It was a feast for the eyes for passengers who thronged the stations on the Chennai Egmore – Kodambakkam route yesterday when Southern Railway operated a train pulled by old heritage steam engine ‘Express EIR 21’ to mark Republic Day celebrations.
The oldest steam engine hauling a single coach left Chennai Egmore at 12 noon and arrived at Kodambakkam to the cheer of all gathered to witness the prestige of railway heritage.
General Manager of Southern Railway R K Kulshrestha, Southern Railway Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer A K Kathpal and Divisional Railway Manager (Chennai Division) Naveen Gulati were present during the run. According to a press release, this is the seventh heritage run of EIR 21 which is similar to Fairy Queen in appearance.
Perambur Loco Works took the challenge of reviving the 163-year-old steam loco ‘Express EIR 21’ in 2010. After withdrawal from service in 1909, this loco was kept as an exhibit at Jamalpur Workshop and Howrah Station for over 101 years. During this period, the loco was open to the elements and parts got corroded – in fact, some went missing, some were broken and some were not fit for use.
After the revival, the first heritage run of EIR 21 was conducted on 15 August 2010 from Chennai Central to Avadi with two coaches as a part of Independence Day celebrations. The second heritage run of EIR 21 was conducted on 15 August 2011 from Chennai Egmore to Guindy, covering a distance of 11 km in 35 minutes. This time only one coach was hauled on realising the experience from the first heritage run.
The third heritage run was conducted on 26 January 2012, as part of the 63rd Republic Day celebrations, from Chennai Egmore to Guindy with one coach having 60 seats covering 11 km at a maximum speed of 45 kmph. The fourth heritage run was in commemoration of the 157th anniversary of the Railways and was conducted on 6 February 2012 from Chennai Central to Perambur with one coach having 60 seats, covering 5 km.
The fifth heritage run was conducted on 26 January 2013 as part of the 64th Republic Day celebrations from Chennai Egmore to Guindy with one coach having 60 seats covering 11 km. The sixth heritage run was conducted on 10 September 2017 from Chennai Egmore to Kodambakkam with one coach, covering a distance of 5.36 km.
- Express EIR 21 steam loco was built in 1855 by Kitson, Thomson and Hewitson of the UK, who built another such loco, Fairy Queen, the same year.
- Fairy Queen too is functional. It pulls a two-coach luxury tourist train between Delhi and Alwar.
- EIR 21 Express ran between Howrah and Raneegunge.
- After its retirement in 1909, it was housed at the Jamalpur Loco Works in Bihar, where its firebox got damaged and it was declared unfit for restoration.
- EIR 21 was shifted to Perambur Loco Works a century later, where it was brought back to life.
- It has a complicated outside cylinder well tank engine. Many damaged parts were manufactured based on drawings.
- Fairy Queen too was serviced at Perambur. That experience helped workers put EIR 21 back on track.
Notes from History
- First proposal for railways in India was made in Chennai, the then Madras, in 1832.
- First train in India ran from Red Hills to Chintadripet bridge in 1837. Called Red Hill Railway, it was mainly used for transporting granite stones for road building.
- On May 8, 1845, Madras Railway was incorporated, the same year in which East India Railway was incorporated.
- India’s first passenger train ran between Bombay and Thane in 1853.
- The first passenger railway train in east India ran from Howrah to Hoogly, on August 15, 1854.
- 1854 India’s first railway bridge built over Ulhas river.
- First passenger train in South India ran from Royapuram to Wallajah Road in Arcot on July 1, 1856.