Main page of the IRFCA Server WP GLORY

wp glory

a tribute to the magnificent WP class of steam locomotives of the Indian Railways

by S.SHANKAR

(With inputs from JOHN LACEY & TERRY CASE)

 

Delighted enthusiasts have ridden behind these WPs since Sept.1999

NOTE: The number of hits mentioned in this counter is inaccurate, due to counters from the previous provider remaining defunct for over three months without notice, due to which starting number had to be extrapolated on this counter from another source.

 

HOME PAGE Photos-1 (John Lacey) >>> Photos-2 (Terry Case)  >>> Photos-3 (Shankar & Others)  >>>

wppuri.jpg (47891 bytes)

The magnificient bullet nosed WP locomotives of the IR were among the most handsome steam locomotives built  in the world. No wonder then that they still have a band of dedicated followers worldwide nearly two decades after their withdrawal.

They were a totally new kind of engine in India at the time of their introduction, incorporating several unique design aspects never seen before in the country. These included semi-streamlining, a rounded smokebox door with recessed headlight, disc wheels and a typical American humming or ship siren type of steam whistle. The engines were very photogenic indeed, and its only too bad I wasn't old enough at that time to do full justice to their beauty and grace.

A large silver star around the headlight on the smokebox door worn by most members of the WP class enhanced the beauty of these beasts manifold, and this made the WPs a virtual icon of the Indian Railways, recognized by enthusiasts worldwide. The star was sometimes replaced by petals, wings, a star-shaped metal cutout, sunrays, or at times merely a painted silver disk around the headlight. The South Eastern preferred to run the engines without any embellishments around the headlight, and quite contrarily, some railways preferred to paint colorful star or flower shaped motifs around the headlight. Whatever be, the engines had a visual appeal, beauty, majesty and a grace matched by few other engines worldwide.

All beauty and no brains? Dear me, no. The WPs were good steamers and good pullers, with excellent steaming capabilities for efficient time keeping. They were ideal for the heavy and densely packed but moderately paced trains: a classic feature of railways all over India. But the WPs were also capable of speed. In 1965, the Taj Express was advertised as the fastest steam hauled express train in India, at 105 kmph behind a WP. There are reports of the WPs having unofficially touched nearly 120 kmph, (A dynamometer car record showing oscillation trial results records the maximum speed of a WP hauled train at 74 mph (118.4 kmph)). One source even stretches this figure to 125 kmph, though with no authentication. The WP engine of the 105 kmph Taj Express demanded a crew of four: a driver, TWO firemen and a coal breaker. Other superfast or major trains worked by WPs include the Grand Trunk Express, Howrah-Madras Mail, Frontier Mail and the AirConditioned Express. All these trains are now electric or diesel hauled, the last named having been withdrawn. The WPs were synonymous with fast express or mail trains on the broad gauge all over the IR, and could be spotted all over the network.

At least two WPs were fitted with Gisel ejectors, however the experiment did not succeed. Two more WPs were fitted with water scoops, to enable them to take on water while on the run, in order to run the Grand Trunk Express non stop between Madras and Bezwada (now Vijayawada). Two water troughs were constructed: one at Bitragunta, and another just past Ongole. The water scoops on the WPs worked well enough. Unfortunately, by that time, the quality of Indian coal had deteriorated to such a level (50% ash content) that more often than not, the engine had to be changed at Bitragunta, as the coal carried in the locomotive's tender could not sustain the 420 km long journey, due to the high ash content. Bitragunta had a huge steam shed and roundhouse with 22 WPs on board.

755 WPs were built between 1947 and 1967, bearing serial numbers 7000 to 7754. The first batch of sixteen came from Baldwin, USA in 1947, and these were classed WP/P. (P for Prototype). Some of the later WP were built as WP/1. The WP/1s were 5 tonnes heavier.At least one WP was reportedly lost to Pakistan during the 1971 war (she was caught on the wrong side of the border when fighting broke out between the two countries), and is now reportedly displayed in a childrens' park in Lahore.

At least three WPs are preserved: one as a static exhibit at the National Rail Museum, Delhi, and two in working order elsewhere. All attempts to steam the static NRM exhibit and put it back on the rails have failed so far (2000), due to heavy corrosion. The other two have been retrofitted with air brakes and bear the 'Palace on Wheels' headboard. It is hoped that these will one day work the prestigious luxury tourist train bearing the same name. One of these was cloned as a MSR engine (Midland Scottish Railway) in Feb.2000, and was used in the shooting of a film at Bombay Central. Details here. Also see the engine's pre-shooting shed time here.(RIGHT CLICK ON THE LINK AND SELECT 'OPEN IN NEW WINDOW' TO CONTINUE READING THIS PAGE)


Technical features of WP design:
Developed in India,   the WP design incorporated many features as the result of   ten years of research .  The main aim was to design a locomotive that was 10% more powerful than the XC class, yet with a lighter axle load to allow for wider availability.

