Soon, charter coaches hauled by steam engine on Kalka track
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To make tourists remember an era gone by, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will soon be helping people charter coaches hauled by a steam engine on the Kalka-Shimla heritage track. The steam engine that dates back to 1907 was recently repaired and a successful test run conducted. The details of the proposal are being worked out and the facility is likely to be available within a fortnight.
The steam engines that were used to haul coaches were gradually phased out after the advent of diesel locomotives. Recently the steam engine, which was used for hauling trains on the Kalka-Shimla heritage track, was repaired. A test run conducted in December last year was successful.
However, with the engine being more than a century-old, the distance for which it will now haul the coaches is being restricted to around 40-km round trip between Shimla and Kaithli Ghat. The logistics of plying the steam engine, including the cost of chartering, are being worked out.
It is proposed that the steam engine will haul two coaches with each having a capacity of around 20 passengers. An official says that within a fortnight chartering of the coaches is likely to start. The tourists will have to charter the whole coach. At present, for chartering a coach of the popular toy trains, the cost is between Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,800 per passenger. IRCTC provides food on board.
Chief Regional Manager, IRCTC, R K Sondh says, "The proposal for chartering coaches run by steam engine is being worked out. We expect that it would be popular with the tourists who want to enjoy the scenic beauty along the way and also get a feel of travelling in a train hauled by a steam engine."
Apart from the age of the steam engine, another aspect that the officials had to look into was the availability of coal to run it. This has now been made available, though it is yet to reach Shimla Railway Station.
During a visit to Shimla a few weeks back, Union Minister for Railways Pawan Kumar Bansal had taken a ride in a coach hauled by the steam engine. Trains on the Kalka-Shimla track, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, are popular with the tourists, both domestic and foreign. During the holiday season in summers and winters, additional trains are plied on the track to accommodate the rush.
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