Tuesday, September 18, 2007


She is the oldest surviving and still in working order according the Guinness Book of World Records. Born in 1855, initially working in the Howrah area, she was put to a well deserved rest around 1908. After a whopping eighty seven years resting – thankfully not rusting on the outside of the Headquarters where she was serving, she was shipped to Chennai in 1995 to see if she could handle some more work at the ripe old age of a hundred and forty years.

She has, and how! She still does the work of pulling trains – though a lighter load for steam loving, mainly foreign tourists. She is the Fairy Queen – the grandmother of all steam locomotives. “The Fairy Queen comes here once in two years for a full check up – what we call the Periodic Overhaul”, informs R Kuppan, Chief Workshop Manager of the Perambur Loco Works.

“This year, the overhaul has been pretty comprehensive and well ahead of time”, announces Parimala Kumar, Works Manager of the Perambur Loco Works. The trial run of the Queen within the workshop precincts was a great hit – and it was an exclusive to Madraplus. The longer version of the trial run will take place today on the Perambur Loco Works line to Padi station on the Villivakkam-Anna Nagar line.

“This year, we have made a number of modifications, based on our earlier experiences’, says Kuppan. “One major area was the injectors, which we concentrated this year first”, says Parimala Kumar, reminiscing of the stop-start-stop trial run the last time around. That the efforts have been superlative is evident from the almost flawless trial run – achieving the maximum pressure on the boilers. “We have changed a few parts – and that is not easy considering that there are absolutely no drawings for any part”, recalls Kuppan. “We have fabricated most parts that needed to be replaced as a inhouse project”, adds Parimala Kumar.

The Ash Pan has been given a sliding mechanism – so that ash does not accumulate in the trays, the water equalizing has been made more efficient across the two tanks, thanks to the larger pipe that has been run through – in spite of challenging difficulties like not finding enough space for the pipe. All the one hundred and four tubes have been dismantled, descaled and reassembled in the boiler – and the Queen now looks more like a bride than the run down dowager when she arrived here in July.

Given the age of the locomotive – 152 years to be exact, she seems to be in shipshape. There is absolutely no doubt that the years of rest have taken its toll – but the engineers have done such a wonderful job, that the age does not show at all. Given their expertise, the Railway Board is examining the proposal to send the Express – the twin of the Fairy Queen, and one year older for a similar rehab.

“Next year we plan to replace the boiler”, declares Kuppan, amidst the noise of the chugging locomotive. Kuppan was himself trying his hand on the locomotive and said, “it was an exhilarating experience, and we have to thank Mr Carmelus, the Chief Mechanical Engineer of Southern Railway, who has been a source of great inspiration”.

Well, our appetite does not seem to end here. We plan to take out the trial run today as well, and make most of the good times as they last. After, she is Mere Sapnon ki Rani!


Commissioned in 1855, with Road Number EIR 22
Ran initially on the Howrah Ranigunj route with express trains on the East India Railway
Decommissioned in 1908
Plinthed as an exhibit at Howrah for some time
Moved as an exhibit to the National Rail Museum, New Delhi
Plans for revival started in 1994
Sent to Perambur Loco Works in 1995, and revived to run
Hauled the Delhi Alwar Weekend Tourist Special every tourist season
Returning to Perambur Loco Works once in two years for a complete overhaul

This was published by ET Madrasplus on 6th September 2007.



Blogger Ranganath Eunny said...

Need snaps? Contact me.

Blogger Ranganath Eunny said...

Do you wish to put some snaps of the FQ? Contact me.

Blogger Sridhar Joshi said...

Ranga, I tried, but could not. There could be two reasons - I am too tech challenged or it took far too much time to upload.


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