Steam in IndiaOn this page
- General Information
- Steam Excursions & Specials
- Broad Gauge
- Metre Gauge
- Narrow Gauge
- Oldest Steam Locos
Be sure to check out the Indian Steam Pages for detailed information on steam in India!
Q. Are steam locos being manufactured in India? When were the last steam locos built in India?
In serial production, no. Though there are a few being manufactured for various hill railways by the Golden Rock Workshops.
The last BG steam loco built by CLW was a WG class loco named Antim Sitara (“The Last Star”), #10560, built in June 1970. Mysteriously, this loco’s final disposition was not known for a number of years; SER recorded it as “untraceable”. But it was located at the Adra shed towards the end of 1993 and brought back to CLW. It is now plinthed there, along with the first WG manufactured, #8407 “Deshbandhu” (The Nation’s Friend). The last WP was built in 1967.
On the metre gauge, YG locos were built until 1972, the last one being #3573. The last YP loco was #2870 built by Telco in 1970. Since 2011, Golden Rock Workshops have built a number of oil-fired X class locos for the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. In August 2021, the Workshops delivered a new coal-fired unit, #37400.
On NG, Golden Rock Workshops built new oil-fired steam locos based on the DHR’s B class, but before this modern effort the last NG steam loco built in India was the ZB class #122 built in 1959.
Q. What is the state of steam in India today? And its recent history…
Unfortunately for fans who love steam, IR decided to eliminate steam sometime in the early 1990s. Regularly timetabled steam hauled trains were finally stopped in 1997. Around 1990, there were still over 2,300 steam locos in service on IR (1027 BG, 1398 MG, 99 NG). Drastic reductions in numbers started in the early 1990s. There were 1,725 steam locos in use on IR by 1992-93. The numbers in succeeding years were 911 in 1993-94, 358 in 1994-95 to 209 in 1995-96. By April 1997, there were only 75 steam locos left in regular service: 3 on CR, 15 on NEFR, 8 on SR, and 49 on WR. Hardly any were preserved or plinthed; most were torn down for the metal plates.
IR still retains some steam traction for select tourist attractions, such as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, the Kalka-Shimla Railway etc. Many of IR’s hill railways have been given ‘World Heritage’ status by UNESCO, which has spurred the Indian Government into supporting the maintenance of steam on these lines. New oil-fired locomotives have been developed by Golden Rock workshops since about 2004 for the DHR and NMR. In August 2021, the workshops commisioned a newly built coal-fired X class (#37400). An additional coal-fired locomotive is due for manufacture in 2023.
The 150-year celebrations of IR in 2002 gave a big fillip to the steam heritage activities in India. Special runs with steam locos were staged at many places around the country, and the renewed interest resulted in some of these runs becoming regular or semi-regular features in some places. Older locomotives were also being taken out of mothballs and overhauled in some cases.
Apart from the steam sheds for the Nilgiri and Darjeeling railways (Coonoor, Tindharia), there were no other functioning steam sheds in the country until 2002. Following a decision in 2000 to set up a steam shed for the maintenance of steam locos usable for tourist trains, special excursions, and heritage activities, the Rewari steam shed was re-opened in August 2002 with about ten or so BG and MG steam locomotives.
Unfortunately, the shed did not get off to a good start, and coupled with IR’s 150-year celebrations which resulted in many heritage steam runs around the country, the Rewari shed was left with only a few locos, many of them inoperative. In November 2003, there was renewed focus on getting the shed more active. Progress has been slow and steady and now (12/2021), there are 15 working locomotives (see below). These are steamed regularly.
Finally, it must also be mentioned that many steam fans have been working on heritage preservation in India, including those affiliated with the Indian Steam Railway Society. Over the years, their efforts have resulted in the IR authorities agreeing to preserve or renovate a few more steam locos that would otherwise have been lost.
Q. Is the Rewari steam shed active and what locomotives does it hold? What is it's history?
The Rewari shed was started in 1893 by the BB&CI Railway to home locomotives working in the northern Rajasthan and southern Punjab areas. With the elimination of regular steam hauled operations in 1993, the shed was closed and all locomotives sold for scrap, except for a pair of YGs (3415 and 3428).
