The International Steam Pages

Steam in India, New Year 1997

Chris West reports on his latest voyage of discovery:

The tour was made in the company of Ray Rowley, of Johannesburg. The total distance covered by train was more than 7,400 km. Almost 2,000 km more than the previous year's trip. However, none of this distance was achieved behind steam locomotives. This is a reflection of the rapid decline of steam on Indian Railways. Despite this lack of steam haulage it was possible to take a 20 km footplate ride on an AWE class 2-8-2, for part of which a 1,000 ton coal train was behind the tender. A wide variety of steam locomotives were seen and photographed, the following being seen in steam:

Broad gauge: AWE 2-8-2, XE 2-8-2, Y2 2-8-4T, Y4 0-8-4T and industrial 0-4-0ST.
Metre gauge: MAWD 2-8-2, YP 4-6-2 and YG 2-8-2.
2'0" gauge: B 0-4-0ST and industrial 0-4-0ST.

All journeys were made using an Indrail Pass which was purchased through SDEL, Wembley, who also made the reservations for the overnight journeys. Photo permits had been requested in advance from the Railway Ministry in New Delhi. Notable exclusions from the permits were Dibrugarh, Ledo, Margherita, Mariani and Tinsukia. However, permission to photograph at all of these locations were arranged with the help of the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Northeast Frontier Railway.

The Northeast Frontier Railway is currently regauging the railway from Lumding to Tinsukia. The section from Lumding to Dimapur is now dual gauge and considerable work has already been carried out on the section north of Dimapur. Travelling from Tinsukia to Barddhaman the Kamrup Express was severely delayed and on the advice of the train staff we transferred to train 4055A, the Link Express, at Dimapur. This train took us to Guwahati, arriving in time for breakfast. Having spent a day in Guwahati we proceeded to Barddhaman on the Kanchenjunga Express. As we left Guwahati to the west the stock which had brought us there was returning to Dimapur as train 4056A. Early the following morning this stock formed the Brahmaputra Mail (train 4055) for Delhi. That night the locomotive and first three carriages of the train were blown apart by a bomb as they left Kokrajhar. Initial reports suggested that 300 were killed but this was subsequently revised down to about forty. Consequences of this incident for subsequent travellers in Assam are not known.

Possibly because of the wave of nationalism resulting from the fiftieth anniversary of independence (and partition) the Indians are having a rash of renamings. Notable amongst these, Bombay is now Mumbai. Of more significance to the railway enthusiast Victoria Terminus has become Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Empress of India being ditched in favour of a Marathi warrior king. It is comforting to note that in the section on places of tourist interest, which is listed in Bradshaw alphabetically, Mumbai comes between Bhubaneswar and Bundi!



Asansol (visited 1/1/97)

HGS 26761 remains at the old steam shed but the WGs that were here a year ago have gone, presumably for scrap. When steam was in regular service at Asansol a number of WGs were leased to local collieries as shunting locos. It seems strange that none of these were purchased by the collieries when withdrawn from Indian Railways service. The rumour that the Eastern Railway was locked into a contract with Central Coalfields Ltd for the hire of two WG for use at Kargali Coal Washery has not been confirmed.


The Chief Mechanical Engineer was able to give a considerable amount of information about the remaining steam workings on the metre gauge. Not all of this information proved accurate when put to the test. The official steam allocations are:














Steam diagrams are as follows:

Badarpur: 212/211; 227/226; 233A/221A; 214A/213A; two shunts at Badarpur.
Tinsukia: 257/258; 254/253; 251/252; AOC shunt; Tinsukia yard shunt; Tinsukia coaching shunt; Dibrugarh workshop shunt.
Mariani: 19/20; 31/32; ER/241; 242; 241/242; 259/260; ER 259/260.

Steam is expected to remain on the metre gauge until the broad gauge conversion is completed through to Dibrugarh. The target date for this is 31 March 1997, however, it was readily admitted that the target is unlikely to be met. The branch lines which are not scheduled for gauge conversion are to be operated by railbuses. None of these have been delivered yet and it seems more likely that the branches will close.

