Steam in History

While the early railway proposals were being scrutinised by the directors of East India Company, Britain was going through the battle of gauges. A large portion of British Railways was built with 4' 8.5" gauge whereas Great Western Railway adopted a wider 7' 0" gauge for better stability and larger locomotives. At home, Lord Dalhousie had seen the danger of break of gauge and when he came to India as Governor General, he was already quite aware of the problem. In his historic minutes of July 4, 1850, written at Sini, a hill resort in the North, he discussed at length the necessity of not only selecting a proper gauge but also the imperative need of sticking to a uniform gauge throughout the country. Dalhousie favoured a gauge of 6' 0" width, though the Board of directors had recommended a gauge of 4ft. 8.5" A compromise was struck later and a new standard gauge of 5ft. 6" width was adopted for the early railway lines in India.

The first two railway companies, the East Indian Railway Company (EIR) and the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company (GIP) were the pioneers in the development of Railways in India. The first engines ordered by GIP were eight 2-4-0 tender engines from Vulcan Foundry in 1852. On the Eastern side, two of the earliest engines ordered by EIR were 12" diameter outside cylinder double frame, 2-2-2 underslung tank locomotives from Kitson, Hewitson and Thomson of Leeds in 1855. Both of them have survived all these years. They are FAIRY QUEEN preserved at Rail Transport Museum, New Delhi and EXPRESS, displayed at Jamalpur.

Right from the earliest orders, European makers in knocked down condition supplied the locomotives. The locomotives were then assembled at the workshops set up in India. It was customary to supply one extra spare set of locomotive components for every batch order of twenty so as to cater for any breakage or loss enroute. Jamalpur Workshops and latter Allahabad Workshops of EIR took a lead in assembling complete locomotives. They also assembled locomotives from the extra spare components and gave them Jamalpur and Allahabad makes plates as early as 1870's. That was the beginning of locomotive manufacture in India, which continued for over hundred years. The broad gauge locomotive ANTIM SITARA in 1970 and metre gauge locomotive No.3573 YG in 1972 were the last in the line to be turned out from Chittaranjan shops of Indian Railways.

Broad Gauge Steam Locomotives

The emergence of various designs of broad gauge locomotives on the Indian scene can be divided into five distinct phases namely-

  1. Non standard designs (upto 1905)
  2. BESA designs (1905-1928)
  3. IRS designs (1928-1939)
  4. WarTime designs (1939-1945)
  5. Post War IRS designs (1945-1970)

Most of the early locomotives were having six wheels for the engine in (a) 2-2-2, (b) 0-4-2, (c) 2-4-0 or (d) 0-6-0 wheel arrangement. The bogie pattern became popular only after 1880; the favourable combination was 4-4-0 'outside cylinder' type design. The individual Railway systems, however, adopted their own standards and the types of locomotives multiplied to such an extent that the traditional British manufacturers could not fulfil the requirement of Railway Companies. This resulted in orders being placed on German and American manufacturers and as could have been natural, protest was made on behalf of the trade circles in the British Parliament. The outcome was that the 'British Engineering Standards Committee' was asked to appoint a sub-committee for the purpose of preparing designs for a limited number of standard classes and the railway companies on Indian subcontinent were expected to order their future requirement accordingly. The committee gave its first report in 1903 and a revised report in 1905. The committee suggested eight types of locomotives on broad gauge to cover various natures of duties that a steam locomotive was to be used for. These standard types became popular as 'BESA' classes and were ordered in large numbers.

In 1924, the newly appointed Locomotive Standards Committee was asked to update and re-standardise the BESA design and to recommend new standard types of more powerful locomotives. This committee recommended eight basic types of locomotives, which became popular as Indian Railway Standards or IRS classes. The six IRS classes adopted in large number by the various railways were:

Class Service Wheel notation
XABranch line passenger 4-6-2
XBLight passenger 4-6-2
XCHeavy passenger 4-6-2
XDLight Goods 2-8-2
XEHeavy Goods 2-8-2
XTLight Tank 0-4-2 T

The committee also suggested a few standard designs for metre gauge and narrow gauge locomotives. Thus, for the first time, a standard classification to suit all gauges was suggested by this committee. Prefix X was chosen for broad gauge, Y for metre gauge, Z for narrow gauge (2' 6") and Q for narrow gauge (2' 0").

