The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and its Locomotives

The first locomotive to work on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) was a 0-4-0 ST locomotive named "Tiny". It was used mainly for the construction of the line and was later sold to Jorhat State Railway in 1886. The Siliguri-Kurseong section (32 miles) was opened to traffic on 23rd August, 1880. To work on the line four tank engines were purchased from Sharp Stewart in 1879. These engines used both wood and coal for fuel. These were known as Class 1 engines and were numbered 1 to 8.

The section from Kurseong to Sonada (10 miles) was opened on 1st August, 1881. This was followed by opening of the Sonada-Jorebunglow (6 miles) section on 5th April, 1881 and Jorebunglow-Darjeeling section (3 miles) on 4th July, 1881. With opening up of the full line, eight more locomotives were ordered from Sharp Stewart. These engines were 0-4-0 WT and were known as Class 2 engines. They were numbered 9 through 16 and used only coal as fuel. Four of these engines (11 through 14) were subcontracted by Sharp to Hunslet Engineering Company. Over a period of time several changes were made in these engines at Tindharia workshop.

The Darjeeling to Darjeeling Bazaar section (0.25 miles) was opened on 16th June, 1886. By 1887 the need was felt for more powerful engines with longer boilers and bigger cylinders. Four new engines were delivered by Sharp Stewart in 1888-89. These were numbered 1-B to 4-B. With this new numbering system locomotives 1 through 8 were reclassified as the C class while locomotives 9 through 16 were termed the A class.

During the DHR centenary celebrations in 1982, a commemorative stamp depicting the B class loco pulling a luggage van and passenger coaches was released by India Post. The first day cover showed the DHR train on the Batasia loop near Ghum.

The 0-4-0ST, B class were the last locomotives built for DHR. These four-wheeled coupled engines weigh 14 tons each. The cylinder diameter is 11 inches while the cylinder stroke is 14 inches. The wheel base is 5'6". The water capacity is 400 gallons.

A commemorative stamp depicting these first B class locomotives was issued by India post in 1993. Two maximum cards featuring these stamps were released by India post in 2005.

Till 1902 all orders for B class locos were given to Sharp Stewart. The company supplied DHR locos from its Atlas works, Manchester, till 1888. After 1888 these engines were manufactured by Stewart at their Atlas works, Glasgow. In 1903, Sharp Stewart merged with North British (NB) Locomotives and engines continued to be manufactured at Glasgow works. The last B class locomotive manufactured by Sharp was number 28 in 1903. Between 1904 and 1914, NB supplied six 0-4-0 ST locos numbered 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, and 36.

The Panchanai-Matigara section (2 miles) of the DHR Extension was opened on 16th April, 1914. It was extended till Naksalbari (12 miles) on 1st February, 1915 and till Tabalpur (25 miles) on 1st May, 1915. Two Pacific tender, C class engines, 4-6-2 were delivered for working on the Kishanganj extension by NB in 1914. These were numbered 37 and 38.

Since NB was unable to meet the delivery schedules, the order for 0-4-0ST B class locos were placed with Baldwin Locomotive Works of the USA. Numbered 39, 40, and 41, they were delivered in 1917. These are the only American locos to have worked on the DHR.

To meet the demand for loco power, Tindharia workshop started manufacturing locos after getting a few parts of the locos made outside. Three such locos - number 42 in 1919, number 43 in 1923, and number 44 in 1925 - were manufactured at Tindharia workshop. These were named Tindharia, Kurseong, and Darjeeling.

Between 1925-1927, NB supplied 9 more locos numbered 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, and 53. Loco 49 was the last to be manufactured for the DHR in 1927. The locos in working condition were renumbered according to the new ISR convention in 1957.

On the occasion of the 125th year of the DHR on 5th June, 2005, a special DHR safari was chartered. The charter was drawn by B class 788 (number 33 in the old scheme) of 1913 vintage. A special cover was released on the occasion by the Senior Superintendent of Posts, Siliguri, inside the train. A special cancellation too had been designed for the occasion. A limited number of covers were carried in the train. These were cancelled with the special cancellation and a "toy train" cancellation by a postman traveling especially for this purpose in the train. These carried covers were later cancelled at Sukna station. In August 23, 2006, Indian Railways celebrated the 125th anniversary with a unique event - steam on three gauges. Siliguri Junction is the only station in the world with a unique distinction of having all the three gauges - broad, metre, and narrow. A limited number of maximum cards were canceled at Siliguri post office and were carried on all the three steam specials. These were cancelled at Chalsa (broad gauge), Bagdogra (metre gauge) and Sukna (narrow gauge) post offices.

Some pictures of philatelic material related to the DHR and its locos follow.


Special postal booklet issued for the DHR's 125th anniversary.



Special postal booklet issued for the DHR's 125th anniversary - 2.



Stamp released on December 18, 1982, featuring a DHR train with luggage van and passenger coaches.



Stamp released on December 18, 1982, featuring a DHR train with luggage van and passenger coaches.



Stamp released on April 16, 1993 featuring a B class locomotive manufactured in 1889.



Stamp released on April 16, 1993 featuring a B class locomotive manufactured in 1889.



First-day cover on the DHR released in 1982 showing the DHR train on the Batasia loop.



Special postal cover with the "toy train" cancellation and the 125th anniversary cancellation.



Maximum card with with DHR centenary stamp and special cancellation.



Maximum card with with DHR centenary stamp and special cancellation.



Maximum card with with DHR centenary stamp and special cancellation.



Maximum card with with DHR centenary stamp and special cancellation.



Maximum card with with DHR centenary stamp and special cancellation.


Material provided by Vikas Singh, Copyright © 2007.
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