NOTE:    This is an historic report as there are probably no longer operational steam locomotives at Pingdingshan
My first solo visit to China was made at Easter in 2002.  My original plan had been to visit the Shuangyashan system in
north-east China as this was an opportunity to see at least three different types of locomotives at worj on the same system
(QJ, JS and SY's) but to my dismay this wonderful system came to an end shortly before my departure from the UK.  
Although by that stage it was too late to head south of Beijing it was clear that a visit to Pingdingshan should be undertaken
as soon as possible since this was another system with all three classes at work.

Thus in December of the same year I returned to China and caught the overnight sleeper to Baofeng and then took a taxi to
Pingdingshan.  Having been used to the clear blue skies of northern China it was extremely disappointing to find that the
weather was cold, grey and varying between rain, sleet and snow.  The fact that it had been like that for the previous four
days did little to raise my spirits but once I had discovered the location of the railway there was certainly much to enjoy -
even if capturing it on film was a major challenge.  Without doubt it was the busiest system that I had seen with an enormous
number of trains and light engine movements.  My
trip report certainly gives a good idea of the level of activity on just one of
the days that i was there.  I made friends with a level crossing keeper at the west end of Shenxi yard and most of the pictures
below were taken from the level crossing or the nearby environs.  The quality of photographs is not what i would have liked
but they do serve to show the railway as it was on those bleak December days.
From a photographic viewpoint
the railway really ran the wrong
way with empty wagons being
operated uphill to the mines and
loaded wagons returning behind
tender-first locomotives.

However the sight of a long train
of empty wagons behind JS6253
as it headed for Mines 2, 4 and 6
was enough to stir the blood even
on a bitterly cold December day
At an early stage it became clear
that the majority of traffic on this
section of the system was in the
hands of JS class locomotives.  
This was only two years after the
first reports of this system and at
that time the details of which
types of engines worked where
were somewhat limited.  In this
picture JS8120 is bringing empty
wagons from the CNR exchange
sidings and heading back to the
Patience eventually paid off as
out of the gloom came QJ6813
on yet another train of empty
wagons heading to the mines.  
The total output of coal during
this short period must have been
truly exceptional.
Although I saw no double-headed
trains there were a number of
trains being banked away from
Shenxi yards  - in this case
JS8062 is in charge of the train
with QJ7162 providing assistance
at the rear
Deflector-less QJ7186 stands in
the yard at Shenxi having
performed banking duties on a
previous train of empties
At last an SY was spotted in
action - in this case SY1687
taking empty wagons towards
Baofeng and about to climb a
short but heavily graded section
of the line.  The power of these
(relatively) small engines never
ceases to amaze me
Whilst most trains were formed
from either empty or loaded coal
wagons there were other
operations on the system
including steam hauled pasenger
services.  On 24 December 2002
a tanker train hauled by JS6253
thunders through Shenxi yard
with JS 8054 providing assistance
at the rear.
JS6429 is in charge of a morning
passenger train from Baofeng
heading eventually to Mine 13.  
Whilst operated for the
employees of the mines and their
families it was possible for
enthusists to ride the trains for
just a few yuan.
SY0758 struggles to get its train
under way beneath the overhead
signal gantry in Shenxi yard
Whilst appealing to the trainspotter in me, the December 2002 visit had certainly not provided any great photographic
moments and my view of the weather south of Beijing was certainly jaundiced.  Leaving Pindingshan was a wrench but the
move paid off as the overnight sleeper took me to
Handan and away from the murk and gloom into glorious clear blue skies.  
I spent two wonderful days at the steelworks before heading north of Beijing and into the Shenyang area.

However I was determined to return to Pingdingshan and try to improve my photographic record of the system and so three
years later I tried again.  To my delight I found the weather to be unseasonably warm and the skies to be reasonably clear
and sunny.  This was however counter-balanced by much lower levels of steam operation and the arrival of a number of
bright orange diesel locomotives which seemed to be operating the heavier trains of empty wagons.  There were numerous
other changes as well - not the least being that the level crossing which had been my 'home' on the previous visit was no
longer in use and the warm little brick built hut was a pile of trackside rubble.  An underbridge was being created for road
traffic and there were other signs of modernisation to be seen almost everywhere.

During the 2005 visit I saw no trains being hauled by either QJ or SY class engines although both were seen at the depot
which I visited when the weather took a sharp turn for the worse.  Although I was pleased to improve the quality of
photography I still feel that Pingdingshan was 'one that got away' and that I never really succeeded in capturing the best of
this system
The much improved light in
December 2005 is clearly
demonstrated as JS8065 brings a
morning passenger train through
the yards at Shenxi en route to
I'm not much given to taking
photographs of tender first
workings but have included this
picture of JS8057 to illustrate the
operation of the system - all
loaded trains were operated in
this fashion with the wagons
heading either for the CNR
exchangew sidings or the nearby
power station
JS8054 is engaged in shunting
wagons at the top end of Shenxi
yard.  At times it was difficult to
determine whether an
approaching train was heading
through to the mines or whether it
would cut off and slow to a stand
before retreating backwards and
continue with a shunting
However there was little doubt
about the intentions of JS8421 as
it headed through the yard.  The
roar of the exhaust indicated an
engine that really meant business
and which was preparing for the
climb up to the mines.  Here it
powers through the yard at the
head of some 60 or so empty
It quickly became clear that JS
class locomotives were the
predominant motive power and
in the three days I didn't see one
train hauled by a QJ or SY
although at least one QJ was in
steam at the depot.  On this
occasion it is JS8054 which heads
for the open cast mines to the
north of Pingdingshan
JS6225 standing at the head of a
long train of wagons containing
spoil or ash in the yard at Shenxi
JS8065 had spent a long time
making up its train of wagons before
finally pulling out of Shenxi yard.  
Industrial railways may not be
everybody's cup of tea but scenes
like this are now almost completely
consigned to history.
A rear three-quarters view of
JS6255 as it pulls away at the
head of a train of empty wagons
bound for Mine 2 or 4.  Despite
being on a privately owned
railway system the locomotives
still bear the CNR symbol on
their tenders
The driver of JS8057 is engaged in
conversation as the locomotive
stands at the head of yet another
train of empty wagons in the yards
at Shenxi.  Not speaking Chinese it
could be frustrating to wait for the
train to depart only to watch it
shunt slowly back up the yard!
I am just about old enough to
remember steam locomotives at
work on British railways in the

I wonder if in the future this young
boy (with his proud father) will
recall the days when steam
locomotives still worked on the
railways of Pingdingshan.

Because that is just about all there
is now ...... memories.
A classic portrait style shot of a JS
Class locomotive as No.8054 stands
in the yards.   Originally built at the
Dalian Locomotive Works in 1957,
a total of 1,135 were built, with
production ending in 1965.  After a
16-year break, production started
again in 1981 and a further 358
locomotives were made.
One of the earlier batch of
locomotives, JS5644 heads a long
train of empty wagons bound for
the various mines in the
Pingdingshan area.  The practice
was to use boilder first workings for
empty wagons returning tender
first with the loaded wagons.
JS6255 shunts a short rake of low
sided spoil wagons in the late
afternoon sunshine at Pingdingshan
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