After at least two decades, a train pulled by a steam engine ran commercially on the narrow gauge line of Kangra Valley railway in Himachal Pradesh Friday with a group of British tourists that is in India to experience the heritage of Indian Railways.
Railways got the ZB 66 steam locomotive ready and attached two coaches to it to make it a charter service for the British group that had hired the service to experience Indian Railways of the Raj era. The ZB class steam locomotives were designed in the 1950s.
“We plan to do more of this now that we see that there is a demand among railway heritage enthusiasts for the steam service. We plan to develop more sectors,” said Vivek Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager of Firozpur Division of Northern Railway.
Railways charged around Rs 1.5 lakh for the train ride on the 14-km distance between Palampur and Baijnath Paprola. It stopped at multiple places as per wishes of the 14 tourists — an advantage of booking a charter service — for photo opportunities. It took almost a couple of hours for the train to reach the destination.
“The tourists were all senior citizens from various parts of England. This is part of our ‘Railways of the Raj’ tour across the hill railways in India. We plan to bring more tourists to this sector,” said Amit Chopra of Travel Pals, the company which had organised the run.
Railways is trying to bring back the steam engines into service for special tourist runs like this. The Heritage directorate of Railways ministry has been pushing for tourism in the hill railways for better conservation of the assets across India, which are are part of “living heritage” the national transporter has.
Chairman, Railway Board, Ashwani Lohani has even asked zones to find out ways to run some tourist trains with regular sleeper coaches for passengers to experience the charm of heritage steam locomotives.