The next major development took place in 1939. During the war years of 1939-45, the traditional suppliers of steam locomotives from Britain could not meet the Indian Railway's requirement and the locomotives were ordered in large number from North America. The popular American designs were:

Class Service Wheel notation
AWC Goods Locomotive 2-8-0
AWE Heavy Goods Locomotive 2-8-2
AWD Goods Locomotive (made in the USA) 2-8-2
CWD Goods Locomotive (made in Canada) 2-8-2

These locomotives were having bar frames, outside cylinders, alligator type crossheads, cast bogies for tenders and other prominent American design features. Their satisfactory working influenced the post war standard designs on Indian Railways.

After the war, a new 4-6-2 passenger locomotive was designed and its class name was chosen as WP. In place of X prefix W was chosen for broad gauge locomotive, Y and Z remained unaltered. To simplify classification, P was chosen for passenger and G for goods locomotives on all the gauges. The design WP incorporated the results of several years of research and had many prominent American features. The first batches of 16 prototypes from Baldwin Locomotive Works were given a class name WP/P. After their successful trial, a very large number of this design with minor changes was ordered by a number of countries in Asia, Europe and America. These are known as WP class of locomotives.

The other most important post war IRS design was the class WG 2-8-2 freight locomotive using the same boiler, motion and other parts as of the WP locomotive but with smaller coupled wheels and larger cylinders. The WP and WG classes of engines were used on all the nine zones of Indian Railways. Altogether 755 WP and 2450 WG were put in service. The WG earned the distinction of being the largest single class ever built for any railway in the Commonwealth. Other post war broad gauge designs like WM, WL and WT remained restricted to specific services only. A large number of post war standard locomotives were built at the Indian Railway's workshops at Chittaranjan.

HPS was the only surviving class in 1980s among numerous BESA classes introduced at the turn of the century. HPS were ordered for hauling mails and express trains and their good performance resulted in repeat orders as late as 1950.

XD and XE-1 were the two surviving IRS class locomotives introduced in 1920's. Most of these XD and XE class locomotives were built during 1940's. There are two sub-types of XE class -- the older lot with six wheeled tenders and the new lot with bogie tenders. Both XD and XE-1 locomotives were designed for freight trains. XE-1 is the heaviest non-articulated locomotive deployed on Indian Railways for heavy freight trains. It was also suitable for shunting purposes because of its high tractive effort.

AWC and AWE classes were American designs locos manufactured to suit Indian conditions. AWD/CWD were the war design locomotives. These four classes showed strong American features and were used for passenger, goods and shunting services.

The post war IRS designs were specific job oriented. WP locomotives usually hauled passenger-carrying trains, including mail and express trains. WG class was the common freight locomotive while WT, a tank locomotive was designed for heavy suburban services. WL and WM engines were suited to work on lighter tracks.

Metre Gauge Steam Locomotives

Lord Canning and Lord Elgin, successors to Lord Dalhousie, welcomed the idea of light railways as a feasible solution to extend the railway network all over the country. The first and freak attempt to construct a railway line in India to a gauge other than 5 ft 6" was the Dabhoi-Miyagram section of Gaekwar Baroda's State Railway in 1862 on 2' 6" gauge. This was followed by 4-ft. gauge Nalhati-Azimganj section of East Indian Railway in 1863. By 1868, it was realised that further extensions will be possible only if lines of the cheapest description consistent with safety and durability are constructed. Sir John Lawrence, the then viceroy advocated deployment of the agencies of the State for the construction of Railways as also for the adoption of a narrow gauge system. His successor Lord Mayo carried on voluminous correspondence with the Secretary of State favouring smaller gauge and finally recorded his minutes dated 30th December 1870 recommending the adoption of 3' 3" gauge. At that time the Government of India was considering adoption of metric weights and measures. This gauge being very close to a metre, the metre gauge was adopted. So by January 1871, metre gauge was established in India.

The first metre gauge section from Delhi to Rewari and enroute a short branch line to Farukhnagar Salt Depot was opened in February 1873. The first metre gauge engines, to work on this line were A class 2-4-0 tank engines, one of this class LORD LAWRENCE has been preserved at Gorakhpur. The metre gauge development was even faster than the broad gauge. Though starting with a handicap of almost twenty years, within years its route length almost equalled that of the broad gauge.

