Braking trains on steep gradients

Normally, diesel and electric locomotives of today have methods of braking while going downhill.

In the days of steam, other methods were used. In the Indian subcontinent have the heavily trafficked ghat sections to the south-east and north-east of Mumbai. These were electrified in the mid-1920s.

Here is a picture of a downhill goods train on one of these routes before electrification:

Here it is mentioned that there are three “special weighted brake vans” after the two locos to comply with regulations. Perhaps the idea was to have higher adhesion on the tracks to prevent them from moving too quickly on the downgrade.

This line had a maximum gradient of 1 in 37. This picture seems to be taken from a catch siding.

Elsewhere in undivided India, there was a BG line with even steeper gradients of 1 in 25, on the line leading up the Bolan Pass to Quetta and beyond. Here, the regulations specified of having “skeleton” brake vans of low tare weight and no cargo which were added to downwards goods trains to provide extra braking power but with less weight than regular brake vans.

Here is an example of these wagons, taken from a video from Pakistan shot in 1982:

This was supposed to be at a place between Quetta and Bostan. The gradients are not so severe here, but these must have been destined for a goods train going down the Bolan.

Pentas and Hexas

You have heard of quadruplets, quintuplets and hextuplets. Or quadrilaterals, pentagons and hexagons.

The Penta has various connotations. Like the Pentagon. Or Brazil winning the soccer World Cup for the 5th time in 2002. Or even the dreaded Khalistani terrorist named Surjit Singh Penta, and the long-gone Hotel Leela Penta.

And there are penta locomotive combinations on the line through the Braganza ghats to Goa:

Note the “station” of Dudhsagar Water Falls, with is nothing but a viewing platform with signs.

This impressive array of power is needed for trains going downhill, particularly as they need additional braking power.

However, these are not the most locos on a train on the Indian Railways. Admittedly the six-pack you see below is quite rare.

Most of you have heard the one about “How do you get 4 elephants into a Volkswagen Beetle? Two in the front and two in the back”.

And the desi version involving the venerable Ambassador, where the 6 elephants are accommodated three in the front and three in the back.

Remember that now:

Video by Mr Rajendraprakash Saxena.

This was taken above Palasdhari at the start of the Bhor Ghat incline to Lonavla. Goods trains are normally hauled by electric locos, though here we have three WDG-3As in front and a triplet of WCG-2 howlers at the back. Not unlike howler monkeys. Sadly, you cannot hear them today.