GIVING A fillip to heritage conservation in railways, the national transporter is going to bring back steam engines of yore to haul trains in its mountain railway sections such as Kalka-Shimla, Darjeeling-Siliguri and Matheran.
Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani announced Saturday that the mountain lines where trains are currently pulled by diesel engines will instead host steam engines. “We will also try to keep the ticket prices of these special trains economic,” Lohani told the National Congress of Indian Steam Railway Society, an independent body of enthusiasts of steam locomotives and railway heritage patronized by, among others, retired and serving railway officers. Lohani is a founding member of the society.
The 96-km Kalka-Shimla Railway line in Himachal Pradesh line is a UNESCO World Heritage site inscribed in 2008. Built in 1889, it sees steady patronage by tourists during the busy season mostly on its flagship Shivalik Deluxe Express for tourists and a couple of passenger trains for commuters. These trains are currently hauled by diesel locomotives.
The 130-year-old Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the first UNESCO World Heritage line of the transporter inscribed in 1999, is also undergoing a restoration following the Gorkhaland agitation earlier this year. The 88-km line, known popularly as “toy train”, connects Siliguri with Darjeeling and Ghum, India’s highest station. A British B-class steam locomotive runs a special train even though rest of the service is hauled by a diesel locomotive.
The 21-km Matheran Hill Railway in Maharashtra, opened in 1907, is undergoing restoration following two derailments last year. Full service between Matheran and Neral will resume by early next year and officials said the steam service could be launched then.