Indian Railways restore rare Garratt locomotive

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KHARAGPUR, India -- Indian Railways has quietly restored a broad gauge (5-foot, 6-inch) Beyer-Garratt articulated locomotive and operated it on a short test run on Sept. 22. The 1929 product of Beyer Peacock & Co. of Manchester, England, had been on display at the shops at Kharagpur, West Bengal, since its retirement 50 years ago.

According to a news report, the 4-8-0 + 0-8-4 was returned to service in just four months, having last run in 2006. On its test run, it made a 13-mile trip at about 18 mph, revealing that further work was needed. When in service, the engine was limited to 44 mph and could easily handle 2,500-ton trains. It was one of 32 such engines on the Bengal Nagpur Railway, now part of the Indian Railway system.

While the 2006 run was a single heritage trip, if the full restoration is approved by the national railway system, the locomotive would be operated on a regular basis. During its restoration, officials from Kharagpur were able to borrow parts, such as safety valves, from a similar locomotive displayed at the National Railway Museum in Delhi.

The Indian Railway system is the largest in the world, operating more than 41,000 miles of track. Of that, 38,000 miles is broad gauge, among the widest in the world. The remainder is a mixture of meter gauge, 3-foot 6-inch, and two-foot gauge.

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