The Patiala Royals' one track wonder

By National Rail Museum

National Rail Museum

A look at the Patiala State Monorail Tramway (PSMT), a one-of-its-kind locomotive that runs on a single track. Introduced in 1907 in Patiala State, in erstwhile Punjab, this treasure of transport history been restored to full working condition at the National Railway Museum. 

Patiala State Monorail Trainways - Bullock team hauling monorailway trainNational Rail Museum

Moving many mules over a few miles: Royal beginnings

In May 1906, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala made an agreement with Marsland Price & Co. to construct a railroad between Sirhind station on North Western Railway, and the town of Barsi, six miles from the state of Patiala. It was here that a monorail Tramway was built using the 'Ewing' patent Monorail Tramway system. In 1907, the first section of this unusual railway, driven by oxen and mules, was opened in Patiala state. One main objective of the line was to make use of the 560 Government mules maintained by the state, as during peace-time, there was little use the  mules could be put to. Over the next two years though, a decision to use steam power instead was taken.

Patiala State Monorail Trainways - DiagramNational Rail Museum

Eventually, steam locomotives were commissioned for the new monorail built between Patiala and Sunam. It was a unique 40 ton locomotive, manufactured by M/s Orenstein and Koppel of Berlin in 1909. A total of four locomotives were imported into India.

The track is a single rail along one side of the road. On this runs the load-carrying wheels of the train while a large single wheel on one side - attached to the end of an outrigger - runs on the road to keep the train upright. This system is known as the zero gauge.

Patiala State Monorail - CoachNational Rail Museum

The rear view of the monorail carriage shows the one balancing wheel that ran on the road.

The main load (almost 95%) is borne by the wheels under the carriage, on the single rail, while the rest is borne by the balancing wheel which runs on the road.

Patiala State Monorail Trainways - During Van MahotsavaNational Rail Museum

Visitors to the National Rail Museum on the PSMT for a joyride during Van Mahotsava celebrations.

Patiala State Monorail Trainways at Museum Day CelebrationNational Rail Museum

A recent photograph of the PSMT, still in perfect working condition at the National Rail Museum, decorated for the the institution's anniversary celebration.

Patiala State Monorail (1909)National Rail Museum

Zero Gauge, explained

Patiala State Monorail TrainwaysNational Rail Museum

A gauge is the distance between two tracks. For example a meter gauge track means that the distance between two rail lines or the width of the track is one meter. A broad gauge line is more than a meter (1.6m). And a narrow gauge is less than a meter (0.7).

In the case of the monorail, the track is essentially a single rail, making the distance between the rail lines zero. Hence the name zero-track gauge.

Zoom in on the design details of the PSMT and its one rail or zero-gauge track.

Patiala State Monorail Trainways - EngineNational Rail Museum


 In 1962, rail historian Mike Satow discovered the PSMT locomotives and coaches half buried in the Public Work Department scrap yard in Patiala. They were  subsequently restored and put in working order by the Northern Railway Workshop in Amritsar. In 1977, one restored locomotive and coach was brought to National Rail Museum, New Delhi, where it stands today till this day. 

PSMT (Before Restoration) CoachNational Rail Museum

While structural restoration happened at the Amritsar workshop, cosmetic restoration of the locomotive happened at the National Rail Museum in New Delhi.

Since the locomotives and carriages are displayed in the open air, this outer restoration is quite a frequent affair. The last restoration for the PSMT coach took place in 2012, over a period of six months.

PSMT (Before Restoration)National Rail Museum

The frame and the wheels underneath get corroded, due to their year-round exposure to elements.

PSMT (During Restoration) Removing the broken/damaged parts of structureNational Rail Museum

The first step of the restoration is to replace and/or repair any broken parts, joints and dowels in the structure.

In the image we can see how the paint on the coach had started to peel off. Also, the wooden ceiling above the balcony was disintegrating and had developed cracks.

PSMT (During Restoration) Removal of paintsNational Rail Museum

After repairing the broken joints, the next step is to remove all the layers of paint and prepare the surface for a fresh paint job.

PSMT (During Restoration) Removal of paintsNational Rail Museum

The existing paint is removed from the interior furnishing too, like the benches inside the coach.

PSMT (During Restoration) Surface prepratationNational Rail Museum

The next step is to apply a base coating of paint on to the structure.

PSMT (During Restoration) Primer coatingNational Rail Museum

The coating is applied on the outside as well as inside of the structure, on furnishings and more.

PSMT (During Restoration) Red oxide applicationNational Rail Museum

The next step is to apply a coating of red oxide primer, to counter corrosion and decay.

PSMT (During Restoration) Paint jobNational Rail Museum

Finally, the coach is painted in its original colours of blue and white. The wheels, painted red, create a beautiful contrast.

PSMT (During Restoration) Paint jobNational Rail Museum

The restoration is completed with painting the original art work details on the structure.

Patiala State Monorail TrainwaysNational Rail Museum

Even after 108 years of service, the Patiala State Monorail Tram is used to transport and delight visitors to the National Rail Museum.

More than a century of service and this unique one rail locomotive is still in perfect running condition. Take a virtual walk around the Patiala State Monorail Tram, a star attraction of the National Rail Museum.

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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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