The Parlakimedi Light Railway and its Locomotives

by Vikas Singh

Vikas Singh is a keen narrow gauge enthusiast, who has traveled the entire narrow gauge network in India. His rail philatelic collection is one of the best in the country and has been reviewed by most leading dailies and channels in India. The collection features in some of the best rail philatelic websites. You can see samples of his collections of railway-related stamps, first-day covers, and coins and cards, as well as read his write-up on the philatelic celebration of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway's 125th anniversary on the IRFCA server.

This article originally appeared in the Indian Railways magazine's July 2007 issue and appears here by kind permission of the author, Vikas Singh.

Parlakimedi Light Railway (PLR) was a two-foot six-inch gauge railway. It was the brainchild of the erstwhile Raja of Parlakimedi. The Kimedi country, consisting of Parlakimedi (also spelled Parlakhemedi, Parlakhimedi), Paddakimedi, and Chinna Kimedi, was under a single ruler until 1607. Parlakimedi came under the British influence in 1768.

The East Coast Railway came into existence in the year 1893 with the construction of the Cuttack - Khurda Road - Puri line covering a distance of 96km and its subsequent link up along the East Coast up to Vijayawada - the junction point of Southern Maratha Railway and Nizam's Guaranteed State Railway. As a result, a total stretch of 1280km of East Coast Railway covering the entire coastal stretch of Cuttack - Khurda Road - Puri - Palasa - Vizianagaram - Visakhapatnam - Kakinada - Rajahmundry - Vijayawada was opened for traffic between 1893 to 1896. The East Coast Railway brought a rail line to Naupada in 1894. The Raja of Parlakimedi decided to connect his capital with Naupada which was only 40km away. With the government giving its sanction in 1898, work began in full earnest. The line was opened to traffic in 1900. This railway line was built at a cost of Rs 700,000.

There were three classes - Upper, Lower, and Lowest. Most of the early coaches and wagons were supplied by Arthur Koppel Company of Calcutta, who assembled them from the kits supplied by Orenstein-Koppel of Germany. The initial livery was standard maroon. Some time in the 1980s due to the ingenuity of some IR staff person, it was changed to the two-tone blue livery normally reserved for broad-gauge air-braked stock. PLR coaches had thus the unique distinction of being the only narrow gauge coaches to share livery with broad gauge stock on IR.

Due to a change in the policy of the British Government, the Bengal Nagpur Railway, popularly known as the BNR, took over the northern section of East Coast Railway from Vizianagaram to Cuttack including the Branch Line of Puri by 23-01-1902. Accordingly, the working of the PLR was taken over by the Bengal-Nagpur Railway in 1902. In the first few years, the PLR had incurred losses but after 1910, it started making marginal profits and after 1924-25, the profits increased. This motivated the Raja to extend the line to Gunupur in two phases in 1929 and 1931. There were now a total of ten stations between Naupada and Gunupur: Tekkali, Paddasan, Temburu, Ganguvada, Patapatnam, Parlakimedi, Kashinagar, Lihuri, Bansidhara, and Palasingi.

The management of BNR was taken over by the Government of India in October 1944. On 14-04-1952, at the time of the re-grouping of the Indian Railways it became part of the Eastern Railway. The merger of BNR into Eastern Railway, however, did not last long and on 01-08-1955 it was merged with newly constituted South Eastern Railway. During the SER centenary celebrations in 1987, a set of four postage stamps were released. One of the stamps featured the PL 691 locomotive.

The standard type of locomotive on PLR was the 20-ton 0-6-4 tank locomotive with small (27-inch diameter) coupled wheels and an axle load of only 4.75 tons. The Parlakimedi engines were designated the 'PL' class. The first locomotives to work on these lines were 0-6-4T locos built by Brush Electrical Engineering Company, Loughborough. In 1928 three 0-6-4 T locos (All India numbers 695, 696, 697) were delivered by Kerr, Stuart and Co., Trent. One 0-6-4T loco (All India number 698) was delivered by the Hunslet Engineering Co. in 1931. Later, with diesel taking over the Mayurbhanj Light Railways, four 0-6-0 T (All India numbers 691, 692, 693, 694) Kerr Stuart built locos were transferred to PLR. In 1987 four 'ML' and four 'PL' locomotives were homed at Naupada shed. Diesel took over from steam on 23rd April, 1992. The locos were ZDM-5 (All India numbers 523, 532) transferred from the Satpura lines. In early 2003 there were two services each in either direction. The first service from Naupada (1 NG) started at 0530 reaching Gunupur at 0915. The first service from Gunupur (2 NG) started at 0930 reaching Naupada at 1315. The second service from Naupada (3 NG) started at 1345 reaching Gunupur at 1730. The second service from Gunupur (4 NG) started at 1745 reaching Naupada at 2130. In view of the continuous loss that this railway was making, railways decided to introduce a rail bus service in this section. The buses reached Naupada but were never used as by then the government had decided in favour of gauge conversion.

Bowing to public demand, surveys were undertaken for broad gauge conversion in 1950 and again in 1964 and 1967. The foundation stone was finally laid for the Naupada-Gunupur gauge conversion work at Naupada on 27th September, 2002. With effect from 1st April, 2003 PLR became a part of the newly formed East Coast Railway. The line was finally closed for gauge conversion on 9th June, 2004.

Five of the locomotives from this railway have been preserved.

  • PL 691 has been plinthed outside Southern railway headquarters, Chennai.
  • PL 692 has been plinthed outside BNR hotel, Puri.
  • PL 693 has been plinthed on the Ramakrishna beach, Vishakhapatnam. It was plinthed there during Visakha Utsav in 1998.
  • PL 694 has been plinthed outside the Vishakhapatnam station.
  • PL 697 has been plinthed outside DRM office, Vishakhapatnam. The locomotive has been plinthed as part of the centenary celebrations of BNR in 1988.