Fuxin is one of the last main steam centres left in China and should be high on the list of places for any steam enthusiast to
visit.  In November 2012 there were at least nine SY Class locomotives in steam with two more undergoing heavy overhaul
and a further engine receiving running repairs in the workshop.  Sadly the passenger trains no longer appear to operate, the
fascinating fleet of ancient electric locomotives has gone and the big open cast pit has a much reduced railway system but
nevertheless Fuxin continues to attract considerable interest.

The city itself is located in Liaoning Province and is fairly easily accessible by train from either Shenyang (about 180km) or
Jinzhou (120km).  Before 1998 this area was out of bounds to foreigners but since that time it has become very popular with
enthusiasts due to the intensity of steam operations to be found there.  All steam activity now takes place on the mine
railway which serves deep pits situated to the north and south of Fuxin.  Until recently there was also an extensive electric
railway which carried most of the coal from the open-cast pit with steam locomotives entering this complex on track
maintenance trains.  Latest reports suggest that the railway into the big pit is greatly reduced and no longer electrified. A
photograph taken in February 2012 showed a steam locomotive working in the open cast mine but how frequently this
occurs is not certain.  A comprehensive map of the system can be found on www.sy-country.co.uk.
The steam fleet consists entirely of SY class engines although a JF and a YJ were seen dumped out of use during my visit in
April 2002 and are believed to be still present at Fuxin.   SY’s work both empty and full wagons to and from the coal mines,
particularly Wulong mine, and trains run to and from the power station.  Fly ash is taken from the power station to the spoil
tip to the south-west of the city.  The area around Wulong yard and the lines to and from Wulong mine are the best places
to see the steam action.  The locomotive stabling point is to the east of the level crossing at Pingan and as many as 7 steam
and 3 diesel locomotives change crews here in the 7:45 - 8:30am period.  Others may change at the shed where there is coal,
water and sand or at the Taiping stabling point where there is water and sand..

Since most of the activity involves tripping wagons backwards and forwards, long trains are fairly rare and trains to and from
the CNR exchange sidings are diesel worked. Trains are normally worked tender-first to the north east and chimney-first to
the south east.  However, more important is whether the loco is required to haul or propel the train.  Engines can either run
round the train or use the triangle created by the lines between Pingan station, Taiping and Wulong Mine to allow the train
to be correctly orientated. The spoil tip is always worked with the loco propelling - usually tender first.   As mentioned above
the passenger service now appears to have ended - a great shame as riding the mine railway was a very pleasurable way to
spend a day or so.  My thanks to John Raby for much of this information on the current situation.

