Today, the streamliners arrive from the most unexpected place: Manchuria.
A bit of history: in 1932, Japan created a puppet Manchu State, formally separating Manchuria (occupied by the Japanese forces a year before) from China. In 1934, the Great Manchu Empire was proclaimed, with Puyi of the Qing Dynasty (remember Bertolucci's The Last Emperor?) as a ruler:
Inside this mock empire there was a real economical superpower - the South Manchuria Railway (SMR). Built by the Russians as a southern branch of the China-Far East Railway, it was captured by the Japanese in course of the 1904-1905 war with Russia and extensively rebuilt. By 1934, the SMR owned mines and factories, hotels and port facilities. And it wanted its own supertrain, too.
A class of 12 streamline Pacifics (4-6-2 steam locomotives) was ordered, called Pashina (or PASHI-7), with 2000mm drivers. Now, let's stop and take a deep breath. The year is 1934, streamline shrouding on steam engine is a novelty, every such locomotive is unique (the first mass-production class of 35 A4 Pacifics will be commissioned by the British LNER only in 1935) - and the Japanese are building twelve in a row!
Pashina, dubbed "the Blue Mackerel", and Asia Express were widely used a symbol of technology and modernism in Manchuria, a showcase of the success of Japan's imperial project. SMR featured it on many of its fliers and posters, and Manchukuo children's textbooks included passages about it. Besides, it appeared on Japanese Betty Boop postcards (1937):
Later in 1930s, the locomotives were decorated with massive wings, bearing a strong resemblance to Milwaukee Hiawatha Baltics ornament:
After the defeat of Japan and its Manchurian proxy, the SMR was incorporated into Chinese State Railway. Streamliners received new designation (SL) and contunued to serve through 1980s. Two, 751 and 757, are preserved. One of them, the first of the class, went to the Locomotive Museum of Sujiatun in Shenyang (former Mukden). In 1990s, its condition deteriorated:
And if it is not enough, the SMR modernized old Pacifics, built in 1912 by Hitachi and SMR Dalian works, providing the streamline shrouding. One of them is also preserved in the Sujiatun museum and I hope its condition is better than on this 1990s picture:
Streamlined body, inspired by the German DRG 60 and 61 classes, with slanted nose (probably a homage to LNER Pacifics) was developed with the assistance of the Kawanishi Aircraft Corp., later to achieve fame as builders of flying boats as well as the outstanding Shiden fighter.
The 4-4-4s were equipped with SKF roller bearings and Schmidt type E superheater, along with oil firing. Apparently this type was not widely used, use being restricted to light passenger trains. After the end of the war, the locos were transferred to Chinese State Railways, which designated it the LD1 Class.
Special thanks to panzer-papa for the research.