India Trip Report

by John Lacey


Part 1: Overview

As a number of members have expressed interest in my earlier travels, here is a list of the trains I caught on a visit to India in 1983-84. I was gratified, and indeed surprised by the enthusiastic response to my earlier mail, especially from the younger members, some of whom wrote that they were interested as they had never seen steam on the BG, so here goes:

Note that train numbers then were two or three digits, and # precedes train number.

I have taken spellings from the timetables of the time, but I apologise for typing errors.

Date From-To Loco Train
1983-12-17/18 Fly Sydney-Bombay-Goa
1983-12-18 Vasco da gama-Marmagao return YD #30245 #VM2/300
1983-12-19 Vasco da gama-DudhSagar YD #30162 with YD #30158 banking #296
Dudh Sagar-Vasco YD #30154 #299
1983-12-21 Vasco-Londa YD #30159 with YD 30160 banking #296
Londa-Bangalore YDM-4 #203
1983-12-22 Bangalore-Madras WDM-2 #24 Madras Exp.
Madras-Mettupalayam WDM-2 #5 Nilagiri exp
1983-12-23 Mettupalayam-Coonoor X #37392 #564.
Coonor-Ooty X #37384 #564.
Bus to Mysore
1983-12-28 Mysore-Krishnarajasagara YG #4349 #962
Krishnarajasagara-Mysore YG #4253 #967
1983-12-29 Shrirangapattana-Mysore YDM-4 #6349
1983-12-30 Shrirangapattana-Mysore YDM-4 #6349
1983-12-31 Mysore-Bangalore YDM-4 #6309 #211
Bangalore-Hyderabad WDM-2 #17136 replaced en route by WDM-2 #18209 #86
1984-01-01 Kacheguda-Secunderabad and return YP #2024
1984-01-02 Malakpet-Secunderabad YP #2867
Secunderabad-Bolarum YDM-4
Bolaraum-Secunderabad YP #2023
Secunderabad-Cavalry Barracks YDM-4 #6158
Cavalry Barracks-Secunderabad YP #2024
1984-01-03 Secunderabad- Bolarum YP #2115
Bolarum-Safilguda Yp #2115
Safilguda-Cavalry Barracks YDM-4 #6214
C.B-Secunderabad YP #2115

All of the above to photograph steam hauled suburban trains

Date From-To Loco Train
1984-01-04 Secunderabad-Hyderabad WG #9687
Secunderabad-Gudivada Jn WDM2 #56
1984-01-05 Gudivada-Machilipatnam WP #7438 #RC 15
Machilpatnam-Vijayawada WP #7006 #RC 18
Vijayawada-Waltair WP #7537 replaced enroute by WP 7462 #80 Tirupati-Puri Exp
1984-01-06 Waltair-Raurkela WDM-2 replaced by electric-train running 6 hours late #90 Madras-Bokaro Exp
1984-01-07 Raurkela-Hatia WG #9265 all in daylight #90 Exp
Hatia-Ranchi WG #8692 #90 Exp
1984-01-10 Ranchi-Kharaghpur WG #8373 replaced en route by WG #8287 #464 Hatia-Howrah Fast Pass
1984-01-11 Kharagpur-Bhubaneswar WDM-2 #18608 #176 Neelachal Exp
1984-01-13 Bhubaneswar-Khurda Rd WDM-2 #7 Puri Exp
Khurda rd-Chilka WP #7328 #79 Puri-Tirupati Exp
1984-01-15 Balugan-Waltair WP #7375 #79 Exp
1984-01-16 Waltair-Raipur WP #7345 #18 Link Exp
1984-01-17 Raipur-Abhanpur CC #669 #1RD
Ahbanpur-Rajim CC #668 #1RA
1984-01-18 Raipur-Raipur City CC #669 #2RR
Raipur-Durg WAM-4 #21209 #134 Howrah-Ahmadabad Exp
Durg-Nagpur WP #7316 #134
Nagpur-Bhusavel WP #7304 #134
1984-01-19 Bhusavel-Surat WP #7461 #134
Surat-Baroda Electric #134
1984-01-20 Baroda-Ahmadabad Electric #9 Gujarat Queen
Ahem-Moriaya YB #30024 #292
Moriaya-Ahem YB #30025 #291
1984-01-22 Ahem-Jodhpur YDM-4 #65A FP via Bhildi through cars
1984-01-23 Jodhpur-Marwar YP #2788 #209
1984-01-24 Marwar-Udaipur YG; YG+YG banker on ghat YP #2768 to Udaipur #219
1984-01-25 Fly Udaipur-Bombay-Sydney

