I spent two-and-a-half weeks of October and November 2004 on The JingPeng China Orient Express organised by GW Travel, and I've returned with around 9 hours of footage! Having completed Part 1, I'm now working on the material from the spectacular Jingpeng Pass. The hardest part (as always) is deciding what to keep and what to discard. As I work my way through it, I will post more details and more pictures...
China is the almost last country in the world where steam engines are used on normal, everyday trains. Mostly, they run on branch lines serving mines or quarries, but there is one main line, from Tongliao to Jining in Inner Mongolia, where almost all the normal, long distance freight trains are steam-hauled. Not for much longer, sadly. The eastern and western ends of the line have been worked entirely by diesel for a couple of years, and the central section is changing over rapidly. By April 2005, steam will be gone. Thatís why GW Travel organised The China JingPeng Orient Express in October and November 2004, and why Steam Age Pictures had to be on it Ė before itís too late!
Steam enthusiasts can be thankful that the central section is the last to lose steam, for it includes the JingPeng pass, the most attractive, and the most dramatic, section of the line. Travelling west from Daban, the line climbs steeply to the summit of the pass at Shangdian, drops just as rapidly to the town of JingPeng, then climbs again to Haoluku. Freight trains are usually around 2000 tonnes, and, normally, two massive QJ 2-10-2 class locos are used on each one. They slog along at about 20 mph and, because the line loops back and forth across the valleys to gain height, there are hilltops where you can stand and watch one train for 30 minutes or more.
1st - 3rd Nov.
The spectacular JingPeng pass on the JiTong line. You'll see double headed QJs slogging away with 2000+ tonne freight trains, and our tour's 850 tonne China Orient Express sleeping car train. On the west side of the pass, the line climbs 223 metres in 25 km, whilst on the eastern side it gains 479 metres in 57 km. The ruling gradient is 1-in-87!
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