WCG-2 locomotive to be preserved at Heritage Gully, CSMT

One more locomotive will be preserved at the Heritage Gully of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) in Mumbai, according to Central Railway officials who confirmed the plan to RailPost.

A decommissioned WCG-2 class locomotive, bearing the number 20158, will now be placed at the Gully, situated near the P D’Mello Road (Platform 18 side) entrance of the CSMT. The loco is currently in transit, and will first undergo some restoration work at CR’s workshops.

One more unit, 20108, was preserved at Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) in 2007.

Life in service

The WCG-2 class operated only on 1.5 kV Direct Current (DC) traction. As a result, units of this class were generally restricted to operations in the Mumbai division of Central Railway (CR).

The first units were put in service in 1971, and production continued till 1977. A total of 57 were built at Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) and were allotted numbers from 20104 to 20161. All were homed at CR’s Kalyan Electric Loco Shed. Famous for the distinctive and deafeningly loud howl of their blowers, WCG-2s were built for operation in Mumbai’s DC traction territory. The extreme noise levels made it impossible for the crew to communicate with each other, especially in tunnels, forcing them to resort to hand gestures to ‘call’ out signals.

WCG-2 in active service

One of the unique features of this class was the implementation of ‘vernier’ notches. The system smoothened delivery of power delivery to the wheel, and thus adhesion. However, this came at the cost of additional work for the crew when speeding a train up.

WCG-2 bankers awaiting entry of a train into Kasara station

Over the last two decades of active duty, many WCG-2s were used as banking locomotives. In this role, they were used in twin or triple unit formations to push trains up the steep ghat sections on two key lines connecting Mumbai to the rest of India. Some locomotives were also assigned regular duties on freight or coaching services. However, being restricted to speeds of 80 kmph, they were not considered an ideal choice for mail or express trains. Some units were re-geared and rated at 90 kmph for a partial solution to this issue.

Decline

The advent of dual traction AC-DC locomotives of the WCAG and WCAM classes in the late 1990s sealed the fate of DC-only locomotives. Their higher power output and the ability to operate seamlessly under both types of traction made them the preferred choice for most trains.

Work on conversion from DC to AC traction had also begun at the turn of the century. As AC traction gradually encroached into DC territory between 2001 and 2015, the area that the DC-only locomotives could operate in continued to shrink. The Thull ghat section between Kasara and Igatpuri was switched over to AC traction in 2006. AC and AC-DC locomotives took over banking operations.

WCG-2s were relieved of banking duties and restricted to freight movements in the small DC island that remained in the last few years. Many underwent condemnation over the past decade. Some were cannibalised for parts to ensure the final few units continued operating. The rest were scrapped. By 2011, only about a dozen units were in service.

The final remaining locomotives were taken out of service when the Mumbai division of CR switched over completely to Alternating Current (AC) traction by mid-2015.

Not Alone

20158 will be the second locomotive to be plinthed at the Heritage Gully. The first to be restored and plinthed at the Gully was the Vulcan Foundry built EF/1 or IR class WCG-1 numbered 20067. Like its younger sibling, the WCG-1 was also a DC-only locomotive. The WCG-1 was a common sight in the Mumbai division of Central Railway till the 1990s, and units of this class operated as shunting locomotives or handled light loads. They were popularly known as ‘khekda’ or crab, and occasionally crocodiles.

[With inputs from IRFCA.org]

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