The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - India, Round 2
Narrow Gauge glimpses: Kurduvadi

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.

Afternoon departures at Kurduvadi, 17th January 1982

ZE 101 (Hanomag 1931) and G 729 at Kurduvadi, 22nd January 1983

ZE 101 on pilot duties, 22nd January 1983

Kurduvadi was a small town which seemingly did not have a hotel, that meant my trips here were all day visits. There was an oasis in the form of the bg station restaurant that even served cold drinks. The Moslem proprietor was friendly and besides a glass case of souvenirs of visits to Mecca the restaurant boasted two large well executed drawings of Indian steam locomotives.

My first visit was in January 1982, I arrived in the late afternoon and planned to ride the overnight ng train to Miraj that would serve as my accommodation. The people waiting at the station had no doubt as to why I was there and wanted to be in my photos.

There were 2 late afternoon departures, G 732 a Hudson, was the power for the Barsi Town train. F 713 a small 2-8-2 which looked much older than the G was the power for the Pandharpur departure, the whilst ZE 101 was pilot. The passenger trains headed out of the station in the same direction before the Pandharpur train diverged on a long curve leading to an embankment and bridge which took ng trains over the bg mainline and set them on the track to Pandharpur and Miraj.

The train to Pandharpur with roof riders leaves Kurduvadi on 22nd January 1983.

As neither train was ready to depart on time I managed to collect a crowd of on-lookers, the station master did not look too pleased with the mayhem that I had created.

In the works yard some locomotives from other systems could be seen waiting attention. I had already seen a ZD freshly overhauled on a bg flat wagon waiting to return to Murtajapur. Visible in the works area was a large tank engine possibly a BS class 4-8-4T, once used on this system or more likely one of the A1 2-8-4T which had been made redundant at Pulgaon.

Following the departure of the ng passenger trains I watched some bg action before returning to the ng station to see the evening passenger arrive from Miraj behind a decorated G class. These were handsome and capable machines, just what you need for a long distance run. By contrast the overnight service to Latur was powered by a F class, that appeared feeble to me, but I found some of them could run quite well. Some carriages here were non-standard with balcony style ends, the long distance trains to Miraj and Latur included 1st and 2nd class sleeping carriages. For a description of this journey see my earlier tale,  Miraj: steam on 3 gauges.

I returned to Kurduvadi a week later to ride on the Barsi Town mixed before the rumoured diesels arrived. Motive power was G 731, another decorated engine. The cross with the mixed which had left Latur at 03.00 took place at a roadside halt, which saw a rival bus touting for customers; despite the competition trains were crowded.

G 727 rides the turntable with a ZE in the background, 22nd January 1983

WPP 7202 based at Daund prepares to depart Kurduvadi to Wadi on the same day. The official WPP classification (not carried) would have indicated it was one of the sixteen prototypes (7200-7215) built by Baldwin. 

I had arrived at Kurduvadi in the early morning, 3 WGs were being warmed up for the days shunting duties. This year there were reservations available for the ng, a book being used to record details. The morning was warm and I sat reading until the local from Pandharpur arrived behind G 727, this (and 733) was one of the last two members of its class, built in 1939 by Bagnall. The other seven (725/726/728-632) were built some 10 years earlier by Nasmyth Wilson including 729 which was seen was light engine whilst ZE 101 was pilot.

I was joined by three British fans who had ridden in on the train from Pandharpur and we visited the shed. The BS class locomotive was still listed on the foremanís roster board, which had obviously not been updated for many years.

Many F class were on shed, most (712 - 721) were built in Manchester by Nasmyth Wilson between 1926-9, although 722-4 were built as late as 1949 by Hunslet. A number had received new smokeboxes and had fireboxes renewed, they were being spruced up prior to transfer to Murtajapur. A new diesel shed was being erected as steam was supposedly in its last years at this location. The ZE class would be laid aside by the end of the year. F 723 is the subject of some heavy repairs, probably indicating it will be transferred to Murtajapur.

G 728 crosses over the bg with a train to Pandharpur, 22nd January 1983

When I joined the night departure for Miraj, it was only to wait another 3 hours for a late departure, one hour of which was spent being shunted round the yard by the pilot to free up a platform. Back in the platform more people joined the train, no one took the least notice of reservations or the numbers permitted in a 1st class compartment. I managed to get a top berth and despite being near the engine heard little above the babble inside the compartment. Some cheery soul told me the countryside was infested by dacoits, who targeted 1st class, so why didnít he ride 2nd? I spent a restless night knowing the delayed departure meant I would miss the train I had planned to ride from Miraj the next day.

