Branchlines in India seeking hydrogen traction

Indian railways is engaging in trials for hydrogen locomotives for some mountainous railway lines. According to this article, the objective is to get the trail running by December 2023, making it a first for this type of railway line and the respective altitude. The two candidates for the trial are the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the Kalka – Shimla Railway.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a narrow gauge railway that runs from Siliguri to Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal. It was built in the 19th century to transport tea and other goods from the hills of Darjeeling down to the plains. The railway is known for its stunning views of the Himalayan mountains and for its unique engineering, which includes steep gradients, tight curves, and the use of zig zags to navigate the terrain. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Kalka – Shimla Railway

The Kalka-Shimla Railway is a narrow gauge railway that runs from Kalka to Shimla in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It was built in the late 19th century to connect Shimla, the summer capital of British India, with the rest of the country. The railway is known for its beautiful views of the Himalayan mountains and for its unique engineering, which includes the use of over 800 bridges and 103 tunnels to navigate the terrain. The Kalka-Shimla Railway has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is a popular tourist attraction and is still in operation today, with toy trains running between Kalka and Shimla on a daily basis.

The reasoning behind the hydrogen test

Both railways currently run with diesel power, and since the lines are rather long and traffing is rather slim, an electrification is commercially not viable. On the other hand, Indian Railways (IR) intends to reduce their carbon foot print and a lighthouse project such as the conversion of a tourist line towards hytrogen can help to sprawl many other developments.

If the test is successful, I will certainly plan a trip there in the coming years to understand what the eventual environmental footprint of the hydrogen trial was and if such approaches could also be utilized for some mountain railways in North America or Europe.

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