January 08, 2016

Down by the Loco Shed


IN DAYS GONE BY rail enthusiasts, eager to explore the railways they loved, trekked along railway tracks, pottered about in yards, sipped coffee at stations while they watched trains come and go. They still do the same today. But the rail adventure today is devoid of a crucial element that made these trips ever so enjoyable—and that is the absence of steam locomotives and the sheds which homed them. The enthusiast had very little understanding of the mechanics of the locos he admired, yet he would find his feet carrying him along the shining steel rails to the remote, far-off establishment, the loco shed, where he found himself entranced by the magic of steam, fire and coal working its wonders on that most fascinating of all mechanical contrivances, the steam locomotive.

Those good old machines of old have nearly disappeared. But so what? There is still enough magic in a steam locoshed to beckon me at all times. And although I can’t expect to find those grand old machines with fire in their bellies around, I rejoice in the sight of an old shed. Stephenson’s invention is now relegated to heritage museums, but each time I visit a steam shed, there is something in it that welcomes me, something that takes my breath away. There is always something to remind me of that bygone age when the push and pull, the heave and sigh of the iron horse was as common on the rails as the motorcar is on the street today. 




I said there is always something exciting in a loco yard. Here is a narrow gauge steam locomotive tender atop a broad gauge wagon. The loco itself worked on the Central Railway, so I assume it was a Pulgaon-Arvi engine.




Can you ever imagine a locoshed without a turntable? Here’s one that has survived all these years. It carries the manufacturer’s plate on the side of the girder. I would love to read the information on the plate but this would mean I would need to step into the pit. Once inside how do I come out of it by myself ?!!




And here’s a heritage narrow gauge carriage. Not heritage to be exact, but old enough to be charming. Such are the treasures you will find lying around in loco yards...



Another view of the loco turntable...







And here’s a scan from an old Indian Railways manual telling about the maintenance of turntables and the adjustments to be carried out on them...