Historical Steam Locomotives of India


Anoop Krishna Jhingron
(1948 - 2014)

The Railway age began in Britain and western part of the world in early nineteenth century. With the running of the first train between Stockton and Darlington in 1825 ,the railway age commenced. Within a short period of time discussion about bringing railway to India also started. With the grant of permission to private companies to start railway lines in India, the rolling stock also arrived from Britain. The motive power for the trains was to be provided by steam locomotives. Hence locomotives were imported. However the distinction of running the first locomotive in India was  not held by any railway company. This belonged to the builders of the Ganga canal in the northern part of India.
In 1852, for hauling wagon loaded with earth for the building of Solani aquaduct, which was a part of the Ganga canal project, a steam locomotive started running near Roorkee in what was then the North Western Province. The locomotive was named Thomason. It was a six wheeled tank locomotive, with 2-2-2 wheel configuration. The guage of the locomotive was four feet  and eight and a half inches. This locomotive had a very short life span. It was destroyed in an explosion of its boiler within nine months .  It is presumed that the locomotive was a product of E. B. Wilson Works Britain.
When Great Indian Peninsula Railway(GIPR) was permitted to construct a railway line from Mumbai in 1849 ,its engineers started the work in great earnest. For movement of material for construction work, the contractors of GIPR brought a steam engine for performing shunting etc. The first locomotive to arrive Mumbai was seen performing shunting near Byculla flats on 18th February 1852.The locomotive started work  from a coppice then known as “PhipsO’art” and the place where it worked became a daily  centre of attraction for huge crowds of men ,women and children. The locomotive was later named’’ Falkland’’, after Lord Falkland ,who was the governor of Bombay between 1848 to 1853.This locomotive was presumably a locomotive manufactured by EB Wilson and was a Tank locomotive with 0-6-0 wheel configuration. The history of this loco is lost in obscurity.

Sahib, Sultan and Sind
GIPR had imported a shipment of eight steam locomotives from Britain. These locomotives were manufactured by Vulcan Foundry, the manufacturing firm started by George Stephenson. These locomotives were numbered GIP 1to 8. They were tender engines with 2-4-0 wheel configuration.  These locomotive bore the makers numbers 324to331.Of this consignment three locomotives named Sahib, Sultan and Sind were selected to haul India’s first train on 16th April1853. The later history of Sahib and Sultan is again lost in obscurity. Perhaps they were condemned and sold as scrap at some stage. Sind survived and was seen plinthed near the office of Chief Mechanical Engineer of GIPR at Byculla. It was taken to Delhi for the Railway Centenary Exhibition in 1953 was kept there on display. Thereafter the details of the loco are not available. It is presumed that after the Exhibition it was sold as scrap. Thus these historical locos ended there life in some unknown furnace. However their place in Indian railways history is always secure. A painting of  GIP 1,one such locomotive ,was depicted on a postage stamp of two rupees denomination issued on15th May 1976
Express is the oldest steam locomotive available in India. This locomotive was imported by East Indian Railway in 1855.It was built earlier than the Fairy Queen. The locomotive bearing the number G21 started its service life on EIR and later worked on Eastern Railway. This tank locomotive, with 2-2-2 wheel configuration, was manufactured by  M/S Kitson  Hewitson &Thompson of Leeds UK.
In 1857,the loco motive was used to haul troops trains from Howrah and perhaps played a role in suppressing the First War of Indian Independence. After its retirement from active service it remained in oblivion for a while .However with the setting up of the Regional Railway Museum at Howrah, it was restored and put on display in the museum in its full glory. Express has been a very proud possession of the museum.

Recently the locomotive was sent to Perambur Workshop of Southern Railway where the Locomotive has been restored back to its old glory. A photograph of Express can be seen on the postage stamp issued on 16thApril 1953 to commemorate the Centenary of Railways in India.

"Express" looks very much the same as the Fairy Queen,
but it is a different engine.

The Fairy Queen
The fairy Queen holds the unique distinction of being the oldest steam locomotive in the world in working condition.  This is  a record which has been recognized by Guiness Book of Records.
This locomotive is a contemporary of Express, although a bit younger . This loco motive was also manufactured  by M/S Kitson, Hewitson and Thompson of Leeds UK . This again was a tank type locomotive with2-2-2 wheel configuration and its weight was 26 tons.

