The locomotives come with a vintage look and a fuel tank capacity of 2,250 litres of furnace oil
The fourth and last oil-fired steam locomotive, manufactured by the Golden Rock Workshop in Tiruchi, was put on trial run on the Mettupalayam-Coonoor section of the Nilgirs Mountain Railway on Wednesday.
The furnace oil-fired locomotive will replace the conventional coal-fired locomotive.
The NMR services, declared as world heritage site by UNESCO, uses the unique rack and pinion system on the Mettupalayam – Coonoor section as it climbs a steep gradient of 8.33 per cent, considered the highest in Asia.
From Mettupalayam to Kallar it is an ordinary meter gauge track for 5.8 km, and from Kallar to Coonoor it is operated on a rack and pinion system. Distance from Kallar to Coonoor is 27 km. From Coonoor to Udhagamandalam, the train is hauled by the conventional YDM 4 diesel locomotive for 9 km.
Tourists prefer to travel in NMR to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Nilgiris valley as the train chugs through 41.8 km negotiating 208 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. Uphill journey because of the steep gradient requires 290 minutes and the down hill journey takes 215 minutes.
Earlier, X Class Swiss locomotives were used. These coal-fired engines developed snags and also due to non-availability of coal, especially inconsistency in quality, the NMR services witnessed frequent disruption. Hence, in 2009, it was decided to replace these engines.
Despite loss owing to operational costs, Indian Railways decided to continue the NMR services and allocated a total of Rs. 40 crore for four locomotives. The Golden Rocks Workshop commenced the work in 2009 and from February 2011 to March 2014, all the four locomotives were delivered in a phased manner.
The fourth and last locomotive was put on trial on Wednesday signalling the end of the usage of vintage looking Swiss X class locomotives which chugged scores of passengers from 1918 to 2014. The improvised furnace oil-fired locomotives come with the same vintage look.
Divisional Railway Manager of Salem Railway Division Subhranshu said that oil-fired locomotives end the issues of disturbance in operation owing to non-availability of coal and inconsistency in quality. In addition, the sparks from the engines had the risk of triggering fire and oil-fired locomotives end that risk. Coal-fired engines emanate ashes polluting the forest area. In addition, the cost of manpower for handling coal, cleaning the engines and boilers come to an end as oil-fired locomotives will prove cost-effective.
The new locomotive weighing 50 tonnes can haul up to 97.6 tonnes with 30 km speed in plains and 15 km in gradient. The locomotive with over 3,400 components uses low viscosity furnace oil. The locomotive comes with a fuel tank capacity of 2,250 litres of furnace oil, 850 litres of diesel and two stainless steel water tanks can store 4,500 litres of water for the boiler to ensure an uninterrupted journey.
Mr.Subhranshu said that four locomotives are sufficient for the existing number of services and for a marginal increase in the number of services during the tourist season.