The International Steam Pages
Steam Locomotives in India, Pakistan and Nepal, March 1997
Bernd Seiler reports on his latest visit to India and Pakistan 22.02. - 15.03.1997.
North East Frontier Railway:
Tinsukia: The last steam train ran on February 20th. It was a special train from Dibrugarh to Tinsukia (10.30 am to 12.00) with the fresh painted loco YP2139. It was the last passenger served by the Tinsukia shed. After that date only the two expresses (Assam Mail and Kamrup Express) Dibrugarh - Tinsukia and further southbound (Lumding) ran until February 26th. Last train was the Assam Mail, hauled by YDM46617. The line to Ledo closed for passenger service on January 10th. Only a very few goods trains to the Assam Oil Company near Digboi ran after that date. Despite the line to Ledo and further to Tipong was still serviceable, no coal train ran. That caused mountains of coal near Ledo and around Tipong. In the last week of February the regauging works were in progress. The last train operations were expected on February 28th to make the Dibrugarh workshop empty and clear all railway stations from metre gauge-wagons. February 28th was also expected to be the last day of last steam operation from Tinsukia, YP2139 should go to the private railway museum at the Assam Oil Company. This loco called a gift for the oil company, one of the most important customers of the Ledo line. In front of the old Tinsukia loco shed YP2618 was plinthed. The loco shed Tinsukia was demolished, some YP, YG and MAWD waited for their scrapping. According to "The Telegraph", Calcutta, from 22nd February, 1997 the gauge conversation Dibrugarh - Tinsukia - Dimarpur will be finished by April 1st, the first passenger broad gauge train will run at April 14th.. From July 1997 they will introduce a new superfast overnight intercity between Dibrugarh and Guwahati. (That will be the first serious competition for the bus owners, there are three main travel agencies with overnight services between Dibrugarh and Guwahati: Blue Hill, Assam Valley and the new one, Network. Until now this has been the only fast connection between these two big towns. All the buses starting around 19.30 and reach the final point in both directions around 6.00 am. The quality of the bus services is reasonable.) "The Telegraph" added, the Rajdhani Express will extend to Dibrugarh in July 1997 once a week. To make the line Guwahati - Dubrugarh more attractive, faster and shorter, the railway will open a new line Dibrugarh - Moran (line Moranhat - Simulguri). A new broad gauge line is under construction between Jogighopa and Kamakhya (in Guwahati) including a new bridge (the second one) over the Brahmaputra-river, divides the state Assam in two parts.
Dibrugarh workshop: Gauge conversion works were in progress, despite this the last overhauls of coaches continued end of February. These are meant for the Division Lumding. After regauging, Dibrugarh workshop will not overhaul metre gauge wagons any more, Silchar/Badarpur have to wait for broadgauging their sections for fresh material. But there is no fixed date for doing this. MAWD1801 was still in use, but it's a self-moved wrack! It is in much worse condition than the last Turkish shunters were. MAWD1759 in the scrap yard is not complete anymore and has no chance to survive. The steam operation will continue until July when the last metre gauge track will disappear. The last days will not see a MAWD any longer, YG3218 was under minor repair in the workshop for the last shunting duties. Although the overhaul of locos finished in 1995 the full staff still stand by and doing nothing other than repair the shunter. 429 people have been paid for two years for doing nothing, this is a part of the social system of the Indian Railways! It is not allowed to dismiss any worker (even in the private industry). The Dibrugarh workshop has a total staff number of some 1500 workers and engineers. The remains of following locos were found: YF30412 (this number does not agree with the book "Locomotives in Steam" by R. R. Bhandar, published by Indian Rlys 1981, they only quoted the numbers 30347 to 30410 for the class YF), YF30407, an other YF, YP2849, YG3212 and an unknown class No. 8821 (2-8-0 or 2-8-2) Alco.
Badarpur/Silchar: There is no direct bus link ore flight connection from
Dibrugarh to Silchar. Taxi drivers charged 12000 Rs for the return drive and they don't
take the direct way via Dimapur because they strictly avoid any places in
only connection is via Guwahati (bus or taxi) or you have a lot of time and take the
train. We went by overnight bus to Guwahati and took there the first flight to Silchar via
Imphal (NEPC Airlines with Fokker 50 - NEPC offers a good service, better than IA). A taxi
for 24 hours (11.20 am to 10.30 am next day) was 1500 Rs including petrol and some 300km.