Part 2

Having received some requests to elaborate on the outline of my 1983 trip to India, here is an attempt to delve into memory. I did not keep a diary on that trip-a big mistake, and maybe a lesson for others-and I can only find one one of the notebokks in which I jotted down times and such-and this only begins in Raipur.

So with those caveats, here is an exercise in recall of that trip 17 years ago.

It had been a long flight with Air India from Sydney to Bombay via Perth and Singapore, with a few hours sleep in Bombay before a late morning flight to Goa. Here most of the passengers headed to resorts by car or mini bus, but I took an auto the short distance to Vasco da gama, staying at a hotel near the station. So it wasn't too long before I was down at the station, for my first train ride of this visit, behind a tender first YD to Marmagao. I was keeping an eye-out hoping to sight a Port Trust Loco, but there were none to be seen. A quick visit to the booking office to buy a ticket back, and then a gloomy photo of the YD leading its train. The short run back to Vasco, and then a quick walk up the line to get a departure shot of this train, which was due out at 17.35, just on sunset at this time of the year.

The next day was my " big day" in Goa, and the reason for my trip, with the following day available " in reserve", as I had beeen to Goa previously and had seen the opportunity to photograph at Dudh Sagar. So departure from Vasco at 07.00, just after dawn, and there was a little bit of light on the sea. A crossing with another YD on 291 at Majorda, another at Madgoan with a YDM4 on 206 Gomantak, and then YD 30158 was attached at Kolamb to bank on the climb. This was a magnificent trip in the morning sun, with the play of light and shade on the tropical vegetation, and the two YDs working hard. The ascent was faster and easier than it had been on my previous trip 2 years before; but then the load was heavier (10 or 12, compared to 8) as that date was 27 december.

I alighted at Dudh Sagar, and then ran ahead as the locos were watered to find a position where I could capture the whole train. Fortunately, I did not go too far as the curves here do prevent a photo of a whole train. The train having passed, it was time to walk down the track, and I did so, to about a kilometre or so beyond the waterfall, where I'd noticed a lineside clearing which would allow a clear view of the Falls. So now it was just time to wait.

A descending YDM4 with a brakevan came into view, and then stopped near the bridge. From a distance what looked like a school party alighted and climbed down on to the rocks and the loco and van continued. Later, there was a whstle, and a light YD passed on its way down to Kolamb: it wouild be the banker on the diesel hauled 297.

Now I felt drowsy in the heat, but it was pleasant in the shade, and I was taken by surprise to hear the ascending train somewhat sooner than i had expected. It passed and then I tried to decide on a focal length to try to optimise the view, the train and especially the falls. I fell into my usual trap here and left it too late to choose, and tried too many shots to compensate for the lack of advance thought, but what I think is the best is on my Steam Masala web site. The scene needed smoke, and this came- but just after the loco crossed the bridge .

So it was a slow walk in the heat up to Dudh Sagar. While there I heard a diesel growl, and a freight, with three YDMs (I think two were leading with the third banking ) climbed the grade. Unfortuantely, I was not in any suitable position for photography as YD 30154 was slipping into the loop with 299 the train I had to catch.

