The International Steam Pages
Steam in India 2005
Steve J Pratt reports on the RAILWAY TOURING COMPANY TOUR OF INDIA – MARCH 2005
Between 19 March – 1 April 2005, Railway Touring Company ran its first tour of India, visiting Calcutta, Darjeeling, Delhi, Kangra Valley, Shimla and Rewari.
Darjeeling – The railway seemed in good health, with regular steam workings on a daily basis for the “school train” between Darjeeling-Tindharia and the tourist train between Darjeeling-Ghum. Regular daily services over the whole line were in the control of diesel haulage. The RTC had several steam charters, covering the full line with several runs between Darjeeling-Ghum, including the famous Batasia Loop, hauled by Nos. 782 & 779. This included two trains in the same section, battling up the grade to Batasia Loop. Various steam locos were stationed at Siliguri, Tindharia, Kurseong and Darjeeling, including Nos. 780, 782, 788, 792, 795, 802, 804 & 805. At Siliguri depot, these included the “modified” steam loco, converted to oil (No. 787), which is not used regularly due to the cost of the high oil consumption. The second “new” Class B steam loco, the first completely new steam loco built at the Golden Rock Workshops, was delivered to the depot shortly before 22 March 2005, but at the time of our visit remained on the lorry that delivered it, under a tarpaulin. At Ghum station, “Baby Sivok” was plinthed, a steam loco of dubious parentage, being built by either Sharp Stewart or Orenstein & Keppel, according to the two information boards!
Calcutta – The tram system is heavily used, and RTC arranged a special charter through the hustle and bustle of the main streets, an experience not to be forgotten. At the headquarters of the South Eastern Railway, narrow gauge steam loco RD-690 (North British) (formerly Bengal & Nagpur Railway) was plinthed near to a small museum of railway relics, while at the headquarters of the Eastern Railway, CS-774 (Bagnall, Stafford; 1926) was plinthed near a small museum.
Kangra Valley – not a regularly visited branch, but well worth the effort for the scenery alone. At Pathankot Junction, narrow gauge ZB Class steam loco No. 66 was specially steamed for us, but was not powerful enough to pull a fully-loaded train.
Shimla – Narrow gauge Class KC steam loco No. 520 (North British; 1906) was specially steamed for us and hauled a train to Kathleeghat, banked by a diesel on the return journey. Unfortunately, there was some trouble about video filming, but still photography was allowed. The RTC party returned to Kalka using three diesel railcars from the 1930’s, reminiscent of the County Donegal railcars.
Delhi – The RTC group visited the Delhi Rail Transport Museum, where all the usual exhibits were present, apart from Fairy Queen, which was out on special duties. The unique Patiala Monorail was specially steamed for the group. Later we had a return run to Alwhar behind “Fairy Queen” (EIR No. 22), allegedly the oldest working steam loco in the world (1855). The highlight at the end of the tour was a special steam-hauled charter from Delhi-Rewari and return, using two WP Class locos, fully decorated in tinsel and bunting. Outward, WP-7220 gave a fine performance, but the return journey behind WP-7161 was not so good, poor coal being the main problem, but it was the first time in 12 years that either loco had been out on the main line. At Rewari, a small steam shed is being set up, with enthusiastic management. Stored in the shed are WP-7161, WP-7015, WL-15005, YP-2151, YP-2204, YG-3415, YG-3428, YG-4252 & YG.2724.