Delhi: India’s oldest monorail comes back to life, to chug every Thursday
Visitors to National Rail Museum in Chanakyapuri can now experience a ride on India’s oldest monorail, which was once owned and used by the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh.
Indian Railways, in an effort to preserve its heritage, has restored the 108-year-old locomotive, which runs within the compound of the rail museum every Thursday and is open for general public. The 10-seater monorail makes four trips in a day. The cost of a single journey — a 400 metre long trip — is Rs 500 per person.
The rail carriage, known as Patiala State Monorail Trainways (PSMT), is an unique rail-guided, partially road-borne railway system.
It runs on a single track and has a large wheel attached to it on one side to balance the train.
Railway officials say four such locomotives were imported by the erstwhile princely states to India, including one by the ruler of Patiala in 1908 from the United Kingdom.
It took railway officials three months to revive the steam locomotive, which had been in operation for six years with theMaharaja of Patiala, till the arrival of standard gauge trains in India.
The Patiala State Monorail Trainways was brought to the rail museum some 30 years ago and the administration started its restoration after a visit by railway board chairman Ashwani Lohani to the museum last year.
Soon after taking charge in August last year, Lohani had termed the preservation of rail heritage as one of his priorities.
“We are committed to preserving the heritage of the railways. Restoring the unique Patiala state monorail train is an appreciable initiative. That we had a monorail train almost 100 years ago is an important learning from the past,” Lohani said.
“But restoration of the old train engine was not easy as the equipment used 100-years-ago were not available,” said Amit Saurastri, director of the rail museum.
“Restoring this old engine with a coach was not easy. The width of the top of the track was more than normal, so we could not get the exact track. We purchased it in parts and grinded it here so that the train could run on it. Finally, we put the train back on track last Thursday and we will run it every Thursday,” said Amit Saurastri, director of the rail museum.
Since the engine is old, museum administration has coupled just one coach behind it that can seat 10 people in it at a time. Initially, it will be operated for public once a week but if demand increases, the museum authority is open to increasing the frequency.
Railway officials said that though the single wheel helped in balancing the train, almost 95% of the load is borne by the single rail.
“Before restoring it, we tried collecting all the details about the PSMT. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh got this unique railway system to the state and it was opened for public use then too. It used to run between Patiala and Sunam (around 30-40 miles). Since, one wheel of it used to be on the road, it was easy to run the train in congested areas,” Amit added.
The National Rail Museum was inaugurated on February 1, 1977, and has an interesting collection of history and heritage. Over 100 real size exhibits display the glory of the bygone era in the museum.