The International Steam Pages


Many Happy Returns

In April 1995, I photographed a narrow gauge steam train at a small village in West Bengal, as the fire was cleaned, I notice an imposing red brick chimney behind the train. I had no idea why such a place should boast any kind of industry.

I never dreamed that I would ever want or need to visit the area again. However, with my developing interest in stationary steam engines, it turned out to contain steam powered rice mills and so it was in December 2006 that I returned. The little railway is no more, it is being replaced by a new broad gauge line, but the chimney is still there. The rice mill is in the course of being rebuilt, it will again be steam powered when it is finished. A few months earlier, not so far away, I photographed another narrow gauge steam train in a small village.

A couple of months later steam was replaced by diesel railcars (which still work the line) and in December 2006, I returned to visit their small rice mill - unlike most of the mills we saw this was small and more in the Burmese mode with much wood apparent inside although it has seen some modernisation. The big mills get their harvested rice by truck, here it arrives on a bullock cart:

Each bag is carefully weighed and stored:

When the rice is to be milled, it is spread on a large concrete open area and manually turned to dry:

This is the boiler room staff, guess who does most of the hard work? 

No full gravity feed here, the lady eases the husks in and rakes as necessary, she also shovels them forward...

But she seems contented to have a job, she gave Yuehong a gorgeous smile when she realised what was happening:

And this is their engine, by some way the smallest engine we had seen in an Indian rice mill:

Yes, it's a Marshall but a baby one:

28132 must date from the late 1890s from data I have:

It is a bit 'leaky' so they have erected some guards, but otherwise it must be almost 'as delivered':

Appropriate technology at its very best:

He can never see this picture, but the pride in a job well done shines straight through:

And this is where it all happens, a dusty version of Dante's inferno, I dread to think of the life expectancy of the people who have to work in such an environment, even my lungs have never been the same since I started these visits.

And then my video camera's built-in microphone fell off, I think it had been shaken to pieces, we didn't bring an external one, we have never needed such a thing. With the colour balance all wrong on Yuehong's camera, it threatened to bring our bash to a premature end...


Stationary Steam in India 2006 - introduction

A Reason to Return - a brand new steam powered rice mill in a green field site. 

Marshall Heaven - we always go the extra mile to bring you working stationary steam.

Just Another Marshall (Part 2) - too bad it wasn't working!

Just Another Marshall (Part 3) - drop valve action...

My Other Steam Engine is a Marshall too - if you're going to be different then don't do it by halves.

Make Mine a Robey, Please - as common as in Burma.

All I want for Christmas... - anything but another bloody Marshall.

The Loose Ends - the bits and pieces that ask as many question as they answer

Robert Clive's Sugar Mill - well, it's not quite that old.


Rob and Yuehong  Dickinson

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