1929

Beasts on wheels, from here to there

National Rail Museum

The Indian Railways were often used for carrying a variety of creatures - birds and animals. This story looks at a sheep pen on wheels, used by the East Indian Railway in the late 1800s.

1870, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
The introduction of railways changed many things about the Indian society. One of them being people's relationship wiith animals. Since the beginning of time, man had kept other animals for food, for security, for hauling luggage and for transport. With the railways though, some of these roles completely turned out for the animals; they became the luggage, and it was them who started being transported.  
Elephant Cage, From the collection of: National Rail Museum

Soon, creatures of all sizes, from small birds to even elephants were being transported through the railway; some for entertainment, some for gifting, but most of all for food.

This picture shows an elephant cage wagon, also manufactured at Liluah Workshops, in West Bengal, in 1927.

(Photo courtesy: CWM, Liluah and website : irfca.org)

Elephants - Delhi, India (Elephant Market & Plowing), 1952, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

In 1982, the Asian Games were held in New Delhi and its mascot was ‘Appu’ – a baby elephant. That little Appu came from the forests of Kerala to New Delhi in a train for the opening ceremony of the games.


In fact, a special train carrying a total of 34 elephants, 26 adults and 8 calves, including Appu, was flagged off for Delhi from Trichur, covering an overall distance of 3011 km.

Compartments were designed specially for the adult elephants and the calves.

The train had four water tanks and four boxes filled with 100 tonnes of luscious palm leaves as fodder. 264 people were travelling along with the elephants, included 112 mahouts, 6 veterinary doctors, 19 Kerala police staff attendants and cooks.

Sheep Van, From the collection of: National Rail Museum
In comparison to the elephants, sheeps were ofcourse much easier to transport. This double decker sheep carrying van, shown on the right, was built by Liluah Workshop of Eastern Railway in 1929. Though the exact date from when these types of vans were put into service is not known, it has been acknowledged that these vans were first introduced on the Bengal-Nagpur Railway in early 1890’s, mainly for carrying of sheep from villages to the metropolitan city of Calcutta. 
Sheep Van, From the collection of: National Rail Museum

In 1906, six sheep vans were put into service of the East Indian Railway for bringing sheep and goats from Danapur district of Bihar.

Sheep Van, From the collection of: National Rail Museum

The sheep van was simply a four wheeler wooden bodied van divided into four compartments in two tiers to carry a total of 176 sheep. Each compartment had a carrying capacity of 44 sheep. The sides were provided with iron bars and sunshades separately for each compartment.

The sheep van at the National Rail Museum, New Delhi, has an IRS underframe built by TATA company in 1929. Apart from vacuum braking, the van is also provided with hand brakes, for use during hump shunting.

Sheep Van, From the collection of: National Rail Museum

Each compartment is provided with a piped water supply from tanks on the roof. There was a separate compartment for attendants in the center of the van.

From the collection of: National Rail Museum
Restoration
When the sheep van was taken under possession, it was in a dire need for complete rehabilitation. Transforming it from a decaying, broken down carriage took many weeks of work. Today, the carriage has been restored, renewed and it rests well at the National Rail Museum, New Delhi. 
From the collection of: National Rail Museum

After the initial cleaning and paint scrapping, the old wooden frame was removed and a new frame was built.

From the collection of: National Rail Museum

The wooden strips of the roof, which was also breaking down, were stripped apart and a new roof was made. Once the woodwork was complete, a fresh base paint was applied on the van.

Sheep Van, From the collection of: National Rail Museum

Today, the sheep van has been renewed, repainted and restored to its former self and is on display at the National Rail Museum, New Delhi.

Take a virtual tour of this wooden sheep van from 1929. Zoom in to see the model sheeps and goats inside it, depicting how it would have been used ninety years ago.

National Rail Museum
Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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