Without Coal or Flame: The Fireless Locomotive

Using ready-made steam instead of fire for generating pressure, this locomotive was especially designed for use in factories with inflammable material.

By National Rail Museum

National Rail Museum

Fireless Locomotive - Side View (1954)National Rail Museum

A fireless locomotive is, as the name suggests, one which does not use fire, i.e. it does not need to burn coal or create any kind of fire to generate steam.  Such locomotives are used in places like petroleum refineries, chemical plants where a spark flying out of the locomotive chimney or even a fire drop from the locomotive, could prove to be a major fire hazard. The locomotive displayed at the National Rail Museum was used in Sindhri Fertilizers Co. in Bihar, India.

Fireless LocomotiveNational Rail Museum


Since there is no fire generation involved in this locomotive, instead of the boiler, a fireless locomotive has a pressure vessel mounted on the underframe. In this high pressure steam vessel it collects ready-made steam from a distant static steam/boiler plant.

Fireless Locomotive - Side viewNational Rail Museum

Due to limited capacity of the steam accumulator, this locomotive had maximum restricted speed of 18.5 mph and was limited to short area movements. This engine was used for shunting in areas of inflammable material such as oil, jute, etc.

Fireless Locomotive - Builder's PlateNational Rail Museum

This 35 ton broad-gauge (5’6”) locomotive with 0-4-0 wheel arrangement was manufactured by Henschell, Germany in 1953.

Henschel & Son was a German company, located in Kassel, best known during the 20th century as the maker of transportation equipment, including locomotives, trucks, buses and trolleybuses.

Fireless Locomotive - Wheel arrangementNational Rail Museum

An informative audio about fireless locomotives.

Fireless Locomotive (1954)National Rail Museum


The fireless locomotive at the National Rail Museum, New Delhi underwent a cosmetic restoration process in 2013-14. With due exposure to the elements, its metal structure was beginning to decay. 

Fireless Locomotive Rear View (1954)National Rail Museum

A rear view of the locomotive. One can see the rust and corrosion near the tail lights.

Fireless Locomotive (1954)National Rail Museum

Severe corrosion had occurred at some spots.

Fireless Locomotive (1954)National Rail Museum

Parts of this unique locomotive had started to give away- attachments coming loose, the structure slowly falling apart.

Fireless Locomotive (1954)National Rail Museum

This photo depicts a badly corroded cylinder cover.

Fireless Locomotive During Restoration ProcessNational Rail Museum

The first step of the restoration was to remove the existing layers of paint and corrosion.

Fireless Locomotive During Restoration ProcessNational Rail Museum

It is important to remove and repair corroded surfaces before undertaking a paint job on an old locomotive.

Fireless Locomotive During Restoration ProcessNational Rail Museum

New sheets were welded in places where the metal had been eaten away.

Fireless Locomotive During Restoration ProcessNational Rail Museum

Once the required repairs were made, a layer of grey base paint was applied on the entire structure.

Fireless Locomotive During Restoration Process (1954)National Rail Museum

After the base paint was dry, a fresh coat of yellow paint - the fireless locomotive's original color - was applied.

Fireless Locomotive - Wheel arrangementNational Rail Museum

In the end, the details were added, in black and red.

The repaired fireless locomotive now brings a renewed vibrancy to the National Railway Museum.

Fireless LocomotiveNational Rail Museum


A fireless steam locomotive reduces the risk from inflammable gases and is safer to use in petroleum refineries and coal mines. It is also cleaner and easier to handle because of a lack of coal and soot. A fireless steam locomotive is also safer for even lesser-capable locomotive pilots, as it cannot explode due to the lack of water in the system. As there is no need to heat up the engine - since it uses ready-made steam from the plant - it also requires very little time to start up.

Around the world, there are many such well known fireless locomotives that have been preserved in different museums.

Take a virtual walk around the Fireless Locomotive at the National Rail Museum, New Delhi.

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