WHAT DO you do when you have converted over 5000 route-km of metre-gauge line to broad gauge, and have an fleet of relatively modern rolling stock surplus to requirements? That was the question Indian Railways posed to Rail India Technical & Economic Services.

Rites was asked to find new uses for the best of the 700 diesel locos and 6000 coaches from the metre-gauge network, notably the YDM4 Co-Cos powered by IR’s standard 6-cylinder Alco 251-D engine. Following the lease of 30 YDM4s to Malaysian Railways in 1995-96, another 10 have departed for Tanzania on a wet lease earning over US$5m in foreign exchange. A further 10 are set to cross the Indian Ocean to Myanmar, although this time as an outright sale.

The latest idea is to rebuild some to broad gauge. Southern Railway’s central workshops in Tiruchirapalli has converted a trial YDM4 to take standard-gauge bogies, widening the main frames by 169mm and extending them 731mm to take new buffer beams. The result is a more modern 1400hp replacement for the ageing 700hp broad-gauge WDS4 shunters, which could also release some 2600hp WDM2s from engineering trains. Using bogies from accident-damaged WDM2s helped to keep the conversion cost below Rs500000. Rites is now canvassing industrial railway operators to buy conversions rather than new WDS6 shunters from the Diesel Loco Works at Varanasi.