Smoking Giants

Smoking Giants

An evocative scene taken in the locomotive yard at Wankaner Junction, Gujarat, India in 1997.

These engines were working the service to Morbi and shared with Chittorgarh the distinction of being the last two steam services on mainline railways in India. These engines were all gone by the year 2000.

Wonderful animate machines of true grit….


Checking Over Number 3333

Checking Over Number 3333

This week I have been revisiting old negatives from the past and this picture was taken in 1997 when I visited Gujarat as part of a backpacking solo tour of India.

In this scene we are in the locoshed yard at Wankaner Junction near Rajkot. The metre gauge railways in India were about to transition from steam to diesel. The locos were in a very run down condition and it probably was a struggle to keep them in working order.

This image was scanned from a colour print negative.


Cow Herd

Cow Herd

A scene that was taken as we drove through the desert area in the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.

I also caught some pictures back in the village when the herd was being brought back for the night and these can be seen here on my previous blog.


Battered Beauties

Battered Beauties

A blast from the past! A photo taken on colour print film in 1997 at Wankaner Junction shed yard when steam on the metre gauge in Gujarat was on its last legs. Metre gauge steam ended here about a year later.

Inspired by this visit, I penned this short piece!

Tasting the smoke

I walked through the cinders and tasted the smoke

of the engines that paused there; fireboxes to stoke


in the heat of north India those railmen did toil

then chai in the office; the kettles a-boil.

Strange words for a greeting, they welcomed me there,

“You come meet the boss now”: and “pull up a chair.”


I walked through the cinders and tasted the smoke

as I went round the shed, in my notebook I wrote

of the engines and valve gear and tenders I saw

while oiling and coaling: of these men I’m in awe


I remembered my childhood and traveling by train

from the great Midland city; vacation the aim.


I walked through the cinders and tasted the smoke

as a teen through my twenties, by memories smote

of the smells and the sounds of those engines of yore

that stayed in my heart strings till brought to the fore

by the engines that paused there; fireboxes to stoke

and the joy of the cinders and tasting the smoke.


At Morvi in 1997

At Morvi in 1997


This was my first solo trip to India and I flew into Rajkot in Gujarat, then caught the train from Wankaner Junction to Morvi.

These were the final days of steam on the metre gauge and in this view taken at Movi as I was waiting for the return trip to Wankaner. The station master at Morvi was a major irritation. He may have been correct, but he refused to allow photography here without a pass being issued from Mumbai. Maybe he was just trying it on, but I took my photos anyway! This was in stark contrast to the reception that I received from the rest of the railway staff in Gujarat.

It’s hard to believe that I have been visiting India for over 20 years.