Friday, January 31, 2014

Todays Train of Thought- The Iron Rooster Crows One Last Time, January 31st 2014

Today's train of thought takes us all the way to Inner Mongolia in the twilight of mainline steam in China. What is sometimes referred to as the iron horse in North America sometimes goes by the moniker Iron Rooster in China- at least according to the 1988 Paul Theroux travelogue Riding the Iron Rooster.

The 587 mile Jitong Railway line- an amalgamation of Jinling and Tongliao, the two cities at each endpoint- is fairly new. Construction began in the 1990s by China's state-run railways to serve the interior of rural inner Mongolia, but despite being one of the newest lines on the people's republic of China the line featured several otherwise-obsolete technologies such as semaphore signals and manned crossing gates that would be gradually be eliminated as the right-of-way was incrementally upgraded [interestingly, this rationale was not applied to the line to Lhasa, Tibet that was completed in 2006- NANESB!].

Part of this backdated technology included the 'QJ' class steam locomotives, and the sight of the massive 2-10-2's steaming across viaducts, through tunnels and up mountain grades in the dead of winter was a big selling point for a number of USA and UK-based travel agencies specializing in rail travel. But like the crossings and signals, the technology was eventually updated by the Chinese state railways and by 2005 the Jitong line was fully dieselized.

Here, contributor Steve Armitage caught QJs #6851 and #6639 storming up Shangdian Summit in Inner Mongolia after a recently-passed storm dumped some white stuff on the western side of the summit on February 24, 2004. While the two pictured QJ are out of service, three of their brethren have been shipped to the USA and periodically see service on the Iowa Interstate and the late RJ Corman's Kentucky Lines.

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