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Steam engine fires again with full glory at India’s Heritage Transport Museum
May 14, 2017, 12:01 pm
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Emitting black cloud of smoke at intervals as it used to roll on the railway tracks; the steam engine had majesty and some sort of romanticism with its movement.  It added so many idioms to the English language, “as it steamed past,” “let the steam go off” and “on the track” were all colloquial derivates from the steam engine.

First introduced in India during the British rule in 1850’s, the steam engine had a long lifespan for almost 120 years when the black beauty was slowly phased out in 1970’s , giving way to modern invention like diesel and electric locomotives.  But the majesty of this black beauty left an indelible impression on Indian folklore.

“The new generation has not seen steam engine in motion, the huffing and puffing, its thunderous noise like us who travelled on these trains propelled by steam locomotives,” said Tarun Thakral, Managing Trustee of India’s first Heritage Transport Museum.

“Steam locomotives are wonderful to behold as you can experience the raw power of a machine,” Tarun said, before adding that unlike modern electric or diesel locomotives which start instantly, Steam locomotives take hours to get going, and must let off steam when being shut down – literally spewing energy away in a wondrous display of power and might. The sight, the sound and the smell all conjure up images of an era gone by.

Tarun has a reason to be proud as the Heritage Transport Museum has recently completed the restoration of its 1953 Jung Steam locomotive. This provides a chance to experience a 1950's Steam Engine and rediscover the magic of the bygone era of Steam Railways.

The steam engine was fired on Saturday on a 100 meter track, wheeling in its stride with noise and smoke that was once associated with it.

Built in 1953 by Arnold Jung Lokomotivfabrik (Arnold Jung Locomotive Works), a locomotive manufacturer established in 1885, in Kirchen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, it stands 12.5 feet tall and 31 feet long, and weighs over 47 tons in service. The locomotive can carry 1,320 gallons of water and over 4 tons of coal to feed its voracious appetite. It operates on a 5 feet 6 inches track gauge (broad gauge) T.

There is an interesting history behind this locomotive though it was lying in a derelict condition in Indian state of Bihar for the last couple of decades. Rohtas industries had purchased six such locomotives between 1953 and 1957 and this locomotive was the first to arrive and named RIL - 2.

After persuading the Indian Railways (Heritage cell) this locomotive was acquired by the Museum in a scrap condition in October 2016. A team of engineers from Chennai headed by M.S. Rangaswamy along with the Museum's own team ensured that this locomotive is back on tracks steaming again.

Tarun said it is indeed a proud moment for the Heritage Transport Museum as it dedicates this locomotive to the people of India. For the first time in India a private museum has a fully functional steam locomotive.Restoration work on the Museum's other steam locomotive, a 1921 Kerr Stuart is due to begin in the winter of 2017.

The Heritage Museum has another reason to be proud as many of its collection are figured in the postage stamp issued by the Indian Postal department celebrating the mode of transport in India. The stamp was released at a gala function inside the Museum last month.

S A H RIZVI

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