China’s last bastion of steam to close by 2020

AS STEAM disappears in China it appears there is more local interest than ever.

In February the English language newspaper China Daily published a long feature on the Sandaoling coal mine, well known to many railway photographers as the last place anywhere in the world with significant daily steam freight operation.

No fewer than three steam-hauled freights – all being led by ‘JS’ 2-8-2s – in one picture on December 27, 2017. They are at the Ba’erzhan (‘82 station’), which gives access to the loading area of the Sandaoling opencast mine. On the left, JS6224 is waiting with an empty coal train after having received a fresh load of coal in its tender. In the middle, JS8167 has just arrived from the washery in Xuanmeichang with an empty coal train. On the right, JS8190 is working hard with a loaded coal train towards Xuanmeichang. All three locos were built at Datong during the 1980s. DAVE HABRAKEN

The China Daily report confirmed the steam locos used at the site will cease within two years as part of the Chinese government’s drive to reduce pollution from burning coal. The original plan was to use diesel locos until the mine closed completely in June 2020.

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However, in the short term, this gives the remaining steam locos a short reprieve as the mine owners will not bother replacing them with diesels.

Two steam locos are due to be overhauled this year to keep them going until 2020.

Read more in the March issue of The RM – on sale now!

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