Yuanbaoshan will always have a special place in my affections as it was the first steam location I visited in China on my own.  
I had previously visited China as part of organised tours but could not find any tour which co-incised with my Easter holidays in
2002.  Against my better judgement I decided on a 'do it yourself' trip without companions, guides or interpreters.  With the
help of a number of people I was eventually as prepared as I could be and set off armed only with cameras, a Chinese railway
timetable and a Berlitz phrasebook.   In the event it was a wonderful experience and began my affection for China and
particularly the Chinese people.  The first thing I discovered was that everyone was willing to help me, despite the language
and cultural barriers.  I've lost count of the individual kindnesses I have experienced but I recall the very first - an elderly lady
and her grand-daughter who I first met on the train to Chifeng.  They took me under their wing, looked after me in the melee
of Chifeng station and delivered me by way of bus to a hotel in Yuanbaoshan.  To my lasting regret I never learned their names
- but I will never forget their help and the assistance they gave to a complete stranger somewhat at sea in a foreign land.  For   
that reason this page is dedicated to their memory in the hope that maybe one day they will come across it and remember me.
A picture that will forever have a
special place in my heart - the first
shot that I ever took whilst
travelling solo in China.  For me it
was a vindication, if you will, that
it was possible to do it alone and
with minimal help and assistance.

JS Class 2-8-2 No.6246 coming off
the coaling stage at the main
depot in Yuanbaoshan
Two of the last surviving steam operations in China (as of November 2012) can be found in close proximity to one another at
Yuanbaoshan and Pingzhuang.   Both systems are within a very short distance of Chifeng in Inner Mongolia, a city which was
often passed through by enthusiasts on their way to and/or from the now dieselised Ji-Tong railway but which is now very
much a destination in its own right.  Until recent years neither system had received much in the way of publicity but in the
latter days of Chinese steam there are now regular updates on the levels of steam activity reported on the major websites.

Yuanbaoshan is the closest of the two systems to Chifeng.  It can be accessed via the CNR station on the line from Chifeng to
Yebaishou, but since the station is 10km or so from the town it is far easier to catch a local bus or take a taxi from Chifeng.    
The mine railway actually runs about 40km from the exchange sidings at Yuanbaoshan station to the exchange sidings at
Anqinggou on the CNR line from Chifeng to Tongliao.   Although it could provide an 'avoiding route' around Chifeng it is not
used as such by CNR.

The line serves two deep pits and an opencast mine located to the north of Yuanbaoshan and one mine at Fengshuigou near
the Anqinggou end of the line.  Steam locomotives face east and for this reason photography is difficult during the middle part
of the day.  Loaded coal trains descend down a steep bank from the mines at Yuanbaoshan with the engine running tender first
if steam worked.  At the bottom of the bank the locomotive has to run round its train in order to bring it into the main yard.  
Empty wagons are worked up to the mines in a reverse operation which sees engines leaving Yuanbaoshan tender first as far
as Majiawan where the engine runs round the train before climbing the bank with the boiler leading.

Daily 'mixed' trains used to operate from Yuanbaoshan to Anqinggou, departing at 07.00 and again at 15.00 with the return
working arriving at 10.30 and 17.30 respectively.   At least some of these trains remained steam worked according to latest
reports although for how much longer is anyone's guess.  At the time of my visit at least six JS class 2-8-2 locomotives were in
daily service although by 2012 this seems to have reduced to only one or two engines in steam and the delightful green
coaching stock has been replaced by a more modern white and red set.  However - at least there is still steam to be seen.
JS 6245climbing the bank from the
junction at Majaiwan with empty
wagons bound for the mines above
Yuanbaoshan.  Having previously
been in China during deep winter,
with extremely low temperatures,
it was a surprise how warm it had
become by March and thus how
little exhaust the engine was
Rather more in the way of exhaust
can be enjoyed as JS8249 arrives in
the yard at Yuanbaoshan from the
CNR exchange sidings  with a train
of mainly empty coal wagons but
with the first two wagons behind
the engine containing wooden pit
JS6245 standing at the western
end of the yard at Yuanbaoshan
having just brought a train of
empty coal wagons from the CNR
sidings.  In the background can be
seen the main control building.
The late afternoon light brings a
slight glint to the boiler of JS6246
as it stands at the head of a loaded
coal train in the yard at
Staying at Yuanbaoshan meant
being early to bed in order to be
early to rise.  The 07.00 train from
Yuanbaoshan to Anqinggou was
reported to be a 'mixed' train of
coal wagons and passenger
coaches but on the second day of
my visit the morning train headed
by JS6246 was composed only of
passenger coaches
JS6544 arriving in Yuanbaoshan
with a train of loaded coal
wagons.  This will have departed
tender first from the mines above
Yuanbaoshan and the engine will
have run round at the junction at
JS8250 running into Yuanbaoshan
with a short train of low sided
wagons carrying colliery waste.
JS8249 arrives in Yuanbaoshan
with a train of tanker wagons
passing JS 6246 as it stands on one
of the siding roads.
The locomotive crews were very
friendly and so I managed to get a
cab ride as far as Majaiwan
junction with a view to then
walking back to Yuanbaoshan.  
Having taken some shots of  JS6544
running round and setting back
onto the train I was invited back
onto the footplate to make the
journey up to the mines.  With the
sun making photography ever more
difficult I decided to accept their
kind offer and spent most of the
rest of the day with them.
Having left Majaiwan we climbed
the bank, stopping a number of
times in various villages to offload
coal into sacks handed up to the
footplate by villagers.  Whether
this was an official practice seems
to be somewhat unlikely although
no money appeared to change
hands.  If the accountants were
taking note they might just have
wondered at the apparently
alarming coal consumption of their
We arrived at the far end of the system around about 1.00pm and
after a short period of time spent shunting the crew began to
wash down the footplate with the coal slacking pipe before taking
a number of cushions from the tender and placing them on the
floor in a circle.  They then invited me to sit with them whilst one
of the crew climbed along the running plate to a metal box
attached to the side of the boiler.  He opened the box and brought
back a number of mess tins each of which was filled with hot food
and rice.  These were placed in the centre of the circle and a spare
spoon was pressed into my hand.  Together we ate a meal made
more delicious by being both unexpected and in such an unusual
location.  I have often described it as the 'ultimate Chinese

With lunch over the footplate was once again made ready for
work and we returned by degrees to Yuanbaoshan, collecting
loaded wagons from the various mines and sidings en route.  By
the time we reached Yuanbaoshan there was barely enough light
left to manage a shot of the crew who had provided me with such
a memorable experience.
JS6246 makes a spirited
departure from Yuanbaoshan
with a long train of empty
wagons bound for the mine at
JS6245 arrives with a long train of
empty wagons as JS6544 stands on
the adjacent track.
JS8418 standing on the disposal
road at the depot at Yuanbaoshan
There are times when life can be a
real bitch!  Once again I woke
early to capture the 07.00 mixed
train from Yuanbaoshan.  My first
attempt to photograph the mixed
train had been a 'failure' when the
consist had only passenger
coaches.  My second attempt was
also something of a failure as on
this occasion there were so many
coal wagons at the front of the
train that it was only just possible
to see the passenger coaches in the
far distance.  In fact this was an
enormously long train - probably
because the JS is a powerful engine
and the coal wagons were empty.  
2-8-2 Class JS8250 stands in front
of the coaling plant at the depot
in Yuanbaoshan.
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