The International Steam Pages
Notes - India, 1980-7
Terry Case writes about his travels for steam. Further tales will follow from time to time covering more of Australia, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan.
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For other Indian tales in this series, please see:
"No mistaking this train as it leaves Mathura Junction on 5th January 1982"
On 4th January 1982, I was due to leave Godhra on 26 Express, which supposedly had been booked by TCI (an Indian Travel Company). It turned out to be a crack AC express running between Bombay and Delhi. I was told there was no reservation for me by an unsmiling Sikh train conductor in immaculate white uniform. Why would such a small town like Godhra have an allocation? So why was the train advertised to stop here I wondered? I was allowed standing room as far as Ratlam, the next major station, as all seats and berths were booked. A carriage attendant stowed my gear and told me to take his bench, next to the toilets and the corridor connection leading to the pantry car.
I was not alone and shared the narrow bench with two police in their paramilitary gear. They turned out to be two detectives and my protectors for the night! They were en route to Kota to “apprehend a murderer who had fled from Ahmadabad.” They immediately preached sedition and told me not to get off at Ratlam and ignore the Sikh conductor!
We ended up playing a version of show and tell instigated by one of the detectives who told me of their mission and had his assistant open a large wooden box that contained an enormous Colt pistol, to be used if their quarry proved dangerous. The assistant was in charge of the handcuffs that he proudly displayed. Now it was my turn they were really intrigued as to what a westerner would carry besides cameras. The battery operated shaver had them in raptures, “Why can’t India produce things like this?” The cameras were thoroughly inspected and the Pantry car staff came to stare at the spectacle. My pack was emptied and inspected, as the many occupants of the carriage visited the now smelly toilets, past which attendants took trays of food from the kitchen. I was then instructed on the correct way to eat a vegetarian dish using my fingers and given some Hindi words to learn and correctly pronounce, it whiled away the night.
I was not evicted from the train, and was offered the Attendant’s middle bench to sleep on, it had a narrow width and coffin height, hardly room for a small body let alone mine. I was saved the embarrassment of not being able to fit, just! I am not claustrophobic and slept surprisingly well.
Arrival at Mathura next day was at 07.40, on time, unlike the blue and white WP that was approaching with its headlight on penetrating the early morning fog. This was the CR overnight stopping passenger from Jhansi to Delhi, where it had been due to arrive an hour earlier at 06.40! I hired an auto- rickshaw to take me out of the station area to get a departure shot. As the engine left the station a long line of steam was in its wake, gathering momentum it slipped on the moist rails as it approached my position opposite the signal box. Giving in to my driver I was taken on a whirlwind tour of a few tourist spots in this pilgrimage town, returning in time for the next departure.
A Kasganj based metre gauge YP of the North Eastern Railway which had a branch to here lined out in silver and black with a large embossed flying eagle (South African Railways style) on the tender departed at 08.30. This was 58 Express bound for Kanpur although it took a while to puzzle this out as the station timetable was in Hindi and being out of date did not list the train.
The station car park became a hive of activity as the arrival of the Taj Express drew near. It arrived behind WP 7656, no longer in its shining green and black livery that it had worn two years ago when I saw it on Taj duty at Agra. Now the engine was in blue and white, lined out in red with go faster chimney decorations. Cab adornments included an embossed Taj perched above the fire-hole door. It was clearly still a special link loco, based at Jhansi. The train left at 09.18 to waves of green flags from engine crew guards and station staff.
23 express from Baroda to Delhi on the WR arrived behind a diesel, it represented another WP roster gone. I had kindled hopes that this would be at least a CR WP from here, as a clean green and black loco was in steam on the small depot; however its coal supply was low. This was probably the engine off the (then) new Yammu express which was steam hauled from Agra to Mathura where it terminated. It should be noted steam was a bit player as the vast majority of express trains were diesel hauled as were all the freights seen.
Over on the mg side, beside a sea of bikes in racks sat another Kasganj YP, 2012 in silver and maroon livery with a large arrow decorating its deflectors and an eagle on its chimney. It was working 116 passenger, which ran from Agra to Kanpur, due out at 10.10 after arriving here at 09.15. Plenty of recovery time! The driver prepared a meal using the shovel, a practice I did not see much of in India. Shortly after, YL 5006 arrived at the head of the branch local from Vrindavan, this used to be a P class 4-6-0 roster, another turn I should have seen on my first trip. I was making my familiar mistake of not paying enough attention to what I thought as a modern class, I thought the YLs would be around for some time, how wrong I was!
Five minutes later and a run down YP 2559 arrived on train 125 from Kasganj, from where it had left at 05.20. The train ran to Achnera Jn due at 11.50. It was quite busy with three mg trains in the NER station.
I took a rickshaw out of the station area, past the signalbox for a departure shot of 2012, which was quite good especially as YL 5006 was pushing along at the rear as it went back to the shed.
Returning to the station I observed the stockpiles of equipment, copper wire and the new electrical engineer’s office for the electrification project of the line to Agra; which a sign outside the station proudly proclaimed to be imminent.
Train 125 was ready to depart in the Agra direction, the NER line meandered its way to Agra and its steam hauled trains were not the fastest! YP 2559 was unusual in having only one deflector and a cab perched at a crazy angle. I took a rickshaw out of the station area, past the signalbox for a departure shot, which which was unimpressive as the YP oozed steam from the cylinders and slowly got underway.