The speed of the century-old trains, operated by the Nilgiri Mountain Railways between Mettupalayam and Udhagamandalam in Tamil Nadu is set to increase. With track-strengthening works along the 46-km stretch on the metre gauge nearing completion, engineers have decided to temporarily replace the steam locomotives with diesel engines.

According to the Chief Mechanical Engineer (Southern Railway) V. Carmelus, all seven steam locomotives imported from Switzerland had outlived their efficiency period. “While the normal life of a steam locomotive is 35 years, the age of these locomotives ranges between 52 years and 96 years. Despite efforts to maintain the system, the locomotives have failed on many occasions, causing inconvenience to passengers.”

Next week, an inspection special train would be operated with twin diesel locomotives on a trial basis. The ‘rack and pinion’ brake system that controls the movement of the trains on the steep section would remain

. “The Research Design and Standards Organisation and the Commissioner of Railway Safety have cleared the proposal to operate trains with twin-diesel locomotives. With improved tracks conditions and enhanced hauling power of diesel engines, the speed of the trains will go up from the present 13 kmph in the critical Kallar-Coonoor (20 kms) section.”

Mr. Carmelus said first of the four steam locomotives being indigenously developed at the Golden Rock Workshop at Tiruchi would roll out in December next year.

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