Upto 1886 the metre gauge locomotives for the various state railways were generally ordered in bulk by the Government of India and this resulted in less number of classes and comparatively bulk orders. The popular designs were:

Class Wheel Notation Year Use
A 2-4-0T 1872 Construction Work
B 0-4-4T 1873 Passenger
C 0-6-4T 1874 Freight
D 0-4-0 1873 Mixed traffic
E 0-4-2 1874 Mixed traffic
F 0-6-0 1874 Mixed traffic
M 4-4-0 1880 Passenger
N 2-6-0 1881 Freight
O 4-4-0 1883 Passenger

Among these, F class became the most popular. Originally introduced in 1874, slightly modified in 1884, this design remained in active production till 1922 and a total of 871 such engines were built. The first engine built in India in 1895 at Ajmer workshops of B.B. & C.I. Railway was of this class. When BESA classes were introduced on the broad gauge, an attempt was made to introduce similar standards on metre gauge but it did not succeed. After the First World War, the Locomotive Standards Committee suggested another series of locomotives for metre gauge which became popular as Indian Railway Standard Designs (IRS). Keeping in line with X prefix on broad gauge, Y prefix was chosen for metre gauge engines. The following IRS classes survived till the end of the steam era:

Class Wheel Notation Duty Axle load
YB 4-6-2 Passenger 10 Tons
YD 2-8-2 Goods 10 Tons
YF 0-6-2 Branch line 8 Tons
YK 2-6-0 Branch line 8 Tons

During the war years 1939-45, a large number of 2-8-2 locomotives were obtained from America. These were popularly known as MAWD or simply WD (war department) locomotives. The success of this war time design with strong American features greatly influenced the post war Standard designs on Indian Railways. The following designs emerged:

Class Wheel Notation Duty Axle load
YP 4-6-2 Passenger 10.5 Tons
WG 2-8-2 Goods 10.5 Tons
YL 2-6-2 Branch line 8.0 Tons
YM 2-6-4 T Suburban 9.0 Tons

Thus the development of metre gauge locomotives as in the case of Broad Gauge can be divided into five phases:

  1. Non Standard designs (prior to 1928)
  2. BESA designs (very limited)
  3. IRS designs (1928-1939)
  4. Wartime designs (1939-1945)
  5. Post war IRS designs (1945-1972)

B, B-1 and B-2 class of locomotives had a super-heated mixed traffic 4-6-0 wheel arrangements - built for Gaekwad's Baroda State Railway with a high pitched boiler enabling a wide straight side Belsize firebox. Class BR from the Rajasthan line was a more powerful version of this type with a larger boiler. These BR locomotives and a couple of GR locomotives of 2-8-0 wheel arrangement were homed at the Khamblighat Shed for the Phulad- Khamblighat hill section. N1S was an interesting mixed traffic 4- 6-2 design with larger grate area built specifically for the Morbi Railway and was homed at Bhavnagar shed. MJ was a superheated passenger 4-6-0 design homed at Ajmer.

The PT class of locomotives in use on Northern Railway and PTS class of locomotives in use on Western Railway were part of an order originally intended for Burma but diverted to India. These were 4-6-4 T design, built by Vulcan Foundry in 1949 and homed at Hanumangarh shed of Northern Railway and Bhavnagar shed of Western Railway. The 10 HP locomotives (4-6-2 design) based at Jodhpur shed of Northern Railway were powerful American locos very suitable for arid-zone areas. The extra large tender on 12 wheels carried 10.2 tonnes of coal and 32730 litres of water. On Southern Railway, 8 ST class, 2-6-4 T engines were based at Mayuram shed. The famous X class engines are based at Coonoor shed and have been dealt with separately.

Among the various IRS designs introduced in 1920's, two classes YB and YD were in service on many zones in 1980s. Other designs YF and YK were restricted to Northeast Frontier and South Central Railway respectively. YB and YD classes were built in large number over a long period from 1928 to 1950 and were the standard passenger and freight locomotives. They were subsequently outnumbered by the Post war IRS designs YP and YG respectively.

During the war years of 1939-45, most of the Indian requirements were met from American supplies. The popular MacArthur's War Design (MAWD) locomotives brought with them the strong American features of this class onto Indian Railways.

The post war IRS designs, namely YP, YG and YL classes, were spread over a large number of sheds of Indian Railways. YP was the standard passenger locomotive, YG a standard freight locomotive and YL a locomotive suitable for branch lines permitting less axle load. The other post war IRS design was YM, a dozen of this class were homed at Lallaguda shed of South Central Railway.