In 2001, when IR started its heritage initiatives in earnest, Rewari was identified as the place to home all surviving and restored steam locomotives. In early 2002, with BG lines now connecting Rewari to the rest of IR's larger network, many locomotives were moved here for maintenance and eventual restoration. The first of which was WP 7161 ('Akbar'). The shed was formally re-opened on August 14 2002.
As noted above, the shed got off to a rocky start with many of its locomotives inoperative or in poor condition. However, starting in late 2003, it received renewed attention and budgetary support and as a result has been steadily expanding its holding capacity. New maintenance bays and lines have been constructed, the shed grounds have been spruced up with a cafe, a garden and a small museum. The shed also has a couple of simulators dedicated to the maintenance of steam locomotives.
As of December 2021, the shed holds 15 BG and MG locomotives. Other attractions include a steam roadroller made in 1926 by John Fowler & Co, saloon car used for the Royal Durbar in 1921 and a lounge car made in 1963 by ICF for use on Northern Railway. A list of the locomotives currently at the shed is given below.
|Gauge||Class||Number||Year of Manufacture|
|BG||G||EIR-22 ('Fairy Queen')||1855|
|BG||WL||15005 ('Shere Punjab')||1955|
|MG||Riga Sugar Works||1644||1930|
Steam Excursions & Specials
In the early and mid 2000s, there were many more steam excursions than today (12/2021). One of the main reasons is a steady increase in mainline traffic that makes it difficult to find operating slots for these excursions. Another is that almost all MG lines have been converted to BG, and MG loco hauled excursions formed a major chunk.
At present (12/2021), the are only two scheduled steam specials: A three coach train is hauled by Fairy Queen (EIR-22) from Delhi Cantonment to Alwar one way, while the return is by a diesel. These specials typically run from November to March on the weekends. IRCTC’s website usually has the most up to date schedule. The other regular service is on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, where “Joy Rides” between Darjeeling and Ghum take place. There are several of these most of the year, with some services suspended during the monsoons and lean tourist seasons.
On the Kalka-Simla Railway, chartered specials are run using the restored KC 520. There are occasionally scheduled runs using this locomotive during certain holidays, but these are announced on short notice. Contacting the PR office of Ambala Division will yield the best results.
Chartered specials on the DHR are also run, using first class coaches and a dining car. NFR’s PRO will have the more accurate information on these.
Following is a short list of specials and excursions that were run in the past:
- Royal Orient - Steam till Rewari Jn. October to March, every Wednesday.
- Brahmaputra by Steam - Guwahati, Assam. Steam special for group charter.
- Jatinga Steam Safari - Lumding Halflong Hill section, Assam. Steam special for group charter.
- Howrah - Tribeni HGS hauled steam special.
- Ledo - Lekhapani.
- Udaipur - Chittorgarh steam specials.
- Weekend special run around Kolkata using WP/P 7200 by ER.
For the 150th anniversary celebrations of IR in 2002, many steam specials and heritage runs were organized, some on April 16, 2002 and others later in the year and continuing into 2003. These included:
- Special runs of the Fairy Queen between the National Rail Museum, Delhi Cantt., and Garhi Harsuru (NR).
- An MG train from Madras Beach to Tambaram (SR).
- A special run by a YP locomotive (#2204) near Secunderabad (SCR).
- Special BG runs with WP locos (#7161 and #7105 from the NRM) at Mumbai to retrace the route of the first Indian passenger train to Thane (CR).
- A steaming of ‘Rukmini’, an NG loco from the Murtazapur-Yawatmal-Achalpur line, by Bhusawal division.
- Some live steam action on the Delhi ring railway in October 2003.
