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d.c. mania

By: S. SHANKAR

16 Apr. 1853 - 16 Apr. 2002

 

D.C. Traction is all set to disappear from the IR traction scenario. The only remaining pocket of dc traction in India, viz the lines out of Bombay (Mumbai) towards Poona (Pune) and Igatpuri on the Central Railway, and between Churchgate and Virar on the Western Railway, are now (2000) in the process of being converted to ac traction.

All the straight dc engines, namely the WCM class, from WCM/1 through WCM/5 have been withdrawn from service as of Dec. 1999. The sole survivors are a handful of units from the  WCG/2 class, those noisy but lovable freight engines. But these too are being utilized for banking duties only, with just a handful of units being retained for slow express train workings. 

It would appear that the wheel has turned a full circle for the dc machines.

The first electric train in India ran in 1925 between Bori Bunder (Bombay VT: now Mumbai CST) and Coorla (now Kurla) via the harbor line. By 1929, the main lines out of Bombay VT had come under 1500 V dc electric traction, due to the ardous 1 in 37 Bhore Ghats on the Poona line and the Thull Ghats on the Igatpuri line. The Western Railway suburban lines had been electrified on 1500V dc as well, from Churchgate to Virar. These lines are now in the process of being converted to 25000 V ac. All these lines account for a mere 405 km of the total electrified network of the Indian Railways.

 

Next to follow were the mg suburban lines out of Madras Beach to Tambaram. These lines followed the 1500 V dc mode as well, and were energized in 1931. However, these lines were converted to 25000 V ac around 1968, consequent to the electrification of the mg main line between Madras Egmore and Villupuram on 25000 V ac.

The IR had a brief fling with 3000 V dc traction as well, with the main line from Howrah (Calcutta) to Burdwan (Bardhamman) being electrified using this mode of traction. However, the 3,000 V dc lines out of Calcutta were converted to 25000 V ac in 1959, and the stock transferred to the Bombay area.

25000 V ac is now the standard all over the IR. The only lines to survive on dc will be the lines of the Calcutta metro, which follow a third rail electrification system on 750 V dc, and the Calcutta trams. The Delhi Metro, when subsequently commissioned, may follow this mode of traction as well. But for main line workings on 1500 V dc, its a final and emphatic FULL STOP.

Here then is a photographic tribute to the dc machines.

CLICK ON THE LINKS TO VIEW THE RESPECTIVE PICTURE. THEREAFTER HIT 'BACK' ON YOUR BROWSER TO RETURN TO THIS PAGE.

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE BEEN TAKEN BY ME UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.

EARLY D.C. ELECTRIFICATION: A HISTORICAL ROUND UP:

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1. The first electric train in India (circa 1925): the beginning of dc traction in India. The run was between Boribunder and Coorla (Bombay VT and Kurla) : the then Governor on Bombay Sir Leslie Wilson was on board. Pic. on the right shows Sir Leslie Wilson himself addressing the gathering on this occasion. The pic on the right shows the inaugural train. (Picture courtesy John Lacey).
2. DC engines then started appearing. The first was of class EA/1 for passenger services, followed by an articulated EF/1 class for freight workings. Here are line drawings of both these locomotives, put on line circa 1928-30. This drawing shows the EF/1 first, followed by the EA/1. (Picture courtesy John Lacey).

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3. An EA/1 heading the first local train between Lonavla and Poona is pictured here at Talegaon, near Poona, circa 1929. Two EA/1 units are preserved: one at the National Rail Museum, Delhi, and another at the Nehru Science Center, Bombay.(Picture courtesy John Lacey).
4. An EF/1 hauled freight train on the Bhore Ghats circa 1929. Based on the popular Swiss 'Crocodile' class of engines, (due to their long wheelbase and alleged resemblance to that animal while rounding bends), these articulated machines were ideal for ghat workings. An EF/1 unit is preserved at the National Rail Museum, Delhi. (Picture courtesy John Lacey).

