The International Steam Pages
Steam Locomotives in India, April 1997
Heinrich Hubbert's reports
on his latest trip to India:
When going to Assam, Dimapur was the last station to get on b.g., with the metre-gauge-traffic beyond completely abandoned because of gauge-conversion. Bardarpur was reached at sunset of the 6th of March All its steam-rooster was stored cold in the shed. The last steam finished one week before.
Saharsa was still a good steam-centre in Mid-March. Diagrams for 18 locos, of which 16 where serviceable, remained unchanged since my last visit in January. In the loco-shed, the steam-crane was dumped and coaling the locos done with baskets. The shed-foreman, Mr C.S. Mahto, declared that the Forbesganj-line would be diesel-worked from 1st April 1997. The Banmanki-branches will follow a month later with the closure of the loco-shed. In November, founding ceremonies for a new diesel-loco-shed in Samastipur and the conversion of the Mansi-Saharsa-Forbesganj-sections were held in presence of the railway-minister Vilas Shri Ram Paswan (source: Indian Railways, Dec. 1996).
It looks as if Western Railways will keep the last YPs and YGs going, hopefully in the sheds of Mhow, Udaipur and Wankaner up to the end of the year or beyond. A good indication is that Ajmer works will continue with P.H.O. up to December 1997!
At the end of March, the shed had an allocation of 5 locos, which were employed for shunting duties only. One steam-run was cancelled due to 'water-shortage'. The foreman in charge expected steam to finish within the next two months. Rolling stock of the now cancelled Pink-City-Express has been shifted to Gujarat.
Operations unchanged. Shine YP 2150 in fresh paint from Ajmer made a nice sight in front of passenger 221 - 5 coaches and a water-tanker when storming up the bank to the Debari-tunnel. Departure from Udaipur City has been retimed to 6.30 a.m., providing improved light-conditions in the middle of April. The highway is now completed. With the bottle-neck on the tunnel one can imaging how the setting will look in some years after regauging takes place. The tunnel and the famous gate would be razed by a big cutting for rail and road.
YP 2125 made its way through Udaipur in the middle of March. I found it later in Jetalsar, stored for maintanance. With fresh green painting and decoration on the smoke-deflector - a torch framed with the slogan (in Hindi). It was said to be the last loco overhauled for Jetalsar. According to staff-members, railcars are now in service between Veraval an Delwada. Rolling stock of the now cancelled Pink-City-Express has been shifted to Gujarat
The stability of this 100% steam worked-system is amazing. The goods train is running quite irregularly now. In my four day visit I saw it two times on the line, but always an empty, one with about at least 15 wagons! 3rd time, the goods was in the right direction but with no load and just the caboose only.
An addition is the appearance of two YPs 2813 and 2683, the latter was in steam and coaled in the shed at the evening of the 11th April.
In Morbi, the Tulsi Resthouse is nice, clean and close to the station (500m). I booked the Owners Ambassador with driver for 2 ½ Rupees per Km, 300 Km minimum, full day. Ask for Mr. Shohin Khalfan, who assists with translation, as English is rarely spoken in this backward area. The restaurant at Hotel Krishna Park offers Chinese food. Another good restaurant should be the 'Priya'. I had no problems with officials when linesiding around Rafaleshwar due to the presence of the airforce base in this area as other visitors reported.
It was a nice surprise to see an increase in steam workings between two visits: Now 89/90 plus 73/74 Passengers were running with steam. 73/74 was Diesel on my visit early January. The shed-staff at Mhow claimed that the banker is also diesel again, but this was not checked out. With 13 locos, Mhow should now have the biggest steam loco allocation on Indian Railways.
B.G.: Mr Ashok Sharma from Special Tours of India, New Delhi, was asssured by IR-officials that two WL 4-6-2 class locos belonging to the railway museum are in running order and can be booked for working on special trains.
The Royal Orient - Rewari - Operation of the two YGs unchanged.
I had discussions with the management of the Royal Orient and was on the train around Udaipur in which the Gujarat-part of the itinerary is packed. Itinerary, comfort and service are of five star standard. The places visited are treasures and remote, but easily accessible by the train. The rolling stock of 21 coaches is the 1991 build for the m.g.-Palace on Wheels (I was told that the old rake was in the Delhi Museum) and completely refurbished before the new train was inaugurated in 1995. Fare is 200 US$ per day (b.g.-Palace on Wheels 300 US). There is a 25 % discount in the months of April and September (the train is suspended in Summer). The train on the 26th March was cancelled, but all the April runnings were already well booked.
From the next season the itinerary could be affected by Unigauge, and therefore a relocation of the starting point from Delhi to the south (maybe Udaipur could take place, but nothing is out now as re-gauging is not yet in progress. If the two NR-engines could be shifted from Rewari to the WR, it is not that unlikely to see again an assisted steam-trains on the ghat-section towards Ahmadabad!
Misleading information in a report of a renowned enthusiast with an international reputation of being specialist about everything what is moving on rails on the Sub-Continent coming in shortly before my departure to India did NOT bring me out to an obscure Coal Railway with b.g.-steam, but right out in the middle of nowhere! He didn't mention that the name of the colliery is also a station name. Not that one, where the colliery should be located, but another place, 450 km. away from the spot. However, when my contact found out where the spot should really be (Thank you, Ashok!), there was no time left for a visit. The place must be KORBA (M.P.) on the Gevra Road-branch halfway between the Howrah and Nagpur on the trunk-line.
At the cement-factory Khemli near Udaipur, the dumped 4-6-4T is still in situ. The works have some diesel shunters. Access was gained after some chat at the gate and a phone-call to the management. It should be noted that near Lawanpur (on the Wankaner-System) salt is hauled from the fields with a n.g. railway; presumably 2 feet. I did not pay closer attention but I saw two trains around there. The tracks are just 100 m on the other side of the m.g. track when you reach the place coming from Morbi.
Sakri and Motipur were already closed in the middle of March. At Motipur, the transfer of the m.g. 0-4-2 to Lohat will not materialise, as the staff is against it! On a visit at Riga (Sitamarih), the mill was running, but the 0-8-0T was cold and is only heated up when heavy load has to be shunted every several days. For light duties serves a rail-tractor. Gola Gokaranath keeps its Jung 0-6-0T for spare to a rail-tractor and a bigger diesel. At Saraya, the chunky NWR 145 was in charge while the 0-6-2 was under repair. Actually both locos are changed every two weeks. The 4-4-0 was dumped awaiting repair. Tweed was shunting the yard, together with n.g. 0-6-0T No. 52. The harvest was expected to run long into April. The nice A.M.E Mr Jaswir Singh declared, that the train can consist of up to 80 empties or 70 loaded wagons with the NWR while 54 can haul 10 wagons less that numbers.