Nilgiri Locos

Major Morant R.E., the then district engineer of Nilgiris propounded the idea of Rigi pattern rack railway for the Nilgiris in a series of articles published in 'Professional Papers' from Roorkee, in 1870's. Major Morant even involved M.Riggenback the inventor of Rigi system, who visited Nilgiris in 1882. However, the first portion of Nilgiri Mountain Railway from Mettupalayam to Coonoor was opened in June 1899 and extended upto Ootacamund in 1908 due to failure of first two companies. This Railway was managed by Madras Railway Company till it was purchased by South Indian Railway Company on 1st January 1908. The 20km portion from Coonoor to Kallar is with Abt system of rack railway and the steep gradients of 1 in 12.5 is worked with X class locos. These locomotives are compound locomotives with all four cylinders outside the frames. The low-pressure cylinders drive the rack wheels and are immediately above the high-pressure cylinders. On the easier section of the line, with no rack rail, the locomotives work as two cylinder simple expansion engines. These X class engines, designed in metric dimensions were purchased in two lots. Schweizerische Locomotive and Maschinenfabrik, Winterthur build the older lot (7-nos.) put on line in 1920-25 and new lot (5- nos.) put on line in 1952. These 12 engines are homed at Coonoor shed of Southern Railway. One of these locomotives 3739X was converted for burning furnace oil/reclaimed oil and is the forerunners in the next series of oil burning steam locomotives. This conversion done during 2002-03 has been very successful.

Narrow Gauge (2ft. 6") Locomotives

Neilson & Co. built the first narrow gauge locomotives in 1863 for the 2' 6" gauge Gaekwar's Baroda State Railway (GBSR) line from Dabhoi to Miyagram opened a year earlier. However the bullocks continued to haul the trains and the regular use of engines had to be postponed for over a decade till heavier 15kg/m rails replaced the 6.5kg/m rails. Maharaja of Baroda, the owner of GBSR, built a network of light railways connecting most of the towns in his State with the main line stations of Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway (BBCIR). Dabhoi became the centre of the narrow gauge lines and later a workshop was built at Pratapnagar, near Baroda to cater for heavy repairs of locomotives. W.G.Bagnall Ltd., Stafford, supplied the earlier GBSR locomotives whereas the carriages and wagons were built locally.

Next on the narrow gauge scene appeared the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway line on 2' gauge, in 1880, which will be dealt with later along with the other two feet gauge lines.

During 1881-93, eight 2' 6" narrow gauge lines were introduced in the various parts of the country but none of them have survived in their original form. The year 1897 saw the opening of the first section of the 2' 6" gauge Barsi Light Railway (BLR). Engineered by E.R. Calthrop, this was a highly successful attempt to show the carrying capacity that could be achieved on a narrow gauge railway using high standards of equipment. BLR ordered 4-8-0T locomotives of 30-ton weight spread evenly over the six axles capable to haul almost the same trainload as a standard 'F' class metre gauge locomotive would do.

During the first decade of the twentieth century, several important lines were opened on 2' 6" gauge. The exotic 96 kilometre long Kalka-Simla line was opened in 1903 as a part of Delhi- Ambala Kalka Railway which was later made over to NorthWestern Railway. After independence this line became part of Eastern Punjab Railway till its amalgamation in the Northern Railway. This was followed by extensive narrow gauge network, built by Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) in the Satpura ranges popularly known as 'Satpura Lines.' B.N.R. also deployed larger locomotives on Barsi pattern but with separate tenders.

The narrow gauge lines were so individualistic and the standards of operation so varied that locomotive design tended to be far less standardised than on the larger gauges. Barring a few cases, most of the narrow gauge locomotive classes are limited to only one system. The locomotive standards committee on 1925 made an attempt to standardise a few classes but the attempt did not much succeed. Two classes ZB and ZE become popular, in that, large orders were placed by GBSR and BNR respectively and for other classes i.e. ZA, ZC, ZD and ZF orders remained very limited.

The classification of narrow gauge locomotives remained rather peculiar. Some locos were known by the names of the lines for which they were acquired like RD for Raipur Dhamtari line, PL for Parlakimedi line, ML for Mayurbhanj line ad 'Delta'for Egyptian Delta Light Railway. Some locos were known by the makers' name like Bagnall and Sentinal. Suffix `Z' was initially used for standard locomotives suggested by Locomotive Standards Committee and has been retained for post war IRS designs as well as diesel locomotives working on 2' 6" gauge lines.

