The International Steam Pages

Steam in India, New Year 1997

Wolfgang Kieslich has sent me this report by Bernd Seiler who is overseas editor of Lok Report who was there between 20th Dec.1996 and 2nd Jan.1997. It will be sad if steam has finally finished at Udaipur, I had a wonderful week there in 1995. You should also read Heinrich Hubbert's report as well as it covers a similar period. Pictures are by Bernd Seiler.

Western Rly:

Udaipur: YDM4 took over (nearly) all trains on November 25th on the Ahmadabad - Udaipur and Udaipur - Chittaurgarh lines.. The slow passengers 85/86 are renumbered and slightly faster than before. Rana Pratapnagar shed closed December 5th by order of Delhi. However, by the end of December there were still four locos were in service: shunting-duties in Udaipur City, Rana Pratapnagar and Chittaurgarh and one loco for the last steam hauled passenger Udaipur - Mavli 222/221 and Mavli - Bari Sadri 227/228. Staff expected steam to finish in February 1997 (they have been saying 'next month' for as long as people have being visiting). On the other hand six steam locos (mostly in working condition) are standing in the shed and the staff expected that these locos would go to Ajmer works for overhaul. They expressed a little hope to reopen the steam service to Ahmadabad. The well known Harish spoke about a tourist-special Ahmadabad - Udaipur. I think this is only a wish.

YP 2125 on passenger 222 at Khemli

The line to Bari Sadri has nothing special, you can follow this line by car. About two km behind Valiabhnagar you find the biggest bridge on this line, best light for the evening train. You have to walk through the riverbed (20 minutes) or find the way with the car through the villages (difficult, dirt road, but possible for cars). Pictures with palm trees are possible on this line, best at Bansi Bohera. Bari Sadri has a triangle for turning the loco.

At the end of December Mhow was still running with steam to Chittaurgarh (Train 73/74) and to Indore. (Heinrich Hubbert states that 73/74 is Diesel and the only steam turn is 89/90). The pusher (banker) at the gradient is now diesel (Kalkund - Patalpani).

Central Rly:

Pulgaon - Arvi runs still with steam. The line will work up to 31.12.2006, the Indian Rlys. extended the contract with the British owners. Diesel were expected any day, one from Katwa, the other from the region around Mumbai (Bombay). All facilities for diesel locos are already situated in Pulgaon.

ZP3 at Pulgaon

ZP3 at Rohna Town

North East Rly:

Darbhanga was dieseliesed at the end of September, also Mau.

Saharsa: Plenty of steam still going on, but diesel expected March/April 1997. The stock per 01.01.1997 (18 locomotives):

YP: 2006, 2245, 2250, 2299, 2449, 2533, 2604, 2616, 2630, 2707, 2718, 2740, 2856;

YG: 3011, 3490, 4092, 4330, 4371.

Trains: Saharsa - Forbesganj: 321/342/322, 323/347/348/324, 325/343/326, 327/328 Kosi-(Koshi-)Express 5417/5418

Saharsa - Banmankhi: 335/338

Banmankhi - Bihariganj: 349/350, 351/352

YP 2616 at Saharsa

All locos except 3011 are in serviceable condition. Locos are not as shabby as in other places but you can't say the outfit is well. There is a good (but noisy) hotel near the level crossing at the station (turn left, after 50m at the right hand side).
The Koshi-Express always runs in time, all the other trains are mostly delayed 10 to 70 minutes. Except for 335/338 all trains are overcrowded. The area is very dangerous, it is not recommended to travel by night. Behind Murliganj into the direction Banmankhi it is even dangerous to travel by daylight. The shops in Banmankhi are closed at 20 days per month because of the dangerous situation. Robberies by daylight are common, the people told us, don't leave the station further than 100m. Roads in this area are terrible, train chasing is only possible between Murliganj and Saharsa with train 335. To Bihariganj (avoid this area) only jeeps can go. Police is not present here, the last working office is in Murliganj. Trains to Bihariganj are working tender first. A triangle exist in Banmankhi, if you like to change the direction of the loco, please contact the stationmaster last one hour before departure time!

Banmankhi has also a big sugar mill with rail connection (metre gauge). Nothing is known about the locos.

On the line to Forbesganj nearly every station has (narrow and bad - holes, dust, brickstones and asphalt) road access, but train chasing is totally impossible even with a very fast driver. To find a car in reasonable condition and a driver who will go to Saharsa is also not easy. The trains have 6 to 8 coaches, up to and behind Saharsa Kacheri Halt nearly all passengers have travellers on the roof, sometimes even on the loco.

YG 4371 - King of the Elephants

We found good photo positions in Garh Baruari (with palm trees) and Tharbitia (with a pond).

Saharsa is reachable by car from Barauni (last good hotel) in four to five hours. The road is washed away at one point, but a by pass over a field exists. The road from Darbhanga via Sakri - Supoul, shown in some maps, is not recommended. Bridges do not exist, the taxi drivers won't go there and the truck drivers told us "Never in your life go this way".

North East Frontier Rly:

Assam is now open for tourists: Heinz and Berndt visited Tinsukia, Mariani and Bardarpur which will keep steam till the end of March 1997. They had no problems with photography anywhere and highly recommend this area to anyone who wants to visit India in the very near future.

Sugar Mills:

Saraya Sugar Co. Ltd, Sardarnagar: 27.12.96 (working since middle of November). Loco NWR 145 and 5 are under repair because of stolen parts, TWEED was shunting (mg), SSF 52 was shunting (ng), Nr.3 (mg) scrapped 1995, SSF 54 on line service. The management likes the steam locos and will not change to road transport. Concrete sleepers are in use now, a good sign. The line is 42km long, has no branches and no parallel road. However, the final loading point at Hetimpur is near the main road and can reached by car.

Saraya Sugar Factory 54

Hatua BSSC: In November the management decided to continue the sugar production 1997. The harvest should have started on January 8th. All locos were in bad conditions and the staff had much to do for bringing them in working order. The first shunting were expected for January 6th. It is not sure that this mill will continue in the next harvest season.

Motipur BSSC: Shunting should have started 31. Dec. 96 if coal available. Harvest-start expected January 6th. ng: Nr. 2 OOU, all other in good condition. mg: Nr 3 were supposed to send to Lohat for the season 1997/98. For 5/6 month in Motipur they have had a wage freeze! Only some hundred Rupees are paid for several months.

Other industrial sites:

Hindustan Aluminium Factory, Renukut: Both locos were in use December 1996.

Ledo Brickworks, Ledo: DAVID was in use end of December 1996

David at Ledo Brickworks

Tipong Colliery, Tipong: Still steam in use December 1996

Rob Dickinson