Railway lovers looked on with glee and broke into thunderous applause, as the world’s oldest working steam loco, 162-year-old Express EIR 21, arrived at Kodambakkam on September 10.
The Southern Railway conducted the sixth heritage run of the steam loco, Express EIR 21, which lugged a single coach from Chennai’s Egmore to Kodambakkam.
History behind EIR 21
The name ‘EIR 21 Express’ was given to the loco by its creators, Kitson, Thompson & Hewitson of England, who built it in 1855. The loco was shipped to the Indian subcontinent, to span high and low lands. It carried people from different walks of life and heavy cargos for over 55 years.
Back in the day, travelling in the EIR 21 Express was nothing short of an adventure to passengers who cheered as the whistle blew.
The loco service was discontinued in 1909. It was then used for exhibitions at Jamalpur Workshops and Howrah Station for over a century. After 101 years of serving as an exhibit, the loco endured harsh sun and heavy rains, which corroded several parts. While some parts went missing, some broke and some were deemed unfit for usage.
Shining a ray of hope, Loco Workshop, Perambur, took up the challenge of reviving the Express EIR 21 in 2010.
It has now been eternalized like its twin sister loco, Fairy Queen EIR 22, which also won the Guinness Book of World Records Title, ‘The World’s Oldest Working Steam Loco.’
The Fairy Queen was also built in 1855 and refurbished in 1996. It resumed commercial operations in 1997 for a 2 Days/1 Night Tourist circuit from Delhi to Alwar, with an overnight stay in Sariska Tiger Reserve, as part of the Fairy Queen train tour.
It is still functioning as a 60-seater functional two-coach luxury tourist train between the two cities.
But the ‘Express Loco’ is still considered older than the ‘Fairy Queen,’ both of which had a history of hauling trains full of troops from Howrah to Raneegunge to put down the Sepoy mutiny of 1857.
The refurbished EIR 21 is also famous for effortlessly adapting to modern-day gizmos such as GPS-based speedometer.
— Southern Railway (@GMSRailway) September 10, 2017
After the restoration, the first heritage run was conducted as part of Independence Day celebrations in 2010 from Chennai Central to Avadi with two coaches.
The second heritage run was conducted the following year on the same day from Chennai Egmore to Guindy, with the loco covering 11km in a duration of 35 minutes.
The third heritage run was conducted as part of the 63rd Republic Day celebration, on January 26, 2012, from Chennai Egmore to Guindy. The loco pulled one coach with 60 seats covering 11 km at a maximum speed of 45 kph.
The fourth heritage run was in commemoration of the loco’s 157th anniversary on February 6, 2012, from Chennai Central to Perambur with one coach having 60 seats covering 5km.
The fifth heritage run was conducted on January 26, 2013, as part of the 64th Republic Day celebrations, from Chennai Egmore to Guindy with one coach having 60 seats covering 11km.
Authorities including Vashishta Johri, general manager, Southern Railway, P K Mishra, additional general manager, Southern Railway, R Kuppan, chief mechanical engineer, Naveen Gulati, divisional railway manager, Chennai Division, Elavarasan, chief signal and telecommunication engineer, and other railway officials bore witness to the sixth heritage run.
Watch the video here:
Source: SSK Rail World