Kalka Simla Railway

The idea of a railway to Simla, the summer capital of British India was mooted as early as in 1847. The 96km of 2' 6" gauge line between Kalka and Simla runs through picturesque mountainous country ascending 1280m on the run. During its course the line runs into a continuous succession of reverse curves of 37m radii in and out, along the valley and the spurs flanking the mountain. The track rises in sharp curves to steeper gradients; the Ruling gradient is 1 in 33.

The Simla line ordered nice compact 2-6-2T K-class locomotives, which were later converted to superheated KC class. The Locomotive Standard Committee suggested ZF class for this line which is an adoption of KC class, Krauss Maffei built a modified version ZF-1 class as late as in 1953. In the last few years, the diesel hydraulic locomotives have completely replaced the steam locos from Kalka-Simla line and they have been moved to Kangra Valley Railway (KVR) section.

Kangra Valley Railway

The Pathankot-Nagrota section of Kangra Valley Railway (110km) was built by the State agency in 1928 and was managed by Eastern Punjab Railway till the formation of Northern Railway. The Nagrota-Jogindernagar section (56km) opened in 1929 was dismantled in 1942. However in October 1976, this section was reopened on slightly altered alignment. The ruling gradient on Pathankot-Nagrota section in 1 in 40 but thereafter 1 in 25 on Nagrota-Jogindernagar section. The loco shed at Pathankot caters for this hill line which climbs almost 1220m at the final terminus. Two superheated class S engines were the first ones to work on KVR and later they were joined by ZF/ZF-1 classes of engines.

Satpura Lines

The Satpura lines of South Eastern Railway covering large areas of Central India is the biggest network of 2 ft 6" gauge lines on Indian Railways. The first major line (228km) ran northwards from Gondia to Nainpur and Jabalpur and was opened in 1903 and 1905 respectively. Another line from Nainpur was opened to Chhindwara (99km) in the West and to Mandla Fort (42km) in the East in 1904 and a long 236-km southward section was opened from Gondia to Nagpur via Nagbhir. A connecting line (142-km) from Itwari near Nagpur to Chhindwara was completed in 1913. Various branches bring the total kilometre of the Satpura lines to 1005; all were originally built and operated by the old Bengal-Nagpur Railway Company. Three loco sheds at Nainpur, Gondia and Motibagh serve the Satpura lines. The supporting workshop is at Motibagh near Nagpur, which undertakes major repairs of all these locomotives as well as other N.G. engines of S.E.Railway. The Bengal Nagpur Railway, right from the initial stages chose heavier design of locomotives. Two popular type B class 2-8-2 wheel arrangement and C class 4-6-2 wheel arrangement were the standard engines chosen for Satpura lines by B.N.R. Some of these locos were later converted to superheated version and classified as BC and CC. Later purchases were of the superheated designs and classified as BS and CS. After independence, all purchases for Satpura lines were restricted to the pre-war I.R.S. design ZE (2-8-2) which was an improved version of BC and post war IRS design ZP (4-6-2) only.

RDR, MSR and PLR

The Raipur Dhamtari and Rajim branch (RDR) was built as an integral part of Bengal Nagpur Railway in 1900. The locomotives used on this section of 89km were of 2-6-2 design and were commonly known as RD class. All the RD locos were withdrawn and heavier CC class (4-6-2) locomotives based at Raipur shed served this section till they were replaced by diesel locomotives.

The Mayurbhanj State owned the 52-Km long Rupsa-Baripad 2' 6" gauge line in the title of Mayurbhanj State Railway (MSR). It was acquired by Mayurbhanj Railway Company managed by Hoare Miller & Co. on its extension from Baripada to Bangarposi (38km) in 1920. MSR acquired a total of four engines from Kerr Stuart & Co., one pair in 1904 and another slightly modified pair in 1925. These four engines 0-6-4T wheel arrangement are commonly known as ML class, and have since been transferred to Naupada shed. In its place heavier CC class locos worked on this section and later were replaced by diesel locomotives.

