An everyday scene at Sandaoling open cast coal mine sees JS locomotives loading up with coal in the distance next to the loader on the right (smoke plume) and the excavator on the left. Meanwhile, another JS makes its way out of the pit to the wash plant with another load of coal. There is one exception though. The train is travelling along the down line usually used by trains pushing empty hoppers to the loading bay. Due to a coal fire in the old eastern part of the pit, the train had to use the down line to exit the pit, whilst the up line on the right was being used by another JS hauled train to collect spoil to smother the fire (out of sight).
How long such scenes will continue is uncertain but it’s pretty much “last rites” for steam in China. We were told that management were meeting at the end of March to determine the fate of the steam engines. There is talk the trains will be replaced by a fleet of mining trucks to haul the coal. Personally, I can’t understand the reasoning for this. It seems to me it would be far more sensible to continue to use the railway until the mine reserves are near depletion in a couple of years time. But I would say that. We will soon know.