Despite the higher boiler pressure and a heavier engine weight than in the UK designed XC, this aim was achieved.  The diameter of the driving wheels was reduced to 5' 7" from the previous  6' 2'' standard and  they were moved back as far as possible  from the bogie to reduce the axle load.  The smaller wheels also allowed the maximum horsepower to be produced at 45 mph rather than at the track speed limit of 60 mph.


The boiler, of 210 lb pressure, was high pitched to deepen the firebox and ashpan to allow hand firing of the large 46 sq ft grate.  A thermic syphon and two arch tubes were fitted into the welded steel firebox; but weight limitations meant that a Belpaire box could not be used. 

The locomotives were fitted with bar frames.


A modern front end, with Walschearts valve gear driven by large 12 in diameter piston valves , with 7.5 inch travel ( 0.25 in lead and  1 11/16 in lap) resulted in a fast and powerful locomotive . 

 
A handful of WPs  were  built slightly differently as WP/1, adding 5 tons weight (see Hughes SL Pt3 BG p.28)
basically, they go:
WP/P: Baldwin 1947
WP-slightly modified from WP/P  various 1949-1959
WP/1 slightly modified from WP to make construction at Chittaranjan easier.
WP/1 7060-7199 and 7636-7754 were all WP/1 built at Chittaranjan 1963-1967, after all the WP had been built.

Speed:

The protoype locomotives were extensively tested; they rode well at up to 74 mph on oscillation tests, and 2680 drawbar hp was measured when the lever ran out at speed ( but the boiler emptied in 5 minutes).
(The 74 mph appears on a dynamometer car record, not on a speed test, showing  oscillation results.)

(Courtesy: John Lacey) (Slightly edited to ensure continuity)


(Quote) The prototypes were a batch of 16 locomotives ordered from Baldwin, Philadelphia in 1946. The result to go American was due to satisfactory experience with American locomotives supplied to India during the war. The large grate of the US-built locos were a particular boon for India, as they were capable of doing a good job despite the very poor quality of India coal with its high ash content.

Naturally, the locomotives supplied were built to the usual rugged US standards, while being simple and basic. Provision of vacuum brakes made the engines even simpler, as a vacuum ejector is a far less complicated device than a steam air pump. The air smoothed exterior was provided for aesthetic rather than for aerodynamic reasons.

The original batch were designated WP/P (P for prototype), and the production version differed in minor details. During the next ten years, further members of this class were supplied from foreign countries as follows:

USA: Baldwin 100
Canada: Canadian Locomotive Co. 100
Canada: Monteal Locomotive Works 120
Poland: Fabryka Lokomotywim, Chrzanow 30
Austria: Viena Lokomotiv Fabrik 30

There was then a pause until 1963, when India's own Chittaranjan locomotive building plant began production of the reminder. Some further small modifications to the design were made to facilitate production. (Unquote) (From 'Modern Trains' by Brian Hollingsworth, circa 1985).

In their last years, most of the WPs spent their time doing mundane one off jobs like hauling slow stopping passenger trains, shuttles and parcel trains. They did full justice to their jobs, and having travelled on the Daund-Poona (Pune) shuttle on its last days with steam, I can safely state that there were stretches of the journey when I began to doubt that this was a shuttle train! Of course, a seven-car shuttle was child's play for a class of engine designed to haul twelve to sixteen cars at 100 kmph! On the other hand, some other WPs continued to haul express trains till the very end. It was tragic to see the cannibalization prevalent to keep surviving members of the class on the rails. On the pages that follow, you will see two pictures of a WP carrying another WP's tender. The engine and tender bear different numbers.

Visit the photo galleries by clicking on the links below (or at the beginning of this page), and join me in paying rich photographic tribute to the most handsome engine in all times, the WP. The division into two pages is merely to avoid having too many pictures on one page.

Over half the pictures on these pages are provided by my good friends John Lacey, and Terry Case,  accomplished photographers and fond lovers of these locomotives.

What was it like to fire these wonderful beasts? What do some ex drivers and firemen have to say about these engines, folks who have actually fired these locos, or have ridden on board ?

Click here for interesting inputs from HAL HUGHES.

 

HOME PAGE Photos-1 (John Lacey) >>> Photos-2 (Terry Case)  >>> Photos-3 (Shankar & Others)  >>>

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