The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India, 1982-5, Round 2
Part 7 - Shantipur and Burdwan

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.


A surreal scene, a freshly overhauled tram in an almost rural setting in the centre of the city, with a colonial backdrop.

I used the Great Eastern Hotel as my base in Calcutta. It was a huge Raj style hotel which was constantly being patched up, although like the city it seemed in terminal decay. Calcutta’s trams seemed in a similar state, slowly negotiating crowded streets they bore the scars of encounters with other vehicles and needed grilled windows to protect the driver.

Shantipur (12th January 1983)

Sealdah station was surprisingly quiet when I left at 06.50 on an emu. Someone had ripped off all the covers from the seats in the 1st class compartment so I had a numb bum by the time I reached Krishnanagar. The compartment filled to overflowing, the distinction between 1st & 2nd being cheerfully ignored. En route I saw black CWDs on transfer freights between the many yards.

The ng train from Shantipur terminated here, the line to Nabadwip Ghat being closed. The little 2-4-0T class CS built by Yorkshire Engine Co and Bagnall, (1926-1935), were copies of an earlier batch that had been worn out. Locomotive no 776 was in attractive ER green and black, with “save coal” slogans emblazoned on it.

CS 776 arrives at Krishnanagar from Shantipur.

Whilst I was taking this photo I was accosted by some officious type who claimed (unconvincingly) he had been sent by the station master to stop me taking photos. He eventually left threatening to return with the police.

Sanctuary was offered by the guard who invited me to share his compartment which was now the front of the train as we headed for Shantipur. From the guard’s window I was able to look down on the engine’s chimney which emitted a lovely roar as the engine bobbed around on the rough track. We travelled through pleasant rustic scenery, such a contrast to Calcutta! The engine was worked on an ebb and flow arrangement, being pushed along, before being allowed to coast and then another few shovels of coal and the regulator opened again.

Children and farmers clung to sides of the carriages, treating themselves to a short tram ride; the crew were seen surreptitiously depositing a sack of coal and receiving payment!

Tight fit! Two CS class on Shantipur shed.

On arrival at Shantipur I went to the small shed, which had a sign portraying their dmu, that was out of use. One of the CS locomotives was away at the works. On shed 774 was in steam and 775 was undergoing light repairs and being prepared for a boiler test. The shed office was two converted railway wagons, its interior decorated with photos from Laurie Marshall and a line drawing similar to those at Kurduvadi. It was thanks to Laurie’s couple of articles in Railway World that many years later I would visit some of the locations he described and developed a lasting obsession with India, for which my travel agent was also grateful!

A visiting inspector told me the small engines were being worked too hard and they needed more engines. I was not surprised to hear they were struggling to get spare parts, the dmu remained out of service as it was too heavy for the track, how long they could leave it idle was in doubt.

774 takes water.

CS 776 shunts stock at Shantipur.

774 was late going out on the afternoon departure, as the driver had not reported in and the crew from the morning arrival had already worked a full shift and did not want to go out again. 776 shunted the stock of the morning arrival into the sidings and eventually a crew took the early afternoon train to Khrishnagar.

I returned to Sealdah on another emu from Shantipur and unlike the morning departure the platforms were heaving as the train pulled in, the besieging crowd tried to hurl themselves in open windows and doorways, I had to push my way out, clutching my cameras tightly as signs warned of thieves. It was like wading through a sea of glue, people were crammed together in a slow moving wave leaving the station.

Bankura (14th January 1983)

BDR number 5 proudly proclaims it is a Bagnall (built in 1916).

This was another town with no hotel, so I used an overnight train to reach Adra and changed train to a pre-dawn local to reach Bankura. Where the ng station was eluded me, I waited for clues with the sound of whistles etc, the ng train arrived 30 minutes late at 10.30, to reach it a footbridge had to be crossed and then a walk through the town; I would never have found it in the early morning darkness!

I had gathered quite a crowd of rubber necks by the time I found dust encrusted Bagnall 0-6-4T number 9 that had arrived on the morning passenger. The sun was already high, the station was not photogenic and the engine was in a drab red SER livery, a disappointing start. This was once part of light railway network operated by McLeod & Co. Despite the system having been taken over by the SER in 1967 engines still had the prefix BDR (Bankura Damoodar River Railway)

Following the engine back up the yard I found the depot, it took some negotiation to be allowed to take a photo, although I was refused entry as the shedmaster was not present. On shed was Bagnall no 5, being prepared for the afternoon departure; the shed staff compromised by moving the engine forward for me to photograph it. The third Bagnall was visible further back in the shed, jacked up on sleepers, with its wheels removed. I could not see any Deltas, but at least one engine was out working the line. I was escorted back to the station by the assistant foreman to await the locomotive foreman who was to inspect my pass, he was to arrive on the train I hoped to leave on; so another of those impossible situations! As it was he did not appear and the assistant foreman had no choice but to release me! I settled back to a trundle behind another WG.

Burdwan (now renamed Barddhaman).

Burdwan was once home to the last XC class Pacifics, long gone by my visit when WGs and WPs were dominant on stopping trains to Kiul Junction. (2nd October 1989)

AK 7 is serviced before returning to Katwa.


AK 7 is serviced before returning to Katwa. A family have set up home at the end of the platform and the hammer and sickle sign on the bridge is a reminder that West Bengal was home to a Communist state government.

My first glimpse of the Eastern Railway narrow gauge line from Burdwan to Katwa was in October 1989, on another day trip from Calcutta. This line was another part of the old McLeod & Co system that the Eastern Railway had taken over in 1966.

The ng station was rather rustic and once the line left the station and passed under the road bridge it was out into open countryside. Unfortunately there had been a timetable revision and I had a long wait to see a train, in the meantime collecting a sizeable crowd of spectators.

The footbridge to the ng station spanned a number of lines that saw WGs on freight and passenger duties. A WP in black livery came whistling in on a passenger working and an electric in ER WAG4 in olive green livery was awaiting its next duty. Mainline traffic was all electric hauled.

Near midday a ng train arrived behind AK7, a delightful 0-6-4T built by Bagnall, painted in ER passenger livery, which suited it. The engine did not use the ng turntable and so left bunker first, I found some good platform photo opportunities contrasting neatly dressed kids with a group of squatters' children who were hanging on to the outside of the carriages, using the train as a tram.

I could not resist the contrast of the neatly dressed girl and the group of children who were going to get a free ride home.

Other Round 2 Indian Tales:

Rob Dickinson