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The end of a journey

As Central Railway phases out vintage WCG-2 locomotive, rail romantics work on a worthy farewell. Rajendra Aklekar reports.

mumbai Updated: Oct 17, 2009 00:54 IST
Rajendra Aklekar

In 1925, 22 years before India got its independence, direct current (DC) technology was introduced on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, the country’s first rail company, which we know today as the Central Railway.

And among the fabled DC locomotives of its class of electric engines was the WCG-2, which went on to become a workhorse and a legend. Now, 62 years after our tryst with destiny, the workhorse is being retired.

The Central Railway is transitioning from the now obsolete DC technology to alternate current (AC), which is more efficient, and does as much with lesser power. Given the history involved, and the country’s love affair with trains, this is not just a technology upgrade – for travellers and historians, it is the emotional end of an era.

The final farewell is sometime the next two month — date not confirmed yet — and rail romanticists are taking pictures, making documentaries, designing cards to mark the occasion. They have requested CR that the final run be on a prestigious train like the Deccan Queen. Paintings and Diwali cards are also part of the festivities.

In WCG-2, W stands for broad gauge, C means it runs on DC technology, and G indicates an engine usually used to haul Goods and Cargo trains. The digit identifies the locomotive model.

“It has served the railways for decades and in some time, it will cease to exist. It deserves a fitting tribute,” says Pune’s Apurva Bahadur (42), who talks passionately about the idea of the farewell. Right now, there are only 42 functioning units of this model running, all on the Mumbai-Pune circuit.

“No other locomotive has been documented as well as this before being scrapped. We will try and save one of the engines for the new museum,” an official said on condition of anonymity as he not authorised to speak to the media.

The museum in question is to be set up in two years at Lonavala, at a cost of Rs 11.6 crore, designed as a railway theme park, and connected to other railway museums around the world.

One group of four rail enthusiasts has enshrined the WCG-2 in a documentary film, spending over Rs 20,000 of their own funds for 15 days of shooting, to produce 12 hours of footage.

“We’ve captured it climbing hills, shunting trains out of yards, negotiating the ghats and hauling express trains,” says documentary filmmaker Poochi Venkat, one of the four.

“This loco also did duty as a banker, which pushes heavy trains from the back on inclines so they don’t roll back — we have footage of that too,” beams photographer Sachin Buddhisagar (27), another member of team.