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A 230-tonne mechanical icon comes to life after 36 years

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BACK ON TRACK: The Beyer Garratt steam locomotive on a heritage run from Shalimar station to Mecheda on Friday.
BACK ON TRACK: The Beyer Garratt steam locomotive on a heritage run from Shalimar station to Mecheda on Friday.

Antara Das

Beyer Garratt steam locomotive goes on a heritage run between Shalimar and Mecheda in West Bengal

  • One of the most powerful steam locomotives ever invented
  • 323 replacements obtained from the National Rail Museum, New Delhi

    KOLKATA: The Beyer Garratt steam locomotive, considered one of the biggest locomotives in the world, underwent a resurrection of sorts when it chugged on a heritage run on Friday between Shalimar and Mecheda in West Bengal a distance of 58 km.

    A behemoth weighing around 230 tonnes, the engine, operated by liveried workmen and belching thick black smoke, came to life after a gap of almost 36 years, as colourful pageantry tried to recreate the late 1920s when the engine was first introduced in India.

    `An inspiration'

    Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who flagged off the re-run and travelled part of the way, was all praise for the efforts and technical expertise of the South Eastern Railway engineers who had managed to restore the engine to a workable condition. "This should be an inspiration to heritage restoration efforts everywhere," he said.

    Curious bystanders along the route waited for hours to catch a glimpse of this mechanical icon.

    Its arrival was greeted with applause and cheer, as fine mist of coal-dust and vapour created the aura of a by-gone age when the engine hauled heavy materials like coal and iron-ore for the Bengal Nagpur Railway (later known as the South Eastern Railway).

    The name `Beyer Garratt' owes its origins to William Garratt, the engineer who devised the type and developed it in association with the Manchester-based firm of Beyer Peacock. Known as one of the most powerful steam locomotives ever invented, a Beyer Garratt is said to have easily overhauled a 2400 ton train unaided, up a 1 in 100 gradient at 45 miles an hour.

    Though the plan to restore the engine was conceptualised as early as 2000, the actual work started in December 2005, following a corpus of fund created for the purpose earlier that year. Several components were, however, found missing during the restoration and around 323 replacements had to be obtained from the National Rail Museum in New Delhi while some others had to be manufactured.

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