The International Steam Pages


Steam on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway 2000-2007

The pre-2000 visit reports are still available -  click here.

There is a UK based Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society, with their own Website (link added 15th May 2000). The railway now has its own official website http://www.dhr.in/ (9th April 2006) - a quick visit showed that is has a few too many 'bells and whistles' and not a few bad links - but it was early days and at least showed a more positive attitude to the railway.

Ashok Sharma tells me (24th June 2006):

"It is a big show. To celebrate 125 years of DHR The Heritage directorate has planned to operate Steam Runs around Siliguri on all 3-Gauges, YES , you see right, it is steam run on all three gauges. The details are as under :
SPECIAL CEREMONIAL RUN : ON 26-8-2006
Thereafter four Tourist Runs are planned on :
15-10-2006, 19-11-2006, 17-12-2006 and 14-01-2007
The Railways plan to operate simultaneously steam on all three gauges available at Siliguri:
WP-7161 -- Broad Gauge from Siliguri to Chalsa
MAWD-1798 - MG from Siliguri to Bagdogra
NG- from Siliguri to Darjeeling with steam locos available there.
People can also hire steam charters on these days at the same rates as DHR Charter rates. But you must confirm the rates applicable when anybody expresses definite interest to travel to see these events." For more information you can contact him on mail@realindiajourneys.com.

The DHR was in the news for the wrong reasons recently when two trains (one a steam charter, one diesel had a fairly gentle head-on collision near Tindharia on 18th August 2005). Vikas Singh spent some time in the Darjeeling area and has sent me a detailed report which gives a feel for the day-to-day running situation in 2006. What surprised me in was the news that there are now 4 diesels present, the arrival of the other two slipped past me (added 20th July 2006). He also attended the opening celebrations for DHR 125th (see above) in August 2006 (added 8th November 2006).

A recent visitor to the DHR reports (25th May 2005) that the school train timetable has been adjusted so that a diesel can work the morning train from Kurseong to Darjeeling before taking the main train down and the up train loco then works back to Kurseong in the afternoon. Effectively that brings an end to regular 'real steam' operation on the line except that of course failures and routine maintenance will bring occasional steam substitution. And there is always the tourist train..... Is this really what World Heritage Site status was meant to bring? Taken with the well-meaning but misguided attempts to provide 'modern steam' for the line this kind of performance must make it very hard for overseas supporters of the railway to maintain their enthusiasm. Count me out for one. By early December (14th December 2005), it was reported that steam had been reinstated on the Kurseong-Darjeeling ('school train') shuttle, whether this was for operational or other reasons remains mystery; to me at least the whole railway remains shrouded in a peculiarly impenetrable Indian atmosphere.... Aya Kakuma and Chris Jeffery report that the 'school train' continued to use steam in early 2007 (12th March 2007) and Peter Davenport reported the same in early August 2007 (23rd August 2007).

On 1st March 2005 the Hindu reported that the second 'new' locomotive was ready for despatch from Golden Rock and on 8th March 2005 it reported that it was on its way north. By 20th March David Wood reported it had arrived by lorry in Siliguri. For the full newspaper report, click here. If ever there was an 'ugly duckling' this is it (all this added 22nd March 2005), another visitor at the same time reported (15th April 2005) that the modified loco 787 was "not used regularly due to the cost of the high oil consumption":

Roy Laverick was here at New Year 2004/5 (14th February 2005). A report appeared in 'The Hindu' concerning the delivery of a second new steam locomotive to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (2nd August 2004). This is a picture supplied by Trevor Heath - any comment would be superfluous...

Masato Tsuzuki was here over New Year 2003 (19th January 2003) and found the regular through train steam hauled above Kurseong again. How often this happens is unclear. The 'school train' was steam hauled as usual. It has also been widely reported (19th January 2003) that two Leighton Buzzard Railway (UK) steam locomotives would visit the line in 2004 but like the first planned visit, this was later aborted.

A note I have seen via the DHRS (20th January 2002) suggests that steam may make an appearance throughout on the Monday (Uphill) and Tuesday (Downhill) trains, to allow the diesel to be serviced. However, this cannot be relied upon and even when one or more of the diesels fails then there is no guarantee that steam will substitute. The 'school train' continues to be steam. Hugh Ballantyne visited with a group (added 4th April 2002) and in a variation of this, the through trains were steam hauled above Kurseong and diesel hauled below it (the same loco covering both duties - the downhill train obviously being very late!).

Indian Railways put some of the B class up for sale (8th March 2001) - but I doubt there were many takers given that most of the ones involved were a derelict kit of life-expired parts. Donald Bell was here in early March 2001 (13th March 2001)

The diesels finally took over the main turns on the DHR (23rd May 2000). The results have not been totally successful (one train derailed on 1st June 2000) and there was been some public backlash against this move (6th June 2000). Dileep Prakash was here in August 2000 and provided a further update (2nd September 2000).


Rob Dickinson

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