The 40km Naupada-Parlakimedi 2' 6" gauge line, opened in 1900 was known as Parlakimedi Light Railway (PLR) and was owned by Raja of Parlakimedi. The line was further extended to Gunupur (51km) in 1931 and was earlier managed by Bengal Nagpur Railway. PLR acquired four engines, three from Kerr Stuart in 1928 and one from Hunslet Engine Co. in 1931 of the ML design and was used on Mayurbhan State Railway (2nd lot purchased from Kerr Stuart in 1925). These engines were known as PL locos, and were homed at Naupada shed alongwith the other four ML engines of Mayurbhanj State Railway.

Bengal Nagpur Railway also owned and built an isolated section of 117km from Purulia to Ranchi in 1907 and further extended it to Lohardaga 69km west of Ranchi in 1913. After conversion of 89-km portion from Ranchi to Kotshila to B.G., this line was left with two independent N.G. sections (a) 69km from Lohardaga to Ranchi and (b) 35km from Kotshila to Purulia. These two sections were served from Ranchi and Purulia sheds.

Mcleod & Co. owned and managed four 2' 6" gauge lines in eastern region:

  1. Bankura-Rainagar line -- 97km long, opened in 1916-17.
  2. Ahmadpur-Katwa and Burdwan-Katwa lines, 104km long, opened in 1915-17.
  3. Kalighat-Falta line, 42km long, opened in 1917-20.
  4. Jessor-Jhenidah & branch 60km long, opened in 1913.

The Jessor-Jhenidah line has gone to Bangladesh. The Kalighat- Falta line has since been closed and its locomotives transferred to Katwa lines. The other two lines have been taken over by the Government of India; Bankura-Rainagar line is now run by South Easter Railway and the Ahmadpur-Katwa-Burdwan line is run by Eastern Railway. The standard locomotive for the Mcleod lines was a powerful 0-6-4T design classified Bagnall' after its makers name. These engines were joined by 2-6-2T design engines classified 'DELTA' initially obtained from an order for Egyptian Delta Light Railways. Even the most recent additions were of this class in 1953. Bankura on the South Eastern Railway and Katwa on the Eastern Railway were the homing sheds for these old Mcleod engines now part of Indian Railways.

Little Shantipur-Engines

The smallest engines both in weight and size working on Indian Railways were the four CS class 2-4-0T design engines based at Shantipur Shed of Eastern Railway to work on 28km long Shantipur-Nabadwip Ghat section. W.G.Bagnall built a pair of these and Yorkshire Engine Co built another pair.

Yelahanka-Bangarpet Line

The Maharaja of Mysore constructed a 17-km long 2' 6" gauge line to connect the Bangarpet town with Kolar gold mines in 1913. The line was further extended to Chintamani and Chickballapur in 1916, making a total of 102km. It remained the joint property of District Board -- Kolar and Mysore Durbar. The Mysore Durbar also financed a project to connect Chickballarpur with Bangalore (62km) which was completed in 1918. The 16-km. Yelahanka- Bangalore section has since been dismantled. Yelahanka was the homing shed for locomotives used on this line. ES class (4-6-2) of 1926 vintage worked with the post war IRS design ZP (4-6-2) locos here.

G.B.S.R. Lines

The Gaekwad's Baroda State Railway (GBSR) owned by Maharaja of Baroda was worked by Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CIR) till 1921, then operated as an independent system until taken over by the Government of India. The centre of GBSR network is Dabhoi with five lines of 359km length radiating outwards and built from 1862 to 1923. The loco shed at Dabhoi with a holding of 40 locomotives was the biggest 2' 6" gauge shed on Indian Railways. Other GBSR lines are -- Bilimora- Waghai section of 65km served by Bilimora loco shed, Kosamba- Umerpada section of 62km served by Kosamba shed, Bhadran- Nadiad section of 59km served by Nadiad loco shed, Baruch- Kavi and Dahej Branch of 110km served by the Dabhoi loco shed. W class engines (0-6-2) and their modified version W-1 and WS built by W.G.Bagnall were the standard engines for GBSR and 24 of them have survived all these years. GBSR also favoured the IRS design ZB (2-6-2) for which large orders were placed on W.G.Bagnall, Corpet Louvet and Krauss Maffei in 1951-52.

