The International Steam Pages
Steam in India, 1996-2000
This page carries the older Indian reports, much of which is now history unfortunately.
Click here for links to the older Darjeeling reports.
The end of steam on the main line was a long timing coming and is recorded in the reports below:
It really is the end. Dileep Prakash tells me (20th February 2000). "The steam at Wankaner in India has at last passed away. The last steam hauled train was hauled on Feb 4, 2000. Since then the diesel rail-bus is running between Wankaner and Morbi while the track beyond Morbi till Maliya Miyana has been blocked for broad-gauging."
Heinrich Hubbert reported on the latest position (4th February 2000) "When I arrived on the 6th January in Wankaner, I was happy to find the place still steam. The weather was excellent, and due to the lower temperatures it was more convenient than in March or April. I never got so many nice shots here for so little sweat. So I stayed for 9 days. Three nights in the Retiring-room and three in Thakar. Then I also stayed in the Dariyalal and even used one of the pools during the day. They drained the water the night before. Lars is completly right about this place. I wish they would have opened it some years earlier. The famous sand-stone arch-bridges are now photographically ruined due to re-enforcements, leaving them half or totally covered with concrete. Only some small and the big one in Morbi were still uncomplete. They have cleared the narrow dirt-road along the railway to get construction material along the line. You can use the ballast-hills or sleeper-staples for an elevated position against the vegetation. The newly erected colour light signal poles can also provide a new perspective. Assuming from the progress of work one wonders when the regauging will take place and how long the steam on Indian Railways will last." For some 2000 pictures of steam in action, click here.
Steam was still working at Wankaner in late October 1999 - read Pietro's report, (More pictures/reports added 14th December 1999) which includes two other September reports. Lars-Åke Holst has sent me a number of pictures (21st December 1999) which are a nice tribute to the end of steam (21st December 1999) on the main line in India.
Earlier Takahide Yamamoto reported (28th September 1999):
"Wankaner (WR India) I was in this area on 25-27th September and confirmed that temporary Barwala Road return had come to an end and steam activity was limited to Wankaner-Morbi only."
Check out Apurva Bahadur's and Viraf Mulla's many pictures of Western Railway steam on http://members.tripod.com/~ApuB/index.htm (more pictures added 20th April 2000). Also Dileep's site http://indiasteam.tripod.com.(link added 20th April 2000)
Takahide Yamamoto reported (30th March 1999): "I am just back from short trip to Gujarat. Sadly steam operations on Jetalsar-Dhola line and Junagadh-Dhari line were finished. Preparation for gauge conversion in Wankaner area is underway. What with ballast and what with PC ties on trackside, it has become difficult to get good shots. The worst thing is concrete reinforcing of beautiful stone viaducts!" Heinrich Hubbert (25th April 1999) confirms this and brings news from elsewhere, Lars-Åke Holst's report of a visit to Wankaner is also included. I finally got hold of Tim Murray's report of his end of 1998 trip to the Western Railway metre gauge steam lines (21st March 1999). There is an account of a visit to Wankaner on http://members.tripod.com/steelwheel/Wankaner/Trip.htm. Charles Whetmath sent me (24th February 1999) a report of the Steam and Safaris trip to Northern India in January 1999.
Heinrich Hubbert reports (5th November 1998) with some new photographs (19th December 1998).
Berndt Seiler's group report from India (April 1998) is now available (pictures added 16th May 1998 and 11th June 1998). Richard Grove (May 29th 1998) now provides some more information and fascinating speculation. There is a New Year 1998 reports from the Western Railway metre gauge from a new correspondent, John Tickner and also Tim Murray and, as usual, Heinrich Hubbert.
There are full reports from Christoph Oboth for September 1997 and Heinrich Hubbert's for October 1997. They also hold out the possibility of photographic tours - definitely drinking in the last chance saloon here! The Western Railway of Indian Railways is the only certain user of steam on the metre gauge. Here Mhow, Ahmadebad (very little), Wankaner and Jetalsar still have steam but Udaipur has finished. Steam has probably finished on the North Eastern Railway with the closure of Saharsa and the North East Frontier Railways probably has none now. More recent are
Bernd Seiler contributed New Year 1997 and March 1997 reports. Bernd is the overseas editor of Lok Report which gives includes information on active steam around the world. We have Heinrich Hubbert's reports from April 1997, November 1996 and New Year 1997.
