Pushpak for speed -- The new WDP-2 passenger diesel locomotive

by Joydeep Dutta and Harsh Vardhan

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.

Diesel locomotives, especially the indomitable workhorse WDM-2 class of diesel-electric locomotive have been the main player in the Indian Railways motive power scenario for over 30 years. After the out shopping of WDM-2 #18233 by the then Prime Minister Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri on 3rd January 1964, the Diesel Locomotive Works at Varanasi (DLW) has continued to build diesel-electric locomotives of the same design which have been extensively used for mixed traffic across the length and breadth of the country. DLW also side by side continued to carry out numerous changes to the original model of WDM2 designed by Alco, USA where this design was designated as DL56OC.

The demand for heavier freight and longer passenger trains has been increasing steadily over the years therefore the DLW decided to develop higher horsepower locomotives and also design specific models for passenger and freight traffic. Research was carried out at the railways research wing at Lucknow where a fuel-efficient diesel engine of 3100hp was developed which was jump over the 2600hp, 251-C Vee type diesel engines fitted to the WDM-2 locomotives. The higher horsepower locomotives were designated as WDM-2C and the class was known by a generic name Gajraj (Elephant King). This was done way back in 1994.

In the same year a 2300hp light intercity traffic locomotive was developed and was christened WDP-1 and the class was called Chetak. This was the first dedicated passenger diesel model in the country. Many of these WDP-1s are based at the Tughlakabad diesel shed in southeast Delhi.

The year 1994 also saw the unveiling of the WDG-2 type 3100 HP diesel-electrics locomotive specially tailored for hauling heavy freight trains single-handedly. The locomotives of this class were named Shakti.

Further research at RDSO, Lucknow led to the development of the WDP-2 class of diesel-electric passenger locomotives. This was the first type of locomotives where in the DLW turned away from its traditional hood design. The WDP-2 locomotives are dual cab covered locomotives with high-adhesion Co-Co wheel trucks and are capable of running up to a maximum speed of 160 kmph. The first batch of 5 locomotives built during 1998-99 went to the Golden Rock diesel shed at Trichy on the Southern Railway. The next batch of WDP-2s was allocated to the Tughlakabad shed starting with the locomotive No. 15506. A successful trial of the WDP-2 was carried out in the Delhi-Agra section and speeds up to 160km/h were achieved. The locomotive which took part in the trial was WDP-2 15503 from the Golden Rock shed near Trichy.

Sri S M Sharma (DME TKD), with Harsh Vardhan and Joydeep Dutta, both founder members of the 'Friends of the National Rail Museum' (a chapter of the 'Indian Steam Railway Society'), it was concluded that the WDP-2 class locomotives do deserve a class name and later on Harsh and Joydeep suggested the name Pushpak for the class WDP-2. The name Pushpak derives from the mythological Pushpak Ratha', which was celebrated for its speed and comfort. The authorities at the Tughlakabad shed have decided to name the class as Pushpak and now all the WDP-2s at the shed has the name Pushpak painted above the twin sealed beam headlight. These blue and white livened WDP-2s locos are now in charge of some prestigious assignments including the Lucknow Mail, Shan-e-Punjab Express, Swaraj Express and Pooja Express all of which now have a 24 coach rake formation. The sight of a WDP-2 at speed with a long chain of coaches behind it is a visual treat for any railway enthusiast.