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.
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)
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.
In 1906, six sheep vans were put into service of the East Indian Railway for bringing sheep and goats from Danapur district of Bihar.
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.
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.
After the initial cleaning and paint scrapping, the old wooden frame was removed and a new frame was built.
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.
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.