The International Steam Pages
Steam in India, April 1999
News from Heinrich Hubbert's round-trip in March and April 1999 and Lars-Åke Holst visit a little later - they actually met up while out there but there are gems in each report.
The city's amazing tramway is still in service here.
The SAIL-plant (Steel Authority of India Limited) here was advised by the HQ to abandon its B.G.-tank-locos and steam-cranes from service around the middle of 1998.
Mhow and Jetalsar were closed by the end of January.
At the beginning of April, I found all steam-operations unchanged. The salt-train was running daily.
YP 2233, recently attended to in Ajmer was in shine condition with green smoke-deflectors. A YG was loaded on a B.G.-piggyback-wagon in Wankaner, waiting for transfer.
But the end of this last steam-outpost is in sight: Ballast-dumps have been mounted all along the line to Morbi. Fitting the river-bridges for B.G.-track was in full swing at the bridges near Dhuva and Makansar and was already completed at the one near Rafaleshwar. The same happens on the line to Maliya Miyana. Beside ballast, here are also B.G.-sleepers and rails dumped along the line. Construction of a building was in progress at Vavaniya. When the conversion will take place was not clear, but it could happen within this year.
For transfer to the south, I rode over the Konkan-Railway, which features a very impressive alignment.
By the 15th of April, the season-traffic as not commenced due to a loco-shortage. So there was only one train on the rack-section per day. The extra-train was assumed to start from May. However, the January-copy of Newmans Bradshaw shows a different timetable with a 2nd train departing at 13.15 from Mettupalayam. A heavy 16-wheeled B.G.-piggyback-wagon was parked in Mettupalayam. Watch out here for special-trains charterd by feature-film-teams. There was such train on the 18th of April leaving in the morning for Keti and coming back to Coonoor after 19.00. One year ago, I found a similar operation here. The train was occupied all day within Keti. This station is a very popular location for film-shootings.
Here is a report from my fourth visit to different steam centers in India. This time I went to Wankaner and Jetalsar and also visited some of the narrow gauge lines south of Vadodara.
This was my second visit to Wankaner and I found it amazing that the lines was still 100% steam, but for how long. Sad to say not much longer because of the beginning to rebuild to broad gauge, and also the condition of the remaining steam engines. Time for the boilers are running out rapidly and some of them are running on extra time.
FRIDAY APRIL 2nd 1999.
Arriving to Wankaner friday noon april 2nd I spend the rest of the day around the station and loco-shed, where I also met some old friends from the closed Sabarmati shed in Ahmadabad. On a broad-gauge waggon I found YG 3261 loaded for transport to Rajkot and after this up to overhaul at Ajmer shops. YG 3360 and 4369 was already up there for overhaul. On the locoforemans list over available engines for him to operate with was the following:
YG 3261,3318,3334,3360,3430,3437,3474,4252,4369 & YP 2233,2805,2684.
On the line behind the shed was a row of locos in different shapes and all being cannabalized for spare-parts to keep the other engines running. Here is a list of those locos and they are all up for sale on a coming auction.
YG 3526(cond.12/12-98) YP 2813 (shed fr. 1/1-98) YP 2683 (cond.12/12-97) , YG 4138, YG 4159, YG 4129 (shed fr ¼-98) YG 4182 (cond 13/11-98) and finally only the tender from YG 4197.
The locoforeman also showed me a letter reporting that two locos should be for sale after overhaul at Ajmer. The two locos was YP 2257 and 2813. They were up for sale to a customer abroad who either should keep them in India, or may be take them abroad? I am not sure of the intention but like to hear more about this from other sources.
Finally this first day I took the 414 Fast Pass with 3 coaches behin YG 3437 up to Morbi Jcn. We made it in time to Morbi but it was interesting to ride on the last coach and see the engine setting many places along the line on fire due to a heavy rain of sparks from the firebox.
SATURDAY APRIL 3rd 1999.
