The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
Narrow Gauge, Big Engines, Gwalior, October 1981

Wilson Lythgoe has been circulating friends with some steam pictures taken some time back and with his permission and encouragement they are reproduced on these pages and will be added to from time to time. Click here for the index.

The two lines heading out from Gwalior, in Central India, were 2 foot gauge with what seemed like huge locos (around 30 ton) running the two, well laden mixed trains that were the only services on each line. Both lines were lengthy with the trip to Bhind taking six hours and in the other direction to Sheopur Kalan twice that. All jobs were lodging turns and the box in front of the smoke-box door holds clean clothes and food for the 3 loco men overnighting.

I was lucky enough to score a cab ride for 3 hours on the Bhind line: my notes say the cab was surprisingly roomy even with 4 on the footplate but very hot. I had been warned by staff that maintenance standards were low and breakdowns common. On the way back to Gwalior the tender dropped a brake shoe, ran over it and derailed itself. From a letter to my parents at the time: ".....most passengers seemed to be trudging off in various directions so I tagged along behind a group that seemed to be heading back to the last station about 2 miles away. Once there I was at a bit of a loss as to where to go next so walked around saying 'Gwalior' to people. A young lad got the gist of my problem and intimated to stay with him as that was his destination. We walked a short distance along a track to a dirt road and then rode on a farm trailer, behind a tractor, out to a sealed road - that was uncomfortable enough but the worst was yet to come. Above the cabs on Indian trucks there is a wooden shelf with 18 inch high sides where they carry tarpaulins.....and that's where I along with 8 others rode the 50 km back to Gwalior. Uncomfortable, bone jarring, cramped, ducking to avoid low trees and power lines - let me assure you have never been so uncomfortable in my life. A half hour walk back to my hotel from where the truck left me and I still beat the train back by half an hour, had it been on time." My train finally arrived back in Gwalior, combined with the breakdown train, the following day around 20 hours late. Next day I had 5 distinct bruises down my spine from the truck ride!

NH/3 754 (2-8-2 by Kerr Stuart in 1928) on the 180 degree curve leaving Gwalior

NH/4 757 (2-8-2 by Baldwin in 1948) being serviced at Gwalior. The guys crouching on the left are filling their coal baskets by hand. They then carry them, on their heads, up the plank to tip into the tender. I wonder how long it took to coal this way?

Outbound NH/5 814 (2-8-2 by Nippon Sharyo in 1959) crossing NH/4 754 returning from Bhind


814 waiting for passengers at a wayside station. 814 was a mere 21 years old when I was lucky enough to cab ride it.....even I was older then!


NM 762 (4-6-2 by Bagnall in 1931) complete with polished brass dome.

 These are included to show I did keep an occasional eye on the broad gauge happenings!

NH/3 755 (2-8-2 by Kerr Stuart in 1928) with the previous days derailed 814 arriving back at Gwalior. I think two trains were combined to achieve this monster!

NM 765 (4-6-2 by Bagnall in 1931), also with polished brass dome, leaving Gwalior

Engine details taken from 'Steam Locomotives in India Part 1 - Narrow Gauge' by Hugh Hughes and Frank Jux. This book says in 1979 Gwalior was home to 25 engines of 6 different classes.....very much a case of variety on the narrow gauge. I had managed to to see and photo 5 of those classes during my 3 day visit in October 1981.

(I also visited Gwalior in early 1976, I made it it Bhind and back safely! The return journey was in a first class saloon specially attached for a railway official who invited us to join him in it - we had been denied access on the outward journey. It was indeed a great little railway. RD)

Rob Dickinson