Gujarat Lines

The Gujarat Railway Company formed in 1911, owned and managed Champaner-Shivrajpur-Pani line of 49-km length opened from 1911 to 1916. Godhra-Lunavoda line of 41km opened in 1913 and Nadiad-Kapadvanj line of 45km. opened in 1913. These three sections are served from Halol, Godhra and Nadiad sheds respectively. The management of these lines was taken over by BB&CIR from 1st April 1922. The oldest surviving engines on Western Railway narrow gauge network were 3 B class 2-8-4T design built for Champaner-Pani line of Gujarat Railways.

Other W.R. lines

The 15-km long Piplod-Devgad-Baria line opened in 1929 was the property of the Baria State and was managed by BB&CIR. It was taken over by the Government of India in 1949. This line has since been closed and the solitary K-class engine (2-6-4T) built specifically for Baria line now serves as a works-shunter at Pratapnagar more conveniently because of its smallness. 94km long Ankleshwar-Rajpipla-Netrang line built from 1897 to 1932 was the property of Rajpipla State and was managed by BB&CIR. It was taken over by the Government of India from 1st April 1949.

Bhavnagar-Talaja-Mahuva (109km) line was built as a tramway and was owned by the Bhavnagar State till it was amalgamated with Saurashtra Railway in 1948. The T-class engines (4-8-0) were built specifically for this line.

In 1980, Morbi-Ghantilla (45km) line was the only 2' 6" gauge section left from a large network of the same gauge, most of which has since been converted to metre gauge. This section was served from Morbi loco shed. An isolated section Sayla- Joravarnagar (28km) was constructed in 1948 and was a part of Saurashtra Railway system.

Barsi Light Railway

Barsi Light Railway Co. Ltd. (BLR), incorporated in London, opened its Kurduvadi-Barsi section of 35-km length on 01-03-1897. Engineered by E.R.Calthrop, BLR revolutionised the narrow gauge railway system of Indian subcontinent. In the words of Calthrop:

"It is most important in the interest of any undeveloped colony that the cost per mile of railway communication should be reduced to the lowest figure compatible with efficiency and sufficient carrying capacity. The principal novelty in the Barsi rolling stock has been the adoption of a uniform working axle load throughout, for engines, wagons and carriages. The working axle load being also the maximum adopted namely 5 tons per axle. Maximum carrying capacity on the maximum weight of rail can be secured only by uniformity of axle load."

4-8-0 T and 4-8-4 T were the famous tank engines on BLR, which have since been replaced by tender engines. F class (2-8-2) and G class (4-6-4) are the surviving BLR tender engines, which have many common features. These engines along with the post war IRS design (ZE class) are homed at Kurduvadi, a junction point on Bombay Madras main line. The narrow gauge now extends to Miraj on the southern side of Kurduvadi and to Latur on northern side of Barsi, the total length being 326km. The workshop at Kurduvadi also undertakes the heavy repairs of engines from Gwalior and Dholpur lines.

Other G.I.P Lines

Achalpur-Murtajapur section of 77km owned by Central Provinces Railway Company was opened in 1913; this was extended to Yavatmal in 1915, making the total to 190km. This line along with 35km long Pulgaon-Arvi section opened in 1917 was constructed and managed by Great Indian Peninsula Railway Co. till it was brought under direct State management from 1925. Murtajapur is the loco shed serving Achalpur-Yavatmal line, which favoured 2-8- 2 design locomotives. Six B-1 engines of 1917-26 make and six ZD engines of 1957-58 make both of 2-8-2 design work on Achalpur- Yavatmal line. Pulgaon, the loco-shed served the Pulgaon-Arvi section and had 3 ZP engines homed there. The earlier lots of A-1 class engines (2-8-4 T) were withdrawn long back.

Daund-Baramati branch line of 44km opened in 1914, was owned and managed by GIP. The loco shed at Daund served this section which homes 3 ZE locos. Similarly Pachora-Jamner branch line of 56km opened in 1918-19 was owned and managed by GIP. The loco shed at Pachora with 4 ZE locomotives served this section.

The Dholpur State Railway, built primarily for the stone traffic from the large quarries in the area, consist of a line from Dholpur to Tantput with a branch to Sirmuttra. On this system five 2-8-2 T engines of ZA class, with three minor variations worked along with three 4-8-0 Bogie tenders of D-1 class.

Narrow Gauge (2') Locomotives

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Franklin Prestage while retaining the position of Agent, Eastern Bengal Railway formed a company 'Darjeeling Steam Tramway Co.' for constructing a 2 feet rail gauge tramway on the alignment of the cart-road. The name was changed to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Co. (D.H.R.) in 1881. Construction began in 1879 and was pushed with great rapidity. A railway workshop was set up at Tindharia 32km from Siliguri for rolling stock. This workshop also built three B class engines from the spare parts received along with the engines ordered in bulk.

