The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India, 1980
The Southern Railway - Part 5
Coimbatore and Mettupalyam

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.

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For other Indian tales in this series, please see:

In 1980 some express/mail trains still conveyed carriages that would be detached en-route and collected by another train. I had travelled on 28 West Coast Express overnight from Cannanore to Coimbatore arriving at 05.10am on 25th January 1980. My carriage was detached to await the late running No 5 Niligiri Express from Madras, allowing time to photograph early morning steam activity on both gauges. Coimbatore Junction AWC 22637 fussed about on less than strenuous pilot duty and then posed for a portrait:

Steam was still in charge of express workings on the metre gauge, the Tuticorn Express had a clean YP in charge. A cool morning saw some departure smoke and a little glint for the going away shot; a pleasant way to start the day!

No 5 Niligiri Express arrived from Madras behind its rostered diesel, a WP was provided to work the heavy train along the branch to Mettupalayam, (Metta). The trip along the branch was pleasant, as the WP had to put in some work to keep its heavy train on the move as it headed for the distant hills. The only bad section was the outskirts of Coimbatore as many inhabitants of the trackside shanty town seemed to be taking the passage of the train as a signal to squat bare arsed for their morning crap. Leaving the squatters in our wake more acceptable rustic scenes of farmers with their oxen in the fields followed as the train approached the hills. 

On arrival at Metta another WP could be seen waiting with its train for Coimbatore but I was intent on the scramble to get a seat on the rack train to Coonoor and Ooty; one problem the service had been cancelled below Coonoor due to landslips. I was bitterly disappointed! At least I had Metta’s b.g. steam workings to record and I revisited from Coonor regularly during my stay. Later on 26th January, WP 7090 departs on the afternoon local to Coimbatore.

In contrast to many WPs I saw this engine still had a complete set of Boxpok wheels, maintenance on the S.R. seemed to be of a higher standard than some of the other regions.

Metta had an American built AWC to handle the small amount of shunting needed. The S.R. had 33 of the class allocated until b.g. steam was dispensed with in 1981. Apart from the Southern only the Eastern Region used this class and had an allocation of 14 at this time. Steam photography (and personal security) was far more pleasant in the South and I didn’t bother checking out the E.R. machines. AWC 22643 shunts stock in the station yard, on the next day.

Late afternoon at Metta saw the WP allocated to work train 6, the Niligiri express being steamed up on the small and obsessively neat depot. This spectacle could be enjoyed whilst sipping a coffee from the tea stall on the station platform. The station also had a great view of the towering hill range that make up the Niligiris. The pictures show WP 7477 and the AWC being serviced.

Rob Dickinson