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INDIAN STEAM RELICS

A FIREMAN'S PERSPECTIVE

By   Hal  Hughes

Former Fireman  Grade A  Northern  Railway  Delhi  Division  Saharanpur

 

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16 Apr.1853 - 16 Apr.2002

 

FOUR  DAYS  AND  THREE  NIGHTS  IN  THE  LIFE  OF  A  FIREMAN  GRADE A

Dehradun  Express  from Saharanpur to Delhi [<<Page-1] [<<Page-2] [<<Page-3] [<< Page-4]

Flying Mail  from Delhi to Amritsar [Page-1 ] [Page-2>>]

STAY TUNED FOR THE FOLLOWING UPCOMING SECTIONS:

Flying Mail from Amritsar to Delhi

Dehradun Express from Delhi to Saharanpur and sign off 

[Click here for more STEAM LINKS]


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WG 8069 prepares for departure from Delhi Jn on 4/1/92 whilst a new WAP electric arrives on an express. (Photo by Terry Case).


Flying Mail from Delhi to Amritsar:-PAGE-2
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We are now attached to the Flying Mail the time is 10:55.  I put on the steam injector and put on a good fire about 20 shovels of coal filling both back corners of the firebox and the rest spread over it. After closing the firebox door I turn off the injector and open the cylinder cocks. Steam is approximately 180 lbs per square inch, whilst the water in the gauge glass is near the top nut. The coal chute is full with selected grade A coal. We are ready for the next part of the link which will take us 6 hours through some nice country side but in very hot, dry, and dusty conditions. Most of the trip will be done in the heat of a Northern Indian summer afternoon, when temperatures rise to 120 F in the shade let alone what it will be on the footplate in front of an open firebox door, my shirt is now a wet rag.

11:00 on the dot the starter signal goes down Mr Collis gives a long blast on the whistle I look towards the rear of the train ( 9 bogie rake ) and see the Guard who is dressed in a white uniform including  solar topee waving his green flag; I shout “ Alright “.  Mr Collis opens the regulator and we slide out of Delhi Junction our next stop Panipat.   I check the advance starter is down, shout “ alright “ Mr Collis replies “ ok “ he opens the regulator up further and sets the cut off  at 25%.  I nod to Gurbux Singh (the 2nd fireman) to put on a fire whilst I close the cylinder cocks, check that the steam lubricator is working; look out for the outer signal for Subzi Mandi it is down  and shout “ alright.”.  I check that the home is down as well as the starter and advanced starter making sure that Mr Collis has seen them as well, he opens up a bit more and cuts back to 35%. We pass Subzi Mandi (3km).  I open the firebox and put on a fire, close the door and put on the injector; when the water is up to the top nut of the gauge glass I turn it off.  Gurbux is smashing the big lumps of coal and by now we are picking up a good speed we will have to keep to at least 65 to 70 mph to keep time. We thunder through a few smaller stations  including Sonipat, it is getting quite warm, but it will get hotter when we pass Amballa.

 The outer signal for Panipat is coming in to view it is down I shout “ alright “ Mr Collis replies “ok “ I open the blower and Mr Collis shuts the regulator. I check the home signal which is also down , Mr Collis has seen it we are now pulling into Panipat (89km) where we stop  near the water column. Gurbux hops on to the tender whilst I get off the locomotive and hand Gurbux the chain to pull the water column over the  the tender. I collect the oil can and make my way round the front of the locomotive topping up all the oil boxes and putting oil on the slide bars. I climb back on the footplate and give the rocking bars a shake, take out the big hook and slice the fire, then replace the hot iron  back in its tube on the side of the tender. I open the firebox and put on a fire close the door put on the injector, while I was doing all this Mr Collis had been around the locomotive checking all the axle  boxes, big ends etc to make sure they are not running hot. Gurbux is back on the footplate and is making a mug of tea for us all. I  rinse my face and hands, my clothes are ringing wet with sweat, the other two men are in a similar state. The starter has gone down, Mr Collis gives a blast on the whistle, Gurbux looks towards the rear of the train sees the guard waving his green flag shouts “ alright .” Mr Collis opens the regulator, I open the firebox door and put on a good fire making sure that both back corners are full; our next stop is Amballa.

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The 2nd fireman is seen on the tender of an engine taking water. (Photo by Terry Case)

 We are making good time the coal is first class no problems with clinkers or the firebox filling up with ash, both of us fireman are taking it in turns to stoke the fire and maintain steam and water. EM 927 with the Flying Mail in tow is  now  thundering through the smaller stations and over culverts. After Karnal (123km), Gurbux has to climb on to the tender to pull the coal forward,  I am now stoking on my own. The routine is door open three in each back corner of the firebox five spread out over the whole of the grate area three sprayed, shut the door move over to the injector put it on. Then look out for signals exchanging shouts of “ alright “ with Mr Collis when signals seen to be down, sweeping the footplate clean of fallen coal, damping the footplate with buckets of water to keep the dust down.