The following morning I awoke about 8.30 and was pleased to find the train was running quickly, which did not last long as we came to a prolonged stop. The engine and its auxiliary water tender had run short of water, it was detached from the train and ran ahead, leaving the train stranded. 45 minutes later the engine returned, we finally entered Miraj at 11am, five hours late; the train engine had been G 726. The opposite day train had an F class at its head, and was awaiting our arrival (possibly suggesting the single line loops were not in use).

My final visit was in November 1984. I had planned an early start from Pune, the hotel staff were told I would be leaving for a pre-dawn train, but of course the night watchman had not been informed. I found the hotel was locked and the watchman asleep, when I got him awake he promptly feigned going back to sleep determined to ignore this foreigner. Eventually the door was unlocked and I stepped into the pitch black alleyway. I evaded the sleeping water buffalo, but stepped into a large pool of seeping waste from a nearby cesspit, my mood was filthy!

The station forecourt was strewn with sleeping porters whose ďhomeĒ was the station at least the rickshaw drivers had their own vehicle to sleep in.

Train 323 was running late, an almost impossible feat with such a lax schedule. I was able to get a 1st class seat in a coach that had seen better days, the windows were not sealed and what followed was a freezing journey, with prolonged stops for engineering works near Kurduvadi.

On arriving I bought a chai and stood there clutching the clay cup it was served in and tried to stop my teeth chattering. I hoped the diesels had not arrived.

The ng pilot F 715 was taking water from a standpipe, the crew having abandoned it. I found 4 diesels were now based here and the ZE class had been the first to be made redundant and had been sent to Daund for scrap or re-assignment.

G 727 backs onto the stock for the Barsi train, 29th November 1984 

I made my way out of the station area, past the junction to find a spot to photograph the Barsi departure. A group of kids who had been playing lineside cricket came over as soon as the train came in view, the engine whistled to warn them to clear the tracks as they jostled each other to get in my photo, despite their distractions I managed to get a reasonable shot of the engine working hard.

The kids then followed me back to the station, I thought I would evade them by visiting the shed, but many would have been sons of railway workers and they were not in the least put off; crowding the shed masterís doorway as he made half-hearted attempts to shoo them away. I noticed despite the new diesels the old steam roster board remained unaltered in the office.

A new 2 road diesel shed had been erected since my last visit and ZDM4s, 200 & 204 were on shed. A sorry sight was a row of dumped engines, which included G726 and 733; which were in poor shape, whilst F 714 looked no better. This was the new diesel shed nearing completion overshadowing F 724, 22nd November 1983

Despite the diesels' arrival steam repairs were continuing. G 731 was acting as pilot and it manoeuvred F 716 (looking superb after overhaul and repaint), with F 712 ready for overhaul. Two other engines were being steamed after light repairs, they were G 730 and F 717.

Anxious to offload my crowd of gawkers I accepted an offer from the crew of the pilot to join them on the footplate. I sat on the firemanís seat and quickly learnt to dodge the oil drip from the lubricator, which was spluttering away. I could see over the boiler from my seat, the F class was a small locomotive. The driver was taking it easy, leaning back on the tender, whilst the fireman was driving. The odd shovel of coal was thrown through the low door and into the firebox as we trundled around the yard parallel to the bg. 

This was the view from the cab of F 715 as it shunts the yard area.

It came as a shock to find both the driver and fireman wanted me to have a go at driving, when I sat down on the driverís seat it dawned on me the fireman had been using the reverser to control the engine, the fireman confirming the brake did not work. I open the regulator and the locomotive gently moves forward, the driver signing me to use more regulator. I realise that the reverser readings were incorrect; we should be cantering along on these settings! I shut the regulator as the head shunt comes into view and start slowly rewinding the reverser, the driver wants the regulator open, so the engine goes gently into reverse, I think of the damage being done as we skid slowly to a halt. Next we propel the load over the points to the end of the carriage yard, this presents a new problem as I cannot see where we are going and do not understand the shunterís whistle code. The driver urges me to be less cautious as we repeat the operation and I start to get the feel for it just as we finish the shunt.

I returned to Pune on one of the steam hauled passenger trains, it was a laid back affair with numerous permanent way restrictions. Despite the generous time allowed for engine change, we still were an hour late ex Daund and not with the expected diesel, but with a WP. I was pleasantly surprised that the crew who had been rostered for a diesel got the WP working hard to maintain the schedule. There was plenty of whistle blowing approaching crossings at speed and the engine was worked smartly away from stops, a good way to end the day and my last visit to Kurduvadi.

On the earlier visit, WP 7744 departs on a passenger for Pune, which it will haul as far as Daund, 22nd January 1983.

Other Round 2 Indian Tales:

Rob Dickinson