| In for a change
Siliguri, Dec. 6: The railway ministry has decided to induct oil-fired locomotives in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), despite previous failures of these engines on this route.
The proposal is part of an upgrade package that is expected to convert the DHR into the “wonder of India”. This was announced in the Rajya Sabha on November 24 by the minister of state for railways, R. Velu. He said this in reply to a question raised in the House by Saman Pathak, the CPM-backed Rajya Sabha member from Darjeeling.
Velu said under the upgrade project, most of the station buildings on the DHR route would be spruced up while better passenger amenities will be provided. The oldest DHR workshop at Tindharia would also be upgraded, he had added.
The decision to induct the oil-fired engines, however, has drawn a mixed response from the railway staff.
“Despite several attempts, these locomotives could not be made commercially viable. As soon as the engines start their upward climb, the flames from the diesel boiler leap backwards, leading to increased fuel consumption. These engines are also cramped by other technical problems caused by the steep gradients in the mountains,” said a senior engineer of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR).
Nobody in the NFR, including senior officers, hazarded a guess about why these locomotives were being pressed into service once again.
When quizzed on the issue, DHR director N. Srinivas pushed the ball into the court of the divisional commercial manager and public relations officer Taraknath Bhattacharya.
“Even we do not know much about it. So far no upgrade proposal has reached us, except for the replacing of wooden sleepers on the tracks with concrete ones as part of track upgrading,” said Bhattacharya, unable to cast much light on the issue.
Contacted over the phone in Delhi, Pathak said the Union government seemed keen on upgrading the DHR with the newest technology, but at the same time maintaining its heritage character. He, however, said the Kurseong Railway Press near the station, would not be modernised.
The MP, however, admitted that Velu did not give any clear indication about when the project would be initiated and from where the required funds would be acquired.