Badarpur ceased steam on February 1st without some lesser services:
That's all, the end of steam is in sight, the loco foreman told us they will continue until the end of the boiler certificates in September to December 1997. He also said the Account Officer of the Dibrugarh workshop but I expect diesel in mid April after regauging Dimarpur - Tinsukia - Dibrugarh. Locos running to Maishashan and from Dullabcherra tender first. Delays are not important on this lines, the timetable is slow enough to save half an hour per tour, if necessary. To follow the lines by car is not easy, the road to the Bangladesh border is in poor condition and not close to the line. But you can reach an impressive bridge at the Maishashan-line just three km outside Karimganj easy by a suburb-road with a timber bridge in the fore- or far background, as you like. The security situation south of Karimganj is not clear, better to avoid this area, the locals told us. Behind the border of Assam some separatist organisation operating against law and order.
The roads in southern Assam are mostly in good condition, only most of the bridges are weak and narrow. But road improvements were all over the land and if the railway waits too long, then the bus services will take nearly all the passengers. Karimganj has a good hotel, named Raaj Hotel, situated at the Silchar road. A non a/c-double with shower and TV is 150 Rs only.
General North-East Railway: "The Statesman", Calcutta, gave a report about the plans for this region (27.02.1997):- survey for new line Bhairabi-Sairang to Aizawl, Sivok to Gangtok and Barpeta Road to Tihu to be updated; - survey work for gauge conversation on Badarpur - Kumarghat, Katahal - Bhairabi, Silchar - Jiribam and Baraigarm - Dullabcherra in Lumding Division just started. By air Silchar via Calcutta to Patna. For Industrial Rlys, see below. By air to Mumbai, by train to Wankaner.
Udaipur: According to a friend, Udaipur saw no change from my last visit until February 12th. The steam service will continue until end of March, the staff said. Mahesana closed end of 1996, the loco foreman of Wankaner said. Wankaner: (Mr. Ashok Sharma from Special tours of India, Delhi, Fax +91/11/5555938, accompanied us in Gujarat state.) No change, all steam for the next three to seven months. We saw: YG 3318 under repair YG 3360 under repair YG 3430 in use YG 3474 in use YG 3509 under repair YG 3525 in use YG 4138 in use YG 4159 in use YG 4182 withdrawn YP 2334 wait for scrap
Wankaner has no hotel with rooms with inside-toilet, the palace is only for special guests or you have to announce you wish to stay there in advance. It is a very relaxed, comfortable old-style guest house, but the price is 1200 Rs per room (even when you are alone in the room). We stayed there one day. Morbi is a very fine place with a clean city and one of the best hotels I have seen in India.
The address: Thakar Lodge, Jail Road, Morbi, 363641, Telephone: Morbi-24806 and 24928. Very clean, hot water all the day, anticipate staff and the manager speaks English (very, very unusual in Gujarat). A non a/c-double was 360Rs.
The line Wankaner - Morbi has some good photographic potential, but one of the best points at the gradient between Morbi and Rafaleshwar is not recommended because of an army-camp nearby. I missed two films and two hours there because the army was afraid of I took a picture of them. At the station Rafaleshwar (with the Jain-temple in the background) the army will not harm you. The narrow gauge railway, shown at Nelles maps in Morbi, disappeared 15 years ago. North of Morbi the line follows the road to Navlakhi. The goods trains (at minimum one per day) running to the salt loading point at Vavaniya, north of Dahinasara Jn. They have no fixed timetable, you can ask for the timings in Morbi, Wankaner, Dahinasara and Vavaniya. There are only two locos strong enough for the goods trains: YG 4159 and 3360, both without deflectors. Until 1980 Morbi had its own workshop. You can still see some remains of the very beautiful buildings. The workshop area is situated at the eastern end of the city bridge, south of the line.
Jetalsar: Only YP remain in working order, we saw:
Jetalsar Jn. 7.20 - Pass 331 - 11.15 - Dhola Jn.
