Saturday, August 17, 2013

Steam in China, Part 3

In my first post about experiencing steam locomotives in action in China during a professional trip in 1981 (the post is accessible at this link: ), I talked about watching steam-locomotive yard switching in Beijing. I followed that up with a second post about our lucky break in arranging to visit the locomotive manufacturing plant at Datong (the post is at this link: ). In both posts, I mentioned my metallurgical colleague and fellow modeler and railfan, Gordon Geiger. In the present post, I show some more of the images Gordon was able to acquire in China on that trip.
     In the first post I wrote, cited above, I showed several shots of Mikado 2303, working in the yard at Beijing. Gordon also got a good shot of that engine, near the coaling facility.

     Before retirement, Gordon was what is called an extractive metallurgist, meaning someone who works with converting ore to metal, and his career was in the steel business. As a result, he was able to visit Chinese steel plants, a rare privilege in 1981. He got some great photos in the process. For example, this wonderful shot of ingot molds being teemed from a ladle (which means filling the waiting molds with molten steel poured from a ladle, in this case bottom-poured). The foreground molds have already been filled.

He also got a quick shot of ladle cars being switched by a steam locomotive, a sight not seen in North America for many years even in 1981.

      And of course Gordon and I were together during the tour at the Datong locomotive plant. I tried to take photographs inside the plant and was mostly unsuccessful (the light level was really low), but Gordon got some good images. Here is one, with an array of both drivers and truck wheels.

Then as I described in my second post, we went out into the yard behind the plant to see brand-new QJ-class 2-10-2 no. 6186. Gordon got a better shot of the whole locomotive than I did. In this shot, some of our group of metallurgists can be seen clustered in the distance at far left.

      The plant switcher was this 2-6-2, an elderly engine, but I don’t know how old (our plant guide either did not understand our question, or had no idea of how old it was). Another of our group got a shot of Gordon and me in front of this engine, Gordon facing toward the camera.

     My thanks to Gordon for loaning me his slides (of which these are only a small segment), and for being part of the “persuasion” needed for our group to skip the Buddhist caves near Datong, and visit the locomotive plant instead. It’s still a great memory for me.
Tony Thompson

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