We fly by  more smaller stations including Kurukshetra,  all signals have been down and we are now approaching Amballa Cantonment (198km), I look out for the outer signal and it is also down so is the home and calling on, we are heading in for platform two time being 13:05. We stop  over the ash pit and the water column is in reach of the tender. The same procedure is followed as at Panipat for watering and oiling, but in addition I rock the fire bars, lower the drop grate take out the big hook and slice the fire  pushing out  clinkers. Then I pull the drop grate back in place and fix it in place with the  big pin that I had taken out when I lowered it.  I put on a good fire about 20 shovels of coal, the heat on the footplate is like Hell, Gurbux  damps down the coal on the tender.  I had earlier called over to the Boilermaker who together with a Fitter and two Grease Monkeys meet the Flying Mail at Amballa and asked them to  clear the drain hole in the tender which is blocked., the Grease Monkeys meanwhile attend to   the grease points around the locomotive. Having finished topping up the oil I go in the pit and under the boiler, inside the frame and check all the nuts and cotter pins on the valve gear making sure the nuts are tight and no cotter pins have come out or broken off. Mr Collis has also been round the locomotive to check every thing we both make our way back onto the footplate I put on the injector and fill up the boiler as this is a 25 minute stop we have some thing to eat and drink. Gurbux has made the mugs of tea he and Mr Collis are eating their food in the shade as it is too hot on the footplate, I join them and  have a paratha  with some vegetable   curry.

 Before climbing back on the engine  I had stood  under the water column and got Gurbux to turn it on so I can cool down, I still have my clothes and shoes on and spent  a moment under the cool water. Dripping wet I make my way back to the footplate. I open the firebox and put on a fire the time is 13:35, on the dot the Starter Signal goes down Mr Collis blows a long blast on the whistle Gurbux looks toward to the rear of the train the Guard is waving his green flag. Mr Collis  opens the regulator and the  Flying Mail pulls out of Amballa next stop Ludhiana.  I put on the injector and check the steam lubricator  then I turn off the injector. I fill my mug with some water and have a drink, my clothes that were wet are now nearly dry,it is so hot  that the air in my lungs is hot and dry. The sweat is pouring off all of us again both Mr Collis and myself suffer from prickly heat and  and the sweat makes it worse; steam locomotive crews went through hell on the footplate in the Indian Summer. We are real men who belonged to a special breed of railway worker, like our fathers and grandfathers and not like the five minute wonder men who crew diesel and electric locomotives today.

 Gurbux is now having to spend more time on the tender bringing the coal forward and keeping the chute full, I pick up a Jaroou  (a brush made of split bamboo) and sweep down the footplate we have to do this quite often as  we can get coal dust in one’s eye or inhale it, so a clean footplate is a healthy one. After I have swept the footplate I damp it down with a bucket or two of water drawn from a tap on the bottom wall of the tender. We  thunder through more smaller stations and are now approaching Rajpura (226km and just over the half way mark for our journey).  I look out and see the outer signal come into view I shout “ alright “ and Mr Collis nods and shouts “ok”.  I open the firebox door and put on 10 shovels of coal feeding both back corners and spraying the grate area evenly, close the door as we thunder through Rajpura I fill a kettle with cold water and stand it on the shelf above the firebox door, it wont take too long to boil then I will make a pot of tea, it has to be black  as milk would not keep on the footplate in this heat. The sun is beating down on my side of the footplate so I go over to Mr Collis’s side from time to time to get a bit of shade and try to cool down in the stunningly hot wind that blows past me. Poor Gurbux is exposed to the the full hot sun in the tender , I pass him a few buckets of water to damp down the coal and hopefully reduce the dust.  I put on the injector open the firebox door and put on a fire close the door go over and turn off the injector make the tea and leave it to brew.

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WL 15032 being prepared on shed, the engine is having its motion cleaned as the shed foreman casts a critical eye over proceedings. 1/1/80. Godhra. (Photo by Terry Case)

We are approaching Sirhind, the outer signal is down I shout “ alright “ Mr Collis nods his head, I pour out three mugs of tea as we roar through Sirhind.   I pass Gurbux his mug, hand one to Mr Collis leave mine on the shelf above the firebox door open the door and put on a fire close the door put on the injector fill up the boiler then turn off the injector and get a Paratha out of my Kana box and eat it and wash it down with my tea.

We pass through more small stations including  Khanna, before we enter Ludhiana (312km) where we pull up near the water column once more and go through the same procedures as at Amballa; having cleaned the fire and helped with the oiling I put on a new fire. We only have 20 minutes in Ludhiana  however the express merits the attention of  a maintenance crew composed of Fitter, Boilermaker and Grease Monkeys from Ludhiana  shed who have assisted by going round checking and greasing the locomotive with  Mr Collis.  I have a drink of water, Gurbux having filled  the tank  and the coal chute   is back on the footplate.  He   shuts off the steam lubricator opened it and fills it up with  lubricator oil and turns it on again and is now having a wash.  I put on the injector and top up the boiler, steam is 180 lbs per square inch we are ready to pull out of Ludhiana.  Mr Collis  says  “ Its bloody hot this afternoon, I will be glad to get to Amritsar and have a bath.”  I think to myself you can talk, you are sitting on your backside while Gurbux and myself are doing all the work, but I would not tell him that,  maybe one day  I will be sitting where you are and I can tell my firemen that I feel hot  Ha! Ha!  ( This never happened as I left the Railway and made my way back to the United Kingdom in 1962 ) .