On the industrial front, exciting discoveries continue to be made like the
locos at Hindustan Aluminium (WS 96/2). Chris West found these and has been exploring
again in 1997 and you can read
his findings. The sugar season in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is short and visitors have
to be lucky to find steam working apart from Saraya which has an extended season. The
following mills were known to have had working steam recently (WS 96/7 and CRJ 110):
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is now a World Heritage Site (11th December 1999). This will not only protect it against closure but will make it easier to obtain grants to conserve and develop it. It is no longer under the control of Indian Railways but now comes under Indian Tourism, the diesels mentioned below will definitely appear on trains. Heinrich Hubbert was here in late 1999 (4th February 2000) and reports: "I arrived in New Jalpaiguri on Christmas Day. I found a good driver in Siliguri with a new Maruti van at the taxi-stand, Hillchart Road. I got him for 800 Rs a day plus petrol. The line is open, but only one N.G.-train is running through. It was even cancelled on Christmas Day but ran again on Boxing Day. One hour before the departure I got our present: The Hill's first diesel locomotive was running a test-train. While I stuck with my steam train, I saw it again in the afternoon coming down from Kurseong. I was told, that it was intended to run it from 1st January 2000 on the Kurseong-Darjeeling section. If the trials are successful, 2 more NDM6 are expected. From a copy of the IR-magazine, I saw a picture with similar locos for use in Neral. The steam trains can be very delayed. On the following day, I chased the morning-train from Kurseong, where I stayed in the West Bengal Tourist Lodge to Darjeeling and then I visited Tindaria Workshops. I was not permitted to take pictures, because the CME in charge was absent. However, two more delightful presents are waiting for us: 'Baby Shivok', built 1881, dumped in 1954 and plinthed in Siliguri is receiving attention to get it in running condition. It was already almost complete from the outside, and apparently, they had set in in light steam for checking. This must be one of the first Generation 0-4-0ST from the DHR!? (The CRC India book says it is an OK with Tindaria additions possibly 5130/1911. RD) The second surprise for us is a little more encouraging to the future of steam, because 'Baby Shivok' once the repairs have carried out successful, is not intended to work in regular use but for special duties. There was another "B-Type" around with a boiler, that returned recently from Golden Rock Workshops in the South! There its copper firebox was replaced by one made of steel. The worksplate indicated '6 -1999'. "
Dileep Prakash reports (22nd March 2000): "Am just back from an exhilarating trip into the North East of India covering DHR and private steam lines in upper Assam at the N E Coalfields at Tipong and Ledo. DHR had about 10 working B class saddle tanks in operation. One train was hauled from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling (with a change of engine at Tindharia) and one train came down from Darj to NJP. The Kurseong -Darj passenger also ran everyday. Apart from this there is a Darj-Ghoom special hauled by the oldest loco the 779 B . This is available on booking at Darj station. The fare is Rs. 250 inclusive of refreshments and soft-drinks. Pretty good deal!! Two NDM 6's have arrived at NJP and have been tested on the sector. The tracks are in a bad shape and the diesels did not perform too well. Anyhow the Railway Minister is supposed to inaugurate the diesels soon. The steam shed at NJP will be converted into a diesel one and all steam locos will be maintained at Tindharia. Also the Kuseong-Darj passenger and the Ghoom special will remain on steam. Of course any special booking of an entire steam hauled train is most welcome. The Baby Sivok is up and running. I footplated on it on a short distance out of the Tindharia shed and the loco sounds good. That too is available on special request."
A friend of my mine spent 4 days on the Darjeeling line (8th April 1999). Contrary to all other expectations, he found the line recently opened throughout!!! Duncan Cotterrill reports on the truncated service on the Darjeeling Himalayans Railway (19th March 1999 - 4 pictures from Mike Tyack added 26th March 1999)