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Monday, 31 March, 2014, 15 : 00 PM [IST]

IRCTC relaunches 109-year-old steam engine on Kalka-Shimla heritage track

A 109-year-old British-era steam engine restarted operations over the weekend on the Kalka-Shimla heritage track with over 12 passengers, mostly foreigners on board, railway officials said. Considered to be an engineering marvel, locomotive KC 520, the only narrow-gauge steam engine that dates back to 1905, operated between Shimla and Kathlighat, Amar Singh Thakur, Commercial Inspector (Railways), was quoted as saying in an IANS report.

The one-way 22-km-long journey between the two stations, located on the Shimla-Kalka rail line that figures in UNESCO World Heritage Site list, takes more than one hour.

The steam engine-hauled train, being handled by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a wing of the Indian Railways, with two chartered coaches was booked for Rs 96,000, including taxes, Thakur said.

The Indian Railways in February last year rolled out the indigenously built coal-fired steam locomotive for the first time in over six years. This was for the second time since then that it was hired.

IRCTC officials said under the plan, any company or individual can hire a steam train comprising two to three coaches with a capacity to accommodate up to 40 people between Shimla and Kathlighat at a cost of Rs 80,000 plus 20 per cent Service Tax. Food is provided on board.

The British-era steam engine was recently repaired and restored in Amritsar.

The steam locomotives, which ferried Europeans to and from this hill town, the erstwhile summer capital of British India, were gradually phased out with the launch of diesel engines from 1952 onwards.

The ascent on the track begins from 2,100 ft above sea level at Kalka in Haryana and crosses Dharampur, Barog, Solan and Kandaghat before it reaches Shimla at 7,000 ft.
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