The first 11km line from the old southern terminus at Siliguri to Sukna is to a ruling grade of only 1 in 280. But over the next 64km the line rises from 162m to 2,258m at Ghum summit, a throughout average of 1 in 30 and then descends 181m almost sharply over 6km to Darjeeling. To avoid tunnels and costly bridges, extensive use of short radius loops and Z-reversing stations have been made.

The first lot of eight engines came from Sharp Stewart & Co. Manchester. These known simply by their number (No.1 to 8), had 0-4-0 T wheel arrangement. These engines were found unsuitable for use on DHR and in 1881 another order was placed on Sharp Stewart for a larger type 0-4-0 T wheel arrangement A class engines. In 1889, this design was further improved and resulted in ordering of 0-4-0 ST B class locomotives again from the same company. These B class locos were so successful that repeat orders followed till 1927. Today all the 24 active locomotives on this famous mountain railway are B class built by Sharp Stewart & Co., North British Loco Co., Baldwin Loco Works and Tindharia Workshops (DHR). All these 24 engines are based at Tindharia.

And now brand new locomotives for DHR. Golden Rock Workshop of Southern Railway has completed manufacture of a 'B' class design steam locomotive HIMRATHY likely to join DHR in next few weeks. Two more locomotives are following this. A new era had dawned in the new millennium.

Matheran Light Railway

Matheran, a hill resort for Bombayites is about 100km from Bombay on the Bombay Pune main line. Matheran is situated at an average height of 762m above sea level and was developed into a hill resort in 1850's. The 2-ft. gauge rail line takes off from Neral Station on the main line and climbs 722m in 21km. The maximum gradients are 1 in 20 and the sharpest curves have a radius of 14m. This railway line was built by Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy in 1907 under the title of 'Matheran Light Railway Co'. Four articulated 0-6-0 T engines were ordered on Orenstein & Koppel in 1907 and these have survived all these years. Articulation is provided by floating leading and trailing axles on Kleiner principle. With this articulation, the rigid wheelbase is theoretically reduced to minimum.

Gwalior Lines

Other than the two mountain railway lines of Darjeeling and Matheran, the only 2-ft. gauge lines in active use on Indian Railways emerge out from the city of Gwalior. In 1890's Madhav Rao Scindia established his private system of 2-ft. gauge lines within the palace grounds at Gwalior, his capital city. The first locomotive was a small 0-4-2-tank engine built by 'Brush' in 1893. From Gwalior three branch lines to Sheopur Kalan (198km), Bhind (83km) and Shivpuri (118km) were built by 1908. Out of these three branch lines, the line to Shivpuri has since been closed. An isolated Ujjain-Agar section (since closed) was also built by Maharaja and was managed under one system 'Gwalior Light Railways'. In 1942, the title was changed to 'Scindia State Railway' and in 1951, the ownership passed to Central Railway.

For many years, most of the equipment came from Kerr Stuart & Co. Ltd. The first tank engines soon proved to be deficient in water and coal carrying capacity. Subsequent orders were mostly tender locomotives. The post was Baldwin engines of 1949 (NH-4 class) represented a break from the traditional British design in that a very large dome incorporating sand boxes, steel firebox and a higher working pressure of 14.1kg/cm2 instead of 12.7kg/cm2 were adopted. The later Japanese engines (NH-5 class) were generally similar to this design. Other than these NH classes, three interesting 4-6-4 ND class of engines built by Kerr Stuart and a few 4-6-2. NM-class engines built by W.G.Bagnall worked mixed trains on Gwalior lines. Two remaining locomotives of the abandoned Ujjain-Agar line (608 and 609 NM class) were also transferred to Gwalior. All these locomotives were based at Gwalior shed of Central Railway and their heavy repairs were carried out at the Kuruduwadi Workshops.


The author has been involved with Indian Railways for many years and has been at the forefront of railway heritage preservation activities. He was the Director of the National Railway Museum (then the Rail Transport Museum) and worked closely with Mike Satow, the founder of the museum, and he has written many books on different aspects of Indian Railways and their history.

Material provided by the Indian Steam Railway Society, Copyright © 2000.
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