The number of  Fairy Queen underwent several changes in its life. The number given to it by the maker was 481. It joined EIR with number EIR22.In 1881 its number was changed to92,which again underwent a change in 1884 when it was changed to101. The name Fairy queen was given  to it in 1895.
The locomotive used to haul light mail trains  on Howrah -Raniganj section and covered the distance of 121 miles(   195kms.approx.) in 5hours. After serving for about fifty years the loco was shifted to  lighter service  and was used on construction sites, where it ended it’s active life in 1909. After it’s retirement Fairy queen was proudly displayed outside Howrah station between1909 and 1943.In 1943 it was shifted to EIR ‘s Zonal training School at Chandausi, where it was used as an aid for teaching. With the opening of The national Rail Museum at New Delhi, the locomotive was shifted for being displayed  there with great pride.
In 1990s it was decided to restore the locomotive in working order and use it for heritage s tourist train hauled by steam. It was sent to Perambur workshop for overhaul and restoration. Since 18th October 1997 this is being used for running a Heritage Luxury Tourist train between Delhi and Alwar. The train has also been named The Fairy Queen. Fairy Queen has been featured on the postage stamp issued to commemorate the silver jubilee of national rail Museum issued on 17th October 1996.

Tweed holds the distinction of being the oldest metre guage loco in the world ,which continued to be in working condition even  after completing over 120 years of  its life.  Metre Guage (M.G.)was introduced in India to achieve economies in the costs of construction and that of the rolling stock under control.

A fairly large portion of the railway network in the eastern and  north eastern parts of India adopted MG . A large number of princely states also adopted MG for construction of rail network in their territory. Tweed was imported to serve such a rail network. The locomotive was brought to India to be used on Tirhut State Railway. Later this loco was used on Oudh Tirhut Railway  .The locomotive bearing maker’s number SS2326 was manufactured in 1873 by Sharp Stewart &Co “s Atlas Works ,at Manchester. The locomotive has 0-4-0wheel configuration . 

After more than fifty years' active service  the locomotive was sold  in 1925 to Saraiya Sugar Mills , Sardarnagar near Gorakhpur in UP. There the locomotive was used for shunting of wagons loaded with sugar cane. The locomotive was in running condition till late 1990s.It has been stabled only few years back. The owners of the locomotive later changed its name and it was called Samrat Ashok. This locomotive has  been featured in several documentaries and TV films. The locomotive can be seen during a visit to Saraiya Sugar Mill. The mill has a stable of several MG locos. However the family of the owners is highly possessive about this locomotive.

 F1 -734

This locomotive has a special place in the history of Indian railways-being the first fully India made steam locomotive.
Since the beginning of railways in India, various railway companies were using steam locomotives which were imported from Britain. Although in 1880s some steam locomotives were manufactured in India at EIRs workshops at Allahabad and Jamalpur, but they were basically assembled locomotives. The workshop at Ajmer became the first workshop in India to manufacture totally indigenous steam locomotive. This workshop was set up in1877 by Rajputana Malwa Railway. Originally the workshop had locomotive works, the carriage works, the electrical works and stores. In the beginning the workshop used to   undertake only repairs and maintenance of  metre guage rolling stock. In 1890 it was decided to undertake locomotive manufacture work at the workshop. In 1895 Ajmer Workshop manufactured   India’s very own first locomotive F1-734. With this commenced  a glorious saga of  manufacture of locomotive at Ajmer which lasted for next over 50 years during which 466 more locomotives were produced.
F1-734 was a metre guage locomotive weighing 38 tons with 0-6-0 wheel configuration. This locomotive was used  initially on Rajputan  Malwa Railway and later on BB&CI Railway. After long active service life hauling mail express and other passenger carrying trains the locomotive was retired in  1950s . Presently the locomotive is one of the proud possessions of National Rail Museum New Delhi, where it occupies a place of prominence amongst the various exhibits.

B-777 of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
While moving around in the National Rail Museum one comes across a dimunitive and beautiful narrow guage (NG) locomotive numbered B777. This locomotive used on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway(DHR) is not only the most beautiful but also one of the oldest surviving NG locomotive in India.

DHR was the first hill railway constructed in India, which was completed in 1881.For operations of trains on DHR orders for supply of locomotives ,except the first locomotive ‘’Tiny’’, were placed on Sharp Stewart &Co of Britain. Until 1888,the firm supplied the locomotives manufactured at their Atlas Works in Manchester and thereafter at Atlas Works Glasgow. B777 was manufactured at Glasgow and put into service in 1889. The makers number of the locomotive was SS3517.It was a B class  ST type locomotive. This locomotive remained in service till1952, and is now preserved in NRM.

