C2 History Pages

Dahuichang Locomotives

The history of the narrow gauge locomotives used at Dahuichang is far from clear, with sparse (and often conflicting) documentary evidence, and no photographs from the early years. We were reluctant to write this page, recognising the risk of creating or perpetuating mis-information. However, several people have expressed an interest in this data. We have attempted to pull together the probable facts into something plausible, and accept responsibility for any errors. If you know better, please let us know and we will happily correct the data!
The sources of data for this page include the following:
  • Hand-written notes in a book owned by Mr Shang, who was a loco driver and fitter on the narrow gauge at Dahuichang, probably the senior driver at the time the line closed
  • Locomotive log-books acquired when we bought number 4
  • Evidence of works numbers stamped into components on number 4, or spare parts
  • Records from the Industrial Railway Society, including handbook 2PRC (see bottom of page for details)
  • Keith Chester's book 'East European Narrow Gauge' (see bottom of page for details)
  • Discussions on the 'Steam in China' email newsgroup, with particular thanks to Jeff Lanham, Rob Dickinson and Bernd Seiler
  • Chinese websites on narrow-gauge railway history
  • Chinese technical papers from http://www.cnki.com.cn
It is worth noting here that standard gauge steam locomotives were also used in the exchange sidings at Dahuichang, including YJ287 and SY0251. They are not the focus of this article, but it is possible that some of the confusing or conflicting data about the narrow gauge may actually relate to standard gauge locos.
C2-800-464v2.jpg
Standard gauge YJ287 at Dahuichang in 1999 (Photo: © Hansjörg Brutzer)
The factory at Dahuichang was built in 1953, and the railway opened about 1954. In 1992 it was merged into the Beijing Capital Iron and Chemical Company, and continued to operate until mid 2005, when the railway was closed and abandoned. Initially it appears that the railway was operated by two types of tank locomotive:
  • Type CK 0-6-0 tank locos, 'from America', 'lighter engines', probably 15-tonne. Numbers 5 and 6. These appear on Mr Shang's list. Several Chinese sources describe small American steam locos in use on the forestry railways in the North East of China in the 1950s, and it may well be that these were of the same type.
  • 18-tonne 0-8-0 tank locos. Mr Shang's list includes loco number 4, Dalian Works number 118, which arrived in 1957 and was put into service 1958. These 18t locos were the common Chinese 762mm gauge locomotive type prior to the introduction of the 28t 0-8-0 tender loco (C2 and other designations). Thought to be copies of a 1937 O&K design, they were sometimes known as type SY (Shanyou, Aiming High). Not to be confused with the later standard gauge SY class. One report states that three cabs from this type of locomotive survived in use as stores at Dahuichang into the early 2000s; we only have photographs of two of them, one with a visible number 2.
C2-800-354v2.jpg
Cab of 18t locomotive, surviving at Dahuichang until 2002 (Still from video: © George Hart)
C2-800-520v2.jpg
Cab of 18t loco at Dahuichang in 2000, with a number 2 clearly visible on the side. This one has rectangular cab windows, whereas the other one (above) has oval windows. (Photo: © Mark Lanham)
C2-800-623v2.jpg
Basic dimensions of the 18-tonne locomotive, a saturated 0-8-0T built at various factories in China including Dalian.
C2-800-362v2.jpg
18t locomotive in use at Gaoyao in 1985, modified with a tender - not a Dahuichang loco (Photo: © John Athersuch)
C2-800-368v2.jpg
Worksplate of 18t locomotive at Lishan in 1985, showing key dimensions - not a Dahuichang loco (Photo: © John Athersuch)
Next there appear to have been two tender locomotives of the early 28 tonne type, probably including examples built in Europe and China. Again, there is some degree of uncertainty about these:
  • Type KP, Romanian loco, 1959 (From Mr Shang's list). It is fairly certain that no narrow-gauge Romanian locos were exported to China, and no 28-tonne locos of the C2 family were built in Romania. This is most likely a reference to a Polish KP-4 (predecessor of the C2, many were exported to China including some in 1959).
  • Type KM-4, built at Shijiazhuang, 1961 (From Mr Shang's list). This is a Chinese copy of the Polish KP-4. They became KM-4 because the Russian 'P' (pi symbol) looked like an M.
  • The early Shijiazhuang locos were almost indistinguishable from the Polish imports, and any differences are likely to have vanished during rebuilds in subsequent years. A loco of this type was numbered 01, and survived until 2000 although it was latterly derelict.
Assuming that the KP was a Polish 28-tonne loco and that there were only two 18t locos, a plausible stock list covering the 1961-1983 period might be:
  • #1 28t 0-8-0 KP-4 (Chrzanow 1959)
  • #2 18t 0-8-0T SY (Dalian ?)
  • #3 28t 0-8-0 KM-4 (Shijiazhuang 1961)
  • #4 18t 0-8-0T SY (Dalian 118/1957)
  • #5 15t 0-6-0T CK (America ?)
  • #6 15t 0-6-0T CK (America ?)
This list is conjecture and I have edited it several times since publishing this page as new information has come to light!
C2-800-357v2.jpg
Loco 01, derelict at Dahuichang in 1999. This might have been the Polish KP-4 of 1959 or the Shijiazhuang-built KM-4 of 1961, or another similar loco. (Photo: © Brian Hawkins)
It is likely that most Western visitors to the railway at Dahuichang will never have seen any of the locomotives discussed thus far, and they may never have been photographed in operation.
From the 1980s, the fleet was replaced with modern 28t 0-8-0 C2 class locomotives. These were built at Harbin and were among the last 20 C2s ever made. One might think that their history would be more definite, with them being more recent and surviving to be seen and photographed by hundreds of Western enthusiasts. Sadly it is not quite that simple!
Visitors to Dahuichang in 1998 and 1999 reported five C2s, with 01 dumped outside the shed and four locos serviceable: 02, 03 and 04 plus a fifth loco variously described as 05, 06, or 'the loco with no number'. Photos of this latter loco confirm that it was the same loco later numbered 1; it was probably renumbered after the old 01 was scrapped.
In the mid to late 1980s, the Harbin Forest Machinery Plant was still building C2 locomotives, at a slow rate of about 2-3 per year. By this time, approximately 200 had been completed, and so the locos being outshopped had works numbers in the low 200s. They featured large all-weather cabs and roller-bearing motion, which distinguished them from earlier 28-tonne locos; however many earlier locos were also rebuilt to this standard at Harbin. The C2s latterly working at Dahuichang were of this type.