Regularly timetabled steam services were completely stopped in late 1995, although a few sporadic runs were seen in 1996 and 1997, especially around the Sahibganj area on ER. One of the last officially steam hauled broad gauge trains (hauled by a WL engine #15005, “Sher-e-Punjab”) ran between Ferozepore and Jalandhar on 6th Dec, 1995. That engine was preserved at the National Rail Museum, Delhi for a number of years before being restored and homed at the Rewari shed.
CR, SR (except the Nilgiri Mountain Railway), and SCR were the earliest to eliminate steam (by 1990 or 1991). WR eliminated steam in 1992. NR, SER, ER and NFR were among the last to end steam hauled services.
Below is a rough timeline of BG steam runs and restoration activities that led to the formal opening of the Rewari shed in 2003.
[09/1999] A BG steam loco dating to 1922 (HGS 26761) hauled the “Millennium Express” between Howrah and Tribeni. Following this the run has been made a semi-regular excursion. This locomotive has since been preserved at the Regional Rail Museum in Howrah.
[11/1999] Two WP’s (nos. 7105, 7161) which used to be at Charbagh were refurbished and travelled under their own power from Saharanpur to the National Rail Museum in New Delhi. They have been provided with air-braking capability, and use an auxiliary power car for the compressor, etc.
[02/2000] In late 1999, WP 7161 (ex- New Jalpaiguri, ex-Moradabad) travelled back to Saharanpur and thence was hauled to BAMY (Bandra diesel shed) where it was cleaned and spruced up. It was steamed and run live on Feb. 15 for the filming of a motion picture. It has since returned to the NRM, although with some damage to the smokebox and other parts during the filming. In 2002 this loco along with WP 7015 (see below) took part in many special runs around Mumbai to celebrate IR’s 150th year.
[03/2002] WL No. 15005 was undergoing restoration at the Amritsar workshops, for use in steam specials by NR.
[03/2002] It has also been proposed that AWE No. 22907 and XE No. 3634 be restored at the NRM and used for steam specials by NR.
[03/2003] WP 7015 was steamed on Feb. 12, 2000, at the NRM and hauled a special tourist coach around New Delhi on Feb. 13. Later, in 2002, it participated in several steam specials along with WP 7161 (above), around Mumbai and at other places.
[11/2003] AWE No. 22007 is being restored at Amritsar.
The Rewari steam shed became operational around this time and started housing many of the locomotives mentioned above, fully restored and operational.
In Sep. 2003, NWR held an interesting steam run with two steam trains on parallel tracks for 55km between Phulera and Jaipur; one was hauled by a broad-gauge WP class loco, and the other by a meter-gauge YG class loco. Loco numbers not known.
[11/2006] An N-class Garratt (Beyer Peacock) of the Bengal Nagpur Railway (#38811) was restored by the Kharagpur workshops and run between Shalimar and Mecheda on Nov. 17, 2006. This class was the largest Garratt to operate in India.
[12/2006] On Dec. 6, 2006, WP 7161 hauled a train from Gaya to Gujhundi and back to commemorate the centenary of the opening of the Grand Chord route between Calcutta and Delhi, which shortened the travel distance between these two cities tremendously.
[02/2009] A third WP (actually a WP/P, one of the original Baldwin prototypes), No. 7200 ‘Shahanshah’, which was at the NRM was sent to the Charbagh workshops for restoration. It has run several steam specials, including one between Royapuram and Tambaram on January 26th, 2009, to commemorate the 153rd anniversary of Royapuram station, the oldest railway station in the country. Prior to this run, it was worked on at the Perambur Loco Works.
In addition to various locos preserved at the NRM and other regional museums, there are a few more BG steam locos plinthed at various locations. WP #7851 is at the DRM’s office in Sonepur in ECR; WP #7411 is preserved the Barddhaman Loco Shed; WG #9673 is at the Rajendra Nagar Terminal in Patna; WG #8258 is at Sahibganj. A full list of IR’s preserved steam locomotives can be found here.
The only timetabled steam services now are on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway.
In Assam, east of Guwahati, most MG steam shut down by March 1997. Services to Alipurduar, Gitaldah, etc. were mostly dieselized in the mid-1990s. In Bihar, lines from Saharsa to Forbesganj and Mansi were running with steam until August 1998.
