Beitai Steelworks are located alongside the CNR line from Liaoyang to Benxi and the existence of steam locomotives at this
industrial site was first noted by Louis Cerny as recently as 2002.  The site consists of two separate plants. To the east is the
blast furnace area and about five kilometres further west is the steel making plant.  A fleet of SY class locomotives are
employed in and around the two plants, shunting raw materials into the blast furnace area, taking trains of molten iron to the
steelworks and bringing back trains of raw materials.  Exchange sidings with the CNR exist at both sites.

Beitai can be reached by rail but the service is infrequent and the best means of reaching the plant is by taxi or bus from Benxi.  
It is possible to view locomotives at work from publicly accessible locations near to the blast furnaces although most shots are
limited to light engine movements to and from the engine depot or tender first working as trains of raw materials are brought
to the site.  By the end of December 2002 a few western photographers had been able to gain access to the iron making plant
and discovered that the dumping of red-hot slag took place as well as a continuous procession of trains exiting from the blast
furnaces.   However as Rob Dickinson discovered even so called 'official' visits with a guide were not without difficulty and for
many years the management of the plant decreed that it was no longer open to visitors.  

This attitude changed again in 2009 and organised groups with official guides were once more allowed inside the works.  
However undisclosed actions by a group of visiting enthusiasts has once again resulted in the works being closed to visitors - a
situation which remains as of the end of 2012.  For the latest information regarding the accessibility check either
Fielding's site or the Steam In China group on Yahoo.   Even if permission is granted expect to pay a very heavy fee to be
allowed inside the works - a figure of £120 per person per day has been quoted!  
Photographs of the slag dumping
line at Beitai.  Trains of molten
slag emerge from the works and
the slag is then tipped into a large
depression alongside the line.  
Once the slag has cooled and
solidified it is moved by bulldozers
to a stone crushing plant which
renders it into small pieces which
can be used by the construction
industry.  The first day of my visit
was January 1st 2003 and while
the steelworks was working
normally many of the ancillary
workers were enjoying a public
holiday.  Hence an absence of
bulldozers, dust, noise and steam
from the water used to cool the
slag.  All of these photographs
were taken with a standard 50mm
lens which meant being in close
proximity to the 'lava' pouring
from the cauldron wagons.  
No-one seemed concerned by my
presence and several workers came
and stood next to me to watch me
taking my photographs.  Perhaps
the local Health and Safety officer
was also taking a day off!!
Once inside the works it was clear
that there was plenty to see despite
the somewhat foggy conditions.  
Here SY0114 is seen shunting a
long train of pig iron billets prior to
transfer to the steel works some
5km away
2-8-0 Class SY2018 shunting a
short train of cauldron wagons
back into the main blast furnace
Decorated SY 1131 running light
engine from the blast furnaces
towards the main yard area on
1 January 2003.  The fresh snow
looks very attractive but rapidly
turned black due to the high level
of pollution around the site.  Also
photographing in snow presents its
own problems in terms of
exposures and contrast.
Also sporting a smart blue
headboard was SY1054 also
running light engine from the blast
furnace area.  Note the shunter
riding on the left hand side front
running plate.
This is the stuff of which railway
photographer's dreams are made.!

With the mist clearing, the outline
of the hills which surround the site
became clearly visible.  What at
first sight appeared to be a double
headed train eventually
manifested itself into two trains of
loaded cauldron wagons running
side by side out of the blast
furnace area and towards the
steel making plant, hauled by
SY1087 and SY0864  The fresh
snow added a wonderful
dimension to the scene - by the
following day it had already
turned a light shade of grey as the
steady rain of pollution fell onto
its surface.
SY1071 pauses at the head of a
short train of wagons containing
molten iron, waiting for further
orders.  A combination of signals
and short wave radio was used to
control movements around the
Sporting a wonderfully decorative
smokebox and front buffer beam,
SY0322 stands at the top end of the
yard at Beitai.  I would be most
interested to know what the
Chinese charters mean and why
this locomotive was so embellished.
SY2019 at the head of a train of
cauldron wagons passes one of the
three control towers that run the
site and where my guide carefully
stationed herself to avoid the cold.  
However this did give me a free run
at Beitai to go wherever I wanted.
During my January 2003 visit the ordinary workers were delighted to have me on site and gave me unlimited access to the
various parts of the site.  On both days it was possible to ride on the locomotives and to watch the shunting operations taking
place.  These used a combination of radio and a 'traffic light' system within the cab of the locomotive.  The overall movements
are controlled from three large cabins with illuminated panel boards and computer controlled points operation.  Routes can be
set and then the crews given instructions to proceed.  Lunch was generously provided by the crew of one of the engines - my
abiding memory is of eating steamed dumplings and a vegetable 'stew' whilst tons of molten metal cascaded down into a
cauldron wagon of our train some 30 feet from where we were sitting.  Only later did I discover the tasty meat in the
dumplings was donkey!!
The two ladies who operated the level crossing at this location were
fascinated by the unexpected appearance of a foreigner on the site and
between fits of giggles served up an endless supply of hot tea and a running
commentary on the various train movements!  We quickly became fluent in
sign language saving me from standing outside in the cold waiting for the
next train (left)

Class SY 2-8-2 No.1005 backs down towards the blast furnaces ready to
collect another train of either molten iron or slag.  At least ten similar
locomotives were in use on the day of my visit - probably more (above)
SY0864 begins to pull away from
the blast furnaces - although only
a short train their is an enormous
weight of molten iron in the nine
wagons behind the engine
Another train backs down on the
slag dumping road at Beitai.  It was
only later that i discovered how
lucky I was that the works was
partially deserted on the day of my
visit.  Normally the dumped slag is
sprayed with water to cool it prior
to being crushed in giant rollers to
make road stone.  This creates
enormous amounts of dust and
steam - neither of which aid
Trying to determine the best
exposure for the intense light of
the molten rock as well as the
surrounding scenery was no small
challenge.  At the same time it was
necessary to be aware of one's
own personal safety and to beware
of splashes of rock which would
have caused severe burns
Seen from the balcony of one of
the control towers
, SY0825 brings
yet another train of molten iron
from the blast furnaces running
past SY0114 shunting on the pig
iron billet road (left)
The same train seen from ground
level - the cut-down tender allows
the footplate crew a clearer view
of the train as it is reversed back -
aided by the shunter dressed up
against the extreme cold.
SY0322 with decorated front end
stands in the pig iron loading bay
in the early afternoon of January
2nd 2003
Throughout both days of my visit to Beitai there was an almost endless succession of trains coming from the blast furnace
area and shunting in the main yard.  Most trains headed for the steel works with a few taking molten slag to the tipping area.  
The two days were unforgettable and this rates as one of the best industrial sites it has been my good fortune to visit.  
Weather conditions were reasonably good although heavy pollution meant that the strength of the sun rapidly diminished in
the early afternoon making photography more or less impossible after about 2.30pm.  

Given that this is one of the few remaining steam operations in China one can only hope that at some time in the near future
it may once again be possible to gain access to this site.   Given the richness of what still lays within I cannot really recommend
anyone to visit Beitai merely to take photographs of (mainly) tender first workings in the exchange yards.  
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