As no tickets were sold at Dudh Sagar I alighted at Kolamb to buy one, and resisted the temptation to buy a First Class ticket, preferring to spend the journey immediately behind the loco as I had done on the outward journey. But I started to regret my decsion as the night went on, and I grew weary in the cramped wooden seat; but there was the cheering prospect of a good dinner ahead. There had been an excellent Goan BBQ at the hotel two years before.

So it was a bit of a disappointment to find no food at all available at the hotel. It was after 9.30, I had not eaten all day; but I had brought some Christmas cake with me from Australia, so it was a slice of that and then bed.

The next day was a rest day (comparatively speaking). Down to the tracks to photograph a YD arrive sometime after 08.30 with 291 (but the sun was in the wrong place and too harsh for a good shot), followed by YDM4 on 206, then to the station and make some further forward bookings (done by telegram in those days) on the Indrail pass I had bought on my first day. Time for a break, a walk around the town, then back to the station and walk ahead up the hill towards Dabolim to photograph 292 depart. Surprisingly, although there was a YD at the front, there was a YG banking. I found a ground-level path to walk back along, and this was more pleasant than along the tracks as the trees provided plenty of shade on this hot afternoon.

Another rest, then back to the tracks for the 17.35 departure. I was very lucky on this day, for there was golden light from the setting sun. The problem here though was to get the light, but also there was a cuve leading away, where the light was lost. So it was always a race: would the train arrive before the light went. On this day, it did.

The next morning saw me back on 296 headed for Tamil Nadu, using my Indrail pass for the first time. The morning light was clearer, and the crossing shot at Majorda is also on Steam Masala I was surprised at Dudh Sagar on this trip, for we crossed a descending balast train, headed by YD +YG. Through the tunnels, and into Castle Rock, and it was very hazy and hot; and there seemed to be a lot of butterflies about.

From Londa I had chosen to catch the diesel hauled 208 Exp rather than the steam hauled mail south, as this would give me the opportunity to photograph 201 the steam-hauled north bound Mail. So it was another walk along the tracks. I had plenty of time, so it was just a case of walking to a suitable spot. I had gone what seemed to be 4 kms or so when a man walking the other way asked what I was doing. " Just going for a walk while waiting for a train" I said, perhaps not very convincingly. He told me that there were dangerous people about (was he one himself was the worry now) , and persuaded me to return to Londa with him. Not long after the YP came steaming along, but the light was wrong here for a good photo (now, just around that next curve where I had been already...) but a following YDM4 on a freight was better.

Back at Londa I waited for a punctual 208 Exp (I think it arrived early), and was relieved that I did have a First class berth reservation . If the train had been steam-hauled, I would have sat up for hours, but as it was diesel, there was nothing to do but go to bed early after Hubli now that it was dark.

The next morning's arrival in Bangalore was quite a shock after the previous hot days as it was cool and raining. I had intended to catch the afternnon Brindavan Express to Madras, but had been worrying about the tight connection there of 75 minutes to the Nilagiri Exp. Now, here on the first BG platform after the MG arrival platform, there was standing a train to Madras...

Part 3

Arriving in Bangalore, I was surprised to see a train for Madras almost ready to depart. After quickly establishing that it was indeed bound for Madras, and that there was room in the First Class Chair Car, I boarded and found this unexpected bonus train in the timetable. Departure was late, at 08.20, and the train was a bonus as I had been concerned about not having enough time in Madras to conect with the Nilgiri Express off the Brindavan. It was raining throughout the journey, and closer to Madras, the train was delayed by what seemed to be signal failures due to the rain, and progress was very halting.

The Brindavan did arrive late, but thanks to this earlier train I had plenty of time for the Nilagiri Express. I cannot recall any details of the journey, except that arrival next morning was not too late, as a fellow passenger had visited Sydney, (he went up by car from MTP) and we spent some congenial hours chatting. As the line had been closed by a landslide on a previous attempt to travel over the NMR , I was pleased to see X 37392 at the head of the train. I managed to get a seat in the leading compartment, and was joined by an excited family. The waterfalls and streams enroute were raging and on arrival at Coonoor, the parents made a sudden decision to alight, as they had spent their honeymoon there many years ago. So there was a flurry of activity as the new X 37384 came on.

