Monday, February 18, 2019

Steam engines - the forgotten era

If I ask anyone from my or the previous generation about their happiest train memories, it would invariably involve the steam engine. As kids, one of the first sounds we mimicked was the Chuk chuk sound right?
The whole idea of or emotion around traveling by train, or just going to the train station for me & many like me, was to look at the massive, awe-inspiring Steam engine & be caught unawares by its shrill whistle.
Steam engines are a perfect example of sight, sound & smell. And a perfect part of our childhood memories.

 
Let's talk about the classic - the Fairy Queen. First commissioned in 1855 & retired in 1909 it was showcased outside the Howrah station. In 1997, nearly 90 years later, the locomotive hit the tracks again. On 13th Jan 1998, it found its place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's oldest running locomotive.


While shooting for #StationMastersTiffin I visited the Rewari Railway Heritage Museum that houses the famous Akbar, Azaad, Badshaah, Sahib, Sindh and Sultan. Yes, we are still talking locomotives :)
The Rewari loco shed is the only surviving repository of steam locos in our country.

 It's quite moving to reminisce that there were 1000s of these steam engines, that became a part of folklore, more importantly, our Independence & partition stories. The fact that the engines, that at one time "ran" the nation, now stand de-commissioned is slightly saddening.
Thanks to our movies, however, some of them are still kept alive.

Talking to the old engine drivers too, it was truly moving to hear their accounts & experiences with these machines.

 
There's something so beautifully raw about the engines that it makes sense why the drivers had that connection with them.
It does make one forget the inefficiencies of the steam engine & how electric engines took over as a cleaner, speedier mode of transportation.
 
For me, re-visiting these engines brought back a connection that I'll cherish for life. It made me want to travel back to the time when man and machine were one, heat the fire, boil the water and get the engine going..as simple as that.

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