The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
The Little Ones of the Indian Metre Gauge, January 1985

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.

I really wasn't looking for the YL class when I visited Junagadh in the far west of India. I knew they were there but was more interested in finding some of the older and more elusive YB. Lady luck wasn't with me though so in the spirit of making do with what was available I spent time travelling behind and photographing what was available: the YL. It was probably a good job I did as this turned out to be the only time I ever saw them.

The 2-6-2 YL class weighed in with a mere 38 ton engine weight and an 8 ton axle load. They were designed to run small trains on lightly-laid lines of which there were certainly a number in the vicinity and by Indian standards weren't a large class with only 264 having been built between 1952 and 1957. There were lighter engines on the metre gauge but the YL was the most numerous and modern.

The fireman chose just the right time to put on a few scoops of coal as YL5126 enters the loop at Visavader. 

Later that morning and 5126 takes on water at a wayside station. It was hot all year round in this part of India and most of the time the YLs seemed to travel with the door leading out onto the running board open in an attempt to give some relief to the heat in the cab. Once I had my photos I was offered a cab ride so happily joined the loco crew for the next hour or so. Rattly and rough riding it seemed as if 5126 was moving along a lot faster than it actually was...... very reminiscent of my New Zealand rides back in the late sixties. 

In early morning light, the following day, locals gather around 5126 at Visavader. Possibly the engine was their most convenient source of water or maybe they were trying to scrounge coal. Whatever, at this stage, the loco crew don't seem overly interested.

Getting underway and heading into the hills at Kansiya Nes.

Later that morning YL5120 rolls downhill into Kansiya Nes. I never saw any goods trains on these secondary and branch lines but each line had a mixed train scheduled to run daily which in some instances could be the only train of the day. Any goods traffic offering was attached behind the loco although this was only ever one or two wagons.

YL5081 rolls along at something approximating speed. Carriage doors are open with travellers sitting there and enjoying the cooler air. No major safety concerns in India and if you had an accident.....well that was your misfortune!

Mid day at Dungarpur Quarry sees 5220, with two four wheel wagons in the consist, slowly entering the loop to cross 5120 on a passenger train. Two locals have come to watch the action (railfans?) but have decided it's more interesting to see what I'm going to do next........from their point of view, I suppose, it's not every day a white man jumps off a train and runs up an embankment to take a photo! 

5120, 5220 & 5126 were all built by Henschel of Kassel, Germany in 1956 whilst 5081 came from Magyar Allami Vag (usually abbreviated to Mavag) of Budapest, Hungary. As more powerful steamers became available due to dieselisation the YL allocated to Junagadh saw less and less use and by early 1988 were restricted to the yard shunt. After that I could find no further reference to them in the Continental Railway Journal.

Rob Dickinson