Heritage steam loco removed from Rail Bhawan; Vande Bharat replica to replace it

Asia's Tech News Daily

rail bhawan, vande bharat express, steam loco, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

A heritage steam engine, which was installed on the premises of the Rail Bhawan in the national capital, was on Monday shifted to a museum in Delhi, and a replica of semi-high speed train Vande Bharat Express will take its place, officials said.

The B-class rail engine named Loco No. 799 was manufactured in 1925 in Glasgow, the UK, and belonged to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), a UNESCO world heritage. It was brought to Delhi, some years after Independence, according to railway experts.

The vintage locomotive was removed from the Rail Bhawan premises in the early hours. During day time, many passers-by were caught by surprise, to see the old steam beauty gone from the site.

A spokesperson of the Indian Railways said the heritage locomotive in Rail Bhawan premises was removed in the early hour and shifted to the National Rail Museum in Chanakyapuri, in order to “make it more accessible” to the general public.

“Very few people could see it here at the Rail Bhawan, because entry is restricted. At the National Rail Museum, it will be accessible to more people. That was the idea behind the decision. It will be replaced by a replica that will represent the Vande Bharat train,” the spokesperson said.

The replica model will symbolically showcase Vande Bharat, India’s first indigenously-made train.

Sources, however, indicate that the move is a way to show the robust growth of the Indian Railways, by replacing a heritage locomotive with a modern, state-of-the-art coach, symbolising the railways’ move towards next generation trainsets.

The Indian Railways began its journey in 1853, with its first-ever ride between Bombay now Mumbai) and Thana.

The Vande Bharat Express – India’s first semi-high speed train – had begun its first commercial run in February 2019.

The Shatabdi-type semi-high speed trains have amenities like onboard infotainment, GPS-based passenger information system, CCTV cameras, automatic sliding doors with retractable coach footsteps and zero discharge vacuum-based bio-toilets.

Railways plans to have a “selfie-point” at the site of the new replica, where visitors can take photographs of the train model without entering the restricted premises, officials said.

The move to shift the heritage steam engine has, however, upset many railway enthusiasts in the country.

“Steam engines ruled the roost globally for about 100 years, and more than a century in India. The charm, the joy, the sights and sounds can never be matched even by a maglev (bullet trains). And, it is unfortunate that such a beautiful piece of railways heritage has been removed from the Rail Bhawan site, the nerve centre of the Indian Railways, and from the sight of common man, at a prominent place in the heart of the national capital,” lamented J L Singh, Secretary, Rail Enthusiasts’ Society.

He said, members of the Rail Enthusiasts’ Society and many other rail aficionados are upset by this move.

A former senior official of the Indian Railways, who did wish to be named, also said, that the “DHR steam beauty should not have been shifted out”.

“Indian Railways has evolved as our nation has. But, steam is our roots, that’s how we began the journey of railways in India or elsewhere. And, it’s not a good move to take an iconic piece of rail heritage away, and add it among the many catalogues of exhibits at a museum. A replica of Vande Bharat could have been added in the campus, without shifting the heritage loco,” he said.

The loco no. 799 was built by North British Loco Co., Glasgow, and was the 46th engine of the DHR. So much history rode on its wheels. And, old and new could have co-existed in the Rail Bhawan premises, the former official said.

Currently, a heritage loco built by Dick Kerr & Co. Ltd of London, in 1910, is displayed right outside the premises of Baroda House, the headquarters of the Northern Railways Zone, in New Delhi, he said.

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