CHENNAI: Chennaites witnessed ‘heritage on rail’ last week, after the world’s oldest working steam locomotive was operated. The loco ‘Express EIR 21’, to which was attached a single compartment painted in Tricolour was run by Southern Railway between Egmore and Kodambakkam stations.Railway officials said the steam locomotive was originally built by Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson at Leeds in England in 1855, before it was shipped to India for the service of East India Company.After it was withdrawn from service in 1909, the loco was exhibited at Jamalpur (Bihar) loco workshop and Howrah station. A century later, in 2010, the locomotive, then not fit for use, was brought back to working condition by Loco Works, Perambur.
Since then, several heritage specials were run with the revived loco. Last week, the loco was operated for the sixth time in Chennai. “In the past, the loco has been run to mark either the Independence or Republic Day celebrations. The last special was run in 2013,” a Railway official said. After a gap of four years, EIR 21 was planned to be run last month, but was postponed for unknown reasons.
For those used to electric or diesel powered trains, the sight of a steam engine was unique. Several enthusiastic individuals stood on the edge of platforms and foot overbridges as the engine made its way to Kodambakkam. However, a few were left disappointed as the loco was operated on the express line and did not halt.Chandrasekaran, who has two kids and was waiting at Nungambakkam station, said: “Even the station officials were not aware of the timings. We had to go to Kodambakkam for looking at the locomotive.”
Heritage on track
Express EIR 21 steam loco was built in 1855 by Kitson, Thomson and Hewitson of the UK, who built another such loco, Fairy Queen, the same year
Fairy Queen too is functional. It pulls a two-coach luxury tourist train between Delhi and Alwar
EIR 21 Express ran between Howrah and Raneegunge
After its retirement in 1909, it was housed at the Jamalpur Loco Works in Bihar, where its firebox got damaged and it was declared unfit for restoration
Notes from history
First proposal for railways in India was made in Chennai, the then Madras, in 1832
1854 India’s first railway bridge built over Ulhas river
The first passenger railway train in east India ran from Howrah to Hoogly, on August 15, 1854
India’s first passenger train ran between Bombay and Thane in 1853
First train in India ran from Red Hills to Chintadripet bridge in 1837. It was mainly used for transporting granite stones.
First passenger train in South India ran from Royapuram to Wallajah Road in Arcot on July 1, 1856