MAWD 1798 runs again!

by Utpalparna Hazarika, Chief Public Relations Officer, NFR

This article was originally published by the Indian Steam Railway Society (ISRS) in its newsletter, and is reproduced here by permission, which is gratefully acknowledged. Copyright for the material here rests with the ISRS and the author(s) of the article. The ISRS is the premier organization in India engaged in preservation and efforts to promote awareness of the country's railway heritage.

This article originally appeared in the ISRS Newsletter No. 5, Spring 2001.

On February 14th, 2001 Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) revived a Metre Gauge American War Department Steam locomotive (No. 1798) at Guwahati (Assam), for pioneering rail tourism in the Northeastern sector in the country.

Rehabilitating the locomotive has been a Herculean task as both materials and steam skills are now very rare. However through the untiring dedication and determined endeavour of a team of 20 supervisors and staff of New Guwahati diesel shed led by Mr S K Dutta, Assistant Mechanical Engineer, it has been possible to achieve this task within a record period of 23 days. The project became an emotive issue with railway men like Mr Sukhender Lal Das, who as retired Tin and Copper Smith volunteered his services day and night.

In a well-attended function at the New Guwahati Diesel Shed, the General Manager, N F Railway, Mr B M S Bisht launched the locomotive with a lot of fanfare. The loud whistle, steam and coal-smoke of the locomotive evoked nostalgic memories in most of the people who attended the function.

This loco manufactured by Baldwin Loco Works, Philadelphia (USA) in 1944 was put in service in 1948. The MAWD (WD in short) class of locomotives were imported in large number to cope up with the locomotive shortfall due to increased traffic during the World War II. These locomotives became very popular and were also referred a MacArthurs. The last passenger service hauled by this locomotive was in Alipurduar - Gitaldah section in 1993. After dieselisation of services in the Railway it has been since lying condemned in New Guwahati shed.

A few dry runs of this locomotive were undertaken before putting it in service on few selected MG sections to promote rail tourism in scenic areas of NF Railway.

Subsequently a trial run was conducted on February 20th, 2001 between Guwahati and Pandu. An on-the-spot report follows:

While some peeped out of their windows to see the steam engine for the first time, many stopped their vehicles on the main road to witness its grandeur. Others, who had come to the railway station to see off their relatives, were awe-struck at the sight of a steam engine which was last seen here in 1994 and in Tinsukia in 1997. The N F Railway was one of the last railways in the country to completely dieselise its operations. The locomotive, which had rolled out from the New Guwahati railway shed just a few days ago following its revival, made its inaugural run from the Guwahati railway station to Pandu. People lined up on both sides of the 10km stretch between Guwahati and Pandu to see the locomotive. At many places, bystanders waved at the train and children living in shanties near the railway line were delirious. Pandu, a desolate station except for two trains that stop there, sprung to life. People living nearby arrived at the station in large numbers to give the steam engine a royal welcome. Among the lucky ones to travel in the train, apart from railway authorities and invited guests were 30 street children sponsored by the Indian Council of Child Welfare (ICCW). "It was an educative experience for many of them to know about the history and the importance of the steam engine. And for those who never had the chance to travel in a train, it was a memorable experience," an ICCW official who travelled with the children said. Samira Devi was ecstatic and she could not believe that she was actually seeing a steam engine. "My grandparents used to tell me stories about the steam engine and their journeys behind them," she said.

General Manager of the N F Railways Mr B M S Bisht said they were working out the logistics of running the train between Guwahati and Pandu during weekends. "It will be a good business prospect for travel and tour operators to charter the train," he said. The Railways spent Rs. 1.5 lacs on renovating it. "We also plan to run another locomotive which has been lying in Badarpur since 1997. Renovation work will start soon", Bisht said.

Details Of The Locomotive
  • Class MAWD (or simply WD)
  • All India Loco No.: 1798 from 1957-8 (Previous No 1822; Origin in 1948 as BBCIR No. 1000)
  • Builder: Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, USA (Builder No.74011)
  • Commissioned: 1948
  • Last Train worked: 141 Up/i 42 Dn from Alipurduar Jn. to Gitaldah
  • Year of Condemnation: 1993
  • Arrived at New Guwahati Loco shed: 1994
  • Date of recommissioning: 14th February 2001
  • Gauge: 1 Metre
  • Coal Capacity: 8.12 tonnes
  • Water Capacity: 10000 gallons
  • Under frame with wheel: 30 tons
  • Boiler: 24 tons
  • Tender: 41 tons
  • Wheel configuration : 2-8-2 (Pony Couple Radial)

Teamwork: Relief train staff under the leadership of Sri D D Chettia, Section Engineer were engaged for 23 days to complete the job of renovation including collection of materials from different places of NF Railway. Boiler Inspectors from Tinsukia and Badarpur have supervised the repairing and testing of the boiler.

  • Work started on: 19.01.2001
  • Work Completed on: 13.02.2001
  • Man-hours Spent: 8600 hrs.

The work was completed with the following material assistance.

  • Steel piping boiler mounting cocks were made at New Guwahati
  • Vacuum injector, hard grease, vacuum combination, copper pipe, boiler tube expander were collected from Mariani
  • Boilers smoke tube and gauge column cock from Badarpur
  • Gauge glass from Lumding
  • Injector combination from Tindaria
  • Asbestos packing rope from Alipurduar
  • Fire bar fingers from Tinsukia
  • Other items like cotters, pins, etc., were locally procured

Dedication of retired staff: It gives immense pleasure to add here that Sri Shukendur Lal Das who retired from railway services on 30.11.2000 as Tin & Copper Smith, now resident of Pandu area volunteered his free services to renovation work. It was under his guidance that re-metalling of axle box brass bearings was possible at New Guwahati. This is an activity normally undertaken at the workshops. However, under the inspiring contribution of Sri Das the work was undertaken and successfully completed at New Guwahati.