XIIth National steam congress held on 8th February 2015 at Auditorium, National rail museum, New Delhi.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
The XIIth. National Steam Congress, held at the National Rail Museum, New Delhi, probably had the best
presentations ever. The theme this year was the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Member (Mech), Indian Railway
Board, Shri Hemant Kumar, was the Chief Guest.
The venue had a festive appearance on a bright sunny winter morning where a photographic exhibition and stalls
selling Steam Railway memorabilia were displayed.
The Congress was very ably compe`red by the Organising Secretary, Vikas Arya, who welcomed all the participants.
Ashwani Lohani, Working President of ISRS, gave a brief introduction to the activities of the Society during
the year and plans for the future. He also appealed for a Steam train to be run regularly on a time table which
can be advertised so that tourists can plan their visits.
The President, Lalit Sinha, said that maintaining the Steam Heritage can be commercially a viable activity as
is evident from hundreds of Steam Railways running in the world and as will be brought out by the day’s presentations.
The Keynote speaker was Adrian Shooter from UK. Adrian is a Steam Enthusiast and
the only person who owns a working Darjeeling Himalayan Railway locomotive outside India;
This runs in his garden at Oxfordshire with 2 replica DHR coaches
Adrian’s presentation was on the Tyseley Steam Depot and Workshop near Birmingham, of which he is a trustee.
It was good to see the type of heavy repairs being carried out there, including welding patches on boiler.
Adrian talked about exacting standards required for Steam locomotives to run on the Main Line at speeds of
100 mph +; something Tyseley specialises in. Mandatory modern safety signalling systems provided on the mainline
locomotives presented a strange contrast to the vintage fittings.
It was also good to see how this shed has also become a major tourist attraction.
The Theme presentation on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) was given by R.S.Virdi, General Manager,
NF Railway. The series of landslides which led to major breaches to the Railway and interrupted through
running during the last 4 ½ years, were vividly shown by the pictures in his presentation. The good news was
that the breaches had been restored and trial through runs are going on; the line should be formally opened in Feb. 2015.
In the statistics presented by him, it was interesting to note that 90% of the earning of the Railway was from
Joy Rides. This goes to show how organised running of Heritage Steam trains can be a profitable venture;.
Tarun Thakral spoke about the Heritage Transport Museum he has set up near Gurgaon. He has a remarkable collection
of Aircrafts, Automobiles, Railways and other modes of transport in his recently set up air-conditioned, 3-storey museum.
Adesh Grover gave a presentation of the beautiful Model Railway in his farm, also near Gurgaon. The stations, signalling,
landscaped track with tunnels and bridges and, of course, the rolling stock all looked so realistic.
Thereafter there was a brief ceremony during which there was:
Presentation of Steam Award to the Delhi Division Team;
Conferring of lifetime membership to Mrs. Nidhi Singh
Book release, ‘Earth to Sky’ by Dr. Shivmohan and Dr. Sanjay Kaushal;
Release of ISRS calendar;
Release of the latest edition of the ISRS magazine.
Chief Guest Shri Hemant Kumar in his address lauded the ISRS efforts to maintain the heritage of Steam
Locomotives and spoke about his experience of the days when Steam ruled the Indian Railway.
It was a pity that Karen and Mike Maher of Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, UK could not be present
for their presentation as they had left the previous day; the Congress had to be postponed by a day as
elections in Delhi were announced for the original date of Feb. 7th, 2015. They however left an excellent
video of their presentation, which was received very well with applauses.
It was remarkable to hear how they have made this 3 ½ mile Railway a profitable venture by running
steam trains, coupled with good marketing, add-ons like Station Restaurant, Gift Shop, visits to the Steam
Depot and Specials for children. They arrange for Group excursions for schoolchildren, picnics and birthday parties.
They have 8 steam locomotives, including a Thomas the Tank Engine.
The key to profitability is their lean staff strength; 11 permanent staff which goes up to 40 during the peak season.
The Congress had representation from the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) for the first time. Ms. Kanrawee Thongpull
represented SRT and gave an excellent presentation on preservation of Steam Heritage.
Steam locomotives were phased out in Thailand in early 1970s. Their revival resulted in the first
Steam run from Bangkok to Ayudhaya on 23rd. Oct. 1986, the Railway Day. Thonburi Depot is the nominated
depot for maintaining the Steam locomotives.
The Railway has scheduled steam train runs from Bangkok to Ayudhaya, which are well advertised and therefore,
well attended. Again, their excellent marketing was evident. They have made one of the steam drivers a celebrity;
he is a hero in Thailand and children line up to shake hands with him! Food fairs are held on the stations with
the background of Steam Locomotives, Comics are available for children depicting Engine staff as heroes and of course,
the Joy Rides.
Secretary ISRS, G Shanker gave the vote of thanks. The main sponsors were Madhya Pradesh Tourism, Prag Industries and
IRCTC. Of course, thanks were also due to scores of others who made the Congress such a success.
The Congress concluded with a round of the recently renovated National Rail Museum. A group photograph with the
steaming Fairy Queen, the Guinness record holder for the oldest working Steam Locomotive in the world, was the highlight.