In Rajasthan, Gujarat & Madhya Pradesh, there were steam services between Chittorgarh, Rajkot, Ahmedabad and Mhow that lasted a long time. Train 9643/9644 from Ahmedabad to Udaipur was a passenger express that was still steam-hauled until August 1998. Chittorgarh - Ratlam steam passenger service stopped in January 1998. Day passengers #85, #86 were also steam-hauled.
Steam was officially supposed to shut down in April 1998, but did in fact continue for some time as dieselization plans were not being implemented apace. There were 12 steam locos at the Mhow shed in mid-1998 (4 working) and trains #89, #90 (Ratlam-Mhow) were steam-hauled until the end of 1998, and also reportedly occasionally in early 1999. A steam banker also used to run from Kalakund to Patalpani. However, as of March 1999, the Mhow shed had stopped working steam.
As of July 1999, four passenger services and 2 salt trains to Vavania were still plying, but were to close on August 15, 1999. Following that, the salt traffic on the route shifted to road transport. The Dahinsara - Navlakhi steam service shut down in 1998. The Dahinsara - Maliya Miyana shut down on Aug. 15, 1999.
Wankaner was another steam holdout for a long time. It had no diesel servicing facilities for a long time. Wankaner had 3 YG’s (3360, 3334, 3318) and 1 YP (#2233) running a few passenger services and one goods service to Navlakhi, Morbi, etc. Two more locos (YP 2825, YG 3434) were also reported to be in good working condition in May 1999, but eleven others were being cannibalized to keep those working. The working locos had temporary extensions to their boiler certificates for 1999. As of January 2000, two YG locos were thought to be in good working order at Wankaner, and were being used for odd jobs. They had been purchased by private parties in the USA, and were packed and sent off to their new owners shortly thereafter.
In 2005, some IRFCA members on a trip noticed that Wankaner’s steam shed was still standing; it had YP 2825 (with tender), YP 2150 (no tender), and YG 4129 (no tender), with all three in very poor condition with advanced corrosion and parts missing. Two other locos, YP 2183 and YP 2211 (both with tenders) outside the shed were reported to be in better condition, although it is wasn't clear that they can be steamed. (Also here were tenders of YP 2150 and YG 3618.)
Since then, YP 2825 has been plinthed at Ambala Cantt. station; YP 2150 at Jamnagar; YG 4129 is at the Etawah Safari Park; YP 2211 at Bhuj. YP 2183 and YG 3618 were later scrapped.
Towards the end of 1998, Jetalsar had 6 YP’s running, but by March 1999, this shed stopped working steam.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (Ooty) steam locos are still running, and the Coonoor steam shed is naturally still active. There were some plans to have these locos be phased out by 2000, but replacements for the X class locos were not easy to find. In 2004, an effort to convert two of these to oil burning were carried out at the Golden Rock Workshops. These were deemed a success, with the workshops manufacturing four new ones between 2011 and 2014. In May 2020, a new coal fired locomotive was said to be under manufacture. This locomotive, #37400 was commissioned for service in August 2021. One more X class, this time using HSD as fuel is also being manufactured. Eventually, the four oil burning locos are slated to be converted to HSD to meet emission control norms (furnace oil used in the locos has high Sulphur content).
In early 2001, MAWD 1798 was steamed in preparation for its proposed regular use in hauling tourist trains in the northeast. It had last run in regular passenger service in 1993 and had since been lying condemned at New Guwahati loco shed. The loco was built by Baldwin in 1948. Until November 2003, the loco ran several times between Guwahati and Pandu, hauling a train named Brahmaputra by Steam. It is now plinthed at the New Jalpaiguri station.
YG 4367 was renovated and steamed, and ran between Badarpur and Panchgram (Lumding-Badarpur section of NFR). This loco, made in 1967 by TELCO, had seen its last run in the Karimganj-Mahishasan section of Lumding division (NFR), and had been condemned in 1997. It was restored in 2001 and hauled the train for the Jatinga Steam Safari (Lower Halflong - Maibong). It is now plinthed at Lumding Jn.
