The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India, 1980-7
South Eastern Railway Part 3
Kharagpur and Waltair

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:

16th January 1980 Kharagpur 

Kharagpur was the main centre for the SER, the station however was no showpiece and seemed to be in decay. The signalbox was a corrugated tin affair with a permanent temporary look! The station was unkempt and showed signs of abandoned building work. Recent elections had left Communist & Hindu Party motifs sprayed on any available space. The ends of the long platforms were no-go areas as groups of destitute people were camped there.

Despite the usual crowded platforms I was left to myself and was happy to observe two elderly 2-8-0s at work on pilot duties. HS 26081 was one of a batch built by North British (1913-21) for the BNR; it was in an unusual red and cream livery. The loco made a healthy noise as it heaved rakes of carriages around the station, but like many other Indian locomotives suffered from steam leaks.

I was waiting for the East Coast Express (no 45) which arrived from Calcutta, its electric locomotive exchanged for a WP that was to haul the train as far as Khurda Road, before another SER WP took the train on its overnight journey to Waltair, now named Visakhapatnam.

Despite working for a low wage with run down equipment Indian crews were often cheerful and helpful. The fireman of HSM 26081 is concentrating on a shunt move, he wears sandals as shoes were both expensive and often unavailable.

The journey was uneventful, every so often a steam passenger would be crossed or an Alco World Series on freight. Khurda Road was reached after dark and my carriage was conveniently stopped opposite the shed, where four HSMs were seen, whilst they had been used recently, none was in steam. The yard pilot was a WG: possibly a recent replacement? I fell asleep to the sounds of the WP plugging away hauling this heavy train.

17th January 1980 Waltair.

Arrival was shortly after 5am, it was still dark and cold but passengers stepped out to stretch and yawn.

Ian Manning tells it so much better than his East Coast Railway ch 1 “Along the coast”.:

” In any case, by six it is light, and who wants to waste the coolest and pleasantest part of the day? Accordingly, the compartment stirred at dawn; people sat up, women combed their long hair and re-plaited it and men stood in the doorway for up to ten minutes each, rubbing their teeth with tooth powder and their right index finger. There they stood, watching the last of the well-watered country that this train had been traversing all night; its palms and paddy fields all bluish with faint mist. And there were station stops where one took exercise, rice cakes and bananas (mangoes in season).”

My trouble is I did not see the beauty but heard the early morning ritual of dozens of passengers clearing their throats before a big hawking spit. For their part they regarded the foreigner using a handkerchief to be oh so disgusting!

Waltair had a new dead end station, with trains reversing here, concentrating the departures on one end, very helpful for a railfan! (Ian gives the background on the re-development of Waltair station and the yards). I was able to find a position far enough away from the stares of the curious and indulge in some early morning photography. Sounds good, but reality was cold mornings showed up the steam leaks that seemed typical at this time.

It was no surprise to find the pilots were WGs, not the expected HS types; later I was to find a couple on the shed waiting scrapping.

The late running no 38 Janata Express to Howrah departs behind a well turned out SER WP. Lined out in yellow livery, this locomotive had a small star design on a silvered smokebox front. 

No 80 Express had arrived behind a decorated SCR WP 7485, which had worked the train in from Vijayawada.

A SCR WP departs on an express. 

A WP with a plain silvered smokebox on no 226 to Palasa, which had four parcel vehicles as well as passenger loadings. The air was beginning to warm and its locomotive got away without the drama of the earlier departures. 

Waltair depot, despite being coastal, had nearby hills as seen at the shed coaling point.

The depot unlike most others visited benefited from fairly new equipment.

As usual there were many employees who wanted to be in the photograph. The foreman seems to be testing his eyes as an oxy acetylene torch is used on a cylinder repair. This is one of the few shots I took of the WP nose cone open.

WP 7324 was having its running gear adjusted, in the background is the coal yard.

Back breaking work for contract labourers, whilst the policeman keeps an eye for coal theft 

Here is some coal going to a deserving home, watch out for the police!

At Rajahmundry, I had to settle for two shots taken from my train of XD & XB class on the shed, where a WT tank was also partly visible, WGs had recently displaced them. The train journey continued through lush tropical scenery as we headed towards Madras, which was reached in the early hours of the next morning.

The train journey continued through lush tropical scenery as we headed towards Madras, which was reached in the early hours of the next morning.

Throughout my trip I had seen old broad gauge classes being replaced by WGs, similarly the metre gauge had a surplus of YGs that were taking the place of all non-standard types. It was obvious that there would not be much variety on these two gauges in years to come although there would still be plenty of steam hauled passenger trains to ride.


Many years later I was to correspond with an Anglo Indian who worked as a driver in Victoria Australia where I lived. He had been a fireman on the top express workings on this section of line before graduating as a diesel driver. He gave me an insight into the working life of crews in the 1960s and led me to contact with another driver who had retired to Australia. Thanks to them I now know something of the contribution of Anglo Indian rail workers and their community to India and Australia.

Rob Dickinson