Fairy Queen is in need of a magic wand

A dead body whose every removable part has been removed,says Chennai workshop about the vandalised steam locomotive

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Published: January 23, 2012 12:02:52 am

Looted,vandalised and rendered useless under the watchful eyes of the Railway Protection Force last year,the legendary steam locomotive Fairy Queen is far from getting back on its feet any time soon.

The Indian Railways’s Perambur Locomotive Workshop in Chennai admits it can’t locate any supplier which can provide the spare parts of the 156-year-old engine,which till last year held the record for being the world’s oldest running steam locomotive.

It was around three weeks ago that the workshop received the remains of the Fairy Queen from Delhi. Having run a thorough assessment,it has concluded that the damage is far greater than suspected. And it is not certain when the engine will be up and running again,if at all.

“What we received is a dead body,a piece of metal whose every removable part has been removed,leaving only the metal shell. The list of parts to be procured is huge,” said M Raveendran,Deputy Chief Mechanical Engineer of the workshop.

Unable to find any source to procure and replace the rare parts,the workshop now can’t determine a time frame for its revival. “It could easily take at least a year,” he said.

The number of missing parts on the engine has been estimated by the workshop to be between 50 and 60 — much more than what officials in Delhi had assessed. The main challenge is to find the main parts,including the boiler,condenser,lubricator and flow tubes.

If no supplier is located,the workshop will try and make the parts itself. However,they will face the problem of replicating the authentic design and patterns. Since Kitson,Thompson & Hewitson,the British company that manufactured the engine in 1855,ceased to exist in 1938,officials admit original patterns are hard to come by. Even if the Railways decides to go in for a global tender,it is not likely to draw much of a response given that not many companies are operational in the filed of steam locomotives right now. Money,the workshop stresses,is not a constraint for a prestige project like the Fairy Queen.

The last time the steam engine was overhauled was in 2004,by the same workshop,but at that time the problem was minimal as the engine itself was in running condition with the boiler functioning perfectly along with other key parts.

Fairy Queen has been famous for its elaborate brass adornments,its shrill whistle and the rhythmic chugging sound typical of vintage locomotives of yesteryears.

Out of steam

Rewari steam loco shed in Haryana houses a number of vintage locos,rehabilitated but out of service.

Here are a few.

XE 3634. 1930 vintage. It was owned and operated by the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board,in its plant at Kobra,and gifted to the Railways after it was decommissioned. Only surviving X class IRS steam loco.

Awe 22907. 1943 vintage,one of the oldest of this class,imported from the US.

WP 7161,built at Chittranjan Locomotive Works,inducted in 1965. Operated from Saharanpur shed before being phased out.

WL 15005,from the first lot of this class,manufactured by Vulcan Foundry UK in 1955. Initially allotted to Southern Railway.

YP 2151,built by TELCO in 1957. Perhaps the only surviving working YP class locomotive in India.

YG 3415,3438,4252. TELCO-built,in working order. 1960 vintage.

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