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5. After locomotives, multiple unit train sets were only natural. Here is the first motor coach (power car) of a d.c. e.m.u on the G.I.P. (Great Indian Peninsula) Railway. One of the early power cars (though from the B B & C I R) is preserved at the National Rail Museum, Delhi. (Picture courtesy John Lacey).
6. English Electric was the next contributor with the EG/1 class, later WCM/1:(circa 1954) the first class with the now familiar Co-Co wheel arrangement. This was shot at Poona in 1981, preparing to leave with the 14 up Madras - Bombay Janata Express. A model of one of the EG/1s is preserved at the National Rail Museum, Delhi.

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7. In the meantime in the South, dc traction commenced with these 3-car rigid dc emus on the Madras Beach-Tambaram  suburban route. These were built by Metropolitan Vickers, UK.The face portion of one such unit was on display outside the emu car shed at Tambaram.It was removed at the time of renovation of the shed, but was never put back.
8. Although the mg main line from Madras Beach to Villupuram continued on steam traction till as recently as 1968, these cute dc switchers were used for yard duties upto Tambaram. With the attachment of battery trailers, they could also work on unelectrified yard lines, though at reduced speed and power. Classed YCG/1, here is one such unit at Madras with battery trailer attached. (Picture courtesy John Lacey).

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9 - 10. The reason why the G.I.P. lines out of Bombay were natural candidates for electrification was the arduous 1 in 37 Bhor Ghats on the Poona line, and Thull Ghats on the Igatpuri line. The pic. on the left shows the gradient profile on the Bhor Ghats, while the one on the right shows the Thull Ghats gradient profile. (Picture courtesy John Lacey).

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11. The electrification of the Ghat lines led to increased speeds and haulage capabilities on the ghat lines. Here is the speedometer chart from an electric engine from her ghat run in 1930.(Picture courtesy John Lacey).
12. The first electric passenger train from Poona to Karjat (circa Nov. 1929) seen here at Karjat. Note the unusual double heading: a freight EF/1 leads a passenger EA/1 locomotive. (Picture courtesy John Lacey).

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13. Electrification and increased speed saw the inauguration of India's first luxury super fast train between Bombay and Poona: the legendary Deccan Queen. Inaugurated on June 1, 1930, this poster advertises the train. An EA/1 locomotive is seen in charge.The Queen comprised of 7 cars, and used to do the journey in 2hr 45min. (Picture courtesy John Lacey).
14. Another crack train in those good old days was the Bombay-Poona Mail, seen here in the 1930s with a train of brand new cars. The engine in charge is a EA/1. (Picture courtesy John Lacey).

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15.The WCM/2 class was initially built for the 3000V dc Calcutta area, but was later de-rated to work on 1500 V dc without loss of power. Built in 1957, this one is about to take charge of the Madras-Dadar Express on the last leg of its journey from from Poona to Dadar in 1980.
16. Then followed the Hitachi built WCM/3 in 1958, also initially built for the 3000 V dc Calcutta area, later moved to the 1500 V dc Bombay area. Only three were built. Smallest of the WCMs, they were characterized by separate light enclosures for parking/marker lamps (next to the headlight) and tail lamps. This one is about to leave Poona in 1979 with a local train to Lonavla.

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17. The Hitachi built WCM/4s were enlarged versions of the WCM/3, but with normal light enclosures. Though initially used on superfasts, operational difficulties and spares problems relegated them to freights. These were the last imported engines to incorporate noses (bonnets) at each end. This was shot at Lonavla in 1980.
18. By now, India had started building her first dc engines, classed WCM/5. Characterized by short noses tapering inwards, the first was  christened 'LOKAMANYA'. Lokamanya is seen here just outside the Chittaranjan works in 1961.(scanned from the 'Indian Railways' magazine, circa 1999).

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19. A high powered freight engine was not far behind,and the WCG/2 was born. Noisy to the core but extremely powerful, these were outshopped in 1971.They are were however freely used on express trains (1999) despite their maximum speed of only 80 kmph. Several were re-geared for banking heavy trains up the arduous 1 in 37 Bhor Ghats, and were re-classed WCG/2A. In 2000, most WCG/2s were used for banking only, with only one or two units retained for slow express train workings. This pair of bankers was shot at Karjat in 1992.

