Steam enthusiasts can be thankful that the central section of the JiTong railway, in Inner Mongolia, was 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. 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! Freight trains were usually around 2000 tonnes, and, normally, two massive QJ 2-10-2 class locos were used on each one. They slogged along at 20 mph and, because the line loops back and forth across the valleys to gain height, there are hilltops where you could stand and watch one train for 30 minutes or more.
The tour spent 3 days on the JingPeng pass in November 2004, with the first snow of the year on the ground! The result: 1 hr 20 mins of massive QJ class 2-10-2 locos hauling 2000 tonne goods trains and our tour’s 850 tonne sleeping car train up the 1 in 87 gradients. This line is justly famous for spectacular scenery and high, curved viaducts. The week after the tour, more diesel locos were delivered to Daban MPD, displacing steam from more trains over the JingPeng pass. We were there just in time!
After visiting several colliery lines (see China Railtour 2004, part 1), we arrived at the JingPeng pass on 1st Nov. to spend three days amongst the dramatic mountain scenery. Each morning, our sleeping-car train dropped us off at JingPeng or Shangdian stations, then went on to Daban for servicing, returning at sunset to collect us. We spent the day driving from one stunning location to the next, photographing everything we could.
The program is arranged more or less in chronological order, so sometimes you will see the same train at several places, and sometimes you will see a succession of trains pass the same spot. The captions refer to the places on this map. You can tell whether a train is heading east or west by how hard it is working!