While I was in India I had a completely unplanned encounter with what turned out to be ALCO heaven, in the sense of the number of ALCO derivative locomotives that I got to see and hear in operation, while visiting my cousin's place at a place called Shantiniketan of Tagore's Vishwa Bharati University, about 140km north of Kolkata.
Shantiniketan is on Eastern Railway's Shahibganj Loop line which was originally the East Indian Railway (EIR) main line connecting Calcutta and Delhi, before what is today the Main Line and the even shorter Grand Chord were built. It was the backwaters of Indian Railways for many years after most of the traffic got diverted to the shorter routes, but things changed after the construction of the Farakka Barrage bridge across the Ganga, opening up a direct route to North Bengal, Assam and the Northeast from Calcutta. Shahibgunj Loop is one of the two main corridors that connects Kolkata to Farakka Barrage crossing of the Ganga.
It is slated for electrification in the current 5 year plan. But pending that, it is now a relatively heavily traveled diesel main line with an average of some 10 trains per hour in each direction passing Shantiniketan. The trains are a combination of freight - general and coal, pulled by diesels, DEMUs protecting short to medium distance runs and numerous typical Indian express trains 18 to 24 cars pulled diesels. The diesel engines are predominantly Alco Century derivatives of classes WDM2, WDM3 and variants, with a smattering of new EMD derivatives WDG3, WDP6 etc. A typical sort of train that passed by, hauled by WDM-2 from Howrah or Bardhaman sheds can be seen here.
My cousin's place is close to the railroad tracks, so even if one is sitting inside one can hear the typical Alco throbbing sounds as they thunder by with a freight or an express. The track is in a shallow cut by there, and it is easy to walk to the edge of the cut and watch them go by spewing black exhaust as they climb out of Bolpur-Shanitniketan station towards the Ajai River Bridge and Prantik station.
Well, as I said I spent two days watching and listening to and smelling the exhaust of numerous ALCO derivatives go by and was indeed in heaven.
I traveled to Shantiniketan from Howrah Station of Kolkata (reached by Howrah Bridge from Kolkata) by the Ganadevata Express in AC Chair Car, pulled by a Howrah WDM-3A (Aloc derivative), and returned by Shantiniketan Express, again in AC Chair Car pulled by a WDM-3A. The links are to videos that I picked from YouTube to illustrate what these trains are like, and are not my own. An interesting feature on both of these trains and I understand most trains running through this area is that local (Baul) folk singers provide impromptu performance on board between Bardhaman and Bolpur-Shantiniketan.
Ganadevata Express departs Howrah early in the morning at around 6:30am, and takes the longer route via Main Line to Bardhaman, stopping at Sheoraphuli and Bandel on the way. It is pulled the entire run by an ALCO derived diesel, though upto Khana Jct., beyond Bardhman the tracks are electrified 25kV 50Hz. After getting a hearty breakfast of boiled eggs, toast and tea at Bardhaman the train makes a quick run to Bolpur. On the way out we actually went on to the next stop at Prantik which is closer to my cousin's place, and disembarked there.
On the way back Shantiniketan Express starts from Bolpur at 1:30pm and is a quicker train with only two stops to Howrah. It runs non-stop from Bardhaman to Howrah via the shorter Chord line and gets into Howrah at 3:20pm, weaving through already heavy outbound suburban EMU traffic from Howrah.