history in images

An Australian trainspotter’s images from the 1960s could rewrite steam engine history in India

Ian Manning shot photographs to document steam trains in India, and they languished for decades before being found, restored and recently exhibited.

In 1965, a young Australian teacher, Ian Manning, stood beside the railway tracks of Vandalur, a suburb of Chennai, with a camera at the ready. From a distance, plumes of billowing black smoke puffed out of the engine of a slow-moving steam train. The engine driver leaned out of the train, peering curiously at Manning.

This moment captured by the Australian was displayed five decades later in a photo exhibition in Chennai. From Tambaram to Vandalur, Manning had been cycling alongside the train to photograph it from various angles, often overtaking it – much to the embarrassment of the driver – said Venkatraman, a Chennai-based photographer who curated the exhibition held in late April at Wandering Artist, an arts and culture space in RA Puram.

Metre-gauge steam train arriving at Kodai Road station near Madurai in June 1965. Credit: Ian Manning and Poochi Venkat
Metre-gauge steam train arriving at Kodai Road station near Madurai in June 1965. Credit: Ian Manning and Poochi Venkat

For posterity

Manning, who is now a retired professor of economics in Melbourne, spent five years in the 1960s travelling across South India, photographing trains. Along with his friend and colleague Sivaramakrishnan, Manning documented a variety of locomotives, right from the toy trains in the Nilgiris to the gleaming engines in Madras. But for half a century, the photographs were not developed or exhibited. “He was only interested in documenting the trains, nothing else,” said Venkat, who is also known as Poochi Venkat.

In the late 1990s, Manning realised that the negatives of the photographs had begun to deteriorate. In an attempt to restore them, Manning contacted some members of the Indian Railway Fan Club, an unofficial group of railway enthusiasts who collect archival photographs and documentation of trains in India. Poochi Venkat is also member of the group, and gladly took up the task eight years ago. “I offered to restore it for free,” he said. “Because I knew that this was a real treasure.”

Vandalur-Tambaram Passenger service at Vandalur, a suburb of Madras in August 1965.
Vandalur-Tambaram Passenger service at Vandalur, a suburb of Madras in August 1965.

Digitising and archiving images is Venkat’s profession. But restoring these negatives was not an easy task. “They were so fragile that they crumbled when I touched them,” he said. Many pictures were damaged beyond repair and some were scarred with fungus. “I had to search for pictures like these on the internet, taken by other people from different angles. Whenever I got the chance, I visited the places, looking for the missing tree or building in the frame. I had to do this picture by picture. There was no other way.”

It took Venkat three years to digitise the 1,200 frames that Manning gave him. Of these, nearly 360 were images of trains. It then took him five years to clean and restore 70 images of trains in South India, of which only 20 could be printed on paper. “I don’t know how long it will take me to restore the rest of the images,” he said. But he believes it was worth the effort.

Steam train receiving the home signal clearance to enter Manamadurai, Madras State in June 1965. Credit: Ian Manning and Poochi Venkat
Steam train receiving the home signal clearance to enter Manamadurai, Madras State in June 1965. Credit: Ian Manning and Poochi Venkat

Besides informing people about various locomotives designed over 50 years ago, the images offer new information for steam engine fans in the country. Trains that had been recorded as travelling along certain routes had been photographed by Manning at unexpected stations. “Some enthusiasts said that because of these pictures, we have to rewrite the steam engine history of India,” he said, adding that Manning was oblivious to the historic significance of his photographs while shooting them. “He was just curious, and did not go in with that intention displaying his images one day.”

Venkat had met Manning a few months ago when the professor had made a brief visit to India. “When I told him about his picture compositions, and how beautifully he had taken the photographs, he began laughing and said – ‘I never knew I was a good photographer.’”

Overcrowded 642-passenger approaching Tambaram, a suburb of Madras in August 1965. Credit: Ian Manning and Poochi Venkat
Overcrowded 642-passenger approaching Tambaram, a suburb of Madras in August 1965. Credit: Ian Manning and Poochi Venkat

While Manning has no specific plans for his photo collection, Venkat intends to publish a book of the pictures. But given the sheer volume of photographs taken across the country, he is still trying to decide whether to organise them into multiple sections based on geographical location or the type of train.

“At the very least I want to bring out a book that talks about Madras and all the trains going around it, through the eyes of Ian Manning,” he said.

Steam loco at Trivellore (Tiruvallur) in September 1965. Credit: Ian Manning and Poochi Venkat
Steam loco at Trivellore (Tiruvallur) in September 1965. Credit: Ian Manning and Poochi Venkat
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.


The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.