Meet Marc Bevan, whose grandfather was the loco-pilot for Winston Churchill, whenever he visited South Wales and though his living room in the UK is flooded with pictures of steam-engine trains but he has never boarded one. Now, Marc has persuaded 11 people including his family and friends to buy tickets for the commercial run of a heavy steam engine by the railways after a gap of 16 years.
When Marc Bevan dream of seeing the black beauties chug out of the station, Patram a 85-year-old could barely hold back his tears. Patram was once the senior technician who maintained steam engines at the Rewari loco shed which is now a museum. Retired some 25 years back, when the government decided to phase out steam locomotives, Patram on Saturdays was given the honour of flagging off the maiden commercial run of Steam Express from the Delhi Cantonment station to Alwar. The old man while waving the green flag zealously said, I feel so nostalgic, as if I was reborn today.”
On Saturday at 9.15am, some forty lucky people, including men, women and children enjoy the ride in the vintage steam-run train. Out of the 40, 32 passengers were foreigners—tourists and expatriates—each with their own reason for being on the train. Vikas Arya, senior divisional mechanical engineer (power), Northern Railway, the man behind the entire show said the engine for the run, too, was chosen after much deliberation. “It is a 1965-make WP class engine manufactured by Chittaranjan locomotives and decommissioned even before the Saharanpur loco shed shut down in 1987. A Pacific class model with a 4-6-2 wheel formation, it has 1,460 horsepower. It can touch 110kmph and was used to haul the fastest Express trains during its heyday.” He also said that the heritage run will take place “at least” twice a month for the next two months. “We will gauge the response before taking the run forward. At present, we are charging Rs 10, 200 per passenger for two days and one night that includes a return journey to Alwar, a stay at Hotel Tiger Den run by the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, a Safari at Sariska, and sightseeing.”
Mac Bean, a UK national whose father was in the British Army and drove trains at Berlin and David Colenutt has been visiting India for over five times and has travelled in almost all the famous routes in the country and for them the trip is not so much for its novelty but getting in touch with their roots. “We are a team of rail enthusiasts from the UK, Australia, the US, and of course, India, who love train journeys and discovering the country. We have formed ourselves into the Darjeeling Tours and keep seeing each other when we come here,” said Colenutt.
The children’s traveling in that train, for them it was the sheer grandeur of the engine that has captured their imagination. “It’s my first journey on a steam engine-run train. I had heard a great deal about them, but will now ride one,” said Zoe a ten year old kid. Andrew Cartwright and Saowamas, a couple who arrived at the station almost 70 minutes ahead of departure—even before the railway officials showed up—for them the trip was to relive the “romance they had experienced while taking a similar heritage trip in Scotland five years ago”. Amartya Chowdhury and Saurabhi Das Chowdhury another couple also said that it was the “uniqueness” of the occasion that spurred them to spend thousands. “We hope it’s a weekend we will always remember.” The railways, too, hope such rides will become a permanent feature of their calendar. “You can now book the entire train for Rs 4 lakh. We hope the Rewari Steam Locomotive Shed & Rail Museum gets a good response through such runs,” added Arya.
News Source : Times of India