FolkestoneJack's Tracks

New day, another chase!

Posted in China, Yuanbaoshan by folkestonejack on January 18, 2011

The new day brought a new chase. First though, we had to make the hour long drive to Yuanbaoshan which required another 5.50am start. Luckily, coffee and biscuits were at hand to help us cope… we arrived at Xizhan in good time for the 7am departure.

Shortly before 7am we saw two freights arrive – one from the powerplant hauled by a green liveried diesel (GKD1 4009) and the second was hauled by one of the orange class DF12 diesels and a JS class steam locomotive. The steam locomotive had stalled a relatively short distance outside Xizhan with 30 filled wagons from Fengshuigou so the diesel had been sent to assist, dragging the tender first JS and wagons into the yard. Unfortunately my shots of this double header are pretty rubbish but it was interesting to see…

Unlike yesterday 7am saw the departure of a short train with just 6 passenger cars – no freight wagons at all. Nevertheless we gave chase and caught it four times before it reached the terminus. I’m not quite sure what the difference was today but the carriages were noticeably emptier – hardly anyone got off at Fengshuigou. We took some last shots of JS 8250 with a glint from the sunrise and then headed on to Pingzhuang to make the most of our final day on the lineside.

More photos: Yuanbaoshan gallery

An afternoon at the Yuanbaoshan Coal Railway

Posted in China, Yuanbaoshan by folkestonejack on January 17, 2011

After the mid-morning action we headed back to the station, depot and workshop at Xizhan where both JS 6245 and 8250 had returned for the lunchtime break. The guys there were incredibly friendly and I soon found myself handing out all my shrapnel (loose change in sterling) and got a few small denomination jiao back. I’d have to say that rarely can anyone have been quite so satisfied with a one pence piece as they were!

JS 8250 departs Xizhan with the 2pm mixed passenger/freight service

JS 8250 departs Xizhan with the 2pm mixed passenger/freight service

In the afternoon, re-energised by some dumplings, we repeated the morning chase with the 2pm mixed passenger/freight service – catching it once again at the river bridge and near the terminus. On the riverbank a shepherdess was looking after a flock of sheep with her children and I made sure to say hello… if I’ve learnt anything on these trips it is that so often foreigners breed an air of suspicion and distrust that can so easily be dispelled with a friendly word and a smile.

JS 8250 crosses the river bridge between Gongye and Fengshuigou

JS 8250 crosses the river bridge between Gongye and Fengshuigou

JS 8250 at a stand shortly before the final push to the terminal at Fengshuigou

JS 8250 at a stand shortly before the final push to the terminal at Fengshuigou

There is another line on the Yuanbaoshan Coal Railway which we had hopes of seeing but news filtered back that no workings were expected on this line. As the only other working out of Xizhan – a passenger service – was not due to leave until after dark (at 5pm) there seemed to be little point in staying. However, as is so often the case in China, further news complicated the picture with reports of new freight departures. In the hope of getting a sunset shot we stayed put.

It seemed that every five minutes the plan changed – they even brought out a third JS class steam locomotive which had been getting a boiler washout earlier in the day. In the end, all we got to see was the tender first working from Fengshuigou and some light movements. The cause of the continual changes appeared to have been a problem of some kind – maybe a points failure or difficulties with one of the locos. We could hardly complain as the level of activity on the line as a whole was quite unusual.

Mid morning activity at Yuanbaoshan

Posted in China, Yuanbaoshan by folkestonejack on January 17, 2011

The initial impression I got was that the Yuanbaoshan Coal Railway had relatively light traffic so I wasn’t expecting too much after the early morning excitement. However, news soon filtered through of a mid-morning freight heading up the line to Fengshuigou so it was back to the river bank for another attempt to capture the glorious sight of a JS in action. At the moment it is quite rough muddy ground to run across – not helped by an obstacle course made up of tree stumps across the whole river bank! It turned out we had plenty of time to choose a good position and soon the footage was in the can…

A little while afterwards, between 10.30 and 10.45am the passenger service rolled back down the line. This called for a shot with the village in the foreground, taken from a position atop a stack of bamboo canes. Not the most stable of vantage points it has to be said – especially with four of us up there! The resulting photo wasn’t particularly memorable but the circumstances in which it was taken were hard to forget.

Fengshuigou to Anqinggou

Posted in China, Yuanbaoshan by folkestonejack on January 17, 2011

The thrill of the morning chase had been wonderful… to see a JS class steam locomotive haul a mixed passenger/freight at three points along its journey was quite a treat. At the end of the line (at Fengshuigou) we took some final shots of JS 6245 as it shunted then headed back to the minibus expecting this to be the end of our morning’s work (so to speak).

It was at this moment that one of the crew indicated that they had a train to the state railway – an unexpected bonus – so we turned round and headed back down the track.

How far down the line could we get before the tell tale sound of the locomotive would send us scattering into the fields? Quite some way as it turned out. I made it to a frozen pond and took up a spot to capture the moment. If I thought the morning chase had been wonderful, this moment surpassed it. A beautiful loco in the morning sunlight working its way along the line to the state railway interchange at Anqinggou…

JS 6245 steams past a frozen pond at Fengshuigou en route to Anqinggou

JS 6245 steams past a frozen pond at Fengshuigou en route to Anqinggou

JS 6245 in action

JS 6245 in action

The landscape around Fengshuigou

The landscape around Fengshuigou

Chasing trains in Yuanbaoshan

Posted in China, Yuanbaoshan by folkestonejack on January 17, 2011

An early start today – meeting up in the hotel foyer at 5.50am for the one hour drive from Pingzhaung to Yuanbaoshan. In itself this wouldn’t have been too bad but coming after a long drive the previous day it was something of a killer! Having said that, I’d be the first to agree to an early start… after all, you don’t come all this way to miss out on the action by delaying your start for a bowl of cornflakes ­čśë

Our arrival at Xizhan (the main station on the Yuanbaoshan system) was in good time to watch two JS class locomotives shunting in preparation for the first trains of the day. The departure of the mixed passenger/freight with JS 6245 was right on schedule at 7am and I tried my best at a hand held video sequence, though I hadn’t bargained on having to keep still for 20 freight cars followed by 6 passenger cars. I may have been a tad optimistic there…

After the final carriage had passed we dashed back to the minibus and chased the train, overtaking it on the bumpy road alongside the railway. We reached the river bridge before the train with sufficient time to get down to the riverbank for a shot in the early morning light.

JS 6245 on the river bridge between Gongye and Fengshuigou

JS 6245 on the river bridge between Gongye and Fengshuigou

Yet again, we jumped back into the bus once in order to try and get ahead of the train for a third time. Our prize was to witness the final leg from the last level crossing on the line (which it stops at) to the terminus at Fengshuigou.

There must be quite an art to stopping in the right place to line the passenger coaches with the station as these are right at the back of the train.

Finally, we watched the JS shunt the wagons it had delivered – once the passenger cars had been decoupled. All in all, an incredible way to start the day… and it was still only just getting light!

JS 6245 shunts at Fengshuigou

JS 6245 shunts at Fengshuigou