The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India, Round 2
Part 14 - Raipur

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.

RD 688 at the Delhi Railway Museum in 1985. It looked fantastic, the crest was beautifully executed. Note the “All India” number & Lentz valve gear.

I had stopped at Raipur on 18th January 1983 to sample the narrow gauge but first my attention was drawn to the bg servicing point where WP 7319 and three XD class were simmering. By this stage the oldest XD class were being withdrawn, these were from the 1946 batch built by North British. The Raipur XDs were restricted to pilot duties whilst the WP had arrived on the Express from Waltair, which together with a passenger working were the only line duties here for bg steam.

The narrow gauge was delightful, the CC class allocated sported a bright crimson livery, unlike anything else I had seen on the SER. The raised running plate over the cylinders gave them a more youthful appearance than most old engines I had seen. The pilot, 669 was built in 1907 by North British for the Bengal Nagpur Railway. 683 and 684 which were also seen were built a year later.  The RD class built for the line in the late 1920s had been withdrawn in favour of the veteran CC class Pacifics which handled the lengthy trains without difficulty. I rode the 15.15 departure headed by 683.

684 had arrived on a passenger working which could not terminate at the single platform as the 15.15 departure with 683 was ready to leave. 

669 shuffles around the station yard with two twee brake vans in tow. 

After negotiating the curve around the town outskirts the line was quite straight with little to note, i.e. “dead flat and boring”. The cross was made at Bhatgaon, where I changed trains. I was entertained by some local youths who wanted to act as “Tiger Men” for the camera. A travelling projectionist had visited the village and screened a horror film and the boys were still acting the part. Whilst harmless they contrived to get in front of the camera at every opportunity. 

The opposite passenger drifted in behind 668, then in brilliant afternoon sunshine 683 got away. Walking back to the Raipur bound train I passed a house that had a monkey chained to the fence, illustrating the remote feel about the place. 

668 had little work to do on the trip back to Raipur, but good use was made of the loud hooter whistle. The ticket collectors had joined me, and interrogated me about life in Australia whilst listening to the radio broadcast of a Pakistan v India test that was going disastrously for India.

After Raipur, I travelled on to Nagpur where on 20th January 1983, I photographed WP 7341 with some streamlining removed departing with a train heading to Gondia. 

I returned to Raipur on 21st January 1985, arriving on an early morning train. XDs remained in use as pilots, they were now a rare class, steam was rapidly being decimated. After a wash in the unhygienic waiting room I went to the ng station as darkness was lifting. CC 669 was being warmed up for pilot duties, whilst at the bg stabling point XD 22315 was being readied together with 22305 for taking over as the daytime pilots, moving out at 06.30. This was the time the ng passenger was supposed to depart, but the engine was not ready. I had time to contemplate the bulk of the XDs and the lean sleek lines of the old pacific. The narrow gauge train got underway thirty minutes later, the light rain intensified as the train got underway, disturbing clouds of mosquitoes that had made the carriage their home for the night. There was to be no sunrise.

At Bhatgaon the rain began to clear, 675 (NB 1907) was in the loop with an lengthy incoming freight, most wagons were double bogies and there was even an oil tanker in the rake. 

The freight was in no rush to depart so I watched the passenger train engine having its fire cleaned, prior to the departure for Abhanapur Junction. 

I had planned to ride to the terminus Dhabtari but as I was photographing the 3 train meet at Abhanapur the driver of 684 on the Raipur train offered me a cab ride so I took photographs of the Dhabta and Rajim trains before joining him for the return working to Raipur.

The driver was in fine form, everything was “bloody”. “The bloody track was bad”, he wasn’t wrong, we rolled and bucketed along. One particularly bad section saw us all riding the tender. “The bloody coal was no good”. Yes it was hardly a roaring fire but it clagged and kept us going. The fire being kept shallow and nursed by the fireman whilst the second fireman was busy using a large hammer to break up cobs of coal. The engine surprisingly had a bit of go in it, but I was told the track limited line speed to 50kmph. They would have to “bloody improve it before diesels could take over”. “The bloody engine was badly maintained”, the cabsides and roof vibrated along with all the controls and gauges doing a merry dance.  Lineside signals indicated whether crossing gates were clear. Steam was kept on even when a signal was at danger, the whistle cord being used to wake up the “bloody” crossing keeper! The crew had a sideline carrying bikes on the front of the engine and in the tender, and selling coal by the shovel full. I had a bloody good trip with them! 

Back at Raipur station a rundown WP 7356 (Baldwin 1949), devoid of Skyline streamlining was waiting its departure on 18 Janata Express to Waltair. 

The main event was watching CC 669 struggle pushing a transfer freight upgrade after passing underneath the bg to the transfer sheds. Teams of labourers worked (with no mechanical help) moving freight to and from the narrow gauge to the broad gauge.  

Other Round 2 Indian Tales:

Rob Dickinson