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This heritage steam loco was flagged off at Egmore for a special occasion

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The luxury Deccan Odyssey made its way from Mumbai to Chennai, ending the trip with a steam engine ride from Egmore to Kodambakkam

Platform 4 at Egmore station is where all the activity was. A steam loco stood proud, as its engine bellowed puffs of vapour and the driver playfully tooted the horn. Some enthusiasts stood on the platform, trying to get a selfie with the EIR 21, a heritage steam locomotive that was all set to run from Egmore to Kodambakkam, carrying in it 71 passengers of the Golden Eagle Luxury Trains company. Organised by Tim Littler, president and founder of the UK-based Golden Eagle, the tour had originally flagged off in Mumbai, on board the luxury Deccan Odyssey on December 7, before culminating with the steam loco run in Chennai a week later.

“This is a part of our India tour that we do twice a year,” says Tim, adding that this was the first time they did a journey from Mumbai to Chennai. “We called it the Golden Eagle Madras Mail, and it marked our 30th anniversary. Tours to India are an interesting extension to our business; clients like new itineraries.” Their other train tour in India is the Golden Eagle Darjeeling Mail.

Since most of their the passengers are train and steam locomotive enthusiasts, their 20-minute trip aboard the heritage steam train Heritage steam locomotive EIR21 was an added bonus. Established in 1989, Golden Eagle typically organises luxury train tours along the Trans Siberian route, using their own trains, apart from trips across the world — India and Iran included — using chartered trains.

This heritage steam loco was flagged off at Egmore for a special occasion

“The Trans Siberian tour usually lasts two weeks; although a typical train ride on this route would only be about six-and-a-half days long. But we make stops along the way for passengers to see sights like Lake Baikal and the Opera House,” explains Tim, “On board the train, everything is included; it is like a hotel on wheels, with the main part of the tour taking place on board the train.”

The Trans Siberian train route spans 11,000 kilometres, of which the first 100 kilometres use a steam locomotive as a token ride, before switching to an electric train.

Interestingly, Tim’s family is into the wine business. But his passion for trains sparked when he was around eight years old. “Ever since, trains have fascinated me. In school, I used to run train-related tours. Although my main business had been wine until then, in 1989, I started Golden Eagle, which has now become my main business,” says Tim, who makes it a point to do at least one of the train tours in India each year.

One of their popular train tours is a winter tour from Siberia up to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights. “We do another Trans Siberian tour in February and a Silk Road tour in March that covers the southern part of Russia. In Russia alone, we run tours for about 270 days of the year. We also have tours in Eastern Europe,” he says.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 2:08:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/this-heritage-steam-loco-was-flagged-off-at-egmore-for-a-special-occasion/article30318133.ece

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