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In full steam

Despite racing on a fast track in this jet age, one cannot help think fondly and with nostalgia the chugging and the bellowing of a steam engine that was part of our lives. Indian Railways has come a long way since then - 150 years to be precise. The year-long celebrations by the South Central Railway, beginning tomorrow to mark the occasion, will make one look back with pride. MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER reports.

NITTY GRITTY : Oiling every cog for the April 17 run.

ONE CANNOT imagine Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 being anything but a steam engine. There is a terrible beauty about this piece of machinery. The steam engine is one of the most physical representations of timeless progress. The wheels powered by steam harnessed by man move with a relentless click clack as the smoke billows out like out of a blow hole and the train forges new destinations carrying with it hopes and aspirations of many.

The visual appeal of a train drawn by a steam engine is obvious when you think of the numerous films that have used a train to show different emotions from dread (Train to Pakistan, Schindler's List) to adventure (the recent Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) and romance (umpteen Hindi flicks, one that immediately comes to mind is Sharmila Tagore dimpling prettily by the train window as a dashing Rajesh Khanna sang Meri sapnon ki rani in Aradhana).

And in this hoary tradition of the wheels of progress, Indian Railways has a pride of place with its 150 year-old history. The first train ran between Boribunder and Thane (a distance of 34 kms) in 1853. From there on there has been no looking back as the railways now runs over 62,495 kms carrying 4,348 million passengers every year.

Hyderabad has its own place in the sun in rail history of the country. While the first railway line between Renigunta and Reddypalli in Chitoor district was commissioned in 1864, the Wadi-Secunderabad line was opened to traffic on October 9, 1874. The Begumpet railway station has a quaint story. The line passed through the property of Sir Vicar-ul-Umra at Begumpet and he requested there be a stop at Begumpet which was duly organised and that is how the Begumpet railway station came to be. So the next time you sit there waiting for your train bound for nowhere, realise, imagine and feel the weight and comfort of history.

STARRING ROLE: The engine is being readied for the Heritage Steam Run. - Photos: P.V. Sivakumar

After the centenary celebrations in `56, April 10th to 16th has been celebrated as Railway week every year. This year is special as the South Central Railway is celebrating `150 glorious years.'

The year-long celebrations (from April 16, 2002 to April 16, 2003) include exhibition on wheels, torch runs, release of postal stamps and special day covers, cultural festivals, tours, rail museums and honouring brave railway employees.

One of the star turns is the Heritage Steam Train run on April 17 where a steam engine, built in 1960 at the Chittaranjan locomotive facility and phased out in `94 will haul six coaches from Bolarum Railway station to Manoharabad Railway station for a distance of 27 kms and that would be another chance to gaze at the pride of Indian industry and indulge in big-time nostalgia when life was simple and more confused.

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