The International Steam Pages
Steam in India, 2003
Alexandre Gillieron and David Wood were on the Steam and Safaris trip and reports on the achievements and possibilities. The most likely long-term effect of the IR 150th celebrations was also going to be the development of a pool of working steam locomotives... It is going to be hard work but some intriguing events are going to be happening in the next few years....
To the original report, I have added (20th March 2003) three pictures of KC520 between Shimla and Kathleeghat, supplied by Peter Jordan who organised the separate Darjeeling Himalayan Society Tour which also ran about the same time. The first bridge looks familiar...
Firstly Alex who also provided the pictures:
Delhi - Rewari
On January 19th. 'Fairy Queen' ran a special charter from Delhi Cant. to Rewari. On Jan. 20th. it was YG 3415 on the same stretch. Stored at Rewari shed were YG3724, YP2751 and BG AWE 22907.
Kalka - Shimla N.R.
Visited January 21/22. We were supposed to get 2-6-2T KS 520 running the whole line but this may remain a dream forever. With totally un-cooperative motivation from the railway official at Shimla, the charter train ran 25 km and back chimney first from Shimla on the 21st. Poorly trained engine staff could hardly manage the pressure for the hard climb to Shimla that was never reached. Participants had to finish the trip with a service bus after only 2 runpasts. We later learned that the timber mafia had put pressure on the railway management for the trip never to be ran due to fire danger during the dry season. Naturally the second day charter was cancelled and the return trip to Kalka was made behind a diesel service train.
Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR)
Better news here. NFR is really pushing forward for steam tourism in the Assam province. On Jan. 24th. MAWD 1798 now in correct appearance without deflectors ran a trip to Pandu, the former Ferry station on the Brahmaputra river. Engine is apparently in good shape and could be used on longer trips from Guwahati. Present at Guwahati diesel shed was MG Garratt MAWGX (work Nb. 32086) dismantled. Staff there were very optimistic about repairing the engine though no trace of work on it could be found (just paint work on the bunkers).
On Jan. 25th. and 26th. the 120 km Badarpur - Maibong section of the former Assam Bengal Rly was made behind YG4367. This is surely the most fantastic metre gauge line in India with a hard climb from Badarpur to the summit at Jatinga, many steel bridges and tunnels. Though the line is running mainly through a dense tropical forest, there are very good photographic opportunities with the many bridges and old-style stations. Freight trafic on the line is very heavy with 14 trains a day, so there are many crossings/passings on the way. A new broad gauge line should substitute the MG as late as 2010. Traces of construction of the new line can be found on the way with new cuttings and de-forestation. Though the YG was not steaming well, a big effort was made by NFR people to run the train successfully to Maibong.
Still present at Badarpur shed were the derelict YG 3403, 4091, 4101, 4119, 4121, 4405 and YP 2166.
If we exept the very remote location of the line (14h train trip from Guwahati to Badarpur), political unstability in the area and poor lodging infrastructure, this trip was well worth to be done and may show the way for future steam operation throughout India...
We started on Sun 19th Jan, after an 11 hour delay (7 hours for fog in Delhi + 4 hours for British Airways to repair the plane while we sat on the runway). BA also managed to take 4 days to deliver my luggage to me.
Anyway, we started off with a very nice run with Fairy Queen from Cantt down to Rewari. The train crew were very friendly and helpful, and we had a most enjoyable first afternoon after a gruelling journey to India.
The next day was one of our disappointments, since the hoped-for WP did not appear. Despite our requesting it months in advance, it was apparently away in Bikaner for filming. Although I'm sure that the NRM and/or IR made a lot more money from the film company than it would have from 20 tourists, it's a great pity, since if we had got it I'm sure many other groups would have been eager to repeat the run with the star loco. Now they'll be discouraged, and will assume that the loco is unlikely to be available.
Anyway, we had one of the Royal Orient YGs instead, but the morning was very foggy, so it was very difficult for the train crew and for photography. We were also expecting a full day's charter (apparently you pay a minimum charge of 200kms when you charter a steam loco), but the run ended at Rewari. On the bus back to Delhi of course the fog cleared and the sun came out.
AWE 22907 was in the shed at Rewari. Presumably it is restored and ready to run - has it been used yet?
The next day we had a charter on the Kalka-Simla line. While we were hoping for the whole line, the railway had arranged a run from Simla to Kathleeghat and back, 23 kms each way. We got some very nice pictures of steam working on this line, though there were a few problems with the loco, and on the way back up we eventually had to abandon it when it could not recover steam pressure.
After flying to Guwahati we then had 3 excellent days with the MAWD at GUW and with YG 4367 from Badarpur to Maibong, as I have already reported. At Badarpur we found what must be the only refreshment room in India where they don't understand what a fried egg is (as opposed to an omelette). What I think I got was a hard-boiled egg that had been taken out of its shell and then put in the frying pan!
We then headed for NJP and Darjeeling. We had 2.5 days on this lovely line, though unfortunately the loco had just had new piston rings fitted, and they weren't tight, so the loco was using enormous quantities of water. The loco had to abandon the train several times to run for water, and in 2 days we didn't manage to do the whole line with steam (though some rode on the school train on the third morning).
Then to Kolkata, and another disappointment. Orders had been sent from the Railway Board for ER to run the HGS to Tribeni for us, but ER said that it was out of action with cracked cylinder liners. When we got to Bamangachi shed, the DME and loco foreman told us that the loco had been overhauled at Jamalpur in 2002 and was in perfect condition, just waiting for orders to run. We don't understand what happened here.
A group of 8 then went on to Chennai, where we visited the museum, as I have already reported, but were disappointed that we didn't get to see any steam locos at Perambur.
We then proceeded to Mettupalayam, and rode the service train behind 37395. This loco has had a rather ugly conversion to oil-firing, although the railway are obviously satisfied with its performance, and it's certainly better than having a diesel. The next day we had a wonderful day's charter with 2 coal burners, 37391 from Mettupalayam to Coonoor, and 37386 Coonoor-Ooty-Coonoor.
Our last charter was an afternoon on the Matheran line with Darjeeling B class 794, which was beautifully turned-out. We had enormous difficulty getting any resonse from CR over the arrangements, and it was only confirmed the previous day, but as always, the staff on the ground couldn't have been more helpful. This was the loco's first commercial run.
Though I'm not convinced of the point of the proposed loco-swap between Leighton Buzzard and Darjeeling, what really would be wonderful to see would be Leighton Buzzard's restored Matheran 0-6-0T (no. 741 I think) running again on its home territory.
Overall we had an excellent trip, despite one or two disappointments, and achieved much more than we dared hope.