After arriving at Ooty 90 minutes late, not bad considering the weather, which caused some starting problems at most stations, I moved to the Imperial Palace Hotel at Fernhill, which turned out to be the most eccentric hotel at which I have ever stayed (akin to the Majestic in JG Farrell's novel, Troubles). It had not long been converted to a hotel: meals easily occupied over three hours, but it was quite in order to walk down to the railway between courses, and there were many diversions. The rain made photography unpleasant in any case; and after the day of my arrival, trains ran very erratically -564 was listed as being 5 hours late on 25/12 (but only 15' late on 26/12).

The fellow passenger from the Nilagiri Exp telphoned me, and invited me to lunch at his club. So despite the rain and the lack of photography- apart from morning forays to the former Fernhill station and the tunnel- it was a pleasant stay. Especially since I had become the hero of the West wing by discovering a cache of dry towels, so grateful guests shouted me lots of drinks in the Permit Room.

Needless to say, the weather improved on the morning of my departure by bus for Mysore.

The next morning I caught an auto early out to Shrirangapattana to photograph the up and down steam passengers crossing the river here. The down train was YP while the Up train was YG, but the morning was still very overcast, so back to Mysore on a YDM4 hauled Express from Bangalore, and a pleasant lunch after a long walk around town. During this walk I saw a silver coloured vintage Car, in the style of say a 1930 Cadillac, with blinds open, and a royal registration plate, parked near my cheap hotel (I'm not very knowledgeable about cars).

The afternoon saw a tender first YP 2799 arrive at 16.35 with a long freightwith YP 2592 at the rear from the Chamarajanagar line. I had seen a photo some time back of a YP leaving a station crossing a bridge over still water giving a pleasing reflection, so I set out on 29/12 for Khishnarajasagara to emulate this by capturing 965 heading for Mysore. YG 4349 hauled 962 the morning train to Arsikere, and I alighted to soon discover that there was no bridge in the area at all, and that the grey overcast and wet morning was not conducive to photography in any case. So I caught the next available train back to Mysore, 967 hauled by YG 4253. Some time later I discovered that the bridge was at Krishnarajanagar, some 21 kms further on. Two YDM4 hauled freights were crossed on this undulating line.

The following morning saw a repeat trip to S, but the weather was no better. Train 231was a YG on both days, while 238 was YP on 28/12 and YG on 30/12. It was a glorious sunny afternoon back in Mysore-but so typical of my experience here- the only predictable steam running was in the morning (apart from 944 at 16.30-but that was tender first). However, On the 31/12, a similar freight with YP 2361 tender first arrived at 11.27: so at Mysore, YGs worked the passenger and YP worked the goods trains! On this line, 942/941 were YDM4 using the loco laying over between 210 and 221 Bangalore expresses. As well, The Bangalore Mails and Expresses were at this time formed of different coloured rakes: 205/6 and 221/2 were green while 211/12/13/14 were red.

All trains seen on the Arsikere line were YG: 962, 964,965,966,967, while the steam Chamarajanagar pass were YP with YG on the Nanjangud Town trains.

On New Year's Eve I set off for more northern parts, with Hyderabad my destination. I travelled from Mysore to Bangalore behind YDM4 6309, and changed there to WDM2 17136 hauling #86 Bangalore (dep 19.30) -Hyderabad Exp over this relatively recent BG route. My first steam sightings of 1984 were a WP near Raichur with #329 Pune-Raichur pass and a WG on #595 Wadi-Raichur Parcel/Pass.

Now it was a case of finding a hotel on New Years Day, preferably near Secunderabad Station. No luck there...

