Among the numerous inventions which have ushered in the modern industrial age, the steam locomotive occupies a pre-eminent place. Also, nothing has perhaps so caught the imagination of the common people, especially children, as the steam locomotive which is also called 'Iron Horse'. The sight of a locomotive steaming in and out of a railway station, ejecting puffs of smoke into the air in a rhythmic pattern, never fails to fascinate.

The era of steam locomotive began in India on December 22, 1851 when a small steam locomotive named "Thompson" started to haul some wagons containing earth during the construction of Solani Aqueduct near Roorkee in Uttar Pradesh. The first public train service hauled by steam locomotives was introduced on April 16, 1853 between Bombay and Thana. With the expansion of the railway network all over the country, the 'Iron Horse' carried passengers and goods across the length and breadth of this vast sub-continent and helped to bring about industrialisation and urbanisation, economic development and social transformation all over the country.

Indigenous manufacture of locomotives was started on a small scale in the Railway Workshop at Jamalpur in 1889 and in the Ajmer Workshop in 1895. Our steam locomotive designs were largely influenced by the designs in vogue in the U.K. but specific changes were made to suit local conditions. Standardisation of designs started as early as 1903. In 1924, a Locomotive Standards Committee was set up in India to examine the existing designs and suggest new types of powerful locomotives. The designs evolved by this Committee helped considerably in developing adequate indigenous technical know-how to manufacture most of the spares for steam locomotives

In the post-independence period, the first steam locomotive manufacturing unit was set up in India at Chittaranjan in 1950. Between 1950 and 1972, this unit manufactured 2,351 steam locomotives. During this period, the steam locomotives were being replaced the world over by diesel and electric locos and in India too, manufacture of diesel and electric locomotives was started. The Diesel Locomotive Works was started at Varanasi in January, 1964. In 1961, Chittaranjan unit started manufacture of electric locomotives.

The Indian Railways have a fleet of 8682 steam locomotives, 1702 diesel locomotives and 729 electric locomotives.

 The different classes of locomotives depicted on the stamps are GIP No 1, F/1 Metre-Gauge, WP/1 Broad-Gauge and WDM2 Diesel.


GIP No 1: This engine is representative of the earliest engines employed in India. To operate the train service between...Bombay and Thana, the Great Indian Peninsular Railway ordered eight locomotives from Vulcan Foundry, England. These engines GIP Nos 1—8 were manufactured in 1852, bearing maker's numbers 324-331 and were, excepting two contractor's locomotives of 1851, the earliest type in service on the railways of India. The first engine entered service in 1853.


F/1 : This was the most widely used engine on Indian Railways before independence It was extensively used on the Rajputana Malwa Railway which became the metre-gauge section of the Bombay Baroda and Central Indian Railway. The first of these engines was built by Dubs and Company at Glasgow in 1875, and weighed 19 tons. From 1895, these engines also were manufactured in India at the Ajmer Railway Workshop. These were withdrawn from active service in 1958. The engine depicted on the stamp was manufactured at Ajmer in 1895.



WP/I : The standard post-war broad-gauge express locomotive is the WP class 4-6-2 ‘Pacific’ type. This design was the outcome of detailed study of previous types and incorporated the result of research into efficiency and mechanical details. Sixteen prototype engines were built in the United States in 1947 and after exhaustive trials and minor alterations, 300 further engines were ordered from a number of suppliers. In 1963, manufacture of this type was started at Chittaranjan Locomotive Works.



WDM2 Diesel : This is the most widely used diesel locomotive in India This locomotive is a mixed class design with 2,600 hp. weighing 113 tons and hauls freight trains of 2,250 tons and mail trains with 18 coaches. These engines haul nearly 56 per cent of the total freight traffic on the Indian Railways and important mail and express trains The Diesel Locomotive Works at Varanasi has a capacity to manufacture 120 such locomotives per year.


Date of issue : 30.4.1976