The International Steam Pages

Rewari Steam Depot Re-opens its Doors

Vikas Arya reports on the Grand Re-opening day of Rewari Steam Centre on 9th October 2010. The centre now has its own website (link broken by December 2021).

Making the Rewari locos puff again was a dream I dreamt, a dream driven by a desire to pamper that child in me. That child I believe, is hidden inside each one of us, a child who is overjoyed when he is able to ride his bicycle all by himself for the first time, or fly a kite all alone, that delight can’t be expressed in words. Putting a dead, rusted steam loco back to life and see it move I learned, brings about the same emotions in me. Having put on steam seven locos in about 6 months, I have learned one more thing- to make a steam loco puff today, one doesn’t only need the skills, setup, money or men.. one needs passion, without which the black beauties simply refuse to budge!!

In my opinion, there isn’t a more awesome experience than seeing a giant steam engine puff steam off its cylinders, energising the Walschaert’s to rotate those giant steel wheels that till about a moment ago, looked unmoveable like the rock at Gibraltar. We experienced this.. and more in abandon.

I had reported regarding the slated re-opening of the Rewari Steam Loco Shed on the 9th of October, an event we all were looking forward to. Yessss!!! We did it, and what a wonderful day it was, in my 17 years as a railwayman working diesels, no other moment has given me so much satisfaction or sense of achievement than the moment I said ‘lets go’ and the gigantic WP 7200 came to life and rolled from Delhi Cantonment Railway Station towards Rewari.

There couldn’t have been a more befitting opening to a Steam Shed than to carry the entire troop with us on a special train hauled by a historic steam locomotive. The 1947 built WP 7200 born at Baldwin, Philadelphia, now christened “AZAD” meaning "free" in Hindi, was the chosen one. It hauled a special train consisting of one executive class chaircar coach and two support coaches from Delhi to Rewari. On board were railway officers, a few journalists, steam enthusiasts, support staff and Ashwani Lohani, Railway Manager of Delhi, India’s Number One Steam Man and the driving force behind Rewari’s revival. The train itself was carefully crafted for the occasion. The loco was given a green coat of paint and the coaches were green too, each one of the rolling stock proudly displayed Rewari’s new logo and the men were in their new uniforms – khaki breeches with shirts having Rewari’s logo on the arms. No words can befittingly describe the festive atmosphere or the pride in the eyes of the old steam men of Rewari who had put in their best for the last 6 months for this event.

At 0945 hrs sharp Mr. Mandu Meena the driver, after a long whistle, pulled on the throttle as the WP came alive. It was mesmerising to see the world around come to a sudden standstill. Everyone on the station premises stopped moving to see the WP roll out. The people on the Flyover ahead, on the level crossing, on the small kiosks nearby, the cops on duty and even the stray dogs.. everything just froze on its tracks, just the Walschaert’s moved!

The loco did 80 kmph with ease, but was throttled down to cruise at 60kmph. As everyone wanted to be on the footplate, we stopped twice en route to let more people experience the feel on the engine. Reaching Rewari at 1130 hrs (some trains on IR do run on time) we walked to the renovated shed from the station and to everyone's surprise the grand new gates of the shed were found to be locked!!

As Mr. Lohani reached the gates, still wondering, the shed’s loco foreman Shyam Bihari, wearing a hoola hat dug into his pockets and pulled out a key on a keychain with the Rewari logo and presented it to him. That’s how we re-opened the shed to the world.

The sight inside was just out of fairytale books, The old, dingy, crumbling shed had undergone a metamorphosis, the wild vegetation had given way to neatly manicured lawns, there were fountains, pathways, a café, new lines and landscaping. Everything came as a breath of fresh air.

But what overshadowed everything else were the 7 puffing engines all freshly painted and shining, all seven in full steam and rolling. This was one sight this shed had not seen since 1993 when it had shut down operations. A lucky few had the honour of seeing 7 steam engines working at one place after ages. Everyone took rides on the locomotives which gave excellent photo opportunities. As a first, we had painted all locos with metallic PU paint, the shine on them could only be matched with the shine in the eyes of the 25 steam men of Rewari who had worked tirelessly for this day to happen.

The day also saw the opening of the new exhibit room that showcased some of the rare pictures from the steam era, old loco number plates, railway crockery, kerosene signal lamps, loco parts, a miniature WG loco and so on. This display had everyone engrossed and impressed. After this, the formal website of the shed was launched by Mr. R.C.Sethi, President of the steam society of India, who had graciously accepted our invititation to be with us and do the honours, his twinkling eyes were all the blessing I needed, the generous pat he gave me on my back and his words of praise were a bonus!

The gathering then assembled for lunch inside a rail dining car that we had stabled inside the shed for the day, the sumptuous lunch we had was befitting... tt just reminded me of Mr. Lohani’s words on his maiden visit to the shed … “No one takes tea in a graveyard. Get the locos running and we will have a feast here.” The feast, at the end turned out to be just a minor bonus!!

Do visit us on broken by December 2021)

Vikas sent nearly 30 pictures, I have had to reduce the size of quite a few to keep the demands on my server manageable... I (RD) take full blame for any mistakes in the captions.

Getting ready for the big day... The semaphore will soon show 'line clear' and the fountains will soon work.

All is neat and tidy for the opening and the shed foreman's office and small exhibit room are in 'apple pie order':

The locomotives had a real makeover, not just a 'cosmetic job':

Finally all is ready for 'the big day'

There are many heroes in this tale:

It's almost time for 'the off' and everyone wants their pictures taken:

Meanwhile the star of the show hides modestly behind some bushes:

Everyone crowds round the locomotive at a 'technical stop'.

The gate is opened and the small exhibits are on show to the public:

WL 15005 goes through its paces for the photographers:

Time for more pictures, inside and outside the shed. There are more people in each one, there are so many cameras in use that people don;t know which one to look at!

Finally, it's time for the feast and a chance to reflect on a job well done...

Rob Dickinson