The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India 1980
The Southern Railway - Part 4
The WL Pacifics

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 departed Ernakulum at 3.30am on no 47 express, newly rostered for diesel haulage. Steam was next on view at Shoranur (07.30). AWC 2-8-0s were busy on pilot duties, others were visible on the small depot together with WG/WP & WL classes. The local coastal trains to Mangalore originated here, all hauled by WL class Pacifics, but the express trains with the exception of the Janata (People's express, all 2nd class sleeper stock) were diesel hauled.

On 22nd January 1980, WL 15007 on a local to Shoranur crosses No 47 express, note the Railway Mail Service carriage.

The section on to Cannanore was through beautiful tropical scenery, near Cannanore the line had views to the sea. Afternoons at Cannanore station started with the arrival of the Janata Express to Mangalore. WL 15052 sported whitened buffers and headboard (with a variant spelling for this type of train), like other Shoranur based locomotives it featured a blue smokebox door.

Mangalore bound trains departed Cannanore on a sharp curve, resulting in a number of carriage attendants having green and red flags to repeat the guard’s flags for the engine crew. (These attendants all had the Guard’s qualification and the practice was seen on other lines, the most notable being the Niligiri rack railway). The scenery along the line was magnificent with lush green rice paddies surrounded by palms, bridges crossing tidal rivers and sections running alongside the sea where you could spy fishermen in wooden dugout canoes, or rafters ferrying timber to the shores of a factory. Road crossings were well posted and whistles sounded, but roads were rarely busy.

I found it interesting in this affluent area that there was more evidence of the CPI (Communist Party of India) than almost anywhere else in India. The hammer and sickle emblems daubed in red over many white walls, proclaimed it to be election time, a state election that was to be comfortably won by the Communist Party.

3 or 4 stations out of Cannanore a cross was made with a local service from Mangalore, I rode this back in time to photograph the evening departure to Mangalore. 

In the evening I chatted to a group of drivers prior to a departure which took the locals by surprise as the crew hammered out of the station to impress me! 

I finished the day at a beach to take in the sunset, a token effort to be a tourist!

I settled back to a couple of days riding trains and relaxing on the beach at this pleasant small town, a good way to relax towards the end of my first trip. After crossing a local from Shoranur, the Janata Express from Mangalore departs behind immaculate WL 15052 on 23rd January 1980.

Train riding in this area was a delight as the lightly loaded 8 carriage sets were hurried along by the modern Pacifics. The accommodation was all 2nd class, but with no overcrowding. I was able to travel in the front coach with the door open to enjoy the breeze and the sounds of the locomotive. On my final morning I was riding back to Cannanore when a track gang joined the train together with their dismantled trolley, plenty of room no problems! 

Rob Dickinson