Jetalsar Jn. Light engine - Junagadh
Two locos are used for shunting duties in Jetalsar Jn. and the shed. It is very difficult to chase the trains by car. The roads are crossing the lines sometimes, but there are only a very few parts with a parallel road. The landscape is mostly flat and has nothing special, only near Dhari you find a hilly background. The trains have six to seven wagons plus one or two water wagons. The locos have hard to work and they are producing a very fine sound. Time keeping is good but depends on connecting trains in Jetalsar and Dhola. In Dhola (nice station building) there is a loco shed with a small house (two tracks) and a turntable. The shed is still staffed for only one loco to turn and taking water per day!
Ledo Brickworks: David was in use 24.02.1997.
The Ledo Brickworks were a private company until the North Eastern Coal Fields of Coal India Ltd. purchased the Brickworks. As a private company the Brickworks not only produced brickstones like today, they had a number of different products. The railway system consisted of three lines, two to the north and one into the hills to the south. The lines followed the clayfields. The private company purchased eight 0-4-0 locos, all of them still exist in different conditions. One loco, called HASSANG, is plinthed in front of the office of North Eastern Coal Fields in Margherita. No. A 885 is preserved in the Delhi railway museum. A third, Nr. A878, built in 1928, called LACHIJAN is freshly painted in the workshop of North Eastern Coal in Margherita. This loco is prepared for the railway museum of the Assam Oil Company. These three locos are save for future generations. Two locos are in serviceable order: DAVID, built in 1928, was in use in Ledo and QUEENIE was under heavy overhaul in the workshop of Margherita. QUEENIE was built in 1932 and has the number 1252. This loco got a new boiler in 1978/79. Three other locos are nearly scrapped in Ledo: Nr. A 879, Nr. A 1039 and a boiler with some other parts of an unidentified 0-4-0ST loco (same type as the others). The existing line is shorter than one kilometre and starts with a dangerous crossing of the metre gauge track. If there is no derailment at this point, the train follows the road for several hundred metres and turns than northbound. There it passes some bamboo huts and after two hundred metres the "clay mine" will be reached in a photogenic 90 degree curve. The full trains run chimney first. The two shifts serves about eight turns per day. If the train run with the normal speed it is not possible to follow it on foot (only if you are a sportsman without photographic equipment). But you can arrange something ... The management has no plans to close this line. The distance from Ledo to Tipong is 18km
Tipong Colliery: A very scenic railway with lush vegetation in a valley, three big bridges and a tunnel. In use was B 789, under steam/repair B 796 in the shed Tipong. B 784 was OOU and minus axles, B 781 was dismantled. Here are also two shifts at the railway, producing five to nine return trips per day. To enter the valley you need a special permit from the coal mine. The access to the valley is guarded. Please write in advance to: General Manager, Mr. S. Banergee, North Eastern Coal Fields, Coal India Ltd. P.O. Margherita, 786181, Postbox 7, Assam, India; Tel. +91/374/22777 or +91/3751/20329; Fax +91/3751/20354 and 20318. We met also two very fine and helpful engineers: Mr. A. K. Bora (B. Tech. (Min. Engg.) BHU. FCC - what ever that means) with an office in Tipong and an other in Margherita, Tel. 03751/20216, residence: 20464 and Mr. D. Bhattacharya (Dy. Chief Engineer E & M) with an office in Margherita, Tel. 03751/20241 and residence 20366. You can also contact these two gentleman if you need access to the railway-valley of Tipong.
Accommodation in the very convenient guest house of Tipong is possible by writing in advance to Mr. Banergee. It is close to the narrow and metre gauge railway station. But now: Bad news! The management has decided that the line will be close in the next winter and will replace by road transport. Only the lines into the mountains and a short connection to the new build loading point for lorries will remain. The steam locos will no longer be used, as the small diesels are sufficient. During our visit the new loading point near the loco shed was under construction. A taxi for the full day charged 600 Rs plus petrol (after bargaining - the demand was 1000 Rs plus petrol).