The shots below were taken in busier times during three visits to the system - twice in 2002 and again at Christmas 2003.  Of
interest to the photographer may be the fact that the quality of light varies considerably according to weather and pollution
levels.  The recent clearances of the hulongs may alter the latter - pray for a cold crisp day and you will surely have an
amazing experience.
Morning at the Taiping stabling point in December 2002 with SY0785 and SY0911 plus two more unidentified engines
A short while after the previous shot
SY1210 came clattering through
the yard with a very long train of
empty wagons heading for the open
cast mine at Xinqiu.  Whilst there
are probably no photographic
mastershots to be had on this
industrial system the amount of
action more than justifies any visit.
SY0849 brings a short train of track
panels out of one of the
maintenance yards situated next to
the north depot.  These were then
taken down into the open-cast pit
and laid in a temporary fashion to
allow the movement of coal from
the seams up to the washery and
ultimately to the CNR exchange
sidings or the local power station.  
Meanwhile on the right, SY0988 is
being made ready for its days work.
At least twenty five SY's were in use
during my three visits.  However
there were also a considerable
number of locomotives out of use,
withdrawn or dumped including
YJ403 which I found on a siding at
the Taiping depot.  Later in the day
I also came across a JF in amongst a
line of withdrawn SY's at the shed in
In addition to the coal trains there
used to be a steam hauled
passenger service between Xinqui
and Wangying.  There were  two
daylight trains in each direction
and these were used by miners
heading to and from work as well
as the local populace.  My arrival
in Fuxin in Easter 2002 coincided
with a major dust storm and with
photography out of the question I
rode the train from Wulong to
Wangying and back.  This caused
great interest amongst the locals
who could not understand my
interest or desire to sit in Wangying
for over an hour waiting for the
train to go back again!
Like most industrial systems there is
little or no 'timetable of action'
except for the passenger trains.  
However at Fuxin there are regular
workings of wagons into and out of
the power station.  With China's
growing economy the demands for
energy are unceasing and so there
is almost a merry-go-round system
in operation.  SY0540 brings a short
train from the main yard and is
heading the mile of so towards the
power station.
Definitely not working steam!  The
rail network at Fuxin was extensive
and complex and train workings
used to be undertaken by both
steam and ancient electric
locomotives.  Some lines seemed to
be exclusive to one or other form of
traction whereas other lines were
used by both.  This workers train in
2002 is passenger moving at its most
basic!  The coaches appeared to be
box cars with flame cut windows
with no seating - and certainly no
First Class!
It seems quite incredible that the
steam traction at Fuxin survives
whilst the extensive electric system
has gone.  Maybe I should have
spent a little more time capturing
this scene as well as the steam scene
- but it wasn't where my interest lay
and so I have to be content with no
more than half a dozen or so shots
of these ancient electric
locomotives at work.
A long train of empty wagons
leaves the main yard at Fuxin
behind SY0540 heading for
Xinqiu.  There is an illusion of a
banking engine at the rear but in
fact this was another engine
shunting the yard. On the right
can be seen the hulongs - brick
build houses occupied by workers -
which are now being swept away
all across China to be replaced by
concrete apartment blocks.
SY1319 shunts the main yard at
Fuxin with an unidentified SY
propelling wagons up onto one of
the unloading staithes in the
background.  In the distance can
be seen the distinctive power
station chimney - the destination
for much of the coal produced in
SY0770 returning with empty
wagons from the power station.  
The appetite for power in China
seems insatiable and there was a
regular procession of trains
heading to and from the plant
taking coal and bringing back
empty wagons and ash to be
dumped on the spoil tips - a
practice which continues to this
SY1378 awaits patiently as coal is
loaded into wagons near Wulong -
a slow and time consuming
process.  On the left is a small hut -
having taken this shot I sat on a
bench outside this building to
change a film and was joined by
two Chinese women who were
intrigued by my presence.  They
were joined a short time later by
man who was also fascinated to
see a foreigner in town.  I
wandered off to take a couple
more shots and on my return was
invited into their hut.  The table
was set for four - the fish was
frying in a pan on the fire - and it
was clear that they considered me
their guest of honour.  I never
cease to be delighted by the
kindness and generosity of the
ordinary Chinese people.
SY0076 seemed to be the
designated locomotive for the
passenger services - it was
certainly the case during both of
my 2002 visits - and here the
engine is seen bringing the
afternoon passenger train past the
coal loading plant described above
Lunch was interrupted on several
occasions by the arrival of trains -
in this case SY1378 taking a long
train of loaded wagons out of the
yard and heading for the CNR
exchange sidings.  Right ...... back
to the fish!
This is steam in an industrial
setting in a country with a rapidly
developing economy.  A point
perfectly illustrated by this shot of
SY1460 bringing back wagons from
the open cast pit past a pond in
which I certainly would not wish to
swim!  No dramatic sweeping
viaducts or dramatic mountain
scenery on this system!
Some indication of the level of steam activity at Fuxin can be gauged from my notebook for 3rd April 2002.  I arrived at
Taiping station about 7.15am and finally left Wulong at 5.30pm.  During that time I saw a total of 62 locomotive movements
and photographed a further 8  locomotives which were not in steam.  Some of these movements were of light engines or
trains that passed by, shunted back and then passed me again but there was rarely a gap of more than 10 - 15 minutes.   In all I
saw a total of 23 active SY's at work on the system during the day and heard others at work that I didn't actually see!   Due to
the weather on the second day I didn't get an opportunity to explore the line beyond Fuxin including the well-known 'church
shot' at Minzhu, where there is a large Catholic church close to the running line, or take any shots on the more rural parts of
the line.  This seemed as good a reason as any to try to make a return visit to this system which I managed in December
2002.  On that occasion I was able to achieve my ambition and photograph a train at Minzhu (actually on two occasions).  My
third visit to Fuxin was in December 2003 when I found everything much as it was on my previous two visits.  During my
travels I keep a journal in which I record the day to day details of my travels together with my own observations of life as I find
it.  Below is my entry for December 25th 2003 - Christmas Day.  I hope it may serve to illustrate the joys of travel in China.

The three women in the little shop see me as I walk down the street and nudge each other and laugh and smile. I smile and
wave back. I decide that maybe I am hungry and suddenly yearn for some steamed dumplings. They realise I am coming into
their little café and collapse in rib-shaking mirth.

The interior is as basic as it is possible to imagine. Four concrete walls - one with an incongruous picture showing bacon and
fried eggs and a basket of freshly picked tomatoes - and a bare concrete floor. Wooden tables and plastic stools. Two ancient
refrigerators live out their last days next to a table covered with bottles of cheap spirits.   In the centre of the room stands a
larger wooden table. On it is a large square pastry board. The youngest of the three women carefully takes a piece of dough
from a large bowl, makes it into a tiny ball and then rolls it flat into a perfect little circle. She makes each one quickly and
without thought. On a seat next to her is an older woman who takes each little circle and fills it with a mixture of meat and
vegetables before folding it in half and crimping the edges.

