The International Steam Pages

Steam in India, 1798 runs again!

Ms U. Hazarika, Chief Public Relations Officer, Northeast Frontier Railway has emailed me. Click here for a February 20th 2001 press release and further pictures: Click here for locomotive data.Click here for the April 2001 update. The railway has since restored a YG to working order.

"Today (14.2.2001) in Guwahati (Assam), Northeast Frontier Railway has revived a Metre Gauge American War Department Steam locomotive (No. 1798) for pioneering rail tourism in the MG sector in this area. This loco manufactured by Baldwin Loco Works (USA) in 1944 was put in service in 1948. The last passenger service was run by this locomotive in Alipurduar - Gitaldah section in 1993. After dieselisation of services in the Railway it has been since lying 'condemned' in New Guwahati shed.

1798 steams again....

Rehabilitating the locomotive has been a herculean task as both materials and steam skills are now very rare. But by untiring dedication and single-minded endeavour of a team of 20 supervisors and staff of New Guwahati diesel shed led by Mr. S.K. Dutta, Asstt.Mechanical Engineer it has been possible to achieve this task within a record 23 days. The project actually became an emotive issue with railwaymen like Mr. Sukhender Lal Das, who as retired Tin and Copper Smith volunteered his services day and night.

1798 and crew

In a well-attended function today at New Guwahati Diesel Shed, the General Manager, N.F. Railway, Mr. B.M.S. Bisht launched the locomtove with a lot of fanfare. The loud whistle, steam and coal-smoke of the locomotive evoked nostalgic memories in most of the people who attended the function.

A few dry runs of this locomotive are planned before putting it in service on few selected MG sections to promote rail tourism in scenic areas of N.F. Railway.

For more information as it becomes available please contact:

Ms U. Hazarika, Chief Public Relations Officer, Northeast Frontier Railway, Maligaon : Guwahati - 781 011, India, Fax 91-361-570557

You can email:

Here is the press release for the February 20th 2001 trip:

Guwahati,Feb.20. While some peeped out of their windows to see the steam engine for the first time, others stopped their vehicles on the main road to witness its grandeur. Others, who had come to the railway station to see off their relatives, were awe-struck at the sight of the steam engine which was last seen here in 1994 and in Tinsukia in 1997. The N.F. Railways was one of the last railways in the country to go diesel. The Baldwin loco metre gauge American war department locomotive, which rolled out from the New Guwahati railway shed a couple of days ago, today made its inaugural run from the Guwahati railway station to Pandu. The 1944 locomotive was sidelined in 1993 and arrived at the New Guwahati locoshed in 1994. People lined up on both sides of the 10km stretch between Guwahati and Pandu to see the locomotive. At many places, bystanders waved at the train and children living in shanties near the railway line were delirious. Pandu, a desolate station except for two trains which stop there, sprung to life. People living nearby arrived at the station in large numbers to give the steam engine a royal welcome. Among the lucky ones to travel in the train, apart from railway authorities and invited guests, were 30 street children of the Indian Council of Child Welfare (ICCW). "It was an educative experience for many of them to know about the history and the importance of the steam engine. And for those who never had the chance to travel in a train, it was a memorable experience." an ICCW official who travelled with the children said. Samira Devi was ecstatic as she could not believe that she was actually seeing a steam engine. "My grandparents used to tell me stories about the steam engine which used to take days to reach its destination,: she said. General Manager of the NF Railways B.M.S. Bisht said they were working out the logistics of running the train between Guwahati and Pandu during weekends. "It will be a good business prospect for travel and tour operators to charter the train," he said. The Railways spent Rs.1.5 lakh on renovating it. "We also plan to run another locomotive which has been lying in Badarpur since 1997. Renovation work will start soon", Bisht said.

(The pictures are reproduced from newspapers, hence the slight loss of quality).

1798 on the special train

Inauguration ceremony


* Loco No    1798
* Class    MAWD
* Year of Manufacture    1944
* Year put in Service    1948
* Last Train worked    141 Up/142 Dn from APDJ to Gitalda
* Year of Condemnation    1993
* Arrived at New Guwahati Loco shed: 1994
* Date of recommissioning    14th February, 2001
* Coal Capacity    8.12 tonnes.
* Water Capacity    10000 gallons.
* Under frame with wheel    30 tons
* Boiler    24 tons
* Tender    41 tons.
* Wheel configuration    2-8-2 (Pony Couple Radial)

Relief train staffs under the leadership of Sri DD Chettia, Section Engineer were engaged for 23 days to complete the job of renovation including collection of materials from different placed of NF Railway. Boiler Inspectors from Tinsukia and Badarpur have supervised the repairing and testing of boiler.