The new locomotives originally carried a small stamped aluminium worksplate on the cabside, and another on the tender. These were similar to those often found on electrical equipment or industrial plant, rather than locomotives. Most of these plates were removed from the Dahuichang locos at some stage. . Some Harbin-built locomotives also carried larger cast aluminium worksplates on the dome, but with no unique locomotive identity. If once carried by the Dahuichang locos, these would have been removed when the sandboxes were modified.
C2-800-370v2.jpg
Our C2 #4 at Dahuichang in snowy early 1998. Note the narrow cab, smaller cab window and the central boiler blow-down arrangement. Later in 1998 the loco had its 10-year overhaul and returned with a bigger cab and side blow-downs. Other distinctive minor details confirm it was the same loco, and we have found evidence of these modifications during the rebuild. (Photo: © Rob Dickinson)
In 1986, Harbin Forest Machnery Factory claimed to have recently supplied two new locomotives to 'Changchun Brick Factory' and by 1987 this number was said to have been three. Dahuichang is in Changxindian county, which may have been misunderstood as 'Changchun'.

When locomotives were overhauled, either at Harbin or at the railway workshops, it is likely that parts would be swapped, and it is possible that even a nominally 'new' loco might contain older parts. The earliest photos of number 4 show it with a narrow cab which was not typical of the 1980s Harbin locos.