YP #2204 which was used for the IR heritage steam runs around Secunderabad in April 2002 was at the Maula Ali shed for a long time. It used to be Guntakal earlier. It was hoped that the loco will be restored to full working condition, but these plans were scrapped. The loco is now plinthed outside the DRM’s offfice in Palghat.
An attempt to revive a ‘GX’ #32086 Garratt was made by NFR along with participation from the ISRS, but it did not succeed. The loco is now at the New Tinsukia Heritage Park. Another project where the ISRS was involved was the revival of WD 1801, also on the NFR. This was also abandoned, with the loco being scrapped.
Indian State Railways No. 421, a 0-4-0 saddle tank built by Black Hawthorne in 1873, was revived by the Ajmer workshop and steamed in May 2002. This was used for an irrigation project from 1873, and shunted at Ajmer Works for many years before being plinthed there.
Apart from the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, no timetabled NG steam services run now. Several “Joy Ride” specials from Darjeeling to Ghum run most of the year (expect during monsoons and lean season).
On the Kalka Shimla Railway, charters and some holiday specials are run using KC 520 of 1905 vintage. This loco was plinthed at Ambala Cantt. for a number of years and was revived in 2001.
The Kangra Valley Railway between Pathankot and Joginder Nagar sees occasional steam runs using ZB 66. This loco was restored by the Amritsar Workshops between 2002 and 2003 and sent to Pathankot.
The Pulgaon-Arvi section (762mm gauge), although not owned by IR, was operated by CR using ZP Pacifics until 1998. The 97km Bankura-Rainagar section in West Bengal, another non-IR railway on the 762mm gauge, had CC class Pacifics dating back to 1906 working until 1998.
There were a number of plans restore and run NG specials in the middle and late 2000s, but many were abandoned, with locos being touched up cosmetically and plinthed at various locations. A partial list is below:
- [12/2004] ZB No. 73 has been gifted to the Patna botanical gardens. This loco is thought to be steamable since it was overhauled as recently as in 1991 at Pratapnagar. There are no recent records of this locomotive.
- [03/2002] SER is planning some steam runs with a class Bagnall 0-6-4 tank 2’6” gauge loco in the Nagpur division. The loco was earlier used in the Bankura-Rainagar section. These plans didn’t come to fruition because the entire area began to be converted to BG.
- The Kalka shed is expected to work on renovating some other NG steam locos, including a ZF (No. 107), which may eventually make it to regular service on the Kalka-Shimla line. There are no records of this loco in IR’s various databases.
Other old locomotives like ‘Ramgotty’ and ‘Fireless’ were also under consideration for renovation and being brought back to working condition, although their age and neglect over many decades made this difficult and the effort was abandoned.
Oldest Steam Locos
The Fairy Queen, a 2-2-2WT BG loco, is one of the oldest working steam locomotives in the world, dating from 1855. It was built by Kitson & Co. in January 1855 and supplied to the East India Railway Company, and began working in August 1855 as EIR #22. It was withdrawn from service in 1909 and preserved, and later moved to the National Rail Museum at New Delhi, where it was “revived” in 1996, and in 1997 it began regularly hauling a tourist train between Delhi and Alwar.
A sister loco, the Express, was also built at the same time (it became EIR #21) and withdrawn in 1909 to be preserved at the Gymkhana, Jamalpur Loco Works. Its firebox was damaged, hence it was not considered a candidate for restoring, unlike the Fairy Queen. Both Express and Fairy Queen are recorded as having hauled trains of troops from Howrah to Raneegunge to quash the uprisings during the 1857 mutiny.
The Fairy Queen is believed to be the oldest steam loco in the world that is in regular revenue-earning service now. There are a couple of locos that are even older that have been restored to working order, but they have been steamed only for special occasions (The Lion (1838) in the UK, steamed in 1930 and restored in the 1950’s and steamed a few times since then; and John Bull at the Smithsonian in the USA, also of the 1830’s, restored a couple of times over the years and steamed a few times in recent years).
