A TRYST WITH A BYGONE ERA
One of the most enduring images of India is that of a hard-working, smoke-billowing steam train moving gracefully along in a rural setting. Come year 2000 and with the closure of the last normal working steam shed at Wankaner, this scene will be no more. There are no doubt many who will miss this inimitable part of travelling that has been a part of the entire existence of railways in India. Steam was good for railways only as long as it was considered cheaper to run steam locomotives in comparison with other forms of motive power. However, there can be no doubt that steam will always have a stronghold in the tourism sector for the reason that it evokes nostalgia for rail-travel of a bygone era. The role played by steam locomotives in the history of surface transport coming of age in the 19th century cannot be ignored. The solid foundation of today’s modern railway system was laid by steam locomotives, which reigned supreme on the railways of the world for a century or more.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railways and Nilgiri Mountain Railways, still worked by steam, attract both domestic and overseas tourists by the thousands, yet they are constantly endangered by the encroachment of diesel and even electric traction of late!
Indian Steam Railway Society (ISRS) was formed on October 23rd, 1999 when a group of like-minded people met and discussed the present position and future possibilities regarding the preservation of Indian Steam. Subsequently, a formal non-profit Society was formed and it has been registered with the Registrar of Societies, Delhi. The President of the society is Sri L.K. Sinha, who retired as Member Mechanical of Indian Railways. Mark Tully is the Vice-president, Ashwani Lohani is the Working President, G Shankar is the Secretary and Dileep Prakash is the Joint Secretary. P.J. Singh is the Treasurer and Vikas Singh is the Editor of the Newsletter of the Society. Other members of the managing committee are Arun Mohan, Bill Aitken and Ravindra Gupta. The objective of the Society is to form a common platform for the Indian Steam Railway Enthusiasts to exchange views and further their knowledge on the subject of Indian Steam Railway. The Society will make representations to the Indian Railway Board for more and more tourist special trains hauled by steam locomotives in the near future.
- Promote interest in and share the knowledge of the Indian Railways steam heritage and current developments amongst Steam Railway Enthusiasts by bringing them on a common platform.
- Stimulate public affection by intelligent exposure of the Steam Railway’s contribution to the development of the Nation.
- Create awareness of the excellence of the Indian Steam Railways Works and highlight the need for their preservation in the interest of science and technology facilitating transport and tourism.
- Publish a quarterly Newsletter for the members and patrons of the Society.
- Organize regular meetings, debates, seminars, competitions and quizzes for the members and the public to exchange and further disseminate information on Steam Railways.
- Assist in preservation and revival of the remaining heritage of railways run on steam in India and to promote Steam Heritage Tourism.
- Participate in fund raising activities consistent with the aims.
- Preserve a working steam heritage for the future generation to enjoy.
The Managing Committee has also proposed formation of several chapters of the new society in the various railway zones as well as production and research units of Indian Railways. ISRS members meet on the second Sunday of every month at the National Rail Museum, New Delhi. Besides this society also organizes an annual event, the National Steam Congress sometime during the winter months.