By Arun Kumar Das,
New Delhi : Steam locomotives will be chugging along on all hill railways across the country — besides charting out a new course on the Delhi Ring Railway — as the Railways pushes the idea of reviving the glory of its steam heritage.
With the successful operation of a steam-hauled train on the Palanpur-Jogindernagar section of Kangra Valley Railway, all five hill railways now have steam loco services to attract tourists.
Kangra Valley Railway, which is on the tentative list of Unesco’s World Heritage Sites, witnessed the revived steam loco operation recently after more than 20 years. The regular steam loco operation is expected to boost tourism in Himachal Pradesh.
While Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Nilgiri Mountain Railway have regular steam locos services, the Kalka-Shimla Railway and Matheran Hill Railway are equipped to conduct chartered services on tourist demand.
But the big thrust will be seen in the capital’s long-neglected — and once-popular — Ring Railway, that has fallen by the wayside as the city expanded rapidly.
“It is a big revival of steam locomotives in Indian Railways, and our aim is to have regular steam loco operations in all hill railways — and also in the long-awaited Delhi Ring Railway route,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with rail heritage.
With the advent of diesel and electric locomotives, steam engines were phased out in 1995 by the Railways.
Though there was a move to run a steam locomotive on the Delhi Ring Railway during the Commonwealth Games in 2010, this did not materialise for various reasons.
However, the state-run transporter is now actively working on reviving the service to showcase its heritage, bring back the romance of steam engines and promote tourism. The task has been assigned to Northern Railway.
The existing 34 km-long ring railway, which runs parallel to the Ring Road, passes through several prominent places of Delhi like Chanakyapuri, Safdarjung and Sarojini Nagar and is expected to attract large numbers of tourists and rail enthusiasts interested in steam locos.
As per the plan, the train, comprising four heritage coaches with a steam locomotive, would start from Safdarjung station and travel to Anand Vihar, Old Yamuna Bridge, Old Delhi, New Delhi and Nizamuddin station before returning to Safdarjung.
Tourists will be able to visit the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, National Rail Museum, the historic Old Yamuna Bridge, Humayun’s tomb and rail buildings such as Old Delhi station, Kashmere Gate and Baroda House by using the service.
“The landscape along the proposed route will be beautified, besides other necessary arrangements to make it operational. The fare structure and timings are yet to be decided,” the official said.
“Two options are being considered: A round trip or a hop-on-hop-off ticket,” the official added.
At present, there are very few steam locos across the world that are still in working condition.
(Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at email@example.com