157-year-old steam engine clocked a mean speed of 41 kmph

The 157-year-old steam engine, the world's oldest locomotive, remained true to form during a heritage run organised by Southern Railway here to mark the Republic Day on Thursday.

Cheered on by scores of heritage enthusiasts, children and curious onlookers, the EIR 21 with a 60-seater coach in tow, chugged away from Chennai Egmore to turn back the history pages.

The old wonder shrugged off a near 20-minute delay in departure and made good time during the course of the run to Guindy — clocking a mean speed of 41 kmph and completing the trip in just 27 minutes flat.

A six-minute stop-over had also been arranged at the Kodambakkam station to facilitate the public to feast on the grand old loco's history. The EIR 21 hails from the stable of Kitson Thompson and Hewitson Leeds in the United Kingdom. Arriving by shipment to India in 1855, she served the erstwhile East Indian Railway till 1909 before turning an exhibit in Jamalpur and Howrah for over 100 years. The EIR 21 is even regarded to be a tad senior to the Fairy Queen (EIR 22), and together these two locos share the legacy of transporting troops during the 1857 mutiny.

What has thrilled engineers who lovingly fuss over the EIR 21 at the Loco Works in Perambur is that she simply seems to be getting better with age.

This year, her performance was a marked improvement over her previous run when she took about 35 minutes to cover the Egmore-Guindy stretch with an average speed of about 30 kph, they said.

They also shared a little secret about the loco's special diet — shovels of coal sourced from The Nilgiris.

Effortless adaptation

The EIR 21 is also known to effortlessly adapt to modern-day gizmos such as a GPS-based speedometer and a wireless video monitoring system.

As part of technology upgrades to the EIR 21 this year, a remote-controlled rotational camera was installed in the loco engine to capture the view from the cabin, M.A. Inbarasu, Chief Workshop Manager, Loco Works, Perambur told The Hindu.

“As a trial measure, we received the images from the camera on a laptop and transmitted them across a mobile phone platform using 3G technology,” he said.

The next time, the EIR 21 hits the tracks her journey could even be watched on the Third Screen.