HISTORY OF JAMALPUR WORKSHOP
Enormity of Diversity - Impeccably!
Jamalpur workshop was established on 8th February 1862 as the Locomotive Workshop of East Indian Railway (EIR). It completed its Glorious 150 years in 2012, braving many challenges and standing the test of time with great aplomb and success. There was more than workshop, though. Jamalpur became the Headquarters of Locomotive Department of East Indian Railway (till 1925).The task entrusted to Jamalpur shops was then mainly of assembling engines and doing the maintenance and overhaul of the steam locomotives of the EIR: the task which it accomplished by bettering the BEST, and setting a global standard of its own. It also diversified to become the manufacturing powerhouse of iron sleepers and other permanent-way fittings, points & crossings, signalling and interlocking and other appliances.
Somerset Playne, (London 1917) in his compilation “Bengal and Assam, Behar and Orissa” aptly described the highest reputation:-
The “largest locomotive workshops in India” are those belonging to the East Indian Railway Company at Jamalpur, a municipal town in the district of Monghyr, and 297 miles distant from Calcutta. Nearly ten thousand hands are employed in the shops, which contain the most approved types of machinery for the construction of locomotives, and the manufacture of appliances requisite for the maintenance of the permanent way of the company’s system.…..
The most complete equipment of modern machinery and plant has been installed for the building of locomotives.
Huddleston, the Chief Engineer of EIR, wrote in 1906:
“There are of course larger railway shops existing in Europe, but few are more self-contained or better equipped with modern electrically-driven machinery than these workshops.”
A Power House was set up at the dawn of 20th century in 1901, a 130 feet by 12 feet building with 3 U Type Beliss – Holmes, Steam Engines set of 100 KW each.
The workshop started with the strength of around 2000 men which peaked to around 14,000 – 16,000 during 60s. The present day strength is around 9300.
Rudyard Kipling stayed at Jamalpur during Jan. - Feb., 1888 and these words summarize the enormity of diversity and sophistication about Jamalpur Shops.
“The heart of Jamalpur is the shops and here a visitor will see more things in an hour than he can understand in a year”.
Such was the Pan Indian fame of Jamalpur Shops that it was a ‘must visit’ place for degree engineering students (only 4 engineering colleges at degree level, then cf: para 1.13 of INAE report-profile book) as the extract from ‘Indian Engineering’ reveals.
January 14, 1888 INDIAN ENGINEERING
SEEBPORE ENGINEERING COLLEGE - Mr. Slater and the 4th year’s class have returned from their winter tour, after having inspected various works completed and in progress, and going over the loco-workshops of the E.I.R. at Jamalpur.
During the first decade, Jamalpur Workshop assembled 452 locomotives, a major chunk being of 202 locos (135 Goods + 67 Passengers) purchased in 1865 at a total cost of Rs.64.94 lacs @ 45 locos per year, which is quite high even by modern standards.
Locomotive Production, Various Firsts & Milestones
Jamalpur had made a tender in 1885 and extracts from Rudyard Kipling’s Book “From Sea to Sea – Among the Railway Folk” (Chapter-II- the shops), dated 1988 reveals- In 1888 itself, 10 locos were being built. Therefore by all account, locomotive manufacturing at Jamalpur Workshop started by 1889. In 1899, bolstered by the steel of newly set up Steel Foundry, 1stlocomotive with shop cast – wheel centre was manufactured!! Another 1stfor India.
However, the true spirit of “Enormity of Diversity” is impeccably epitomized by the following excerpts of Rudyard Kipling:
“We can build you any mortal thing you like. We’ve got the Bradford Leslie steamer for the Sahibgunge ferry. Come and see the brass-work for her bows. It’s in the casting-shed.”
This clearly affirms- the skill acquired over the years was so much that it was a widely accepted fact that Jamalpur Shops can manufacture anything.
Volunteer Rifles and Role in World Wars
Headquarters of Volunteer Rifles (2300 strong in 1905) was also based at Jamalpur.
Jamalpur shops contributed greatly during the two World Wars.
“The manufacture of fishbolts and dogspikes was at first distributed amongst several railway workshops but was eventually concentrated in the locomotive workshops of the East Indian Railway at Jamalpur. The monthly production was latterly 600,000 dogspikes and from 75,000 to 100,000 fishbolts and nuts. “(The Indian Munitions Board, Handbook of 1919)
During the 2nd World War, the Rolling Mill of Jamalpur Shops met the needs of various Ordnance Factories of India with Total Quality Control. As the Gazetteer notes:-
There was not a single rejection by the Ordnance Factory at Kirkee from the stock of 3 inches Trench Mortar Bombs manufactured and finished in these shops @ 50,000 p.a. during the last war.
Drawing No. 32/ 942 of .22 RIM fitted for firing from a rifle for 36 H.E. Grenade is preserved till today.
During 1918-19 Mesopotamian Railways entrusted Jamalpur to manufacture Giant Lifting Screws (6 Nos.) measuring 9 feet long & 3 inches thick (diameter), with Bronze Nuts (12 Nos.), for Gurmat Ali Bridge, demanding highest precision due to such a great length. A herculean task, for which in entire Asia, Jamalpur was the first choice, which it did in a perfect manner (Drg. No. 46 of 1918 dtd. 1.4.1918) along with manufacturing, the standard cranks for MG locos (LD&T-‘F’ Class) of Mesopotamian Railways (Drg. No. 283/1919,).
50,000 Locos – A Record!!
Jamalpur workshop carried its core activity with full steam, and by 1952, it had POHed around 30,000 locos and another 11,000 for Intermediate Repairs and by late 60’s it touched a staggering figure of 50,000 locos.
Diversity, Diversity and Diversity
The range of present products and service of Jamalpur workshop is the widest amongst all the workshops of Indian Railways covering Diesel Locomotives, Wagon Manufacturing, Wagon Repair, Crane Manufacture and Repair, Tower Car, Jamalpur Jacks, besides zonal Railway engineering products and services