The starter signal goes down Mr Collis gives a long blast on the whistle I open the firebox door and start putting on a fire Gurbux looks to the rear of the train and   sees the guard waving his green flag shouts “ alright. “ Mr Collis opens the regulator we move off from Ludhiana our next stop is  Jullundur.  Gurbux  gets back in the tender and starts pulling coal forward, I put on the injector and Mr Collis has opened the regulator up a bit more than before as we are 1.5 minutes late he cuts off  to 35% and we are flying again, the rat a tat tat of the wheels going over the joints in the track are getting faster than before. We rattle over the Sutlej River bridge and also swiftly pass through smaller stations like Phagwara. I keep to the routine of  firing and putting on the injector , checking signals drinking  mug after mug of water  as we are passing through the hottest part of the trip.  Gurbux is having to pull the coal forward from further back on the tender, both of us firemen are very dirty, faces covered in coal dust as are our clothes, even Mr Collis has a dirty face no matter how many times we damp down the footplate and the coal; it dries so quickly and the dust swirls around covering everything.

Approaching  Jullundur Cant.(374km) the outer signal is down, I open the blower Mr Collis shuts the regulator; I check that the home is down which it is I shout “ alright “. Mr Collis nods his head we come in on platform one and stop near to the water column, for the last time on the trip I swing down from  footplate pull the water column over the tender  for Gurbux  to grab the chain. I clean and remake the fire using the big hook to push out any clinkers through the drop-gate.   Mr Collis has been round with the oilcan and topped up the oil boxes  and checked the big ends, and axle boxes to make sure they are not running hot. We only have 15 minutes in Jullundur,  I   put on the new fire and fill the boiler. Gurbux having filled the tender  has come down on the footplate and has made us a mug of tea each. I wash my hands and take out a Paratha from my Kana box also the Vegetable Curry and eat it quickly as it is nearly time to leave Jullundur.  Mr Collis is back on the footplate and is also eating some of his food the Starter goes down I tell Mr Collis and he gets up off his seat to blow the whistle. Gurbux looks to the rear of the train and shouts “ alright “ Mr Collis opens the regulator and we glide out of Jullundur, for  Amritsar.

 As the train gathers speed  I open the firebox door and put on a good fire, a 15 shovel round. I  will keep the routine of firing, filling the boiler and checking the signals as we thunder along passing the  smaller stations including Kartarpur then over the Beas River bridge: we are really moving now!  At last I see the outer signal of Amritsar (448km)   is down I shout “ alright “  and   open the blower; Mr Collis shuts the regulator.  I check the home signal which is also  down and    tell Mr Collis. I put on the injector as Mr Collis is slowing the Flying Mail  and we come in on platform one and draw to a halt on time 6 hours after we left Delhi: the time is 17:30.

 Gurbux is back on the footplate we remove all the brass fittings and put them away in the built in boxes on the locomotive,  put all the oil containers and oilcan and tools away in their boxes. I put on a good fire turn off the blower lock the shovels away as well. The points man has arrived and the locomotive is cut off the train and we make our way into the loco shed. Gurbux and myself have a good wash, check that everything is locked away, the running room khalasi arrives and picks up both Mr Collis and my Kana box to take to the running rooms; both Gurbux and myself then climb down off the locomotive and make our way over to the shedman’s office where we sign off.  Mr Collis is booking in the repairs that he wants carried out. The time is 18:30 we all leave shed together Mr Collis and myself make our way over to the running rooms, Gurbux Singh with his Kana box on his shoulder makes his way to his parents’ home where he will eat and sleep until next morning.   At the running rooms I give the cook our rations for a pot  tea and our meal then go and have a nice cold bath. I am tired so I go to bed at 20:30, tomorrow we work back to Delhi with the Dn Flying Mail and then the following day home to Saharanpur with 19Up Dehradun Express .

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Amritsar, journeys end and a view of the Golden Temple, a picture of serenity in a city with a troubled history. (Photo by Terry Case)

<= Back to Part 1

All Photos on Flying Mail section Part 1 and Part 2 are courtesy Terry Case. For permission to use them on your own website, please write to Terry Case direct at: caset@benalla-college.vic.edu.au


Dehradun  Express  from Saharanpur to Delhi [<<Page-1] [<<Page-2] [<<Page-3] [<< Page-4]

Flying Mail  from Delhi to Amritsar [Page-1 ] [Page-2>>]

STAY TUNED FOR THE FOLLOWING UPCOMING SECTIONS:

Flying Mail from Amritsar to Delhi

Dehradun Express from Delhi to Saharanpur and sign off 

[Click here for more STEAM LINKS]

Comments? Questions? E-mail me at:     hal.hughes1@tiscali.co.uk


Last Updated: 30/05/02 Page spun by S.Shankar with Microsoft FrontPage 98