Ashwani Lohani, chief mechanical engineer, on a vintage steam engine.(Ravi Choudhary/EPS)
Many may not know it, but the 120-year-old Rewari Heritage Steam Locomotive Museum has played a starring role in several Bollywood blockbusters, the most recent being Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
Besides promoting heritage, the museum is also making big bucks for Northern Railway. The erstwhile locomotive shed is a tourist attraction and also rents vintage locomotives for film shoots. The railways charge `4 lakh per day besides a security deposit of `2.5 lakh for a four-coach train and steam engine for shoots.
Several films such as Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha and Guru, among others, have been shot here.
“The shed was refurbished as a heritage tourism destination in October 2010. Its heritage edifice was restored and a museum exhibiting Victorian-era artefacts used on the Indian rail network along with the old signalling system, gramophones and seats was added,” says Ashwani Lohani, chief mechanical engineer, Northern Railway.
The antique shed has been granted heritage status and has been renovated while keeping its original character alive. A half-a-century-old salon has been converted into a dining salon with a bar to attract tourists.
“The engines are also available for live demonstrations. There’s a saloon and lodge in this shed as well,” says Lohani.
Spread across 15 acres, this steam loco shed is home to nine locomotives and has earned the distinction of being the only surviving repository of steam locos in the country. The classic engines help recreate an era gone by and provide the ideal backdrop to shoot period films. Apart from several Bollywood biggies, a Malayam movie, too, was shot here recently.
“Farhan Akhtar starrer Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was shot in the Rewari loco shed and the Farrukhnagar railway station in Rewari. Also, some of Milkha Singh’s childhood sequences were shot in the railway colony of Rewari station. This movie, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, is based on the life of legendary athlete Milkha Singh, who spent his childhood residing along the railway tracks after he came to India hiding inside a train full of corpses during the 1947 partition,” says a museum employee.
Some sequences of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag were shot in a four-coach train driven by the broad-gauge steam engine Angadh. Made in 1930, it is the oldest working steam engine in the country.
Built in 1893, this was the only locomotive shed in north India for the longest time and part of the track connecting Delhi with Peshawar (now in Pakistan). After steam engines were phased out in 1990, the loco shed lay in disuse for many years before the Railways decided to revive it as a heritage museum. But every Sunday, the shed comes alive with whistles and chugs of steam engines as these beauties are brought out for visitors to admire.
The heritage museum has preserved these old machines for posterity, says Lohani. “The younger lot should know what it was like to ride in a steam train.”