OOTY: Voices have begun to grow louder to operate the century old Swiss made coal-fired steam locomotive, the only such surviving loco in the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) now, to pep up train based heritage tourism in the Nilgiris.
K. Natarajan, founder of the Heritage Steam Chariot Trust, an organization of NMR aficionados, said that this Swiss made X-class coal-fired steam locomotive numbered 37,384 which is still in service in the NMR was built in 1914 in Switzerland and inducted into NMR service in 1918.
“The X-class steam locomotives were specially designed to haul the train on the challenging NMR track which is racked between Mettupalayam and Coonoor. The X- class locomotive is a compound locomotive wherein two low-pressure cylinders drive the rack wheels while two main high-pressure cylinders drive the main wheels,” he explained.
Claiming that it is the only such old age coal-fired X-class steam locomotive still in service in the globe, Mr.Natarajan wanted the Railways to organize special weekend picnic trips between Coonoor and Runnymede sector using this grand old steam locomotive to commemorate the 150th birth centenary of Mahatma Gandhi. The stream running along Runnymede railway station, is the spot where Mahatma’s ashes were immersed, he pointed.
Rajeshkumar James, secretary of the Citizens’ Forum of Coonoor, said that last October, the Southern Railway operated a special trip with this coal-fired loco between Ooty and Coonoor to commemorate its centenary of service in the NMR. Though it is being rested now, it is pertinent to note that it is still in working condition, and can be used again to promote NMR based heritage tourism, he said....