Bihar State Sugar Company BSSC:
BSSC Motipur: Nr. 5 in service free line, Nr. 4 shunter, Nr 1 could spare in the shed, Nr 2 stored in the shed and metre gauge Nr 3 still in the m.g. shed. The staff prevented the transfer to BSSC Lohat although they have no metre gauge connection to the broad gauge line any more! They have a wage stop for now 57 months (fifty-seven, not 5,7)! The train to the loading point in Jasouli is not daily, but some days you may be lucky and have two trains. The remaining line (of former three lines) is 11 km long. After 8 km at Bankat there is a junction to the loading point in Murarpur. This line is in very bad condition and out of use since 1994. There are no signs of reopening this line. Only go the light locos Nr. 1 and Nr. 4 could go to Murarpur. The locos leaves the factory tender first and the loaded trains comes back chimney first. Following the train by car is difficult, but between Bankat and Jasouli there is a parallel road, possible for cars. The empty train stops for a picture where ever you want but with the full train the loco staff don't like to stop because of the many children along the line, taking the sugar cane. Motipur Sugar Factory was opened in 1934. The two stationary steam engines in the mill were built in 1933 in Amsterdam. The owner was a Moslem. In 1980 the new-founded BSSC purchased the sugar mill and all improvements and developments stopped, now the mill produces a loss. It is not certain that Motipur will working in the season 1997/98. Telephone-Nr.: +91/6223/24253, Motipur has one of the worst telephone systems in Bihar. Try again later ...
BSSC Hathua: In service were Nr. 5 MERSEY and during the night Nr. 47 too. A 0-6-0 tank loco (Henschel) dumped, a small (O&K?) 0-6-0 dumped for years. This mill is best to visit in the afternoon because of the sun direction. Until 1971 Hathua had a 45km long ng. railway system with three loading points. They had six locos, five narrow gauge and one metre gauge. The line to the railway station is only 200m long. This mill also producing losses. The wage stop is here since 1994. Only some month per year the workers got some money, not more than a third of their normal pay.
Champaran Sugar Co. Ltd., Chakia: Bankrupt in 1995 but the staff is still there (wage stop since 1995). There are plans to reactivate the mill by a co-operative society in 1998 but nobody has an idea how to do that in times of hard competition between the existing sugar mills. One loco, a 0-4-0ST is in working condition in the shed. If you want to visit this loco, you need a lot of time. To find the gate man with the key to the mill can take hours!
Riga Sugar Factory, near Sadarnagar: This modern private mill has two metre gauge locos: one 0-8-0 saddle tank loco, Hudswell Clarke Co. Ltd. 1644/1930 and one diesel 0-4-0 Hunslet Engine Co. Ltd. 1768/1935 with an engine from the Hindustan tractor factory. Both locos were in use. The management saw no reason to finish the shunting duties by rail until the IR-line is regauged. The steam loco is mostly used at night and in the morning (midnight to 10.00 am). Morning sun comes from the right direction. The line to the railway station is around two km long. This line will normally served by the steam loco. The management is very friendly and even allow us to stay in their guest house. By car it takes you 3,5 hours from Patna to Riga.
General Bihar: Bihar state has become very dangerous. Crime in this state has been normal but in the recent years and especially since the beginning of 1997 train dacoities have become very common. For example: We went by train from Manikpur Jn. to Patna. Our train could not take his way because of a derailment in front of us. The derailment was caused by terrorists. Next day we read in the newspaper, that the train behind us was robbed. Some 30 people were injured by guns, two died. We were lucky to reach Patna without trouble, only some hours late. Between December 1995 and December 1997 there were 177 train dacoities in Bihar state alone. During our stay of 18 days, there were 11 train dacoities in Bihar and West Bengal. Also the roads are very dangerous. "The Week" from March 2nd, 1997 gave an idea of how dangerous it is: "Road To Disaster, Killers target truck drivers on the Grand Trunk Road". The journal said that about 50 criminal gangs are active only between Varanasi and Dhanband. In the last five years more than 100 truck drivers were killed on the 396km long Bihar-part of the Grand Trunk Road. And those are only the known numbers. Some police stations are working hand in hand with the gangs. Do not travel alone, do not travel by night, do not travel by bus, do not travel by express or mail trains and when, then use only second class or the van, not the sleeper, best you do not travel at the surface.
