NEW DELHI: It’s a steamy sequence to rival Bollywood. She glides in, accompanied by whistles and puffs of smoke, and everyone turns to gape in admiration. Cameras click, children want to jump aboard while young boys wish they could drive the puffing engine.
Expect to see a steam loco running through the heart of Delhi in April, to mark 159 years of the first passenger train journey between Bombay and Thane in 1853. A lot of sweat and grime went into reviving the star of the scene. The sight of a steam loco creates an image of the colonial era, and has been used to good effect in films like Guru, Gadar and Rang De Basanti.
Rewind to January 2010. Ashwani Lohani, Divisional Railway Manager, Delhi, and colleague Vikas Arya, Senior Divisional Mechanical Engineer/Power, Delhi, were surveying the neglect at Rewari Steam Loco Shed with great dismay. Of the nine steam locos at the shed, only two seemed to be railworthy. Arya had his work cut out, and with Lohani’s help, went ahead to give a facelift to the defunct shed, around 80 kilometres away from Delhi. He’d just taken charge, and despite stories he’d heard about the shed, Arya was aghast at what he saw. Shuttling between Delhi and Rewari every weekend over the next few months, he kept a hawk’s eye on its revival.
The decision to revive the locos in time for the 2010 CWG, had a magical effect on the spirit of the demoralised workforce, who got down to cleaning the locos and coal cars, treating the rust, sprucing up the shed. Arya pulled in trained manpower from places like Ferozepur, Moradabad and Bareilly. With the money already sanctioned, at least seven locos could be put on track with spare parts already available.
“I’d love to have tours of the Rewari shed for school kids from across India. A bigger museum and an interactive volunteer programme would also add a lot to it,” says Arya, hoping to get more rolling stock. The first was ready in August 2010, and by October, all seven beauties were back on track.
The shed recently won a national award as the most innovative tourism project. Locos can now be chartered for Rs1.5 lakh to run between Rewari and New Delhi.