17 July 2009

Mumbai's local trains for museum soon

Rajendra B. Aklekar

THOSE dust-brown and yellow local trains that rattle up and down the city are set to retire. About eighty years after they were first introduced in 1925, the old technology trains will be now slowly phased out and in the next five years you won’t see them at all. But the railways plan to save the old train, one working model of the train will be preserved at the newly-planned 17-acre Lonavala railway museum. The new swank silver-violet trains are replacing the older lot, with rapid pace— a new train comes from the factory every Wednesday.

We may replace the old stock with new trains and convert a few of the existing trains to the new technology. The older trains and engines run on direct current (DC) technology, which is now obsolete and will be completely phased out in the next five years to be replaced with alternate current (AC) technology that is more efficient and saves power. The older local trains and DC locomotives will vanish. But we plan to preserve them for posterity at the new museum,” a Central Railway’s spokesperson said.

In fact, about only 50 locomotives of the DC power exist in the country and all of them are doing their duties in the Mumbai-Pune section. They are called the WCG-2 class engines and are a dying breed, but one of it will go to the museum too, promise railway officials.

“The Mumbai-Pune section has lots that one can be proud of like Asia’s first railway tunnel, first viaduct, old electric masts, the Bhor Ghat, that was one the steepest incline carrying trains in world. All of it deserves to be documented and preserved for the future generations. It is a remarkable story of how tunnels were built by blowing up mountains when there was no dynamite and huge stone and masonry bridges built,” Rajesh Agrawal, executive director (heritage) said.

The museum to be set up in 2 years time is a Rs 11.6 crore project and will be a railway theme park, connected to other global railway museums. It will be an old era township recreated, a first such railway project.

To begin with, we are setting up a small exhibition on railway heritage at Lonavala station in early October to welcome the Commonwealth Games players. “A small exhibition will make people aware of the heritage and should prove to be an attraction, LC Trivedi, chief rolling stock engineer said.
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