The identity of the four locomotives latterly at Dahuichang is therefore not entirely certain. Indeed, it is possible that more than four locos of this type were used at Dahuichang, perhaps being swapped with other lines. Alternatively one of the two earlier 28-tonne locos (KP-4 or KM-4) may have been given a heavy rebuild to the new standard, becoming almost indistinguishable from a new locomotive. The most likely candidates are listed below:
C2-800-359v2.jpg
Our C2 #4 at Dahuichang in 1999, looking smarter post-rebuild and with the wider cab. At this stage it still had its leading tail lamp, and had not yet acquired the huge painted numbers. Numbers 1-3 were very similar in appearance. (Photo: © Brian Hawkins)
  • Harbin 202/198?: 202 was at Harbin works in 1987, having received a major overhaul. Apparently it was destined for a 'Colliery near Beijing'. It has been suggested that this might have indicated Dahuichang or Yexi. The works number 202 would be appropriate for a loco built around 1981. Our locomotive carries several parts stamped 202, but is not the same loco pictured at Harbin
  • Harbin 208/1983: When we bought our loco, we acquired the two sets of surviving loco log-books from the loco office at Dahuichang. These included a boxed set of several neatly bound books for works number 208. The boiler test date is quoted as 1983.6.9 and there is also a handwritten note '83-4-257-9-208'.
C2-800-624v2.jpg
A locomotive numbered 202 at Harbin works on 30th October 1987. (Photo: © Mike Jackson)
  • Harbin 209/1983: In the boxed set of books for 208, the book containing the tender details is for 209. At the time of our purchase, locos 1 and 3 had swapped tenders, and 1 (with 3's tender) had been sold. So it is possible that 208 was #3 and 209 was #1; the other logbooks may have gone with the sold loco.
  • Harbin 216/1986: This one is clear! 216 was Dahuichang #2, and carried its loco worksplate well into the 2000s. The other boxed set of loco log books that we have is for 216. This has the boiler drawing annotated 86-5-87-4 which may represent the dates for start and finish of build.
  • Harbin 221/1988: This is the one we think we've got - Dahuichang #4. When we bought the loco, the tender still carried its worksplate confirming this identity. Sightings and photos of #4 as 221 from 1997 to 2005 confirm that the tenders were not routinely swapped. However, although we have found many numbers (possibly works numbers) stamped into motion components, none of them are 221! So far we have found probably 10 different numbers, of which 202 is the most common, and one part which appears to have come from a Polish loco. This proves that components were commonly exchanged at overhaul, but doesn't confirm the identity of the locomotive. Until 1998 the loco had a narrow cab which would not have been typical of a Harbin product of the 1980s.
So, was our number 4 supplied new in 1988, perhaps using some older parts that were in stock, or was it actually an older loco which had a major rebuild in 1988 including a new tender that was numbered 221? We don't know for certain.
C2-800-366v3.jpg
C2-800-364v3.jpg
Three photos showing the locomotive log books for 208/209 as described above:
Above: the bound boxed set of three books: two for the loco and one for the tender.
Above Right: Close up of the cover of the second loco book, showing the impressed number 208.
Right: One of the inside pages, with details of final inspection or test, including stamps of approval.
(Photos: © Sam Miller)
C2-800-365v3.jpg
C2-800-363v2.jpg
Harbin C2 loco works plate from 216, built 7/1986. This was #2 at Dahuichang. (Photo: © Jeff Lanham)
Occasionally the locos at Dahuichang were sent away for major overhaul, where the work required was beyond the capabilities of the local workshop. Mr Shang told us that #4 had never been away from Dahuichang since it was delivered new, but this seems unlikely as other evidence suggests it had a 10-year overhaul at Chaihe in 1998 when it acquired a new cab. Some of the other locos certainly went away for overhaul; in 2000 there were only 3 locos present on the railway (including #3 and #4) and the staff said that the other was at Harbin under repair. In 2002, loco #1 was observed at Dahuichang apparently having just arrived from Beian.
C2-800-371v2.jpg
Harbin C2 tender works plate from our 221, built 1/1988. (Photo: © Paul Molyneux-Berry)
It therefore seems plausible that the four locos at Dahuichang in the 2000s were 208 (#3), 209 (#1), 216 (#2) and 221 (#4). However, with the data currently available we cannot be sure. In due course we intend to create a list of all the parts of #4 that carry works numbers, and see if we can draw any more conclusions.
C2-800-355v2.jpg
Two locos stand in the shed at Dahuichang in 2002. #1 is on the left, #2 on the right. (Photo: © Steve Armitage)
C2-800-358v2.jpg
#3 and #4 in October 2004, the twilight of operation at Dahuichang. (Photo: © Brian Hawkins)
When the railway closed, #2 was in the middle of an overhaul at Dahuichang. This was completed, with the hope that the railway could re-open as a tourist attraction in due course.

Loco #1 (with #3's tender) was sold within China fairly quickly, but as far as we know it has not seen any further use.

When we bought #4, #2 was still standing in the shed freshly overhauled, while #3 (with #1's tender) had clearly been robbed of parts to make the other three locos serviceable.As of December 2013, #2 and #3 are still there, locked away in the shed!
C2-800-356v2.jpg
Dahuichang #1 (with #3's tender) at Modaoshi, Heilongjiang Province, October 2006. (Photo: © Brian Hawkins)

Further Reading:

'East European Narrow Gauge', Keith Chester, 1994, ISBN 1-873150-04-0
'Industrial Locomotives of the People's Republic of China' (2PRC), R.N.Pritchard (IRS), 2008, ISBN 978 1-901556-47-6
Rob Dickinson's 'International Steam' webpages http://www.steam.dial.pipex.com/internat.htm
SY Country - Trip reports and details of surviving steam railways in China http://www.sy-country.co.uk/
Werner & Hansjörg Brutzer's album of photos from Dahuichang:
A web page about the early locos used on the Chinese forestry railways:
Papers downloaded from the Chinese online journal resource http://www.cnki.com.cn, including:
Loco Design 
History of Dahuichang C2 Number 4