Bob while we waited and a quick scan around the surrounding hillsides revealed the perches chosen by other members of the group.

It was an interesting spot amongst the landscape of Baiyin with a cave dwellers property (complete with yapping dog) and disused smelter in the foreground. In the far distance the industrial backdrop of chimneys poked above the hilltops. After a few hours your mind plays many tricks and the thump of the local industry starts to sound like an approaching steam locomotive, or worse, you can hear the slip of a locomotive in the vicinity of Sanyelian before realising it isn’t the freight train you were expecting… this time we were lucky and it eventually materialised at 1.30pm.

A long awaited freight train at Baiyin

A long awaited freight train at Baiyin

You might have thought that this would be enough of hillside scrambling but more was to follow in the afternoon. I soon discovered that I was no mountain goat as I scrambled up the steep hillside to reach a vantage point that had seemed a good idea from the ground. Peter encouraged me as I struggled up the final few metres (when we reached this incredible viewpoint we found Bernd already at the top, having taken a much easier route up!). It was certainly worth it for the view it gave us.

A view like this makes all the effort worthwhile

A view like this makes all the effort worthwhile

I walked back down the line to the smelter and saw the arrival of a banked freight (2 SYs). The efficient operation was quite a sight – the banker dropped off the back quite quickly then the remaining SY shunted the wagons in and out of the buildings before departing itself. After watching the afternoon passenger trains we took the bus on to the mine station in Baiyin itself (a separate station to the mainline station on the China Rail network). This was an exercise in itself as the bus driver got lost and eventually had to persuade an obliging taxi driver to lead the way…

The crossing at Baiyin mine station

The crossing at Baiyin mine station

In many respects this station gave me the first real taste of China beyond the industrial confines as we watched people crossing the line in front of the station, kids playing and people going about their daily business. An absolute joy.

The delights of Baiyin

Posted in Baiyin, China by folkestonejack on February 23, 2009

After struggling out of bed in the early morning light I psyched myself up for a full day at Baiyin – not that I needed much encouragement once we got out to the line I realised just how amazing this little stretch of line was. The first passenger and freight services we saw wowed me completely, whilst a perfectly timed delivery of meat filled dumplings revived the other parts of me!

We headed back, catching the SY as it rolled back down through the line at a level crossing (as captured in a short youtube clip at After the road re-opened we travelled on to the depot and marshalling yards at Baiyin.

In the marshalling yard we found two SYs awaiting action whilst in the depot we found two SYs under cover, another outside and one undergoing an overhaul (not an SY used by the company at Baiyin but from another company which no longer has a workshop). The highlight for me though came a little later, as we walked back across the suspension footbridge to our minibuses, when a SY suddenly appeared hauling bright yellow petro-chemical tankers. A wonderful fusion of worlds – which I was, for once, in time to capture on film.

SY and petro-chemical tankers at Baiyin

SY and petro-chemical tankers at Baiyin

After this sight we headed back out to the line, taking up a hillside viewpoint for one train and then on to the smelting plant at Sanyelian where we watched the afternoon passenger service depart at 4.50pm to take the workers on their commute home.

The commute Baiyin style

The commute Baiyin style

In the evening we headed out to an unlikely restaurant in a backstreet that didn’t seem to promise much but delivered incredibly tasty food. It was a good lesson in the perils of making hasty judgments. At the end of the meal all the staff came out onto the street and waved us a goodbye – a friendlier place I can’t imagine. A long but superbly reward day which I would eagerly repeat anytime, never mind the lack of sleep…

Manzhouli to Baiyin

Posted in Baiyin, China by folkestonejack on February 23, 2009

An afternoon flight brought us back to Beijing where we had sufficient time for a meal in a noodle restaurant whilst waiting for our flight to Lanzhou. The flight was horribly turbulent, especially the last hour – the worst I have experienced in all my years of flying. Our late departure (the flight was delayed by 30 minutes) meant that we didn’t reach Lanzhou until 12.20am.

After retrieving our luggage we trooped out to the waiting minibuses for the drive to Baiyin which took a couple of hours. I finally closed the door on my hotel room at 2.30am. I got to bed at 3am with a slight sinking feeling, knowing that we had an early start ahead of us…

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