Secunderabad Report

So it was New Year's Day and I could not locate a hotel near the station at Secunderabad. So it was into an auto to find one in Hyderabad, and hence the first of these long trips along the lake-side road. I was worried about not being able to afford too many of these, but the ride was cheaper than I had feared it would be. Found a hotel, then another auto over to Kacheguda to catch YP 2024 on my first suburban ride, up to Secunderabad. As it was becoming dark, just a short visit, and then YP 2024 back to Kacheguda.

The next morning an auto ride to where my map showed a bridge near Malakpet where the sun position indicated that a reflection shot might be possible. Yes, it was the afternoon. So a ride to Secunderabad behind YP 2867 and then a YDM4 hauled train to Bolarum to check out the possibilities on the north side. Yes, there were possibilities, but the sun was too high for now, so a ride back to Secunderabad behind YP 2023, and then a part-way return to Cavalry Barracks behind YDM4 6158.

The afternoon light was good, but every north-bound suburban train was running tender first. Nonetheless I greatly enjoyed the time here as the double track line runs uphill on 1 in 133 through low cuttings with a relatively green foreground and very leafy stations.

The highlight of the afternoon was a very clean YP with a heavy (12 bogies?) #582 Ajmer Fast Pass working very hard on the grade, but my high position was chosen for the downhill trains (loco first) , and I had forgotten about this train. Another worry was that there seemed to be a number of defence personnel about (yes, stupid me didn't note the significance of the station's name). There was some sort of concert gathering/ garden party in a large open area near where I had chosen to photograph. As well as the double tracks, there was also a centre third line at places, and a YDM4 hauled goods growled uphill at 3.45 in the afternoon, banked by a black YG 3279 (there had been another earlier, at 1.20). After the goods had passed, it was time to return to Secunderabad behind YP 2024.

While I only saw 3 classes of steam locos in the area at this time, they appeared in three different liveries: on the BG -black WG; black and green WG; and on the MG- black YG (shunting and banking) blue and black YG (suburban), blue and black YP (suburban), green YP (passenger). YG were seen on 571 and 573, with YP on 581 and 582.

The next morning I thought I should check out the Hyderabad station area, and was surprised to discover that it was near my hotel! However, there was no steam action here at this time, and i made ready for another visit to the northern side, by riding behind YP 2115 to firstly Bolarum, and then back to Safilguda. Now on this day, all the northbound trains were loco first, so I decided to forgo the afternoon bridge shots near Malakpet, and stay in this attractive area. I was in a much better position for 582 on this day, close to the line to see it emerge working hard from one of the deeper cuttings. However, the driver was taking it much more easily than on the day before, and when the train emerged I saw why: it was double headed YP+YP! There was an extra bogie -a Tourist Car?-attached in the lead, and so there was an extra loco. So I would have been better off in the previous day's position, further away from the line! One can never win.

The afternoon goods also provided some excitement on this day. I walked down to Cavalry Barracks to catch a return train; the goods, again banked by YG 3279, had passed, and then the coupling between the 2nd and 3rd vehicles parted. Eventually, the YG hauled the rest of the train back into the centre refuge loop at Cavalry Barracks, but this operation was made more difficult as the YG had a whistle which would not whistle; the steam merely escaped. The suburban services were considerably delayed.

I spent part of the next morning in Secunderabad, and then rode behind WG 9687 back to Hyderabad, to see the lake from the train. While on this journey, I spotted another vintage car, this one I'm sure being the open tourer which featured in the film of "Heat and Dust."

After leaving the hotel I returned to Secunderabad to leave my luggage in the Cloak Room while I went down to the point where the north and south MG lines diverge. Here I saw 17 steam movements in 81 minutes:

