History to chug into Kochi at full steam

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The country’s oldest working steam locomotive, one which was used to transport troops during the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857, is all set to chug into Kochi, to ferry heritage enthusiasts and tourists to Vallarpadam island.

EIR-21, the steam locomotive, dates back to 1855 and in Kochi it will, in all likelihood, traverse the country’s second-longest railway overbridge.

“A movement plan will be finalised within a week. The vintage loco is most likely to operate in the Edappally-Vallarpadam route, providing passengers a scenic view of the Vembanad backwaters. The view will especially be spectacular when the train passes through the 4.62-km bridge,” said Harikrishnan, Ernakulam station director and area manager of Southern Railway.

The bridge and the entire 9-km rail route to Vallarpadam are grossly underutilised and only two container-laden trains use the corridor every month.

The steam loco rake is currently operating in the Madurai Railway Division.

In 10 days

The rake will arrive in Kochi in about 10 days. A proposal to enter into tie-ups with operators of cruise ships that call at Kochi to enable high-end globetrotters to travel on the train is yet to materialise.

Railway sources said that a skilled loco pilot would accompany the locomotive and be based here till the rake left for another railway division in a few months.

The fare for the train is yet to be finalised.

“An alternative route for the heritage train is between the Cochin Harbour terminus, a heritage railway station on Wellington Island, and Ernakulam Junction, through the newly built Venduruthy railway overbridge, which too overlooks the backwaters. Though it will not halt at any station in either route, passengers can relish every moment of the journey,” Mr. Harikrishnan said.

Built by Kitson Thompson and Hewitson Leeds in London, the EIR 21 loco was shipped to India in 1855 for use by the erstwhile East Indian Railway.

EIR 21, along with her sister train Fairy Queen (EIR 22), was used for troop movement in 1857.

Back from museum

After over five decades in service, it was withdrawn from regular service and displayed at railway museums. It was later overhauled and retrofitted with modern gadgets at Perambur Loco Works in Chennai.

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