In July 2004, when the Fairy Queen was parked at the National Railway Museum vandals stole two brass handles and four copper pipes from it.
The Fairy Queen did have some modernizations put in, especially when it was pressed into service for the tourist train. In particular, it was modified by placing a small air compressor at the side and an air tank over the couplers behind the engine, to provide air brake capability. The compressor was powered by a diesel generator set in the pantry car of the tourist train rake.
The locomotive Tweed, a 0-4-0 ‘D’ class loco that belonged to the Tirhoot State Railway and then the Oudh & Tirhut Railway, later found its way to the Saraiya Sugar Works in Sardarnagar, Gorakhpur. Although built in 1873 (by Sharp Stewart), it was reported to be in active duty at the sugar mill until the late 1980s. A plan was floated for IR to acquire the loco and renovate it, but nothing came of it. The loco is believed to have been scrapped when the Sugar Works declared bankruptcy and its assets disposed. A sister loco, Mersey was also reportedly working well into the 1980s here. Its status is currently unknown.
The last of the “F” or “FM/A” class 0-6-0 steam locos, built in 1887 (No. 253, built by Neilsen (Glasgow), works number 3701) was still at work, as of Jan. 2000, at the Lohat site of the Bihar State Sugar Corporation. It was earlier with the Mysore State Rly. and the Madras and Southern Mahratta Rlys. and sold in 1930 to Comens & sons. The loco is now plinthed outisde Darbhanga Jn.
Q. Are there any Indian steam locomotives outside the country?
The preserved loco’s page has details of three Indian locomotives (DHR 19B, MLR 740, and a Baguley 0-4-0T) transferred to other countries and repaired/preserved.
Q. What were the longest steam runs in India?
Probably the longest runs on broad gauge were by the GSM class 4-6-0’s of the Bengal Nagpur Railway, which hauled trains between Calcutta and Nagpur (1130km, 700miles). These locos were built around 1938, and could generate 1544 indicated hp at 100km/h (64mph). Runs of up to 700km were not unusual, e.g., WP’s and XC’s hauled trains between Gangapur and Vadodara (crew change at Ratlam), Gangapur and Delhi.
On MG, runs of around 600km were not unusual. The Ajanta Exp. was hauled by the same loco (a superheated P or YB) between Kacheguda and Manmad, a distance of 630km. (The loco was coaled at Purna, which in later years became a loco change point as well.) Hubli YCs hauled trains between Pune and Hubli (560km) and between Hubli and Bangalore City (469km). On occasion, though, the same YC would haul a train between Pune and Bangalore, for a 1029km-long run, which was probably the longest MG run.
Q. What were the highest speeds of steam locos in India?
The WP locos were rated for 100km/h and were actually capable of more. The first prototypes (WP/P) were used in trials at higher speeds, with the unofficial record being 118.4km/h (recorded by a dynamometer for a WP on trial). On MG, the YP locomotives often hit 75km/h.
Q. Were oil-fired steam locomotives common in India?
Oil firing was never very popular in India, mainly because of the abundant supply of cheap coal. It was more expedient to work around the problems of the coal quality (high ash content, etc.) or to design locos suitable for Indian coal, than to use oil as the fuel. Nevertheless, there were some oil-fired steam locomotives in use in some places, notably on the South Indian Railway where during World War 2 several locomotives homed at Erode were converted to oil firing. Later, in 1965, there were trials with WP locos converted to oil-firing but the results were disappointing. Of course, in modern times we have the examples of the new oil-fired locos built by Golden Rock Workshops for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the Nilgiri Mountain Railway.
After the Partition of British India in 1947, the newly created nation of Pakistan was left without a good and reliable supply of coal, as almost all the coal fields supplying Indian railways were in what became independent India. Therefore, in Pakistan after 1947 there was a great deal of emphasis on converting locomotives to oil-firing, and oil-fired locos were very common there.