The International Steam Pages
Steam in India, October 1997
You should also read Christoph Oboth's report which covers a similar period.
Heinrich Hubbert's reports on his latest trip to India:
For competent assistance concerning visits on IR- and Industrial-sites contact:
Saharsa shed closed - Udaipur shed closed. Ajmer Works continue P.O.H. Steam on WR will run well into 1998.
Steam on the metre gauge is still hanging on, the rest is still intact like half a year ago. On the industrial front, MPEB in Korba has stopped regular steam since middle of September.
North Eastern Railway
Saharsa: In Mid-March the foreman predicted that steam would finish soon. At this time I spent several days and met a nice resident man there, who is also based in Delhi. We remained in contact and met again on this occasion in New Delhi. As he knew my subject, he kept a look at the shed about a month before in August and told me, that all steam-operations had finished. The locos are dumped around and are awaiting scrap-auction. I believed his statements to be correct and did not waste time here to check it out myself as well.
The Western Railway is now the only system with steam. Udaipur (Ranapratapnagar) ended steam working forever shortly after the Republic-Day in August. Steam locos from here will go or have already gone to Ajmer for repairs, where some repainting also occurs. Several were identified at other sheds like YP 2150 or YP 2508 in Mhow. The latter has just returned in mid-September from receiving attention in Ajmer. At the end of September YG 3360 paused in Udaipur on its way to Wankaner.
Sabermati is still using steam for shunting (at least). I saw two engines busy when passing the Ahmedabad main-station at night.
When I spent some more time here, I got a proper idea about the steam-turns: Actually 89/90 is steam throughout between Chittaurgarh and Indore whilst 73/74 is steam only on the stretch between Chittaurgarh and Ratlam. Locos are not so clean but one YP was spotted, with the decorated smoke deflectors of Mhow which have carry painted idols. Later, I found these in the shed and I was told, they are only used for ceremonial-occasions and could unfortunately not be used just on enthusiast's request.
Chasing was a nightmare this time, as the already bad 'National Highway' was further damaged by the monsoon. However, the engines still perform superbly and make well over 80km/h with their ten coaches (some old ones and the mail-car among) easily with a crisp exhaust, that you can not get elsewhere in Asia now.
I was busy here with friends for three days. Everyday a new jeep and driver had to be arranged, as they refused to do it again and after 350 km the vehicles need some maintenance.
On the Khandwa-section, the banker is also still steam on two trains. I spent several days on the ghat section, to see 9672 which is in daylight.
The shed staff at Mhow claimed that steam will continue at least up to the end of the year, but it looks like it could continue beyond that into next year: A very nice driver, Mr. P.R.Pal, invited me in September to a footplate ride on the banker of Express 9770 which was an experience. He thinks that steam could run up to 2000 plus till the broad-gauge line is completed. This project will see the metre gauge alignment of this section abandoned. At this point, it should be mentioned that also the Unigauge-plans for the Udaipur ghat foresee a new track along the national road. Imagine, in some years trees will grow on the abandoned bridges of these famous railway-pieces.
Barely no change here in this fine system. At this time of year, the scenery is very green and gives a different impression from other visits. Sometimes the goods can be running on 415 or other passengers as Mixeds.
The Restaurant at Hotel Krishna Park is now closed but the Prya is also a good one.
YP 2125 has now in a completely different livery with the lower parts in red and competing with pride of the place: YP 2257 in a fine 'Jubilee Decoration', with the colours of the Indian flag: saffron and green. White deflectors with independence logo (to be found all over India these days) painted on them. Bonus are square extra-plates along the boilers on both sides between the cab and deflectors with painted lions! (I saw a magnificent Lion on a smoke deflector in this area 20 years ago too - this is the part of India - the Gir mountains - where they still have lions. Rob D.)
Operations are unchanged and I took a week to pay closer attention. The 332/3 from Jetalsar to Dhola can be chased as there are some roads alongside the track which are not indicated in the Nelles map.
Jetpur is the place to stay, with Ashirvad Guesthouse having clean rooms. The owner has an Ambassador (3,5 Rs/Km , 300 km minimum) and Girish is a good driver.
387/8 runs from Junagadh to Dahri via Visavadar, where the train changes direction. The operation is such, that 388 departs 6.30.p.m chimney forward and then must be turned on the table in Visavardar, because 387 is departing in the morning from Dhari tender first. Then in Visavadar the loco is not turned, it just takes water, doing the headshunt and so returning chimney-first to Junagadh.
The line has some impact: From Dhari to Visavardar it is hilly and scenic but apparently (when I roved on the train) inaccessible as there is no road. From Visavardar up to Junagadh, there are some nice viaducts - some with arches. On this section, the train can be chased in the morning up to Junagadh, where the line runs just through the crowded city of Junagadh. The track is along the road, separated by a small wall and with the crossing-gates to be turned 90 degrees so that these are blocking the rail-tracks when there is no train!
One arch-bridge between Torniya and Dungarpur Quarry takes half an hour to get to on foot, but you get a 1000m high mountain of the Girna-Range in the background. Amazing! There are also opportunities to get train and the 1117m holy Mt. Girna itself on the picture within the city of Junagadh.
The loco-shed is YP only and these are quite filthy, except 2125 and 2257. The latter is the 'Jubilee-Loco' and the first has now a completely different colour scheme since the Spring with wheels and lower parts of the tender/cab in red.
Steam is likely to continue on this level for some time - I wonder why. The staff in the shed had no idea when steam would finish.
Saurashtra is a fascinating place - backward and most far from westernisation.
It is always hard for every enthusiast to find out that "you got there too late". At the MPEB in Korba it was my turn. At the beginning of October I found one XE and AWE each dumped in the shed. The last use of steam had been just one month ago. Ashok Sharma visited the place and then there was still one train daily.
The other locos have been removed from the shed to another place in the plant-area but I did not check this. The chief engineer had no objection against photographing as long only steam locos are concerned. Steam is still possible when a diesel fails, running with steam on enthusiasts demand is costly (10.000 Rs or so). "Coal is getting too expensive" stated the chief-engineer of this coal-plant!
Jawad Road: When passing the station, I saw a dumped steam loco with tender (possibly 0-6-0) in the siding at the cement-works here.
There should be a cement factory in Orissa with steam. There should also be an NTPC-Plant near Shaktinagar in M.P., which has acquired recently used steam locos from I.R. for internal use. I had no time to check this out, but Ashok Sharma wanted to have a look there in the next weeks.