The WP Locomotive - Work-horse of Yesteryear

The WP steam locomotive was a remarkable locomotive, with its bullet nose and sweeping curves being a level above most other locomotives.

By Rail Enthusiasts' Society

JL Singh

A WP-class locomotive by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

In the 21st century, when we see steam locomotives on heritage runs, in museums or on plinths, we forget that for more than half the period since the start of train travel it was the steam locomotive that was the prime mover.

Particularly in India, steam gave way to diesel and the electrics only in the 1960s and 1970s, over a hundred years since the first train ran in India from Bori Bunder to Thane, way back in 1853.

WP loco No. 7200, aptly named 'Azad' by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

Among the steam locomotives, a particularly interesting one stands out - the WP locomotive. The WP was a broad gauge passenger train hauling locomotive. The 16 prototypes, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, were designated as WP/P. 'W' indicates that it is a 1676 mm gauge loco; while the 'P' shows that it hauls passenger trains. The first of these, No. 7200, named “Azad”, is now being maintained at the Rewari Steam shed. 

The word “Azad”, which means “independent”, is very apt for the locomotive as the first prototypes were delivered in 1947, the year in which India became an independent nation.

Locomotive J-611 by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

The WP was designed for the high ash content coal that was abundant in India. It proved its worth, and a total of 755 were built.

Initially, orders were placed to various manufacturers, but in 1963, orders for WPs were placed on the Indian Railway's own unit, Chittaranjan Locomotive Works.

Chittaranjan manufactured 259 of these locomotives till 1966. In 1967, the manufacture of WP locos was discontinued owing to the advent of electrics and diesels.

WP/1 loco No. 7161, preserved for heritage runs by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

The Chittaranjan-built WPs were designated WP/1 and were five tonnes heavier than the earlier ones.

Right through the 1960s and 1970s, the WP was the main locomotive of the Indian Railways and ran 80% of the key passenger trains on the broad gauge.

One of these, No. 7161, has been preserved and is being maintained at Rewari for heritage runs.

During 2015-16, it is this locomotive that ran virtually all heritage runs to Rewari and other such runs around Delhi.

Stamp of Chittaranjan WP loco by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

The WP was commemorated by the Posts and Telegraph Department with the issue of a stamp depicting the locomotive.

A First Day Cover issued on 15th May, 1976 by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

This was a one-Rupee stamp released through a first-day cover that showed three other locomotives, on May 15, 1976.

Of the remaining locomotives, one was GIP No. 1, the first locomotive to work the first train in the country and the second, F-1, the first locomotive built fully in India. The third is the class WDM 2 diesel-electric locomotive.

Entry to Virginia Museum of Transportation by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

Virginia Museum of Transporation

Although a powerful locomotive by the then contemporary standards in India, the WP’s counterparts in the USA were in a class by themselves. Among the latter was the iconic locomotive No. J-611. 

Any lover of steam locomotive history will be interested in No. J-611 locomotive as it holds a very special place in the chronology of steam traction in the US, which currently resides in Virginia Museum of Transportation, at Roanoke in Virginia, USA.

Credits: Story

Author: JL Singh

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