D.C. ELECTRICS:GENERAL VIEWS:

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20. Business end of an EA/1 (later WCP/1) 'SIR ROGER LUMLEY' preserved at the National Rail Museum, Delhi. This picture was shot in 1981. 21. One of the first EA/1s at Karjat, circa 1929. (Picture courtesy John Lacey). 22. An EA/1 ( WCP/2) preserved at the Nehru Science Center, Bombay. This was shot in May 1992. Another unit of this class, named 'SIR ROGER LUMLEY' is preserved at the National Rail Museum.

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23. AN EF/1 ( WCP/2) performs shunting duties at Lonavla in Sept. 1980. One engine of this class, SIR LESLIE WILSON' is preserved at the National Rail Museum, Delhi, though another 'Sir Leslie Wilson' was spotted shunting in Bombay in May 1992.  24. A WCG/1 takes a breather between duties at  Bombay VT station in May 1992. Lovingly referred to as 'khekra' (local lingo for crab'), these matriarchs were very popular with their crew, but for the only irritant of having to get down at every stop to oil the cranks. 

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25. A WCM/1 unit readies to leave Poona in May 1992 with the Deccan Queen to Bombay. 26. A WCM/1 rushes through luch greenery with the luxurious Deccan Queen from Poona to Bombay. This elegant white livery was unfortunately not liked by commuters who referred to it as the 'ambulance train'. (Picture taken from Dr. Sirish Yande's site).
27. A WCM/2 emerges from a tunnel in 1988 on the third ghat line between Bombay and Poona. She is hauling the Deccan Express.(Picture scanned from the Indian Railways magazine, circa 1988).

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28. A rather frayed WCM/2 speeds past near Range Hills in Poona in 1982 with one of the last surviving locomotive hauled local trains from Poona to Lonavla. The Lonavla locals now use e.m.u. train sets. 29. Zoooooooooom! is what this picture seems to suggest. A WCM/2 shoots past with the Deccan Express to Bombay in 1980. 30. A WCM/2 with the very late running TVC-Rajkot Express at Poona in May1992. At least two units of this class are known to have borne names applied by the shed staff locally. The two engines were 'BLUEBIRD' and 'JAI BHAVANI', the latter being very short lived.

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31. A YCG/1 unit being restored and plinthed outside the Tambaram e.m.u. shed in 1992.Although officially termed as freight engines, they could never do the task they were built for, and spent their entire working life on a stretch of track only 35 km long, running on the dc suburban lines only. 32. This YCG/1 is preserved at the National Rail Museum,Delhi. This was the only class of engine on the IR to feature a balcony at each end, end mounted entry doors to the cab, and ability to work in unelectrified territory with the help of a battery trailer car. The YCG/1s also used to haul a seven car silver colored train of YT class cars between Madras Beach and Tambaram each way daily.

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33. A dimunitive WCM/3 unit # 20075 shunts a car of flats at Lonavla in 1992. They spent their last few years doing one off jobs like hauling Poona-Lonavla locals and works trains, and were withdrawn around 1993. None are preserved. 

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34. A famous photograph of a WCM/4 heading the new Deccan Queen over the Bhore Ghats in 1966. Built by Hitachi in 1958, spare parts problems relegated the WCM/4s to freight train workings.(Picture scanned from the Indian Railways magazine, March 2000). 35. The  WCM/4s were the only WCMs to be used almost exclusively for freight operations. Most were fitted with CBC couplers for compatibility with freight cars. This is the rare shot of one doing yard duties at Poona in March 1992.

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36. A WCM/5 running light at Karjat. This unusual dark blue/light blue livery was applied to a handful of WCM/5s in 1987-88. 37. A WCM/4s leaves Lonavla with the Poona-Karjat Passenger in March 1992. There was a variety of side profiles on the WCM/5s, and it was difficult to find two which were identical.

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38. A WCM/5 enters Lonavla with the tightly packed Poona-Bombay Deccan Express. Note the platform life.(circa 1982).(Picture courtesy John Lacey). 39. Another WCM/5 is seen here entering Lonavla station in 1992 with a holiday special train to Poona.