Time Loco Comments
4.16 YP #2023 Departure with Bolarum sub
4.18 WG Departure with Nalgonda pass
4.19 YP #2113 Tender First(TF) Arrival from Bolarum sub
4.23 YG Departure to Kacheguda
4.24 WG #9561 Arrival ex Shed Tender First Light Engine
4.25 YP Arrival ex South passenger
4.26 YP Arrival Light Engine ex Shed
4.26 YDM-4 Arrival ex Lallaguda Gate with workers train
4.39 WDM-2 Departure Madras Express
4.47 YG #3411 Arrival Light Engine ex Shed
4.47 WG #8856+rake+WG #9128 Tender First banking Departure for Shed
4.49 YP #2716 TF Departure Bolarum sub
4.57 Green YP #2578 TF+Blue YP 2113 (so chimney to chimney) Departure Light Engine to Shed
4.58 YP #2729 Departure South sub
5.04 YP #2024 Tender First arr South sub
5.06 YG #3411 Departure Light Engine south
5.21 WDM-2 Arrival with goods
5.25 YDM-4 Departure North sub
5.27 YP #2024 Tender First dep south pass
5.30 YDM-4 Arrival from South sub
5.33 WG #8931 Departure workers train to shed
5.37 WG #8484 Departure Light Engine to shed

Many numbers are missing as I was concentrating on photographing what is probably the greatest concentration of steam activity I have ever witnessed. So after dark I returned to the station and caught # 56 Secunderabad-Narasapur Exp overnight to Gudivada, behind a WDM2...

Guvivada report

I alighted from the Naraspur Express at Gudivada on a dark and foggy morning: Gudivada had been chosen as the timetable had shown it to be a busy place, off the main line,and so likely to have steam activity. Both WP and WG were waiting here on local passenger trains, and the WP was decorated with banana branches; it made a steamy start through the fog.

Photography here was not easy as the station was large, and spread out, so there was a lot of walking to discover which line served which route. So I did some exploration, and in the course of this saw some diesel hauled goods trains. The timetable showed that Gudivada had a refreshment room, and after the departure of a WDM1 on #43 Madras-Kakinada Circars Express (the photo of this scene is at:

I went to the refreshment room, but discovered that it was only a base kitchen, preparing meals for passing trains . The town was pretty basic, and I made it a practice to never eat from station or other stalls, so it was going to be a hungry, and a long day in Gudivada (I had planned to take the Tirupati to Puri Exp that night at 21.40). I moved back to the station to inspect the (Australian-built?) Rail Car set on RC15 but it arrived late as 3 bogies hauled by a clean WP 7438 , so I made a snap decision and grabbed a standing spot in this train, as a detour. It was a pleasant run to Machilipatnam, and here WP 7006 was waiting, ready for a quick turn-around. As I was already on the train, I had a seat for the return journey, but we steamed through Gudivada non-stop, as provided for in the timetable (which I had only consulted during the journey). So my new destination was to be Vijayawada, where at least there was a ref room, and a late breakfast was enjoyed in the afternoon.

Feeling tired after all this activity-and that of the previous day in Secunderabad- I did little train watching, but simply dozed, waiting for the arrival of the combined # 51 (Madras-New Delhi )and # 80 (Tirupati-Puri), due at 19.35 for an hour's halt. Arrival behind an electric loco was early, and WP 7537 took over for the run north, via Gudivada and Bhimavaram, before rejoining the main line at Nidadavolu. The train had quite a lot of recovery time (eg 77' allowed for the last 32 kms) and so arrival outside Waltair was early. Locos were changed here, and a smart SER WP took over, making a quite striking departure with volcanic eruptions of black smoke. But as my connecton with the Madras-Bokaro Exp was to be only 3 hours I carried my luggage with me, and so could not go so far up the line.

Back at the station, I discovered that #90 was late-and as the day went on, the notice had it running ran later and later. So a lot of time was spent at and near the station-highlights being the reversal of the huge Madras-Howrah Mails (hauled by single WDM2). At last, my long awaited # 90 Madras-Bokaro Exp arrived 7 hours late; it had been delayed by the late arrival of its stock (a knock-on effect from all that rain in the south?) The great bonus from this late-running came the next morning: an all-daylight journey behind a WG to Ranchi over the Raurkela-Hatia-Ranchi route which was normally traversed in darkness by this train...

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