In the Power Hall at the museum stands a remarkable steam locomotive. The Pakistan Railways SP/S 3157, a 4-4-0 engine built by The Vulcan Foundry, Newton-Le-Willows and delivered in 1912. This one locomotive travelled half way around the world and back again; clocked up many thousands of miles in its service career; and witnessed the creation of a new nation.
In late September, artist Nihkil Chopra, will use this special object as the centrepiece of a 48-hour performance piece evoking the complex history of colonialism, the British Raj, independence and the subsequent Partition of India in 1947. This has given us a great chance to delve into our archives and take a more in-depth look at the history of this extraordinary engine.
Because of the journeys SP/S 3157 has made and the historic times it has travelled through, the locomotive is more than just an object in the museum’s collections. It reflects Britain’s colonial past, particularly its role in creating the railway networks and subsequent trade networks formed for exporting British goods around the world and importing exotic and other goods from across the Empire.
The engine was one of 11 ordered by North-Western Railway (NWR), a regional railway operated by the Indian State Railway. The 11 engines were Progressive Order Nos 2759-2769. S/PS 3157 was Progressive Order No 2764, a broad gauge engine. Broad gauge measured 5 feet 6 inches between the rails and was favoured because it allowed the engineer’s designing the locomotives to build larger fire boxes and boilers, enabling the engines to pull longer and heavier loads, whilst at the same time being more stable on the railway tracks—especially useful in the mountainous regions of northwest India.
This locomotive was a product of a report from the Locomotive Committee on Standard Locomotives for Indian Railways, published in 1910. The report published a set of standards and specifications for locomotives, which had been agreed after receiving instructions from the then-Secretary of State for India, with the assistance of a conference first held in 1903 between consulting engineers and locomotive manufacturers.
The conference included directors from various engineering companies including the Vulcan Foundry Ltd and Beyer, Peacock & Co Ltd, leading locomotive builders in the North West. Vulcan Foundry had received an order to build and supply eight locomotives for India in 1852, not long after the first railways were built there, and between 1852 and 1952 the Vulcan foundry built a total of 2,750 locomotives, an average of one a fortnight for 100 years.
Beyer, Peacock began supplying locomotives to India in 1855, with an order for 10 engines. That company continued to supply locomotives to India until 1939, during which time they built and supplied the country with 270 locomotives. One such order, in 1904, was to build 10 passenger locomotives for NWR using specifications that were to be used by Vulcan a few years later in 1911 for S/PS 3157.
Head to part two of this blog to read more about how the locomotive manufacturing companies responded to transporting large steam locomotives to India, a little more on the NWR, and how eventually the Pakistan Railways Eng No S/PS 3157 came back to the land of its creation.