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Steaming ahead through squalor

The 60-year-old steam engine chugged across the four corners of Delhi on Saturday morning, reports Neha Mehta.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2007 02:54 IST
Neha Mehta

Sometimes, it takes history to mock the present. As the 60-year-old, retired but still resplendent WP 7200 steam engine — the forefather of all steam engines in post-independence India — chugged across the four corners of Delhi on Saturday morning, the squalor of the city stood in sharp contrast to the quaint, plush interiors of the train.

Not that it mattered to the excited 400-plus passengers—who had turned up in their Saturday best, donned in Prada and Armani outfits with the children in tow. Few bothered about the fetid drains that trailed alongside throughout the two-and-a-half-hour-long journey. The experience of seeing the city in the 'poetry in steel' was levitating enough. 

For Class IX students Vivan Kamath and Radha Sarkar, who woke up "at the crack of dawn" for the journey, the trip was all about seeing parts of Delhi they wouldn't have otherwise. "After a while, one landfill starts to look like another, and it's just great fun to sit and chat on a steam train," chirped the ecstatic duo.

Says Rajesh Agrawal, executive director of the heritage wing of the Ministry of Railways, "The ride is part of the Railway's social face, a "journey of discovery". Friends of Heritage Society, an NGO that took people straight into a sepia-tinted era, hopes to help kids discover the value of national heritage.