The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India, 1980-7
Western Railway Part 3

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 had a number of trips over the W.R. mainline from Bombay to Ahmadabad, this entry covers a trip on New Year’s Day 1982 and an earlier trip in 1980. I was to re visit the area in 1989 to ride the narrow gauge railways.

I was in Surat where I was to take 15 Saurashtra Express due in the early afternoon but it was running late leaving me to be harassed by beggars and rubber necks. The train when it arrived seemed full but I found myself a spot in a 1st class compartment, which was quite pleasant despite the heat outside. The other occupants were two Indians and a family of Indian-South Africans, two of the daughters were in their early twenties and were stunning in looks. Their dress was quite different to that worn locally, tight pants with bare midriffs and a short top, quite distracting! In contrast with the demure Indian women they were rather western and outward going. The family were Muslims and had been on a pilgrimage to Mecca; it must have been a challenge! Life in India appalled them, the family were all quite homesick for Durban. I certainly enjoyed the girls’ vivacious company and had a pleasant afternoon with occasional distractions of glimpses of n.g. steam as we stopped at various junctions.

At Kosamba, two W class could be seen on the shed, the station surrounds looked pleasant and free of the mass of people I was beginning to associate with Gujarat. There was a transshipment shed with crane and the number of n.g. freight wagons suggested some freight traffic. I was to return here in 1989.

At Miyagam Karjan (16.50) two n.g. steam locos were in the station area, a ZB waiting to depart tender first and a P class 4-6-0 on pilot duties. The station had some photographic possibilities, with a footbridge and signal in the station area. I took a couple of quick photos from the open doorway of a coach. The n.g. shed was seen to house another ZB and P class, so I had seen two of the four P class built. 604  had been cut up by June 1979 so these were from 605-607.

The ZB seems to be 89, it's ready to depart for Choranda and Moti Koral or Malsar as departure will be to the south.

This was the unidentified P class pilot.

A sobering sight was seen not far from the station on a straight section of track, next to it were 5 overturned carriages, one with its side peeled open; how did it happen? I had grown used to seeing the frequent derailed and overturned 4 wheel goods wagons, probably from running at too high a speed, but the sight of overturned passenger carriages made me feel suddenly vulnerable. By this stage the heat of the afternoon took its toll and I and most of the other passengers in the compartment were drowsy, the train having lost its path ran slowly and made frequent stops.

As we neared Baroda (Vadodara) it was possible to see a distant view of the Palace. The foreground provided a harsher vision of slums and mud walled dwellings with roofs made of scrap metal and plastic. It seemed as we slowly drew into the city that most of the male population were playing cricket. The English side was touring and the 3rd Test was due, it had sparked massive interest.

Passing Vishvamitri I got lucky and snapped a near perfect shot of a ZB at the head of a lengthy mixed train. 

At Baroda the station stop was cut back and we got away just 20 minutes late, only to fritter away more time in the journey to Ahmadabad where the train was to arrive one hour late. We now had ten people in the compartment, two newcomers had sleeping berths and tried to have us ejected, but it was not yet 20.00 and most of us were to leave at Ahmadabad. Squashed together with the girls, I found life pretty tolerable!

Back in 1980 I was travelling at the same time of year, but without the distractions of the 1982 journey and I arrived in Baroda on 2nd January at 11.00 in time to see a scruffy AWD 2-8-2 12690 towing two auxiliary tenders pulling in on a passenger. What was interesting was the engine’s leading pony truck had suffered a hotbox and was on fire; (or some oily waste had caught fire). A distinct lack of interest was shown by the crew as they unhooked and with a blast on the steamboat whistle it got away. The engine was possibly a replacement for the elderly H class 4-6-0s that had been active at this location only a year previously.

More steam was seen on this busy electric mainline. Around mid-day a WG dragged a lengthy freight through the station which included ZB 59 on a flat wagon. The narrow gauge locomotive works in the suburbs at Pratapnagar generated a steady need for such transfer traffic.

I was waiting for 166 Sabarmati Express which I would ride to Nadiad Junction. The train arrived fifteen minutes behind schedule with the expected WP as power, this was replaced an electric for the final run to Ahmadabad. 165/6 was typical of long distance workings in this period, running from Ahmadabad on the WR, via the CR to a variety of destinations on the NR such as Varanasi/Faizalbad or Muzaffarpur, depending of which day it was operating. Traveling such a long distance often incurred delays. Like many other express trains of this time it was steam hauled over much of the route, it required 6 or 7 engine changes, 3 of which were on the WR sector.

Having located the n.g. station and shed at Nadiad Junction, I came across a new problem, none of the staff spoke English, but their friendliness and generosity compensated. After a tea/chai was taken the depot foreman showed me photographs sent by Laurie Marshall. I was then given a tour of the shed. The allocation at that time consisted of 4 ZBs and 3 WTs, (all Bagnall, 1925). The single W class present here the previous year had since been moved to Sayla to replace an ailing T class. 

WT 595 was stored waiting repairs, WT 596 was in light steam being coaled, WT 597 with ZB 82 (KM 1952) were being steamed up for evening duties and were moved forward for me to photograph. ZB 118 (Slav Broda 1959) was under heavy repair, in fairly primitive conditions. ZB 121(Slav Broda 1959) was in steam in the yard, so if the allocation list was accurate that left only 1 ZB out on line work, the service had obviously been much reduced from the 1970s when there wre 4 out and back workings on each branch.

India often tossed up the unusual, here a boy with his drum joined us. He made a living singing on trains and collecting a few coins for his work. I grew used to being a curiosity to the locals and tried to make the best of the situation, often they would be helpful, but constantly got in the way when taking a photograph. This was the foreman and the singer with ZB 82 and WT 597:.

WT 597 

WT 596 fitted with an extended bunker and well stacked!

ZB 121 with foreman and deputy supervising.

My stay at Nadiad was not long but it had been interesting and a good connection saw me on no 49 pass and reaching Ahmadabad at 17.30. After a short look around I gave up the idea of more photography being burdened by luggage and it was dark by the time I got a taxi to take me through a heavily congested city to my hotel.

Rob Dickinson