Was at Morbi Jcn early to see Pass 412 arrive in time with YP 2684,3 watertanks and 2 coaches. 10 minutes later YG 3430 and 3 coaches arrived with Fast Pass 413 from Dahinsara Jn. Later this morning I also observed Fast Pass 416 from Wankaner behind YG 3437, and just before lunch-time YG 3318 arrived alone on its way to pick up the salt-train at Lavanpur. I took a taxi out to the loading point at Lavanpur and it was exiting to see the flat low-land with all basins for the saltwater. Tiny rails were all over the land with small waggons carrying the salt to the loading point. The wagons were emptied by women WITH BARE HANDS and You can imagine the feelings with salt on Your skin and the temperature was well over 40 degrees centigrade. YG 3318 was already shunting the goods-waggons when I arrived and it was a heavy work for the engine. There was a very long rake of empty wagons ready to be loaded.
Back in Morbi I was waiting for my departure to Wankaner with Fast Pass 409 at 4.30 PM. Before my departure YG 3318 - 10 goodswaggons and a brakervan arriuved with the salt train. During the stop at Morbi it cleaned its fire-box and took water and before departure the train backed up as long as possible at Morbi yard just to regain speed. It was interesting to see the train comming out from the yard with full speed before it crossed the bridge just south of the station. Then I went away with Fast Pass 409 behind YG 3430 down to Wankaner. We arrived 45 minutes late because engine trouble at the wayside station Nazarbagh. This made me change at once when I arrived to Wankaner to catch the Fast Pass 414 back to Morbi.Standing on the last coach I was lucky to see a TRIPLE-HEADER just in front of my eys. It was YG 3430-4252 and 3318 shunting on the track outside the shed. When will I see this again? During the way back I observed, when we were going to leave the station at Rafaleshwar, there was some running very fast not to miss the train. All indian people onboard pointed at the man and made me notice him. When we arrived at Morbi we were presented to each other and it was Heinrich Hubbert out on the same business as myself. I was glad to meet him and we had I nice morning together the next day.
SUNDAY APRIL 4th 1999
when we were following the southbound 413 Fast Pass from the station Khakharala Road north of Morbi and all the way down to Wankaner. I got very nice pictures during this ride and I can still remember how we were out of breath when we were running from the road and down the dry riverbed just to catch the train passing over one of the bridges. Do You also remember Heinrich?
After we arrived at Wankaner I continued my journey to Rajkot and then to Junagadh. I had heard that steam had finished in Jetalsar and sorry to say, Yes it had but there was still one engine standing dead inside the shed when I passed on my way to Junagadh, but I could not see which one. When I passed Rajkot I could also see YG 3261 still loaded on a broad gauge-waggon.
TUESDAY APRIL 6th 1999.
Arrived at midday to Wankaner efter departure from Junagadh early in the morning. I stopped at the shed and had some more nice pictures and also observed the salt-train and 415 Fast Pass arriving.
During the afternoon I also observed YG 3437 during heavy shunting of salt wagons. After the shunting the wagons were close to a rake of broadgauge-wagons and they could begin transfer the saltsacks.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 7th 1999
During a stay in Vadodara I took the local train down to Vishvamitri just to have a chance to go on the narrow-gauge line from here and to Dabhoi Jcn. I took the morning train up to Pratapnagar and then took a short walk over to the ng repair-shop, which is close to the bg shop. Inside the shop I found two ng steam engines. It was ZB 66 and also ZB 72 was here. The later I spotted in fresh paint inside the shed at Godhra when I passed in April 1997, but this engine was now transformed to Pratapnagar. Both engines seemed to be in good conditions even if the for the moment were rather dirty of dust.
After the stop in Pratapnagar I took the next train to Dabhoi and I was lucky to ride all the way in the drivers cab, and I spent most of the day in Dabhoi watching all ng trains coming and going in different directions. In the afternoon I took Mixed 436 back to Vishvamitri and during the way it was interesting to see people coming out to all wayside stations to pick up water from a tank wagon loaded just after the engine.
THURSDAY APRIL 8th 1999.
During the return trip back to Mumbai I just observed from my passing train that steam engine W 585 is clearly visible. It is parked just beside the engine shed.
Report from Lars-Åke Holst.