The International Steam Pages

Narrow Gauge (Steam) in India 2016

John Browning joined Darjeeling Tours' "Narrow Gauge Extravaganza" tour in March/April 2016. John sent me a long report which I have divided into a steam and diesel section so some railways will appear on both. Click here for the diesel report.

Indian Railways – Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

New Jaipalguri – Siliguri Junction – Darjeeling 2ft gauge 9th - 14th March

See for timetable information.

The entire line was traversed with steam in a variety of stages. The track has now been reinstated at two massive landslips at Tindharia and near Pagla Jhora although the hill cart road remains severed at Tindharia.

The once-daily through diesel train was only operating three days a week in each direction although there are currently three operational diesels of Class NDM6. The fourth was at Siliguri Junction shed without its engine. The joy trains operating between Darjeeling and Ghum appear to be very popular with local, mostly Indian, tourists.

A program to improve the quality of steam locomotive work done at Tindharia workshops has been instigated and loco sheds are active at Siliguri Junction, Tindharia, Kurseong and Darjeeling. 

Five locomotives were in steam at Darjeeling on 12th March. Steam-hauled trains appear to be limited to two coaches while the diesels can run with three cars. Two maintenance trolleys were noted in the trolley shed at Kurseong. Locomotives were observed as follows:

A Class 0-4-0WT

dismantled chassis at Tindharia shed – claimed to be number 11 (built by HE 1882 under subcontract to SS [3084])

B Class 0-4-0WT/ST

779 HIMALAYAN BIRD (SS 3882/1892) – Darjeeling station pilot a.m. 12th March, in steam Darjeeling shed 13th March

780 (SS 3883 1892) – at Kurseong shed 11th & 13th March

782 (SS 4561/1899) – charters New Jaipalguri – Siliguri Junction & Siliguri Junction – Rangtong 9th March, in steam Siliguri Junction shed 10th March

786 MOUNTAINEER (NB 16212/1904) – being prepared for overhaul Tindharia works

787 (NB 20143/1913 reb.Golden Rock 2001) – OOU and part dismantled Tindharia works

788 (NB 20144/1913) – in steam Darjeeling shed 12th March, Darjeeling station pilot a.m. 13th March

791 (NB 20640/1914) – OOU Siliguri Junction shed

792 HAWKEYE (BLW 44912/1917) – Joy trains (Darjeeling – Ghum) 12th March, in steam Darjeeling shed 13th March

795 (DHR 1919) – downhill empty stock train at Rangtong 9 March, charter Siliguri Junction – Tindharia 10th March, in steam at Tindharia shed 11th March, Red Panda train (Darjeeling – Kurseong) 12th March, charter Kurseong – Siliguri Junction 13th March. 

802 (NB 23301/1925) – dismantled for overhaul Tindharia works

804 QUEEN OF THE HILLS (NB 23302/1925) – Tindharia shed 11th March 

805 (NB 23300/1925) – awaiting acceptance trials at Tindharia works following overhaul

806 (NB 23303/1925) – in steam Darjeeling shed 12 March, Kurseong shed 13th March

01 TINDHARIA (SS 4562/1899 reb.Golden Rock 2004) – Siliguri Junction shed

795 Climbing above Sukna, 10th March

795 receives attention at Tindharia Shed, 11th March

795 eases its train across the slip repairs at Pagla Jhora on 11th Match

Steamy shed at Darjeeling on 12th March

Indian Railways – Kalka – Shimla Railway 

2ft 6in gauge 15th -16th March

One steam locomotive kept at Shimla was used for a short charter run downhill from Shimla on 16th March but it was noteworthy that a diesel was used to haul the locomotive and its two cars back up the hill from Taradevi. 

KC class 2-6-2T built by North British

520 (16819/1905) – steam charter Shimla to Taradevi 16th March. Livery red and black.

520 halts at Taradevi on 16th March

Indian Railways – Nilgiri Railway

Mettupalaiyan – Coonoor – Udagamandalam (Ooty) 1000mm gauge 29th - 31st March

Oil-fired steam locomotives work the 28km line between Mettupalaiyam and Coonoor, including a 21km Abt rack section. Four YDM4 class diesel locomotives are based at Coonoor to work the 18km adhesion section from Coonor to Udagamandalam (Ooty). 

This is in many ways an unsatisfactory line to visit. Trains are crowded, the carriage seating is impossibly cramped, pre-booking is essentially unavailable, there are not enough trains to meet demand, and the railway refuses to provide charters. The line is very popular with local (Indian) tourists. An extra carriage is attached to trains in the section between Ooty and Coonoor to accommodate the additional local tourist traffic on the diesel-hauled section. This requires a carriage shunt each time the uphill steam train meets the downhill diesel at Coonoor.

The new Golden Rock steam locomotives are oil fired and are fitted with an auxiliary diesel engine (in the ‘bunker’) to power the fuel atomizer and other services. Oil fuel is carried in a saddle tank. Swiss locos 37386 and 37391 have been similarly fitted.

X class 0-8-2T Abt rack built by Schweizerische Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik, Switzerland and Indian Railways, Golden Rock Works, Tiruchirapalli. Livery blue with yellow lining.

37384 (SLM 2456/1914) – Mettupalaiyam shed 

37386 (SLM 2735/1920) – Mettupalaiyam shed 

37389 (SLM 3000/1925) – plinthed at Mettupalaiyam

37390 (SLM 3001/1925) – plinthed at Coonoor

37391 (SLM 4069/1952) – Coonoor shed 

37392 (SLM 4070/1952) – Coonoor shed

37397 (Golden Rock 2012) – Coonoor shed

37398 NILGIRI QUEEN (Golden Rock 2013) – Coonoor shed 29th - 30th March. Working 31st March. 

37399 (Golden Rock 2014) – working 29th - 30th March.

 Kallar on 30th March

 Adderley on 30th March

Indian Railways – Matheran Light Railway

Neral – Matheran 31st March 2ft 0in gauge

This hill railway is perhaps the most extreme in engineering. It is relatively short, 20 kilometres, but rises more than 700 metres. Five trains are scheduled to traverse the line each day, with an additional six services of ‘joy train’ shuttling the two kilometres between Matheran and Amun Lodge, where the road to the hill station ends. The joy trains were operating with a locomotive at each end on the day of the visit. The sharp curves on the line require short wheelbase bogies on the rolling stock and there is an interesting variety of diesel locomotives – three variations on the Jung B+B DH of Class NDM1, the most recent one having only been completed in January this year, and the 4wDH type of Class NDM6 that is also used at Darjeeling. 

The steam locomotives seen were as follows:

Matheran Light Railway ML Class 0-6-0T built by Orenstein & Koppel with Klien-Lindner axles. Livery is blue and white.

738 (1766/1905) – plinthed at Neral

741 (1767/1905) – plinthed at Matheran

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway B class 0-4-0ST

794 (BLW 44914/1917) – preserved Neral shed. Green livery and looking very dusty and unused.

738 plinthed at Neral Junction shed on 1st April

794 gathering dust at Neral Junction shed on 1st April

Rob Dickinson