Ghost of a steam engine past
Patna: Indian Railways is planning to restore the original charm of the 105-year-old steam locomotive put on display in front of Darbhanga Junction to showcase the level of industrialisation and mechanisation in Bihar a century ago.
The engine was handed over to the railways by the state sugarcane industries department after being rescued from Lohat sugar mill compound a week ago. It was hidden under a wild growth of vegetation, practically disappearing from sight.
"We are planning to clean up the engine by scraping all its parts carefully and restore it to its original colour by using the best available material. We'll also try to procure a whistle used in such engines and use it in this particular engine so that it could be sounded to give a better feel of the locomotives of that time to the public," said Samastipur divisional railway manager (DRM) Ravindra Kumar Jain, under whose jurisdiction Darbhanga Junction falls.
The DRM said given its age, the engine was in a good shape but its headlight would be restored. He spoke of proper lighting for better display.
"Such type of engine is not conserved and displayed anywhere else in the country. The ones on display are of later dates. This was a multipurpose engine that used to provide train service on the then mainline, as well as, the sugar factory. Later on it was used purely for factory purposes. Our records show that it was operational till 1990s. Such a long tenure for an engine is a unique thing," Jain said.
The railway authorities are also planning to give a brief history of the engine at the pedestal so that people can know about it. There are plans also to place a few more old things connected to the railways to create an environment of heritage and history.
Manufactured in 1913 in England, the engine was imported by the then Darbhanga ruler, Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur (reigned 1898-1929), for use at state-of-the-art sugar mill at Lohat, which started production in 1914. The metre-gauge engine, bearing number '253' was used not only to move raw materials to the factory and finished product to different locations, but also to transport people over short distances.
As decades passed, the locomotive was limited to plying within the sugar mill campus and remained operational till 1996 when the mill shut down.
Sugarcane industries department principal secretary S. Siddharth said the state government decided to handover the engine to the railways so that it could be conserved instead of getting turned into scrap.