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Smoking beauty brings back the old world charm

delhi Updated: Dec 07, 2011 01:15 IST
Rajat Arora

On a misty Tuesday morning, the black beauty churns out smoke from its chimney, signalling a new voyage. It’s been 15 years since Sher-e-Punjab, a steam loco, started for a mainline journey. Amar Singh, a steam loco driver, hasn’t driven a steam engine in the last couple of years.

It took him eight hours to start the monstrous machine and even after 18 years of service, he is still amazed to see how only water and coal could run a gigantic engine.

Sher-e-Punjab, built by Vulcan foundry and imported from the UK in 1955, is ready for its journey to Rewari, Haryana, which has one of the world’s largest sheds of steam engines that the railways are trying to develop as a tourist destination.

The last time Sher-e-Punjab made a commercial journey was on December 6, 1995. It ran from Ferozpur to Jalandhar in Punjab.

The steam loco, which can easily touch the speed of 100 km/hour, started from the Delhi Cantonment railway station at 10 am on Tuesday for a trial run. As it moved, heads turned to catch a glimpse of history. Enthralling the onlookers,

Sher-e-Punjab made its way towards Rewari, around 80 km from Delhi.

Crossing by the Indira Gandhi International Airport and the millennium city of Gurgaon, the steam engine, after three hours of journey, finally reached Rewari, Haryana. The railways, however, plan to make it a two-hour journey.

“We drove at the speed of 40 km/hour as we didn’t know how the engine will react. It can give any modern-day engine a run for its money. It has exceeded our expectations,” said Ashwani Lohani, divisional railways manager, Delhi division.

The Delhi division of Northern Railways is planning a weekly steam engine ride from Delhi Cant to Rewari steam loco shed to introduce the current generation with the old world charm of Indian railways.

“There will be many who shall see a steam engine working for the first time in their life. For old timers, it’s pure nostalgia of an era gone by,” added Lohani.