Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Sunday Streamline #24: Manchurian Candidates

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, a co-production of Kawasaki and SMR Shahekou works, hauled the Asia Express (Japanese: Ajia-gō) between the port of Dairen (Dalian) and Hsinking (Changchung), Manchurian capital.

It was operated by the South Manchuria Railway from 1934 until 1943.

The cars featured air conditioning, on-board refrigerators, and a glass observation salon complete with leather chairs and library:

The trains reached a top speed of 134 km/h (83 mph), surpassing the contemporary Chinese rail system and rivaling the United States and Europe.

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):

There was even a medal with this impressive streamliner and the SMR logo:

Later in 1930s, the locomotives were decorated with massive wings, bearing a strong resemblance to Milwaukee Hiawatha Baltics ornament:

In 1940, Pashina appeared on postage stamp:


and postmark:

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:

But now it's in the shed, restored to its former glory:

Let's look at it once again:

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:

But is it the end of the story? No, there was a pair of smaller 4-4-4 tank streamline locomotives, 500 and 501, built as a substitute engines for diesel trains.

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.

Unfortunately, none is preserved.

Sources: JNS forum, Kurogane Rail, Skyrocket.de, Pink Tentacle, w. + h. brutzer @ Flickr, Wikipedia

Special thanks to panzer-papa for the research.

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Comment by Pilsner Panther on March 21, 2011 at 2:23am
Actually, steam engines lasted in China much longer than they did in the Western countries. I believe (and someone should correct me if I'm wrong), that many Chinese railroad lines continued to use steam power until about the late 1990's. China's abundance of coal made it pretty inexpensive to keep the steamers going,

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