Tinsukia (visited from 25 to 28/12/96)

There are insufficient steam locos to cover all the workings and as a result train cancellations are routine. According to the rosters trains 257/258 to Dangari was cancelled on 24/12. Then on 25/12 trains 251/252 to Ledo were cancelled. It was suggested that these trains run alternate days, but YP 2618 was seen on train 251 on 27/12.

Dibrugarh workshop (visited 27/12/96)

The workshop no longer carries out locomotive repairs, the last being completed in August 1995. Work is now restricted to carriage and wagons. The works pilot is MAWD 1801 and 1759 of the same class stands out of use in the workshop. A number of locos have been cut up in the workshop. The frames of two YFs remain.


On 28/12/96 YP 2075, heading a short passenger train, was overtaken at Bojo by diesel hauled train 5906. The steam train is believed to be 234, running about 16 hours late.

Guwahati (visited 29/12/96)

Out of use at the site of the old steam shed is GX class 4-8-2+2-8-4 number 32086. Adjacent to the metre gauge diesel shed is MAWD 1798, in apparently good condition. C class Pacific 808 is plinthed at Maligaon.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The DHR was not visited, but the Chief Mechanical Engineer confirmed that seventeen B class 0-4-0ST remain in service. New oil fired steam locomotives have been sanctioned and a specification drafted. As no firm in India is now able to build steam locomotives these will have to be imported, probably from Switzerland.

The Telegraph newspaper reported the "Second Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Heritage Conference" in Delhi. This was attended by representatives of tourist railways such as the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch and the Ravenglass & Eskdale.


Bankura- Rainagar

The Statesman newspaper reported a 24-hour rail roko (blockade) on 18 December 1996. The roko was called to press for reintroducing trains on the Bankura - Rainagar railway. The newspaper said that trains were withdrawn on the railway from 11 March 1996. According to the organisers of the roko the railway authorities tried to clandestinely bundle out the coaches and engines from Bankura. These attempts were foiled by public opposition. A report submitted by the former General Manager of the South Eastern Railway to the Railway Ministry calculated it would cost Rs4 crore to operate diesel trains on the railway.


Most enthusiasts will have noted November 1995 as the end of broad gauge steam in India. However at the end of 1996 it was still possible to see and photograph 2-8-2s heading 1,000 ton coal trains in Madhya Pradesh.


Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation Limited, Namrup Unit (correspondence 7/96)

This operation has an interesting roster of diesel locomotives including the only YDM4 in industrial service.

North Eastern Coalfields (NEC) (visited 25-26/12/96)

The visit was made with the assistance of the General Manager of NEC who also made arrangements for accommodation to be made available at Dehing House in Margherita.

The ex NEFR locos, which are used at Tipong Colliery do not appear to have been issued boiler numbers by the Assam boiler inspector. It is possible that they have been registered by the Indian Railways running numbers. 789 was in use, 796 under repair, 784 cannibalised and 781 dismantled.

Seven WB 0-4-0STs are believed to survive. HASSANG is preserved outside the offices at Margherita. HASANG is preserved in Delhi Railway Museum. LACHIJAN has been cosmetically restored at the Margherita workshops and is to be transferred to the Assam Oil Company museum. DAVID is in use at Ledo Brickworks. Two derelicts at Ledo Brickworks carry boilers A879 and A1039. Finally an unidentified 0-4-0ST is completely dismantled at Margherita workshops.


Noted on 28/12/96. A works adjacent to Naharkatiya station was using a stationary boiler which appeared to be a complete vintage locomotive. This location would benefit from further investigation.


A.V. Birla Group, Satna Cement Works (correspondence 3/96)

Not visited. It is believed that a steam locomotive was relegated to spare engine when a SAN BB DH was delivered in 1993. According to the manager of the works there were at one time three narrow gauge and four broad gauge steam locomotives here. The last of these was purchased in 1983 and remained in service until 1996. Full details of these locomotives are not known and there is no evidence of enthusiasts having visited the works to see the steam locomotives.

Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board (Coal Transportation Division) (visited 16-19/12/96)

MPEB was established on 1 April 1955. Electricity generation is considered a strategic industry in India and the visit to see the Coal Transportation Division had to be arranged with the help of an Executive Director of the Board. Even so we were chaperoned at all times to ensure that nothing sensitive was photographed. The railway serves Manikpur Colliery and was opened on 2 October 1966. Originally established by the National Coal Development Corporation the colliery is now operated by a subsidiary of Coal India. The following locomotives are owned by the Coal Transportation Division. It will be noted that the locos carry their boiler numbers, without the prefix, on cabside plates.

XE1 3300 2-8-2 XE1 VF 5340/1945 repairs
XE2 3301 2-8-2 XE1 VF 5343/1945 awaiting boiler test
AWE1 3315 2-8-2 AWE BLW 69675/1943 in use
AWE2 3616 2-8-2 AWE BLW 69674/1943 in use
XE3 3634 2-8-2 XE WBC 422/1930 in use
26233 2-8-0 HSM AW 783/1925 never used here

Other locos which have operated here are a Y1 class 2-8-4T and three HS class 2-8-0s. Two diesel locos were on order from BHEL with delivery being expected early in 1997. These will see all regular services dieselised, although some steam locos may be retained in reserve.

National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd., Sipat Super Thermal Power Project

Details of this power station project were announced in December 1996. The plans are for a coal based generating station of 2,000 MW, with space provision for expansion by another 1,000 MW, to be built near Sipat in Bilaspur District. "The power station is envisaged to be supplied coal from Korba Coalfields and coal transportation is envisaged through a dedicated MGR to be owned and operated by NTPC."

NTPC already operates a power station at Korba to which the Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi has delivered five WDM2 CoCo's.


Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai Waterworks Dept. (visited 14/12/96)

A full tour of the workshops was possible and trolley 22, which had been in use with 10 on p.w. work, was taken over for a short run. This was the second enthusiast charter on the railway. The first having taken place when I visited Ghatkopar in January.


A Pune based company which builds stationary boilers has preserved a 2'6" gauge steam loco within its works. This is 0-4-0T HC 1336/1919. The loco was in active service with the Indian Army until 1975 when it was sold for scrap. It was purchased for preservation from the scrapyard.


A.V. Birla Group, Hindustan Aluminium Factory (visited 20/12/96)

L-2 and L-3 were both steamed for the visit. The new 4wDH is SAN 493/1995.

Shortly after my first visit to this works, in 1995, I was contacted by the management who wanted suggestions as to how the steam locos could be preserved. As a result of this the Railway Transport Museum in Delhi were contacted and they agreed to provide a home for the locos. Sadly the large number of visitors to the works, I was shown a file of correspondence with enthusiasts, has convinced the management that they can sell the locos and receive enough to purchase a third diesel. That is a sale price of about Rs36 lakhs, each. The Railway Transport Museum is unable to pay this amount of money and the management are threatening to scrap the locos if a buyer is not forthcoming.

U.P. State Cement, Chunar

The works was not visited, but it was viewed from a passing train on 21/12/96. None of the locos were in steam and the tender of the WG was empty suggesting that it had not been used for sometime. However, wagons were being loaded so the rail connection is still in use.


SAIL, Central Growth Works, Kulti (visited 1/1/97)

Accommodation as well as permission to visit the works were arranged in advance with the help of the General Manager. SAIL is unusual in charging enthusiasts for the use of their guest house.

There are three RSH 0-4-0ST at the works. No10 was working in the salvage yard, whilst No8 and No11 were dead on shed. There were no changes to the roster since my previous visit.


Reliable information is that an industrial railway in the Calcutta conurbation continues to use at least one steam locomotive. Further details when they are available.

Rob Dickinson