The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India, 1980-7
Western Railway Part 5

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:

YD 30202 on carriage pilot duty.

On 3rd January 1980, I visited Mahesana which is 68km from Ahmadabad on the mainline to Delhi, travelling there on an early afternoon train hauled by a YP. After negotiating the footbridge with its contingent of deformed beggars, I decided to wander around the town; the afternoon sun being strong and traffic sparse at this stage of the day.

Most of the signs in Mahesana were in Gujarati, this combined with the lack of English spoken by the locals led to some confusion. I wandered into the grounds an old palace and was apprehended by a policeman, it turned out it was being used as a polling station and they thought I was a press photographer. There was a hostile reception from some officials who were convinced I was there to cause trouble. I was marched out of the grounds sandwiched between two armed police. Election polling stations were the subject of vote-rigging and ballot box tampering allegations and the source of much debate in the press.

My detention at the old palace meant I missed an arrival from the Patan branch, but I did see its engine, a B class 4-6-0, making its way back to the depot. Both the lines to Patan and Taranga Hill split from the mainline near the depot, branch and mainline trains faced a stiff climb out of the station.

Two YD pilots were active in the station area, both built in Ajmer 1933-4 and fitted with rotary cam poppet valve gear. One hauled a couple of rakes of empty stock past my position, before pushing them downgrade back into the station. This picture shows the valve gear in more detail.

The classic shot here was of the morning parallel branch departures, I had to settle for YD 30201, another rotary cam version assigned to work train 138 Mixed to Patan. Trains on this line were generally rostered for a B class, but this mixed was heavily loaded with wagons and rated a freight link YD in black livery, here is 30201 working past the depot . The engine was decorated with a nesting eagle design over the chimney and had silvered boiler bands, making a fine sight blasting up-grade in the late afternoon sun. Afterwards, with the shadows lengthening I abandoned my position to return to the station.

Despite the B class and YDs being contemporaries, the B class looked a much earlier design, incredibly variants were built as late as 1951. This is the B class from the Patan branch arrival returns to the depot.

B1 31034 arrived on 117 ex Patan, despite the loco’s antiquated appearance it had been built in 1951 by Bagnall. 

It was almost impossible to photograph because a crowd was now following me around. This train continued to Ahmadabad, but I decided to try the other end of the station and get away from some of my followers. Activity was brisk at the station, B1 31025 (WB 1933), was on pilot duties at the Ahmadabad (south) end of the station. It made a fine sight in the low afternoon sun and the shunters played up to the presence of a photographer. The cabside of the engine carried MSH, the shed code referring to the place's former name Mehsana.

I found YB 30013 (Ajmer 1935), in a bay platform having been released from an arrival from Taranga Hill. The engine was also fitted with rotary cam valve gear; as was YB 30012 which arrived from Ahmadabad on 68 fast passenger. This engine had a decorated smokebox and a nesting eagle chimney decoration and I took some photos with a slow shutter speed as the light failed. 30012 was uncoupled and made way for another “MSH” or B1 class to take the train on to Taranga Hill. The departure was impressive, the little engine had to lift its heavy train up-grade out of the station. It blasted out into the darkness, wheels spinning and sparks flying and sending up a column of smoke before it settled into a steady rhythm.

The next two pictures show YB 30013 ready to head back to the depot and YB 30012 on arrival.

In the opposite platform another YB was waiting on a departure, whilst the YD pilots had been active throughout the session. Most carriages carried only Gujarati and Hindi script destination boards making train identification difficult.

It had been an interesting afternoon and I had seen my first YB and B class locomotives in action. I thought I would make a return visit here, but a year later work was in the hands of the YP/YG duopoly and I had other priorities.

I departed on train number 4, the Delhi express which arrived at 20.00. After locating my berth I was able to watch the B1 arrive on the return working of 67/8 pass; a nice way to end my time here.

Rob Dickinson