The International Steam Pages

Indian Broad Gauge Garratt steams again

Rajendra Aklekar reports on Bengal Nagpur 811 (Indian Railways 38811):

THIS engine can alone pull the weight of a thousand elephants and now it’s back in action. India’s biggest locomotive ever – the Beyer Garrat – is coming back to life. The locomotive is being restored by the South Eastern Railway and they expect to have an inaugural run in October 2006 between Shalimar and Mecheda sections of Kharagpur division of the railway line. 

Sources said the N-class Beyer Garrat were the only locomotive of its kind to run anywhere in the world and have the largest water capacity of any Garratt ever manufactured about 10,000 gallons. 

“The engine was imported from Beyer, Peacock and Company locomotive builders based in Gorton, East Manchester in 1929 by the Bengal Nagpur Railway and remained in service till 1969. The N-Class also holds the distinction of being the largest railway locomotive to run in India,” Subhasis Ganguly, SE Railway’s Chief Heritage Officer told Rajendra Aklekar in an interview.

The Bengal Nagpur Railway had several BG Garratts, of classes P (4-8-2+2-8-4), N (4-8-0+0-8-4), and MN etc. These were quite powerful, and could haul 2400-ton loads on 1:100 gradients without any problem.

“Though the actual restoration has taken one year, the entire project, including research and gathering the right kind of people, has taken two years. There are more than 50 persons involved in the project, but it is difficult to estimate the exact cost as it was done as a side activity. This is one of the only three such surviving locos in India,” he added. 

Ganguly, who has researched and conceptualised the concept and revived the locomotive, said originally used on coal traffic between Chakradharpur and Jharsuguda, Anara to Tatanagar and also to Asansol, they were last used in 1970-71 hauling 2,400 ton iron ore trains from Dallirajhra to Bhilai.

With their heavy axle load, the ‘N’ class were restricted to the main lines and branches laid with 90lb rail, but their ability to haul up to 2400 tons up a 1 in 100 gradient, and to reach maximum speeds of 45mph, set a standard of performance which could be well appreciated on certain more lightly laid branches. 

Since the section is now electrified, and the engine, once out of use, was sent to Kharagpur. “The Garratt is a type of articulated steam locomotive. This means that unlike a conventional locomotive, where the whole machine is carried on a single set of frames, a Garratt has three separate frames,” he added. 

The name "Garratt" derives from the engineer Herbert William Garratt, a British locomotive engineer, who devised the type, and developed it in association with the Manchester firm of Beyer Peacock, which built most of the Garratts used around the world. 

The other two Garratts in India of which I am aware are another bg locomotive in the Delhi Museum and a mg example which has been said to be under repair for possible operation on the NFR for some years.... (RD)  

Rob Dickinson