The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India, 1982-5, Round 2
Part 6 - Agra to Futwah

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, which includes many earlier Indian tales.

The NER Lucknow Express with YP 2438 is ready to depart from Agra Fort on 5th January 1983:

Here, it now heads towards Idgah on its ramble to Lucknow, note the smoke ring.

Leaving Agra there was a choice of two routes to Lucknow. If you had time to spare you could take the late afternoon departure from Fort with the NER mg express to Lucknow. How it could be denoted an express was bemusing, it spent most of the night sauntering around the countryside, it was somewhat speeded up when diesels were assigned. Alternatively, the NR offered bg steam on the Avadh Express to Lucknow which took far less time.

I had time to enjoy some final views of the Taj and a leisurely dinner before returning to the station to find the Avadh running two hours late. I joined passengers waiting in the cold, a bit different from Bandra (Bombay), where the Avadh originated. Departure was two hours late at 11.30pm, behind a WP.

After a bitterly cold night with little heat and plenty of draughts in a careworn carriage, I awoke to find the train running slowly through fog. The cold snap and fog for the last week had thrown the railways and airlines into chaos, with many services cancelled and others running many hours late. Many poor people had little clothing and died of exposure. On arrival at Lucknow I saw steam engines besieged by people who held their hands close to fireboxes or any warm part they could find. 

WP 7298 was the new engine for train 352 Fast Passenger to Allahabad on 6th January 1983. The station had been given Islamic style towers in a 1926 renovation, it is a striking example of British India architecture. Unlike Agra Fort which had been built to withstand a siege, Lucknow was representative of a more confident era.

Being wealthy by Indian standards I could afford to retreat to the station restaurant which provided a western breakfast. The large dining room still had traces of the Raj, with displayed silver ware. I turned my back on the dismal scenes at the station and went to see the remains of the British Residency.

The shattered walls marked by cannon ball hits remain, but I was interested in what the remains meant to Indians? Part of the answer is the Indian Martyrs Memorial that stands opposite the Residency. Many Indians now refer to the Mutiny as India’s First War for Independence.

I had planned to visit Lucknow and other NER centres to see HPS class 4-6-0s at work, but I found only 3 HPS remained in service at Lucknow. The HPS2s were built by Vulcan in 1949-50 and would all be withdrawn by the end of 1983. The CWDs would not last much longer. The NR alone had 287 CWDs in stock in 1977, but by 1983 not many remained in use. Built between 1943-1946 some of these engines had reached the end of their (original) boiler life, estimated by IR accountants as 40 years. Even the few HPS2 class that survived would not reach that milestone. In both cases most were replaced by surplus WGs by the end of the year. I had also wanted to see the T class tank that was the mg pilot. It was the last remaining member of its class, but it must have been on shed. The desperate plight of people convinced me instead to move south to Allahabad.

On arrival at Allahabad I found I had still not out-run the cold and fog, but was unable to get a forward reservation. I had planned a few days here riding and photographing HPS class, but it became obvious few survived.

On 7th January 1983, I saw my first engine marked as a WPP, 7203. What this actually designated was it was part of the prototype batch. It was on an old HPS turn, I was beginning to think they might have all been withdrawn when HPS 24431 (VF 1949-50) based at Kanpur arrived on another local passenger, the fog had disrupted so many trains I was not sure what duty it was on.

The following afternoon I found all the rostered HPS trains were being run by WP/G class, the exception being a 16.00 arrival, which was probably the same train I saw the previous day. As I was taking a photo I attracted the attention of a group of students who wanted to impart their wisdom to me and impress passengers of their revolutionary zeal. 1983 saw student riots and college closures. Thankfully they were all talk and no action. I was eager to move on.

I obtained a reservation on the Toofan, but was not surprised to find it was running three hours late and not expected till 02.20. I spent the first hour in the overcrowded upstairs waiting hall, till the smells and mosquitoes drove me out. The balance of the time I spent on a platform that faced the shed, where plenty of WP activity was to be seen. Almost all the expresses here were electric and diesel hauled, although two arrived behind WPs. Number 13 Upper India express remained steam worked with a WPP 7205 (another one of the Baldwin prototypes) taking over from electric traction.

The many dogs that scavenged the station by day were asleep in packs, abandoning the scavenging to the army of rats that were now seen scurrying everywhere. When the train did arrived I found a berth reserved in my name, but on entering found other passengers arguing with a contingent of Railway Police who had taken over the compartment and were refusing to leave. The guard was called and the passengers insisted they would pull the emergency cord unless he evicted the police. The police went with bad grace and the threat that the cord would be pulled if they tried getting back in the compartment. 

Patna, WP 7088 shorn of its Skyline covering arrives on a train from Asansol, people are still rugged up on 10th January 1983

Futwa (Fatuha), Martin Burn Company.

On 10th January 1983, I rode an afternoon train from Patna to Futwa, now known as Fatuha. The train suffered a number of delays en route due to cord pulling. Like most local services it was predictably crowded and the corridor of the 1st class carriage was completely blocked by local peasants and their produce, it proved difficult to get out at Futwa.

I crossed the footbridge and walked down to the deserted ng station, clearly the afternoon train would not be running. I found a sign writer and his young son at work on one of the ng carriages, transforming its sides into a series of colourful advertisements. I moved to the small shed where two 0-6-2Ts were out of use. No 1 built by Manning Wardle of Leeds in 1919, was inside the shed. No 3H (Manning Wardle 1921) was on a spur with some ancient rolling stock. Both still had builder’s plates attached.

Back at the station I met a manager and his assistant who had arrived from Calcutta with the Company wages, the Martin Burn organization once operated a network of narrow gauge railways. I believe this was the last line they (occasionally) operated! They informed me that only the morning departure was now running from each end of the line, stabling overnight and returning the next day; supposedly coal shortages were once more to blame. We settled down to discuss cricket and drink tea, later they escorted me through town to catch a bus back to Patna. They warned me that the countryside had become dangerous, especially at night for landlords, as the Naxalites were battling for supremacy with the local police (militia) forces.

The carriage painter or advertising guru at work:

No 3H (Manning Wardle 1921)

Builder’s plate on 3H.

Number 1, built by Manning Wardle of Leeds in 1919

Other Round 2 Indian Tales:

Rob Dickinson