Tamil Nadu

For the first time in two decades, steam locomotive operates from Coonoor to Ooty

The steam locomotive at Udhagamandalam railway station

The steam locomotive at Udhagamandalam railway station   | Photo Credit: M_Sathyamoorthy

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The chartered train service carried more than 70 foreign tourists from multiple countries

For the first time in two decades, engine number 37398, a steam locomotive was operated in a commercial capacity along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) section between Coonoor and Udhagamandalam railway stations.

The chartered train service, carrying more than 70 foreign tourists from multiple countries, made its way from Coonoor Railway Station to Udhagamandalam on Monday morning. Speaking to reporters, one of the tourists who was on board the chartered train said that the main draw of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway was the iconic steam locomotive, as well as the spectacular scenery.

“Not having the experience of the steam locomotive pull us up the hills would have been a real blot on the entire experience, so we are thankful that it happened,” said one of the tourists.

Over the last two decades, the oil-fired steam locomotives were operated only between Mettupalayam and Coonoor and not till Udhagamandalam. Diesel locomotives were used to complete the final leg of the journey between Coonoor and Udhagamandalam.

The group of 70 tourists had paid more than ₹2 lakh for the privilege of chartering the train from Mettupalayam to Udhagamandalam. However, as the line between Mettupalayam and Coonoor was unusable due to damage caused to the tracks during the recent rains, the services were run only between Coonoor and Udhagamandalam.

K. Natrajan, founder of the Heritage Steam Chariot Trust, said that it was a welcome move by the Salem division of Southern Railways to reintroduce steam locomotives along the route, though in a limited capacity extending only to chartered train services.

“The move will definitely bolster tourism in the Nilgiris, and along the NMR line in general, with more people interested in chartering the train if the entire route involved steam locomotives, rather than one leg of the journey using diesel locomotives,” said Mr. Natrajan.

Kashif Shahzad, sales manager of Deccan Odyssey, a luxury train service operated by a joint collaboration of the Maharashtra government and Indian Railways, who organised the trip for the tourists on the NMR as part of a wider tour in Southern India, said that the introduction of charter train services, with a special emphasis on the steam locomotives will definitely prove to be beneficial for tourism in Southern India.

“This sector is just so beautiful and there is a lot of demand among tourists to enjoy a trip along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway,” said Mr. Shahzad.

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Printable version | Jan 30, 2020 3:04:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/for-the-first-time-in-two-decades-steam-locomotive-operates-from-coonoor-to-ooty/article30251974.ece

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