The International Steam Pages

Indian Steam Railway Society
Brief Report on the XIth National Steam Congress
1st February 2014, New Delhi

Ashwani Lohani wrtes:

The XIth National Steam Congress held at Hotel Samrat, New Delhi on the 1st of February 2014 was a resounding success. The conference hall of the hotel was overflowing with participation of over 150 delegates.

This annual event of the Indian Steam Railway Society organized with the support of the Ministries of Railways and Tourism, Government of India was attended by delegates from the railways and tourism sectors, members of the society and lovers of steam locomotives. Arvind Khare Additional Member of the Railway Board was the Chief Guest and Subhash Goyal, President Indian Association of Tour Operators was the guest of honor. While the Chief Guest recounted his experiences with steam locomotives during his service, Mr. Goyal while appreciating this tremendous initiative stressed on the need to nurture this unique and niche tourism segment. He also lauded the contribution of the society in bringing India on the international steam map.

Lalit Kumar Sinha, the President of the society gave an overview of the activities of the society and his expectations from the railways as well as tourism sectors in ensuring that this unique heritage of mankind does not fade away in our nation. Ashwani Lohani, the Working President of the society gave an insight into the birth of the steam movement in the country as well as the inception of the society and outlined the vision for the future. He stressed that India should be capable to run steam locomotives even in the year 2050 and for that we have to collectively ensure that some steam locomotives and skills thereof are preserved for posterity.

Nick Lera from the UK, the keynote speaker of the conference made two presentations one on metre gauge steam in south-east Asia and the second on steam run over the 5 rivers of Punjab on to the Khyber Pass in Pakistan. Both were excellent presentations that were highly appreciated and enjoyed. Paul Whittle who also came from UK especially for this conference gave an overview of steam operations in his country. People were really surprised to know from his presentation that there are over five hundred operational steam locomotives at over a hundred centres in the UK. Such is the enthusiasm from the steam lovers that the privately run lines are profitable ventures. Both these overseas speakers while appreciating the efforts made in India, repeatedly stressed that much more needs to be done.

Mark Tully, the Vice President of the society in his address mentioned that the Indian Railways should explore the return of steam locomotives on the hill railways besides planning a regular time tabled steam run between Delhi Cantt and Rewari.

The arrival of Anita Sethi, wife of Romesh Chandra Sethi, the founder President of the society who passed away in 2013 was an emotional moment. She was welcomed by Lalit Kumar Sinha, the President of the society with a bouquet of flowers who also paid high tributes to Mr Sethi for leading the society since its inception. Anita Sethi also cut the cake during tea break.

The society also released a limited edition calendar on the occasion; the calendar is dedicated to steam locomotives with 12 outstanding pictures of Indian Steam locomotives.

An AV presentation conceptualized by Vikas Arya giving a round-up of the steam activities in India over the last 4 years and how ISRS has contributed towards these activities was also made. With outstanding visuals of Indian Locomotives put on steam and running on the mainline, the presentation was highly appreciated by the delegates, who lauded the outstanding work being done by the Society.

The society has instituted awards for contribution to the cause of steam locomotives. The highest honor of the Society, the National Award for Excellence in Steam Locomotives was presented to Paul Whittle from the UK for his outstanding contribution to the cause of steam locomotives worldwide and continued support to the society. Four awards of excellence were also given as follows - Omprakash retired technician of Rewari steam locomotive shed for his everlasting contribution to the shed, Perambur Locomotive Works for restoration of the Fairy Queen, Golden Rock Workshop for manufacturing B & X Class steam locomotives and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway for their continued preservation and operation of B class steam locomotives.

VikasArya, the organizing secretary of the Indian Steam Railway Society conducted the entire proceedings with aplomb. The conference ended with a vote of thanks by G.Shankar, the Secretary of the Indian Steam Railway Society.

Rob Dickinson