The International Steam Pages
Notes - India, 1980-7
Terry Case writes about his travels for steam. Further tales will follow from time to time covering more of Australia, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Click here for the Case Notes Index.
For other Indian tales in this series, please see:
The map (from World Steam magazine) shows the railways of Agra, the chord between Idgah and Cant used by the Toofan Express is omitted.
On 5th January 1983. WR WP 7544 was in the bay shunt at Agra Idgah; ready to back down to Fort. There was morning smog adding a sulphurous touch to the sky.
Idgah had 2 small sheds visible from the station. Outside The WR mg, shed MAWD 1545 was in steam together with decorated YP 2411, at least two other MAWDs were inside the small shed. At the bg shed a CWD in passenger livery could be seen with a diesel shunter. The steam shunters had departed for work pre-dawn.
Early morning at Idgah would be rewarded by seeing No 7 Jaipur fast passenger. struggling upgrade from Fort emerging from the morning mist. YPs assigned usually had decorated smoke deflectors and the crew had to keep the power on as they approached the station until the train had cleared the grade. This was the scene on 5th January 1983.
On the same day, YP 2367 arrives on train 22 from Jaipur and is seen passing the Jami Masjid Mosque.
After the early morning scene at Idgah had been savoured, I would take an auto rickshaw down to Agra Fort station which was impressive and a reminder of the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857 (or the First War of Independence). It and other stations of the period were built to withstand attacks. The station was overshadowed by its neighbours, the Jami Masjid Mosque built in 1648 and the huge Fort was built at the command of Akbar in 1565. I remember on one visit to the Fort looking over the ramparts for a view of the river below and seeing a double-headed YG freight crossing the many spans that supported the dual gauge bridge spanning the Yamuna River.
Back at the station the WP seen earlier at Idgah would be found ready to depart on 84 Bayana passenger. On a cool morning the WP would exude steam from any loose joint and put on a good show of climbing the grade out of the station.
As the morning warmed up there were two long distance arrivals due from Jodhpur and Jaipur, the latter a relatively new working, no 22 “super fast” day train. On 5/1/83 I saw it entering the station, the driver perched on the cab window. I had expected a train for western tourists, but this was composed of all 2nd class stock and obviously aimed at the expanding Indian tourist market.
A third arrival due around this time was the mg overnight express from Lucknow with a NER YP in charge. This was a notorious late runner and I often had moved on before it made an appearance.
On 10th January 1982, MAWD 1500 is left to snooze after completing carriage pilot duties at Agra Fort.
In 7th January 1980. CWD 12657 departs Agra Fort for Tundla Jn. Note the Horse Van as 12657 heads downgrade to the dual gauge Yamuna bridge.
Morning activities usually finished with the departure of the local bg passenger to Tundla with a NR CWD in charge.
Afternoons at Agra Fort were not so productive although there was always a chance of a transfer freight. One such working was on 10th January 1982 when double-headed YGs re-started after a signal stop in Fort station they had to get the freight underway and gain what momentum they could before the grade to Idgah kicked in. They blasted out from under the station roof into the sunlight and past the Mosque. It was rare to see steam freights so that was a treat. The front loco is YG 4222.
By 1982 the afternoon bg train to Bayana from the Fort station was cancelled due to coal shortages. In 1983 I found it no longer originated from Fort but from Idgah, which seemed to be a local timetable variation.
I liked to leave Fort using the afternoon Toofan Express to ride up the steep grade to Idgah station and to Cantonment (Cant) station where there would be a changeover to a WP and a reversal of direction. The CR WP then had a sharp grade out of Cant to Raja-ki-Mandl where I would leave the train and photograph its departure.
Agra in the early 80s was the scene of student riots and in some of the parts of the city westerners were not welcome. The slum dwellers objected to westerners who strayed from traditional tourist precincts. I felt safer taking photos from the train and listening to the CWD at work. On one occasion a couple of signal stops had to be made on the grade and the crew had trouble restarting. They vented their anger on the signalman at Idgah as their engine blew its safety valves and would present the disposal crew a big fire to deal with.
At Agra Cant station the Delhi bound Toofan had a WP assigned (another regular Jhansi diagram). I would stay on board for the short ride up grade out of Agra to Raja-ki-Mandl, allowing me to enjoy it tackling the grade and get a departure shot as it left for Delhi. More than once I had to evade a gang of stone throwing kids as I made my way back to the station. By January 1983 diesels were rostered for the Taj and Toofan expresses on this sector.
On 10th January 1982, a CWD has arrived at Raja-ki-Mandl from Tundla traveling by the second river bridge and calling at Agra City. (See map above).
On my 1982 trip I left Agra to travel on the North Eastern & Northern Railways in search of non standard class locomotives. The rickshaw driver took me to Fort Station by the backstreets and through the bazaar where the shopkeepers sat crossed legged on their serving bench, most adorned with large scales and hurricane lamps to light their wares.
At Fort station I was met with a busy display, a WP was waiting departure on a Bayana local whilst on the mg a YG stood at the head of the express to Jodhpur…Both were running late unless there had been a timetable revision.
The stock for my train was only pushed into the platform at the scheduled departure time, this was 11 Kumaon express, a NER train and steam hauled. The platform was awash with army troops, I shared my first class compartment with three officers.
The train departed one hour behind the advertised schedule, the YP then had problems surmounting the steep grade to Idgah. The section beyond is flat and under a moonlit sky I was able to enjoy the YP picking up speed. The line takes a circuitous route to Mathura and on towards Kanpur, but by then I and the other occupants were in the land of nod.