The International Steam Pages
Rewari Locos Hit the Main Line 2011/12
Vikas Arya reports on regular steam on the line between Delhi and Rewari,
the home of India's premier preserved steam centre. It now has its own website
The revival of the steam locomotives at the Rewari Steam Shed has given a new lease of life to the niche segment of Steam Tourism in India which still is an untapped sector with immense potential. The shed locomotives, after their revival to mainline fitness, underwent several trials as light engines and under load to ensure their roadworthiness. All these trials created large scale euphoria amongst steam lovers who would get wind of any steamer coming alive on the tracks and throng the venue. The media too took great interest in these trials with several reporters covering the runs extensively in national dailies.
The first loco trial took place on the 4th of September 2010, when we tested the iconic WP 7200 between Delhi Cantonment and Rewari, the mood was actually quite tense as a lot was at stake on it being successful. The smiles only got wider as the steamer whistled into Rewari station in under 2 hours. This run further cemented my faith in my men’s abilities, the termites of time had not eaten into their skills and ability to deliver. We then ran load trials with the same engine twice, on the 18th of September and then on the 10th of October 2010, when we opened the shed gates to the world, on both the occasions Md. Ishaque Khan, the oldest fitter who had worked on this loco some 25 years ago, flagged off the train. (Click here for more pictures of 2010 events.)
The trials with the WL 15005 had more at stake, this engines on its last run had met with a boiler malfunction that had unfortunately resulted in the sad demise of the driver and an inspector on board. The event had left ugly scars on everyone’s conscience, the apprehensions were quite apparent as I was advised by many not to set on this adventure again, as any incident with this locomotive, no matter minor, will be blown beyond proportions. This only made my resolve more strong and when the final clearance to run commercial runs between Delhi and Alwar came by, I choose this loco to make the first run. The first act was to smash an auspicious coconut before the VIPs mounted the footplate.
So it was that the first mainline trial was conducted on 6th December 2011 with the WL, which coincidently also happened to be the anniversary of the event when the same loco had run the last steam hauled broad gauge passenger train in India between Firozpur and Lohian Khas in Punjab. The trial was passed with élan and flying colours.
On New Year's Eve, 31st December 2011, WL15005 became the first to haul a commercial run with the new age BGs, apart from the acclaimed Fairy Queen. We had just 5 paying passengers on board, but that did not dampen our spirits and the excitement was high at Delhi Cantonment station. The train left the station at 09.00 hrs sharp and the run was spot on.
(These early morning conditions are totally reminiscent of a Punjab winter nearly 20 years ago... RD)
The next run on 14th January 2012 was hauled by the WP 7161, this time there were 32 passengers on board, the media had caught on with the story and there were several print and electronic media reporters who covered the run that day. Mr. Patram the oldest surviving worker of Rewari shed, flagged off the train. The steamers had truly made a comeback and the train reached its destination 30 minutes before time.
Peter Jordan had brought a group of 24 steam fans from the UK who took the run from Delhi to Rewari and then went to see the steam shed there. Among the passengers were those who were too young to have seen real steam and others who were obviously not!
There were many moments when, if you had blinked, you would have thought the clock had been turned back many, many years...
For the third run the WL 15005 was back and this time there were 42 passengers on board, again the loco finished the run successfully. The trips have a sanction to run till the end of March and we now await the sanction for further steam charters. If that happens then steam trains will run between Delhi and Rewari more often.
The Rewari Steamers had proved their worth and in the process did reiterate the fact that a thing of beauty is a joy forever !!