The International Steam Pages

Real Steam in India 2004 - Tipong Colliery

Click here for other reports from my trip to India:

Steam in India 2004 - Introduction

Preserved Steam in India 2004 

Real Steam in India 2004 - Riga Sugar Factory

Real Steam in India 2004 - Saraya Sugar Factory

Real Steam in India 2004 - Other Sugar Factories

Thanks for what is contained here are primarily due to Ashok Sharma of Real India Journeys who made arrangements for this visits.

We flew from Delhi to Dibrugah and moved on to Tinsukia by prearranged taxi to the very pleasant Hotel Highway. Here, although a permit is no longer required for Assam, we still had to report to the police. Tinsukia is a typical Indian 'old town', a delight to walk through in the evening but it still boasts at least two internet outlets. Next day our taxi took us to Margherita where we were expected at Coal India's area office (this is not the kind of place to just pitch up to 'on spec'). After a further police report, we went on past the brick works at Ledo which is now effectively defunct as squatters have encroached on to the land earmarked for further excavation. At Tipong Colliery we were made warmly welcome, arrangements to stay in the guest house for the next three nights were confirmed and again we made the acquaintance of the friendly local police. 

The colliery cannot be economic, but owes its survival to the need to preserve jobs in the area and the fact that the quality of the coal produced is excellent (less than 10% ash). Several mines are active. The two main deep mines have some 500 men working on each of three shifts up to 1600m below the entrance. Coal is winched to the surface in tubs which are then hauled to the transfer sidings some 2.5km away by one of the ex-DHR B 0-4-0ST (796 during our visit, with 789 in reserve). Here the tubs are rotated through 180 degrees and the coal transferred to a conveyor belt which delivers it through a tunnel to road trucks for onward transmission. Smaller drift mines are just across the river (an upper one is only just being opened up) and a real bonus here was to find tiny 0-4-0ST 'David' from Ledo in regular use. The railway runs in a narrow valley in a general south-east to north-west direction. The high hills cause much of it to be in shadow, but it twists and turns sufficiently to offer excellent photographic potential and there are some nice bridges and a tunnel on it. Overall, it is an absolutely delightful area and between trains there was time to do some jungle walks up side valleys where there was obviously considerable bird life.

This is the locoshed where all repairs are carried out. The diesel appears to be kept spare, we only saw it active once while David was under minor repair.

This is 789 outside the shed - it was lit up one day but not used. It faces the opposite direction to 796.

This is 796 at the lower end of the railway, the third B is derelict. Behind is the winch to haul the empties from the discharge system.

Preparing for a new drift mine:

Bringing forward one of the tubs from the deep mine:

On our first afternoon, we managed to grab a few shots of 'David' at work before retiring to the Guest House. Firstly outside the drift mine:


Next running along the north bank of the river::


Finally, crossing the small river bridge to join the main system:


For the next two days we played 'hide and seek' with the five security guards who had been assigned to us... Fortunately, they seemed to get up late in the morning.  On the first day it took them until midday to find us and on the second day we sat at our chosen photospots watching them going to and fro....  Leaving the tunnel on empties:


Leaving the top mine: 


Passing the mine offices:


Passing a set of palm trees:


Passing a pedestrian footbridge:


If (I would like to think 'when') we revisit, it would be for a fortnight instead of three days. This is an absolute treasure of a narrow gauge railway..... 

Thanks are especially due to Mr. A. Roy, General Manager of Coal India Margherita and Mr. K. Mere, Mines Superintendent at Tipong. Also my photographic assistant, Yuehong:

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson