Steam rides back at rail museum
Patiala State’s Monorail Engine & Saloon Restored, Will Offer 10-Min Trips
Richi Verma TNN
New Delhi: From Sunday, visitors to the National Rail Museum can take a historical train ride. A restored relic of the country’s first monorail—Patiala State Monorail Tramway (PTST)—is ready to spew steam and smoke again. Although the original tramway ran two routes in the princely state of Patiala between 1907 and 1927, at the museum the tiny engine will do only a 10-minute loop run.
Railway historians say the Patiala monorail was conceived in the early 1900s and was built in the reign of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, under the supervision of the chief state engineer Colonel Bowles.
“As a young engineer in 1900, Bowles was laying the site of the Bengal-Nagpur Railway works at Kharagpur in Bengal. He faced trouble with the narrow gauge contractor tracks and tried, successfully, the Ewing monorail system. In this arrangement, about 95% of the weight of a vehicle is taken on the single rail and the rest on an additional wheel on an outrigger. In later years, Bowles used the same technology for a 15-mile monorail line from Sirhind to Morinda,’’ a historian told TOI.
One of the objectives of the tramway was to put to work more than 500 government-owned mules. But in 1909, four locomotives were built and delivered by Orenstein & Koppel of Germany (O&K) at a cost of $500 to $600 (about Rs 7,000 in those days) each.
A locomotive and a saloon of the erstwhile PSMT have been restored for the museum after an effort of several months.
“With help from the (railways’) Amritsar workshop, Rewari Steam Shed staff and NRM staff the loco has been brought back into operational condition,’’ said NRM director Uday Singh Mina.
A ride will cost Rs 200 for adults and Rs 100 for children. The number of runs in a day will be governed by the number of visitors. “It takes up to three hours just to light up the steam engine, but after that the train will run without problems as one keeps charging it with coal,” added Mina.
Of the three other locomotives built by the German company, one is exhibited at a workshop in Amritsar and the other two have been lost. NRM managed to acquire locomotive number 4 in the 1970s and it has been exhibited since then.
“To get the engine operational again, the boiler had to be dismantled and cleaned. The smoke tubes were in bad shape and had to be replaced, where required. The pipline is regularly inspected for choking and breakages,’’ added an official. The saloon has been restored by a Chandigarh-based heritage conservation agency.
The PTST and the audioguide facility for visitors were inaugurated by Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal at the 37th Museum Foundation Day this week. The audio guide system will relate the historical significance of exhibits like a story, in Hindi and English. It will also ease the crowding near specific exhibits. The museum gets up to 5,500 visitors in a day, with the average being 1,700-1,800, said officials.