The International Steam Pages

2nd National Conference on Steam Locomotives
14th February 2004
National Railway Museum, New Delhi, India

The 2nd National Conference on Steam Locomotives was organized by the Indian Steam Railway Society on the 14th & 15th of February 2004. On the 14th the Conference was held in the Auditorium of the National Rail Museum in which many distinguished speakers made their presentations. In his keynote address, Mr Rob Dickinson the international steam expert who had been invited from the UK to deliver the keynote address elaborated on the developments in the various countries of the world in promoting steam heritage tourism and the need for India to take a lead in this regard. He spoke about experiences in the Americas, Europe and even the countries in India’s own backyard namely Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Ms Rati Vinay Jha, Secretary Tourism, Govt of India who was the Chief Guest for the Inaugural session made a mention of the resurgence in tourism in the country and lauded the efforts of the Indian Steam Railway Society in giving a fillip to the niche steam heritage tourism segment. Mr P.N.Garg Member Mechanical, Railway Board who presided, outlined the various steps being taken by the Indian Railways for restoring steam locomotives, manufacturing new steam locomotives and for running new steam based services. Mr Garg announced plans for manufacturing steam miniatures and also the immediate plans to run steam locomotives as shunting engines at Sarai Rohilla Station in Delhi and the Jaipur Railway station besides starting a steam hauled train between Delhi Cantt and Farrukhnagar stations shortly.

The 1st technical session with Mr S. Dhasarathy, retired Member Mechanical in the chair had the General Managers of the South Eastern Railway Mr R.R.Bhandari and Southern Railway Mr V.Anand making presentations. Mr. Bhandari who is an eminent Railway historian covered the entire gamut of evolution of steam locomotives and their various designs in the country while Mr. Anand focused on the restoration and new manufacture of steam locomotives which is being undertaken in the Railway workshops at Perambur and Golden Rock. The 2nd technical session started in the afternoon with Mr D.P.Tripathi, former Secretary, Government of India in the chair and presentations were made by Mr. G. Shankar, Secretary, Indian Steam Railway Society and Mr. Ashwani Lohani, Nodal Officer for Steam Locomotives in India. Mr. G.Shankar outlined the role of the Indian Steam Railway Society and the various steps it is taking in this direction. Mr. Ashwani Lohani in his presentation outlined the various activities which are taking place on the Indian Railways in the field of steam locomotives. Mr. Ashwani Lohani while making the presentation mentioned the vision statement for steam locomotives as follows:-

“Preservation of adequate number of locomotives and skills thereof so as to ensure that the Indian Railways continues to possess the wherewithal to run steam locomotives even after 50 years. The country should ultimately have at least 100 steam locomotives in working condition, a world class steam centre at Rewari and two more miniature steam centres, one in the southern region and one in the eastern region. There should be at least 10-15 steam hauled time tabled services in the country, besides having regular steam services on all the 5 Hill railways.”

Thereafter there was panel discussion with Mr. Ranjit Mathur, retired Member Traffic in the chair and Mr. C.M. Khosla, Retired Member Traffic and Mr. K.B. Sankaran, retired Member Mechanical participating in the discussions. The Panelists stressed on the need to crystallize the future scenario of steam in India so that with planned efforts, the objectives could be achieved. The need to have a single window for handling all technical and commercial matters was also stressed upon.

In the end, Mr. R.C. Sethi, President of the Society summed up the proceedings of the conference with specific recommendations which the society intends to make to the Indian Railways. Mr Sethi also mentioned that the Society shall set up Regional Centres at Chennai, Mumbai and Calcutta very shortly and announced that the 3rd National Conference shall be held next winter at Chennai.

On the 15th of February, the delegates to the Conference visited the Steam Centre at Rewari. The Rewari Steam Centre which is being developed as a centre of excellence for steam locomotives had 5 engines in steam, four broad gauge and one meter gauge, besides a steam crane and the 1st miniature steam locomotive manufactured in the country in recent times. This miniature steam locomotive which has been manufactured by the Amritsar Workshops of the Northern Railway is an outstanding effort at reviving the spirit of steam in India. The Center will ultimately have at least 12 steam locomotives in full working order, besides a drawing office, a lounge cum cafeteria for visitors, an exhibition room and a training center. Visit to the Rewari Steam Center has been a tremendous experience for the delegates who were overjoyed with the presence of 5 steaming locomotives.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson