The old-world steam locomotives are all set to romance the rail tracks again as the Railways plans to run special steam trains for tourists. Phased out in the late Eighties and Nineties, steam locomotives, popularly known as the black beauties, will be the backbone of the Railways’ heritage tourism plans.
The steam-hauled tourist trains train would be operated on short distance tourist circuits such as Delhi to Alwar. “These would be uber posh trains on the lines of Palace on Wheels and Maharajas’ Express. We hope they would be a delight for foreign tourists as there are very few places in the world where these trains are being run,” said a senior Railways official.
At present, Railways has around six working steam locomotives at its Rewari steam locomotives shed. The biggest draw for foreign tourists is ‘The Fairy Queen’, which was built in 1855 and holds the Guinness world record of being the oldest working locomotive. The engine is currently being restored at a workshop in Chennai.
“Steam heritage is a niche tourism segment across the world and is very popular in the UK. Indian Railways can give a boost to its image internationally by bringing steam locomotives back on track as it will attract tourists from across the world,” said Ashwani Lohani of the Indian Steam Railway Society (ISRS).
To discuss the issues related to the revival of steam engines, ISRS is organising a National Steam Congress in which steam rail experts from UK are also participating.
“Last year, the Delhi division of Indian Railways had successfully operated a weekly steam-hauled tourist train as a pilot project for foreign tourists between Delhi and Alwar. The response that we got was very encouraging. I think we should continue taking such small steps to revive the glory of steam locomotives,” said Lohani, who at present is the chief mechanical officer, Northern Railways, and is spearheading the revival of steam locomotives in the country.
A steam locomotive can give any modern-day diesel engine a run for its money, as the black beauty can easily touch a speed of 110 km/hour.
Meanwhile, to make its steam locomotives plans more popular, Railways is also planning to tie up with IRCTC, state tourism corporations and other private tourism associations.