The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India, 1980-7
Central Railway Part 2

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:

The pictures on this page were taken on trips in 1980 and 1982 as indicated.

One of my aims in 1982 was to sample express running behind steam, I thought it would probably be my last chance to experience this. Around this time European fans were discovering the delights of DR's Pacifics. Trains in India were generally heavy and locomotives were often in poor mechanical condition. Line speeds tended to be slow and for steam a top speed of 60mph (roughly 100kmph) was the best to hope for. Timetables had to take account of monsoons when track ballast could be soaked; high summer heat restricted the firing rate on steam locos. Whilst I could sample faster steam work in Australia behind preserved locos it was the day today running that fascinated me.

The standard Indian footplate crew of 3 included only one fireman, the third man was to assist with watering, fire cleaning and pushing the coal forward in the tender. If a ghat or hill section needed a second fireman to keep up the firing rate, one would be rostered for that sector only.

My chosen sector to experience some fast running was the Delhi - Agra mainline, the Toofan Express (Delhi - Calcutta) was my favoured train. In 1982 electrification of the line was proceeding and the days of steam and diesel power were threatened. Here WP 7170 leads the Toofan Express into Agra Cantonment on 7th January 1980..

I had first ridden the Train 8 the Toofan Express (named for an Indian wind) on 6th January 1980 behind unkempt WP 7066. Once underway the engine proved to be in good running order despite being not up to the reputed high standards of external appearance accredited to express link locos based at Jhansi and Agra. (By 1994 the train had been re-numbered to 3007/8 and had become the “Udyan A. Toofan” running from Sri Ganga Nagar (in the North of India to Calcutta).

Once clear of the Delhi area WP 7066 demonstrated the class could still carry out sustained high speed running. A speed tune was broadcast from the chimney and a clear, loud whistle was in use much of the time. Indian tracks saw cows, pigs, dogs and many people wandering along. Riding the footplate could be unnerving especially approaching level crossings at speed when vehicles and people continued to cross as the train bore down on them.

Following a visit to Mathura Junction on 5th January 1982, I rode the Toofan to Agra, it arrived ten minutes late and I secured a seat in a near empty compartment near the front of the train. The driver seemed keen and soon had the WP into speed and kept accelerating until we were travelling at approximately 60mph. (Crews still talked about speed in m.p.h. despite speed recorders being set to k.m.p.h.). The speed tune was full on for several lengthy stretches and the engine was required to work hard to keep its heavy train up to speed. This was impressive after some of the poor runs I’ve had in India. 

One of the best runs was on 9th January 1982 when the Toofan departed 20 minutes late from Delhi behind WP 7306, from Jhansi depot. The train ran smartly, but kept getting delayed by signals as something slower was ahead. It was after Tuglakabad (22km from Delhi), that we finally got a clear road. Being delayed by signals had the advantage of hearing the WP restart its train and wheel it up to speed a few times, whilst the crew put its whistle to good use. I noted that electrification masts were being erected near Asaoti (50km), and two electrification works trains were in this area.

The train stopped at Kosi-Kalan (103km) for water and I obtained a couple of shots now the rain had been left behind. The station name board was spelt without the hyphen, whereas the timetable of the time showed it with the hyphen. On restarting the crew wasted no time and had us back to speed once again. At Mathura (145km) the tank was quickly topped up for the final section which allowed some sustained high speed running. The crew had made up the twenty minute late start and were on time at Agra Cant (199km). This probably demonstrated the undemanding timetable rather than any excess speed. On 9th January 1982, the Toofan Express with WP 7306 in charge stops for water at Kosi-Kalan. 

The fast run is over as WP 7713 glides into Raja-ki-Mandl hauling the Taj Express on 10th January 1982.

The map (from World Steam magazine) shows the railways of Agra, the chord between Idgah and Cant used by the Toofan Express is omitted.

Agra Cantonment was on the Central Railway mainline from Delhi to Madras and Bombay. The Northern Railway operated services via Agra Fort to Tundla, Lucknow and Calcutta. Both the Western Railway and the North Eastern Railway operated metre gauge services out of Fort station, the NER. to Mathura, Lucknow and northern areas with the WR operating services to Jaipur and a broad gauge line to Bayana. Raja ki Mandl saw some NR services running via City station and over the river before joining the mainline to Tundla.

I used Agra as a convenient base for day trips to Delhi, on the 8th January 1980 I had set out early to reach Hazarat Nizzandum to photograph the Taj Express as it passed Humayan’s Tomb, it was one of those days where nothing seemed to go right. Trains were heavily delayed due to fog and I was too late to reach a position to photograph the Taj express. A taxi driver pretended to know where I wanted to go and ended up at the YMCA, not quite the tomb built for the last Muslim ruler of India!

I planned to return from New Delhi on train 17, the Jammu Tawi - Madras Janata Express. No reservations were available for short sectors so I had to cram in the front coach that carried passengers without reservations and did not get a seat till we reached Mathura Junction. I was jammed upright against fellow travellers and was in no position to appreciate the journey.

At Mathura I admired the shining WP in green and black livery then settled back in my wooden seat by a window frame with no glass, not that I was complaining! The crew really got going with the engine throwing hot cinders in a continuous patter over the roof of the coach. With a banshee howl from its whistle it tore along the line to Agra much to my delight.

On 9th January 1980, WP 7656 arrives in Agra on Taj Express duty, note the decorated shield below the headlight but the carriage stock is rather mixed.

Even in 1980 most passenger trains were diesel hauled. Mornings at Agra Cantonment were noted for the departure of a stopping train to Delhi and the arrival of the Taj Express. In 1980, CR WPs in green and black livery were usually assigned to the Taj and the coaching stock was a mixed batch of air conditioned stock for tourists. In 1982 the three WP allocated to Taj duties were 7656, 7708 and 7713. In 1980 7656 was in Central Railway green and black livery but in 1982 it and 7713 were in a deep blue livery, both were based at Jhansi. Their livery was quite different from that applied to 7708 based at Agra Cantonment depot. 

On 11th January 1982, two crows take to the air as WP 7708 arrives at Agra Cant on Taj Express duty.

The morning stopping train to Delhi was a WP/WG turn, on 9th January 1980 Agra still had some WGs like 9853 in black freight livery.

As the train departs, a trolley team wait for their inspector to board so they can push him to his desired destination!

Afternoons here could be worthwhile. Passenger link WGs had a regular early afternoon parcels train for Delhi, often making a vigorous departure to climb the grade to Raja-ki-Mandl. The Toofan Expresses from Delhi and Calcutta could sometimes meet here as the trains reversed direction. The one from Delhi was usually the first to arrive and its WP exchanged for a NR CWD. On the 7th January 1980, 12610 with a decorated chimney cowl was waiting departure on the Calcutta train when I joined the crew in the cab where they proudly showed me the controls and explained their functions. These express trains were some of the last to be operated by this class, by contrast a CR CWD in freight livery was assigned as carriage pilot, these showed signs of once being fitted out as oil burners. 

In January 1982 a WG departs on a parcels train for Delhi.

On 7th January 1980, NR CWD 12577 arrives on the Toofan from Calcutta. WP 7170 on the Toofan from Delhi was late and held by signals to allow the train from Calcutta to dock first.

Rob Dickinson