Garatt No 38811

The  locomotive of this type were the heaviest locomotives to have been used in India. These locos were used primarily for haulage of heavy freight trains loaded with Coal and iron ore etc. Besides the mass of these locomotives(they were indisputably the heaviest and biggest locomotives to be designed),the other notable feature of these locomotives was their capability to haul heavy trains(of even upto2400 tons),on gradients at a comfortable speed of45 miles per hour(  73 kmph) Their other unique feature was their capability  to run on lightly laid track owing to weight being distributed even over a larger number of axles. Their most notable feature, for which they were most known ,was the articulation  of three different segments of the locomotive. 

This locomotive’s  idea came from Herbert William Garatt, an Englishman, while working in Australia. He patented the concept in 1907 and thereafter approached several locomotive builders for adoption of the same in designing locomotives.  When he approached Beyers Peacock ,they were in need of a locomotive which perhaps met the specifications of Garatt.  Beyers and Peacock  offered the design to their clients ,received orders for supply and the rest as they is history. The Garatt locomotives were supplied  to all parts of the world. In India the first Garatt was supplied for Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, followed by North Western and Bengal Nagpur railways. It was on BNR that these locomotives were most successful, as they were aptly suited for heavy freight trains. The first two  HSG class Garatts were received on BNR in 1927,followed by 16 N class Garatts in 1929.13 more Garatts were supplied to BNR. by 1939.These locomotives continued to work on BNR and it”s  successor South Eastern railway till 1970s
Garatt no 3811 was a part of the consignment of Garatts  supplied to BNR in 1929.The makers no. of this locomotive was BP6584.The locomotive was built in 1926 by Bayer Peacock Co. Ltd. at Manchester U.K. After its induction into the fleet of BNR it hauled freight trains on Anara-Bhojudih-Chandrapura-Bermu and Chakradharpur -Jharsuguda sections during a service span of 37 years. After it was retired from active service it was kept on display at Kharagpur Workshop of SE Rly.

In 2006 due to the earnest efforts of a team of dedicated railway men of SE Rly this locomotive was restored to working condition and was run between Shalimar and  Mecheda as part of a heritage run. The motivating spirit behind the restoration of Garatt 38811 were SShri RR Bhandari, V.K Raina,,Anil Behera, C.M.Narasimhan and Late Shri Animesh Guangly. It was their dream to renovate and restore this loco which was ultimately realized. Today this locomotive has been kept as a working heritage locomotive at Karagpur workshop.The wonderful story of the Garatts and the restoration of this locomotive has been told By Saibal Bose and Subhasis Ganguly  in the book”Renovatio”.(Published by CPRO,SE Rly.)
During the period of railway companies the manufacture of locomotives was undertaken in India by some companies. By and large requirement was being met with through imports.the only large scale manufacture was undertaken at Ajmer Workshop.In !947 itaws decided to set up a large locomotive manufacture unit ,capable of meeting with the requirement of locomotives on IR.For this purpose Mihijam,a place close to border of Bihar and West Bengal was selected and named as Chittaranjan after the great freedom fighter Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das .The locomotive manufacture works were designated as Chittranjan Locomotive Works(CLW). Intially manufacture of freight locomotive was undertaken at CLWThe manufacture of steam locomotives at CLW was formally inaugurated on 26January 1950 and the first locomotive was steamed off by Dr.Rajendra prasad,the President of India on 26th January 1952.This locomotive was named Deshbandhu after Shri Chittaranjan Das who was affectionately addressed as Deshbandhu.

Deshbandhu has a special place in Railway history as the first loco to be manufactured by CLW. This WG class locomotive  bore the number 8401 and had 2-8-2 wheel configuration. This locomotive remained in active service for about 40 years and was retired in1993.Presently Deshbandhu has been preserved  and  can be seen placed on a pedestal at CLW.
Another steam locomotive of historical significance “Antim Sitara “ has also been preserved at CLW.This is WG10560 ,the last BG steam  locomotive to be manufactured at CLW in June 1970.Thereafter  manufacture of B G steam locomotive at CLW was stopped, although the MG  steam locomotives  continued to be manufactured for some more years. WG10560 was named Antim Sitara(the last star) after Evening Star, the last steam locomotive to be manufactured in Britain 
These locomotive  have historical significance ,as each of them signifies an important landmark in the evolution and growth of railways in India.

"Tweed" was found working
for a sugar factory.