The finished products sit on a bamboo mat ready to be cooked. The oldest of the three selects a dozen or so, smiles at me
and disappears into the back kitchen. I help myself to a bottle of the local beer and a glass appears on my table as if by
magic.    It is December 25th and this is to be my Christmas lunch. The steamed dumplings appear and are delicious. I savour
them more than I would the roast turkey and trimmings that will be served up in my absence. The women stand and watch
and wait for signs of approval. They are not disappointed and in situations like this the lack of a common language is no

For now I am their only customer. Maybe others will come later. A simple life, simply led or a hard life, hardly led? In a
dumpling shop in the back streets of Taiping.       
SY0540 shunting empty wagons in
the main yard between Wulong
and Taiping.  Being at Fuxin in the
early years of the C21st was about
as close as it was possible to get to
watching a full size train set!
The main locomotive depot is located to the north of the main running lines at Wulong and provides coal, water and sand
for the locomotives. Access to the depot was unrestricted in 2002 and it was possible to watch locomotives being coaled or
simply standing and waiting.  A number of dumped locomotives were also at this location including a 2-6-2 JF class
locomotive and several derelict SY's.    
SY1320 also was to be found on
the south depot.  Although I am
quite used to decorative
headboards and smokebox
garlands this was certainly the first
time I had seen an SY adorned
with a bicycle.  Either the engine
driver was Norman Tebbit's father
or the local driver was intending to
take a short cut home!
As a railway photographer, being
in China during deep winter was
akin to shooting fish in a barrel!  
Most days were sunny with clear
blue skies and relatively light
winds.  Checking apertures and
exposures was almost unnecessary
and it was possible to just sit and
wait for the next train to appear
without stressing about the
possibility of clouds and lack of
sunshine.  SY0941 with a short
train of ash from the power station
runs through Wulong
SY1319 prepares to set off with a
long train of empty wagons from
the main yard.
I spent some time watching
SY1396 put together a long train
of loaded coal wagons ready to go
the CNR sidings.  As I did so I was
joined by a large number of local
woman who squatted down by the
lineside to wait patiently for the
train's departure.  As soon as the
train began to pull out of the
sidings the women leapt to their
feet and began to hurl rocks at the
sides of the wagons!  Their aim was
to knock out one of the pegs
securing the side doors to the
wagons in the hope that it would
release its cargo all over the track -
whereupon the women could then
legally scavenge for the coal to
take home for their cooking fires or
to earn a little money.  It was an
amazing (and rather sad) site.
At Wulong their is a fairly
extensive maintenance and
overhaul facility.  It would appear
capable of undertaking all but the
heaviest of overhauls (maybe
more) but access is normally
denied to all visitors.  However
China increasingly celebrates
Christmas and thus it was that on
December 25th 2003 it was
possible to explore the whole
works facility without being asked
to leave.  Photographic
opportunities were fairly limited
but this set of SY wheels made a
good subject.
In the middle of winter the sun
never gets onto this side of the line
but during my Easter 2002 visit it
was possible to take shots from the
west side at Wulong.  There had
been a long period of inactivity on
this particular afternoon and I was
beginning to wonder if I would see
any more action before the sun set.  
Eventually my patience was
rewarded as not one but two
columns of smoke could be seen in
the distance.  First to arrive was
SY0076 on the afternoon train to
Wangying ................
....... followed almost immediately
by SY1396 on a train of loaded
wagons heading for the exchange
sidings.  It was the finale to my first
visit to Fuxin and a wonderful way
to end the day.
With steam eliminated from the
CNR main lines it was only possible
to see steam hauled passenger
trains on the railways of the larger
mine systems.  This shot of SY0931
on the afternoon train approaching
Wulong is about as close to a
mainline steam train as it is possible
to imagine.  Sadly in 2012 such
scenes are just a memory as all
passenger services have been
The late morning train from Xinqiu
terminated at Wulong and the
locomotive ran round its train and
sat for several hours in Wulong
station before departing in the
early afternoon.  SY0076 was the
regular engine for this passenger
working and was seen on this duty
on all three visits to Fuxin.
During my December 2002 visit I
bumped into Ron Lingley, a fellow
enthusiast from England.  We
decided that we would try to get a
shot in the more rural surroundings
of Minzhu with the Catholic church
in the background.  We secured a
taxi and set off - instructing our
taxi driver by signs and
gesticulations.  Once in position we
paid him off and waited for SY1376
to do the business.  Only then did
we realise we had no taxi back to
Fuxin!  Since we both needed to
catch trains to other places this
was a concern.  After waiting,
without success, for nearly 40
minutes to hail a taxi we eventually
waved down a passing 4x4.  The
bemused occupants agreed to take
us back to Fuxin - but not before
showing off their 'captives' to their
local factory!  We were regally
treated - made tea, given fruit - and
deposited back at the station in
time for our trains.
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