Benxi is a large industrial city about 45 miles to the south-east of Shenyang.  Its main claim to 'fame' is that it was once said to
be the most polluted city in China, a title which is not easily won in view of the stiff competition!  Indeed for many years the
levels of industrial smog made the city invisible to US spy satellites although in more recent times a huge clean up operation
has been under way to improve air quality in the city.   Iron and steel making is undertaken by the Benxi Iron And Steel
Company and it was their plant which I visited in 2002.  The plants used a fleet of SY class locomotives to bring raw materials
into the works and to shunt the cauldron wagons full of molten iron around the huge site.  When making plans to visit Benxi it
was difficult to come across much in the way of information or illustration - however one internet report detailed how two
recent visitors had been arrested and had all their films confiscated by the local police whilst yet another report described the
area as 'desperately unphotogenic' with all locomotives working tender first.   To avoid problems with the police I engaged the
services of a tourist agency who arranged all the necessary permissions for a two day visit, provided an English speaking guide
and also a sleeper ticket for the train from Shenyang to Beijing all for a very reasonable US$100 plus hotel and travel costs of
the guide (another US$35)   Unfortunately my visit to Benxi took place at the end of a four day dust storm which affected
much of Northern China, making photography very difficult indeed although given the pollution levels it is hard to know just
how much difference the dust storm actually made.  In the event my guide was happy to accompany me into the steelworks
and then make herself comfortable in one of the many workers cabins while I was given almost total freedom to roam!
(Above - A busy scene as SY721 shunts wagons at the northern end of the site as workers at the plant go about their business)
2-8-2 Class SY No.731 shunts a
rake of cauldron wagons loaded
with molten iron in the area
between the furnaces.  Unlike
other locations in China the works
numbered its own locomotives and
so the Benxi numbers do not
equate to the normal 4-digit
numbers associated with these
Another view of SY721 as it stands
at the head of a train of cauldron
wagons at the north end of the
blast furnaces.  Scenes such as
these quickly put to rest the notion
that there was nothing to see here
except tender first workings!
At least two of the locomotives at
Benxi carried 'decorations' around
the smokebox door adding to the
general appearance of the
locomotive.  In this case SY723
carries the legend (so I am told)
'Work Harder For Communism'
I was amazed that my guide
allowed me to wander off on my
own and that no questioned my
right to be in the middle of this
giant industrial complex of blast
furnaces.  Photographic
opportunities abounded despite
the poor light - here SY734 brings
wagons past one of the furnaces.
The crew of SY721 wait patiently as
the wagons are filled with molten
iron from one of the large furnaces
with SY705 in the distance
In the pre-digital age it was often
difficult to obtain sufficient light to
create a decent image - and with
the poor weather and pollution this
was particularly true at Benxi.  In
the gloom between the furnaces it
was just possible to capture SY705
as it moved forward with its train of
cauldron wagons.
SY734 pulls away from one of the
loading bays having delivered a rake
of cauldron wagons
The other locomotive with a
decorated smokebox was  SY731
with its slogan extolling the workers
to 'Maintain The Chinese Way'.  
Here it brings a train of slag wagons
towards the furnaces at the
southern end of the plant.
SY 721 passes SY725 at the south
end of the blast furnace area as the
murk gathers again!
SY724 with a train of molten slag
moves slowly between the furnaces
at the very heart of the industrial
The morning of the second day of
my visit and the pollution levels
have yet to build up as SY715 and
SY701 stand around awaiting
Another view of the northern end of
the blast furnaces as SY731 brings in
a train of wagons from the southern
end of the site
SY721 standing at the front of the
blast furnaces.  I was asked to try
to confirm the identity of a
number of the locomotives at
Benxi by looking for stampings in
the castings of coupling rods and
frames in order to determine their
original numbers.  However in the
cast of SY721 it was impossible to
find any clues.
SY730  (originally be SY1548)
receives a wash and brush up while
standing in the northern stabling
point.  Of at least as much interest
as the locomotive is the glorious
motorbike and sidecar standing on
the platform.
In addition to raw materials such
as iron ore and coal being brought
to the plant there was also a
considerable amount of recycled
metal on site.  In what is almost
sunshine SY720 waits at the
reclamation area of the plant
In addition to the fleet of SY
locomotives there were other engines
in the workshops at Benxi which
were well worth seeking out.  Of
particular interest was this 0-4-0
fireless locomotive No.5 standing just
in front of Class XK2 0-6-0 No.28.  
The latter engine was one of a
number of US Army Transportation
Corps engines sent to China after
World War II.  These engines were
also sent to European railways and
so were designed to accomodate the
restricted British loading gauge.

Just in site behind XK28 can be seen
Class PL2 2-6-2 No.50 which was
built by the Japanese for use in
Manchuria.  For more details of
these engines see
Duncan Cotterill's
excellent site
As far as I am aware there is no longer steam in use at Benxi Iron and Steel Company although a number of locomotives -
including the three engines mentioned immediately above - remain at the site.  However not too far away the steelworks at
Beitai remains active with its own fleet of SY Class locomotives (
click here for pictures)
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