The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India 1980
The Southern Railway - Part 1
Madras and Bangalore

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:

I’m more of a traveller than photographer and despite being fanatical about my hobby I allow some time for tourist distractions. My main holidays fell in January and India proved to be an ideal drawcard, I travelled there whenever possible. 

I suggest you compare my experiences with Wilson Lythgoe’s elsewhere on this site, in particular India's Southern Railway and I, 1981 together with Ian Manning on the Indian Railways 1965-1969. Ian portrays a system when steam was at its peak, it is the work of a well-travelled and informed resident, whereas I was a backpacker rushing from place to place.

An hour and a half after arriving at Madras on 26th December 1979, I was at Central station, despite reports of the impending withdrawal of the steam fleet there was still some action. My first sighting was WP 7272 which had arrived on 302 Fast Passenger from Arakkonam Junction. The locomotive carried a decorated eagle motif on its buffer beam, it was one of the first production batch from Baldwin, built in 1949.

HPS class 4-6-0s remained in use on outer suburban work and seemed in reasonable condition, but I was disappointed with their watery whistles. The HPS seen at Madras were part of the last batch from VF in 1950 making them a year older than WP 7272, this is HPS 24388 arriving..

The session was completed with WP 7282 (Baldwin 1949) making a vigorous, but slippery departure on the rake that had arrived behind 7272. I thought the clock tower in the background gave the station a similar look to Sydney Central, but I think it was the fevered imagination at work. Ian Manning a fellow Australian thought differently, he described it as French chateau in shape. The pungent smell of fish coming from stacked boxes left me in no doubt I was in India, the fish also provided a first lesson in food storage, I saw some stenciled for the long distance trip to Nagpur, I guessed the ice they were packed in would last a couple of hours!

Madras was also my final destination, I arrived back on the morning of the 28th January 1980 and was pleasantly surprised to see there was still some steam turns, including a WP at the head of the Yercaud Express from Erode. My photos of the HPS class were merely for the record, in this case 24385 arriving on a train from Arakkonam Junction. I expected the class would remain in service for some time as their boiler life was meant to be 40 years. Reality was mass withdrawals in the following 3 years as WGs and WLs became available as replacements.

On the same day WP 7723 arrives on the Yercaud Express from Erode.

Next day after arriving in Bangalore I was able to see one of the magnificent large tank engines that used to work into Madras. The broad gauge depot at Bangalore Cantonment was a small affair where WT class tank, 14012 (CLW 1965) had seemingly been abandoned. Two sets of driving wheels had been lifted and the valve gear disconnected. What this locomotive was doing here is a bit of a mystery. Despite being a modern class no further work was found for the SR engines after the Madras electrification.

Bangalore provided me with my first sighting of a WD class, or as Australian fans called them “MacArthurs”. A commendably clean YG in passenger livery, 4240 (Telco 1958) was pushing WD 1576 around the shed yard, the WD’s motion was screeching abuse. In the coal bays two clean YPs in the Mysore passenger link were being hand coaled.

I thought Bangalore woke up around 6pm as YPs arrived and departed on passenger workings. The metre gauge shed became a hive of activity with engines being steamed up and generators starting, headlamps lighting up, it led to thoughts of night photography here. A line of YGs and WDs were cooling down after their day work as pilots, in contrast the YPs were nocturnal beasts!.

Rob Dickinson