I will not say "don't go to Bihar state" but if you go there, know the risk and be very careful! If you don't believe me, please dial: http://www.timesofindia.com/DATE/home_.htm or .../DATE/indi_.htm. You can read the "Times of India" at home and stay there, if you like your life.
Manikpur Colliery: We found Chris West's Internet information late and insufficient! I spent a lot of money and waste much time for nothing because the Manikpur coal fields are not in the Manikpur, shown on Nelles maps and in the Indian Bradshaw. That Manikpur is close to the border of Madhya Pradesh state and Southwest of Allahabad. However, the Manikpur Colliery belongs to the coal fields of Korba (Madhya Pradesh state), some 350 km Southwest of Ranchi (Bihar state). All efforts to get an information about the Manikpur Colliery in Delhi were without success. Heinrich Hubbert will give a report to the Internet as soon as possible. He is still in India and has visited both Manikpurs.
"The Telegraph", Calcutta, 23rd of February 1997 showed a picture of the 2-4-0T CS 774, plinthed "outside Sealdah station for over one and half years". The loco comes from the Eastern Railway.
(For the background to this you should read Vic Allen's report if you haven't done so already.)
The end of our tour was Pakistan. Since 20th January 1997 Pakistan is free of broad gauge steam. But not all lines are closed, they reduced the number of trains all over the country on the lesser lines and got in this way enough diesels for branch line service of the former steam-lines. Because of this for example the Fort Abbas line sees still trains, but not with steam. All steam locos of Samasata are dumped in Khanewal.
Changa Manga forest railway: We found two frames of 0-4-0 diesels, one frame plus boiler of a 0-4-0 tender loco, boiler number PB1125, boiler of A907 as stationary steam producer and the locos:17208 (J. Fowler) 0-6-0 under repair 20496 (J. Fowler) 0-6-0 timber train, boiler nr. PB2378 1763 (Parry Calcutta - dealer) 0-4-0 special passenger train, boiler nr. PB1219 The morning light is best for the shed. There are no operations before 9.00 am to expect. Despite there are ways for cars, in the forest it is not possible to follow any train by car. Goods trains are rare now. There are no plans to close the railway. The Changa Manga forest, 70km south of Lahore, is a popular recover-, relax- and spare time-park and just for fun you can use the park-railway, the former forestry railway. At the tender the locos have a Coca Cola sticker and for the passengers exists small white wagons with open air seats. Like Disneyland.
Taxi for full day unlimited mileage was 2700 Rs plus petrol. You can get better rates by AVIS if you hire a car for one week or more.
Mirpur Khas: It is not easy to get a permit for the border area
Khokhropar. We went in
Hyderabad to the S. P. Office near the city centre. The manager for foreign affairs told
us, Khokhropar belongs to the Mirpur Khas district. We took a taxi (the next train was to
late for the office time) to the Mirpur Khas S. P. Office. There we got a tea and after 30
minutes they told us, we have to go to the Umarkot S. P. Office. We thought over what to
do now and then the S. P. manager told us that it would be best to go first to the Karachi
railway board to order a permit from the railway and with this permit we should go to the
Hyderabad headquarters of the army to ask there for a permit and with these two permits we
should go to the S. P. Office in Umarkot. We said thank you and went to the shed. Without
any permission we entered next day the military city Chhor and passed the check point at
the road Chhor - Khokhropar (the driver had to deposit his identity card) to take pictures
in the middle of the military security area. After leaving the military area we got at the
barrier some sweets from the soldiers. May be we had big luck. Two days later we
photographed the m. g. train with two tanks behind the loco. A security man watched us,
came to us and asked for our passports. He noted our names and the passport numbers,
apologise to us for the disturb and disappeared. That was it! The soldiers, laying at the
wagon behind the tank, saw us but didn't say anything. Wonderful Pakistan! According to
the loco foreman the rolling stock of Mirpur Khas is follows:
A taxi driver of Patna told us, he saw in Jainagar at one day end of January or early February 1997 a steam loco in front of the regular train to Janakpur Dham! But regular service is diesel. Mr. Ashok Sharma (New Delhi) will check the situation in summer.