The iconic Steam locomotives of The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The history behind the famous ‘B’ Class locomotives of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

792 in action by David CharlesworthDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

The tile of a new book by the DHRS is "The incredible Darjeeling ‘B‘ Class" - because these locomotives really are just that!

The 'B' Class steam locomotives were a hugely successful improvement of the ‘A’. Introduced in 1889 the design was so successful, 14 of them remain on the DHR in working or repairable condition. However, most are now only capable of hauling two or three coaches but DHRS Engineers have proven that they can be restored to their original condition using the equipment at Tindharia Works. Only some training and the desire to do so is required.

32 in red (1960) by DHRS ArchiveDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

From the late 1960s, blue has been the familiar livery for the ‘B’ Class, but just prior to the all India renumbering programme, red was in use.

Locomotives had their original numbers, as here with No. 32 (later 787), in red, with their new numbers cast in brass with a blue painted background. Towards the end of the red livery period, white lining as two bold stripes was a style variation, but was not applied to all locomotives.

No. 32, seen here on Batasia Loop, was built in 1913 by North British. It was used in the 2006 oil-firing trials and still exists today as 787, but has been stored and out of use ever since the trials.

805 at speed (1993-12) by Nigel ToutDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

The first ‘B’ Class engines were built in 1889 and the class has continued to work on the DHR until the present day.

No. 805, seen here in 1993, was built in 1925 and is one of the ‘younger’ of the ‘B’ Class locomotives.

It works with the usual crew of five – a driver, a fireman, a coal breaker on top who task is to feed the coal to the fireman and two sandmen at the front who apply sand to the rails to maintain adhesion when needed.

806 in green by Peter JordanDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

The ‘B’ Class No. 806 ‘Queen of the Hills’, seen at Ghum, was working a special train for the Heritage Foundation conference on April 28, 1995.

For a while, this locomotive was painted in a lined green livery used by the DHR in the 1930s.

The DHR locomotives have been painted blue since the 1960s. It is often forgotten that they were green for longer than the have been in blue.

795 taking water (2008) by DHRS ArchiveDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

In the picture: ‘B’ Class 795 having its tank topped up through a hose, at Darjeeling Shed, in November 2012.

The main use of the ‘B’ Class at present is working toy trains from Darjeeling and charter trains over the whole line.

The engine for this locomotive has a new boiler built by Veesons, in 2007.

People at work at the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Loco Shed.

The Darjeeling Shed, now fully restored, had been severely damaged in a landslip.

806 firecleaning (2010) by David BarrieDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

In the picture: Rail workers fire-cleaning at night.

This is a unique occasion that can be experienced with Darjeeling Tours Ltd. This locomotive is hauling a dining train.

A "new" B Class by Bob AveryDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

Originally oil-fired, the 1001 was claimed to be a new locomotive by the Indian builders, Golden Rock in 2003-2004 - remarkably 115 years after the first example of basically the same design.

Though the frames appear to have been new (in railway circles this denotes a new locomotive) they were flame cut and without horn guides. All remaining parts were taken from various scrapped parts at Tindharia Works. The plain plated side panels have unfortunately been applied to several ‘B’ Class.

1001 was converted to burn coal in 2007 and is seen in the works, in April 2013, under overhaul before re-entering service as No. 01 and named ‘Tindharia’

Take a virtual walk aroung the Tindharia Workshop, in operation since 1915.

779 with freight (1965) by DHRS ArchiveDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

Now repainted in blue, the 779 is seen at Batasia Loop, in 1970.

All freight trains had gone from the DHR by 1989.

Lineside life by John F FollettDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

The signal controls the down trains when crossing the broad-gauge line. This is close to the point where the new 1950s line from Siliguri Junction rejoins the original route, thus, bypassing the town centre.

804 in action by David CharlesworthDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

There are large number of road crossings on the DHR and several on the climb through the forest above Sukna.

780 in action by David CharlesworthDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

A sign in bright yellow and green shows that this area is a wildlife reserve.

780 in action by David CharlesworthDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

Clinging to the hillside is what helps to make riding the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway an exciting experience.

792 and 604 by David CharlesworthDarjeeling Himalayan Railway Society

The NDM6, seen here at Tindharia station, was chosen in 2000 as a diesel loco most likely to be able to work successfully on the DHR. It was an unwelcome decision, but the right one.

A quiet and empty Tindhari station before the arrival of its next train.

There used to be wonderful restaurant here. Your order, from the train, would be taken by boys who would then jump off and run up the hillside to place your order almost an hour before you arrived!

Credits: Story

Written and compiled by David Charlesworth GRA. Editor of The Darjeeling Mail and a Director and founder Member of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society. Technical information was from David Churchill, the Society's technical and modelling Officer.

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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