The International Steam Pages
Rail Enthusiasts May Run 100 Year Old Line
David Breaker Email has sent this press release on a novel proposal for India - the Shakuntala Railway Preservation Society:
Railway enthusiasts across India and England are planning the preservation of Shakuntala Railway linking the towns of Yavatmal, Murtazaper and Achalpur, of south Maharashtra in India.
The narrow gauge railway between Yavatmal, Montazaper and Achalpur, a distance of 189 kilometres, runs a three-carriage train hauled by a diesel locomotive, carrying 50 passengers everyday.
The yet informally formed Shakuntala Railway Preservation Society plans to replace the current diesel with railcars and run steam specials on selected dates.
The railway is in the danger of being discontinued as a through run and operated by Indian Railways. It is currently owned by a British company whose 100-year-old contract expires in 2003.
Steam was in regular use till 1995, after which it was replaced with the present diesel engine. One of the earlier steam locomotives used on the line is plinthed outside Pune railway station of the Central Railway.
"We are waiting for a reply from the owners", says moderator of the virtual society David Breaker, based at Kent, England. "Once it is guaranteed they will sell, we will start fundraising and form a company to own the line, owned 100% by the society. We don't know what it will cost," he adds.
The society hopes to pair up with tour groups and offer a short steam journey in conjunction with other local attractions like Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, the ruined fortress at Achalpur and nearby Eco-Villages. However, the plans are still at a "very infant stage."
"We plan to take over the line from donations and fund raising activities.
But no fund raising can take place as we are not yet sure whether the company will sell the railway to us," explains David.
A common question is to how the line can survive. "We plan to take over the line from donations and fund raising activities. We then plan to build two or three 30 seat railcars in the railways own works as well as an equal number of trailing vehicles, at least one suitable for container traffic, from selling the resident diesel which replaced steam in 1995, these will be used on daily services. The driver of each railcar will take fares as on a bus."
"We hope to buy a collection of steam engines from Indian Railways, including the one plinthed outside Pune Station, which was once used on the line. We hope the Indian Steam Railway Society will sponsor a locomotive's restoration to working order, but nothing is set.
The restored steam train will run on several occasions a year the entire length of the line, and short shuttles more frequently in conjunction with tour operators and local activity," said David.
"The line isn't in an amazing variety of scenery like the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway or others, but is needed by the public and as a major tourist attraction in this area of Maharashtra," another member said.
The society asks all readers interested in this line, or who would like to help preservation in all ways from moral support, donations and volunteering in a wide range of roles present and future, including 'Operations Manager' to visit the society's http://www.shakuntala.8m.com. The society also has a lot of items specially made for the Shakunatal Railway which are up for sale. They can be viewed at the on-line store of the website.