Feng Shui and Steam Locomotives

Well, dear reader, you will recall my blog about the China National Railway Museum in Beijing some time ago. The museum is neatly organized into two halves: one for electric and diesel traction, the other half being reserved for steam locomotives. The initial blog described the electric/diesel section. Herewith a long overdue report regarding the steam part of the museum.

A small view of the Steam Locomotive section

Railways came rather late to China towards the end of the 19th century. The then reigning Imperial Court was just not impressed with the technology and apparently also worried that the "new" technology would upset their Feng Shui! It was not until 1881 that the first commercially viable and enduring railway was built. 

The oldest locomotive in the museum is a 0-2-0. It was built in England in 1881. Even in 1881 this would have been rather old technology: 

Until about 1952 China was almost totally dependent on imported locomotives. The industrial basis to construct them domestically was just not there. Curiously the widest used locomotive until then was the Belgian PL9 locomotive type:

A class PL9 Belgian made steam locomotive.

In 1952 China began mass producing it's own steam locomotives, called the "Jiefang" (JF). It was a 2-8-2 wheel configuration and proved very popular:


"Jiefang" Steam Locomotive

In terms of sheer numbers produced, it was probably the QJ class locomotives churned out by the Datong Locomotive Works. Just over 4700 units of this design were built. Reportedly to a Russian design, this locomotive became the primary freight locomotive on the Chines network. It was a freight design, but could frequently be seen on passenger train duties:

A "QJ" steam locomotiveThe last QJ's were not retired until 2010.

Here are a few other interesting pieces. A British 2-4-2, built by Vulcan Locomotive Works in Newton-Le-Willows:

A British built Class KF Steam locomotive

A US built locomotive from Baldwin:

A Baldin built in 1947

And here is another USA built unit:

I have no idea who built this locomotive. Here is a photograph of the builders plate:


Probably the most interesting exhibit piece is the locomotive which pulled Mao Zedong's official train:


It is a Mikado type engine, built in Japan. A good section of Mao's train is also exhibited in the museum. Brad and myself just could not resist to see the insides of that train. We paid an additional 5 yuan to two ladies, put on some plastic booties (!) and went inside.

Here is Brad having a laugh with the two women in charge of the "Chairman's" train.

Of the original "official" train five coaches are exhibited:

And here is the head honcho riding in style:


The observation/lounge car:

Brad consulting with "the Man":


Here is a video of a Chinese QJ Class locomotive (Video by iso8.tv):



All photos by Ralf Meier/Bradford Wing

Our small group's travel and accomodation in China were expertly arranged by Mr. Leon Long at www.chinatravel.com