Visit to Asansol Loco Shed
by Mani Vijay (AKA Vijay Balasubramanian)
After bidding goodbye to the Shatabdi at Asansol, I was escorted by head TC and others to the waiting room and was offered a variety of snacks and drinks in traditional IR hospitality. They simply couldn't understand why I chose to stay out and not relax in the comfort of the room - I guess they hadn't met a rail-nut yet. Snapped up the 16 coach Jammu Tawi - Sealdah Exp. as it left PF4 with a WAP4 in charge. This was running nearly 22 hours late b'coz of the fog. The coaches looked old and dirty - no vestibules even between sleeper coaches. A double-headed BOXN rake pulled in with WAG5HA #23348 and WAM4 #23108 (in typical GZB livery). The locos. were not MUed. About ten minutes later, a MEMU from Jha Jha pulled into PF4 causing a flurry of activity.
I was to planning to take the Mumbai - Howrah Mail back to Calcutta but since this running late (b'coz of the fog, I presumed), my return train had yet to be decided. Sensing that there was enough time for a loco. shed visit, I put forth my request for a visit. Soon after, we all jumped into a jeep and headed for the oldest loco. shed in the country (at least that's what I was told!). I was greeted by Mr. R. K. Gupta, Senior Division Electrical Engineer, who directly reported to ADRM, Asansol division. For the next hour minutes or so, I had a chance to be up, close & personal with a variety of AC locos in various stages of POH. At that time, the shed's holding was around 110 locos. - WAM1/2/3/4, WAG3/4/7, WAP4/6. Spotted a few WAP6s and WAM4s with the bogies removed - some of the WAM4s were being freshly painted in the typical green-black livery. Had a chance to look at various components such as traction motors, bogies, axles, panto. assembly, transformers, etc. As we walked outside past the inspection pits, I spotted a bunch of condemned WAG4s and WAP2s. WAP1 #22060 stood out with a variation of the cream-brown livery (mostly cream, brown at bottom with a brown stripe) - this was from MGS shed. I was informed that the 20 or so WAM2s are only being used for passenger trains since they are vacuum braked. Mr. Gupta was visibly happy about the performance of these locos. - he pointed out that the components had been very reliable and caused minimal problems during the last 35 years.
And then, a magic moment & rare capture!!!! WAM3 #20333 was shunting a pack of condemned WAM2s and WAG4s. There are only two WAM3s running on the whole of IR - both belong to ASN shed and both were in the shed during my visit. Both the WAM2 and WAM3 are 2790 hp. Mitsubishi locos. with similar shell and cab design - the major difference is in their panto. orientation. WAM2 has the normal orientation whereas WAM3 has its pantos oriented inward - similar to YAM1, WCAM1. Both the WAM3s had the blue-red band-black livery. I always loved the way a WAM2/3 hoots - a high-pitched, reverberating sound. The driver oblidged and I was treated to repeated hoots!!
We then walked over to the MEMU shed which had been carved out of a portion of the now defunct steam shed. I noticed the inauguration stone - 29/6/99 by Shri. S. Ramanathan (my uncle!). A couple of MEMUs were positioned at their respective pits. I noted that the leading/trailing cabs had screw couplings. Not much activity here. While walking back to Mr. Gupta's office, we were treated to the other WAM3 #20337 - both pantos were raised and lowered at my request. Spotted a bunch of decrepit Bo-Bo WAG3s, looked very similar to the WAG4 except for smaller windows. One of them, #20872, had been rebuilt at Kanchrapara workshop. A badly damaged WAG4 stood out, #20955. This had been involved in a head-on collision as was evident from the hopelessly mangled cab. Luckily, the driver survived. Spotted one of the shed's cranes - a 140 tonner. We walked all over to see if there were any WAM1s around. No luck - all have disappeared!
Back in Mr. Gupta's office, we were in the process of deciding my return trip. A quick call to Dhanbad revealed that Howrah bound mail from Kalka had just left the station, running more than 7 hours late - this then would be my return vehicle. The office neatly overlooked the west-end yard of Asansol and I snapped up a MUed WDM2 pair even as I sipped my nth cup of 'chai' (tea). On request, I got hold of a thin, somewhat outdated, handout describing the shed's holdings. It had a very detailed layout of the shed.
Some information from this handout:
Asansol elec. loco. shed was started in May 1959 by converting a small portion of steam shed with a holding of 45 locos. The imported WAM1 loocs were based in this shed after commissioning. With the addition of WAM2/3 locos. imported from Japan, the need for the expansion of this shed was felt and it was expanded to home 80 locos. in the year 1969 by taking some more portion of the steam shed. 12 imported mixed locos. from Japan (10 WAM2 + 2 WAM3) and 45 WAG2 locos. were added. To give marginal relief to the congestion, the 45 WAG2s were transfered to MGS shed. With the introduction of EMU rakes from BHEL and ICF in Calcutta suburban section, 25 WAM2 locos, which were working in push-pull operation, were converted to main line operation. The original WAM1/2 locos, having ignitrons for AC-to-DC conversion, were converted to silicon rectifier system in the years 1968 to 1970. CLW started production and the first batch of 10 WAG4 IR5 series locos. were commissioned and based at Asansol shed in 1970. In 1971, CLW started manufacturing WAM4s which were commissioned at Asansol. Shed was further expanded in 1974 to home 110 locos. which increaseed to 115 in 1980. With the introduction of air-brake stock, some WAG4s were converted for dual brake operation. Further facilities were created for maintaining 20 such locos.
Present holding of the shed [this is outdated]:
- 14 WAM1s - 2800 hp - all vacuum brake - age profile of 36-37 years
- 25 WAM2s - 2790 hp - 22 of these vacuum and 3 air braked - age profile of 36 years
- 2 WAM3s - 2790 hp - both vacuum - age profile of 33-34 years
- 9 WAG3s - 3150 hp - all vacuum - age profile of 30-32 years
- 77 WAG4s - 3150 - 33 vacuum and rest dual - age profile of 27-28 years
MEMU operation was started in July 1994 for the first time on IR. The first MEMU ran on July 11 from ASN to BWN. Out of the seven rakes, one undegoes POH at KPA. The 2nd goes to HWH for fornightly inspection. ASN shed does inspection on a weekly basis.