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40.The WCG/2s were the first dc engines to be fitted with multiple unit cables. (the emu.s notwithstanding). Here is a close up of two of these beasts coupled at Lonavla in 1992. 41.A WCG/2 unit hauls a train of empty tank cars at Karjat in 1988. Note the absence of barrier cars, a usual feature on tank trains. 42.A WCG/2 leaves Poona with the Kolhapur-Bombay Koyna Express in July 2000. Most surviving WCG/2s have been relegated to two or three coupled banking units, with a handful of machines retained for slow express duties, like the example in this picture.
43. The WR had a problem: the dc was upto Virar only.The line from thence was on ac. Hence emerged the brilliant dual current WCAM/1 series. This one is speeding through Nala Sopara station in Bombay in 1996.

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D.C. ELECTRICS:NEW DEVELOPMENTS:

And so the dc saga went on. A new WCM/6 class came in: only two were built,(circa 1998), of which one was destroyed by fire. The sole survivor spends her days on the Bombay side of the ghats only, and has not ventured to cross it.

A WCG/3 was planned, but that never saw the light of the day. So also a DC passenger model classed WCAP/1. WCAM/2, 2P and WCAM/3 engines have now come in, to replace the ageing WCMs and WCAM/1s. No more new dc engines will be built, it now seems, the Bombay area is now being converted to ac.

In the midst of all this, news has just come in (2000) of a new WCAG/1 class of freight engine. A more advanced version, the WCAG/2, is also said to be under development. 

One thing is for sure, the dual current WCAM/2, 2P, 3 and the WCAG/1 and 2 (when it is built) will surely mark time with their dc workings. They will work exclusively on ac by 2002. A.c. electrification on the WR has already moved closer to Bombay: ac traction now starts from Virar station itself, rather than a few miles away from it. Conversion of the d.c. lines to a.c. in the Bombay area is slated for completion as follows: WR lines: Churchgate to Virar: Dec. 2002. CR lines: Bombay VT to Igatpuri: 2004, Bombay VT to Poona: 2005. 

The WCM/x series of locomotives have already disappeared, except the two WCM/6 units. The WCG/2s reveived a fresh lease of life in 2001: they now (2002) double head several freights on the CR lines, rubbing shoulders with the WCAG/1s and the WDG/2s. The WCG/2s are still a force to reckon with for banking duties on the ghats on the CR lines. 

The e.m.u. commuter trains are still d.c., though some new dual current d.c./a.c. machines have already come in. Its only a question of time till more dual current e.m.us, and subsequently straight a.c. e.m.us are the order of the day in the Bombay area as well.

So, enjoy the pure d.c. beasts while you still can.

 

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44 - 45 A new WCM/6 class came in: only two were built, (circa 1998), of which one was destroyed by fire. The sole survivor spends her days on the Bombay side of the ghats only, and has not ventured to cross it.(Pictures taken from I.S.Anand's 'Indo Rail' site).

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46. Originally intended to replace the ageing WCAM/1 dc/ac dual currents on the WR was  class WCAM/2, which came in circa 1997. One such unit is seen here heading a colorful container train at Wadala Road in Bombay in July 2000. These engines work at a substantially lower power in dc territory, and subsequently gave way to the more powerful WCAM/3 class.

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The  mighty new breed of dc/ac electrics: the WCAM/3:

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47. A WCAM/3 speeds through Shivajinagar suburban station in Poona with the Pragati Express to Bombay in 1997.Several were on lease to to the CR from Bharat Heavy Elec. (BHEL)  in 1997. 48. A WCAM/3 at Poona seems to mean business as she moves in to take charge of the Shatabdi Express to Bombay against a setting sun in  Nov.1997.

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49. A WCAM/3 runs through lush greenery in an almost rural setting at Poona in July 2000. The location is between Shivajinagar and Kirkee stations. 50. Against the backdrop of the Le Meredien Hotel, a  WCAM/3 leaves Poona Jn. with the Bangalore - Bombay Udyan Express in July 2000.

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51. A WCAG/1 at Poona in July 2000. Based at Kalyan, these engines always run in pairs, and return to Kalyan immediately after leaving their train at their destinations. This pair had just come in fifteen minutes earlier with a heavy freight train, and is returning to Kalyan.

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