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, 1888INDIAN 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.
Jamalpur has many notable firsts & various milestones to its credit-
-1st to manufacture a steam locomotive within house cast wheels and boiler- 216 nos. (1899-1923).
-1st to set up a rolling mill not only on the railways, but probably in the country too in 1879.
-1st to establish a steel foundry in railway in the year 1898.
-1st to manufacture a rail crane in India with indigenous know-how in 1961.
-1st to manufacture high capacity electrical lifting jacks and ticket printing, ticket chopping, ticket slitting and ticket counting machines.
(As early as 1888, nearly 50,000 tickets were printed daily in Printing Press of Traffic Department. At that time E.I.R. was divided into 5 districts, with Mr. N. St. L.Carter as the Traffic Manager at Jamalpur)
-1888 - Technical School, Trade Apprentice Training started.
-1st and the only railway workshop to manufacture electrical arc furnaces in 1961(500 Kg Cap.). 1st and the only workshop in the country manufacturing 140T ART cranes.
-1950 - 60T Anvil Block for CLW cast. Landmark in Indian Foundry History.
-1st to complete the MLR of 140T Crane No. 142041/ TSK.
-1st to complete the SPL MLR of 140T Crane No. 142032/BSP.
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, Coaching Bogies (ICF 13T & 16T) besides zonal Railway engineering products and services.
The Railway age in Eastern India started on August 15, 1854, exactly ninety-three years before Independence. A locomotive, carriage and wagon workshop was set up in Howrah to put to commission imported rolling stock of EIR and also to render economic repairs to them. The railways spread very fast, perhaps faster than the anticipation of EIR. Within a short span of eight years, it became necessary to shift the site of shop, as there was hardly any scope for expansion at Howrah
The British chose Jamalpur as the new site of this workshop due to ready availability of skilled workers who were descendants of acclaimed gun makers and fabricators of weapons of steel for the Nawabs of Bengal and Orissa. Jamalpur is also geographically well located, on the western side of a hill range while the Ganges flow 7 KMs north of it
Established on the 8th day of February’1862, Jamalpur Workshop has enjoyed the distinction of being the largest and the oldest locomotive repair workshop with the most diversified manufacturing activities on he Indian Railways
The workshop has a number of FIRSTS to its credit, a few of which are: -
The FIRST to manufacture a steam locomotive and a locomotive boiler.
216 of which were manufactured between 1899 and 1923.
The FIRST to have set up a rolling mill, not only on the railways but probably in the country, in 1879.
The FIRST to establish a railway foundry in the year 1863.
The FIRST to manufacture a rail crane in the country with indigenous know-how in 1961.
The FIRST to manufacture high capacity electrical lifting jacks and ticket printing, ticket chopping, ticket slitting and ticket counting machines.
The FIRST and the only railway workshop to manufacture electrical arc furnaces of ½ tonne in 1961 for production of steel castings.
This is the only railway workshop in the country manufacturing 140 T ART cranes for Railways to-day.
The gradual eclipse of steam traction on Indian Railways, steam locomotive activities, which had peaked at 600 Standard units per month in 1962-63, started declining in the late 60’s and finally the steam activities came to a complete halt in August ’92. The effect of closure of steam activities was to some extent overcome with the switching over to the repair of Diesel Locomotives, repair of unloadable wagons and manufacture of Diesel Hydraulic B.D. Cranes and Tower Cars.
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