* Work started on     19.01.2001
* Work Completed on    13.02.2001
* Man-hours Spent    8600 hrs.

The work could be completed with following material assistance.

* Steel piping boiler mounting cocks were made at New Guwahati.
* Vacuum injector, hard grease, vacuum combination, copper pipe, boiler tube expander were collected from Mariani.
* Boilers smoke tube and gauge column cock from Badarpur.
* Gauge glass from Lumding
* Injector combination from Tindaria
* Asbestos packing rope from Alipurduar
* Fire bar fingers from Tinsukia.
* Other items like cotters , pins etc were locally procured.


It gives immense pleasure to add here that Sri Shukendur Lal Das who retired from railway services on 30.11.2000 as Tin & Copper Smith, now resident of Pandu area has volunteered his free services to renovation work. It was under his guidance that re-metalling of axle box brass bearings was possible at New Guwahati. This is normally an activity of the workshops. However under the inspiring contribution of Sri Das the work was undertaken and successfully completed at New Guwahati.

'Brahmaputra By Steam' Takes Off

The Indian Railways' rail-tourism venture in the northeastern part of the country christened Brahmaputra by Steam, a specially designed tourist train for the people looking for the nostalgia of the steam era, had its inaugural run on April 2, 2001. A metre gauge American War Department steam locomotive (MAWD 1798) of 1944 vintage hauled this train. Rehabilitation of the loco was completed on 14 February after 23 days. Sixteen Australian tourists were aboard the train. Before boarding they were given a traditional welcome by the Railway with Gamosa (a decorated hand- woven cotton towel of Assam), with the insignia of Brahmaputra By Steam, at Guwahati. The tourists were then escorted to the train by a batch of colourful Bihu (a folk dance of Assam) dancers, beating their drums and cymbals.
The Australians started the 10-km ride to picturesque Pandu on the bank of river Brahmaputra after their ceremonial breaking of coconuts on the engine of the train (equivalent to a western inauguration by popping of champagne). Between Guwahati and Pandu, the train was specially stopped at two picturesque places to facilitate the guests to have a surfeit of hobby video and photography opportunities. At Pandu they boarded a deluxe ferry for a two-hour cruise on the mighty river Brahmaputra to savour its countryside grandeur including the majestic 1.5 km. long Saraighat bridge. The tourists had a lavish lunch on the ferry and after a photo session again at Pandu with the steam locomotive they were steamed back to Guwahati railway station with tender foremost (as turntable does not exist at Pandu now).

Throughout their journey aboard 'Brahmaputra by Steam' Mr. B. M. S. Bisht, General Manager of N. F. Railway and his secretary Mr. R. N. Kalita accompanied them volunteering themselves as tourist guides. They also presented the tourists with exciting rail and ethnic mementoes commemorating their trip.

Tour Group

The train

Feedback from the Tourists:
All the tourists were lavish in their appreciation of the trip -
Some samples:
Warren Miller wrote, "The level of hospitality and the variety of attractions (the welcome, the historic train and the river trip) were exceptional, and very much appreciated."
John Ladbrook wrote," I was a king for a day. Many thanks."
Ian Thiele wrote, " Hope your tourist venture is successful. So many more can enjoy your hospitality."
Ian Williams wrote," Wonderful hospitality, indicating dedication, organisation and team work in recreating a bygone era of steam loco traction."

Tourists are welcome for the trip.Contacts:
Director, National Rail Museum, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, India - 110021 (Phone: 91-11-6881816,6880939; Fax: 6880804; E-mail:
Deputy Chief Commercial Manager (Marketing), Northeast Frontier Railway, Maligaon, Guwahati, Assam, India - 781011 (Phone: 91-361-570575; Fax: 570305; E-mail: )
The package is priced at Rs 4,999 ($ 110) per person for adults and Rs 2599 ($ 55) per child between the age of 5 to 12 years. Children below 5 years of age are not charged.

Rob Dickinson