Lost Railway Twins? One in Scotland, another in India.(Rajendra B Aklekar)

Regular readers may well wonder where Rajendra’s weekly column “The Great Indian Railway Romance” has disappeared to!

Well, to those who follow Rajendra’s Facebook page, it seems like he is on something of a railway tour..and this item has certainly piqued a few people’s interest….

The story of the abandoned rail ballast stone crusher (W.H Baxter- 1878) found near railway tracks at Lonavala by Jayant Ramdasi has taken a curious turn.

A very similar stone crusher with similar markings and etchings has now been found at Isle of Skye, Scotland in a similar state. Here I put up a collage of both of them. Two brothers- one in Maharashtra, India, another at Isle of Skye, Scotland.

The stone crusher near Lonavala was probably used by the engineers along the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, India’s first railway company, to break stones for maintaining rail tracks and other construction-related activities in the tough mountainous terrain between Mumbai and Pune.

While Ramdasi spotted it near railway tracks in Lonavala in Maharashtra and put up on the social media, scientist, engineer from Scotland Lindsay Wilson reacted saying “there’s one near where we live on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and put up a pic. Isn’t it interesting?

However, it is not clear how old the machine could be as records suggest that the orders with WH Baxter and Company were placed till as late as 1955, by which time the original Great Indian Peninsula Company had been renamed as Central Railway.

In fact, it was in 1878 that the WH Baxter Company was established and the date on the plaque could be an indicator that as well. But whatever is the case, it is a fact that the W.H Baxter stone breakers were known to be revolutionary, having crushed tons of stones per hour at a comparatively lesser power requirement.

A news report in a construction journal of 1880, The Building News, stated that that the latest version of the stone breaker that year was a much better performer than the earlier one, though it did not demonstrate well.

It is recorded that the new one experimented and could break as much as six tonnes of stones per hour and that two machines of this company could be used at the same amount of power required for one of any other sort.

It was in 1878 that engineer William Henry Baxter of Albion Street, Leeds established the company W. H. Baxter and Co. to manufacture various construction-related equipment.

The Grace’s Guide states that it was an exhibitor at the 1881 Royal Agricultural Show at Derby and was incorporated as a limited company in 1898 and had received a large order for stone-breaking machines for India.

Whatever may be the case, the antique stone beaker, now with its twin in England, deserves to be salvaged from Lonavala, Maharashtra, and preserved locally or shifted to the National Railway Museum in New Delhi, as an extraordinary piece of 20th century engineering marvel.

Journalist. Author of two books on trains and railways in India. Biographer: India’s Railway ManDr E Sreedharan  and Halt Station India, best-selling book on the romance and history of India’s first rail line, short-listed as Best Non-Fiction at Bangalore Literary Fest 2015, now into its fourth imprint. Get copies here: https://goo.gl/SMcdnS

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rajtoday Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rajendrab.aklekar

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