A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed today by the Northeast Frontier Railway with Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited (HECL) for supply of spare parts for century-old steam locomotives of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).
The MoU was signed by HECL Chairman-cum-Managing Director Avijit Ghosh and NFR Chief Mechanical Engineer (O&F) Boniface Lakra at N F Railway Headquarters here in the presence of Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain, NFR General Manager Chahatey Ram, General Manager - Construction Organization H K Jaggi and other senior officials.
Speaking on the occasion, Rajen Gohain said today is an important day in conservation history of Railways as the signing of MoU would ensure that the Heritage-era steam locomotives would never die out.
HECL would supply 41 critical spare components for the available steam locomotives and thus they would remain ever operational, Gohain said.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was bestowed with World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 1999 for "bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty", an N F Railway spokesman said.
Stating the UNESCO had observed that DHR "retains most of its original features intact", the spokesman said the mission of N F Railway is to conserve the DHR Heritage by keeping steam traction alive for people to get a feel of the glorious past.
Since inception, the small Steam Locomotives, known as "B" class engines have been the mainstay of DHR and are also major tourist attractions, he said.
Stating there are 13 "B" class steam locomotives available in DHR at present and majority of them are more than 100 years old, he said keeping them operational and retaining the original features of the locos intact pose a big challenge for DHR as most of original manufacturer no longer produce such locos or spares.
As a solution HECL has agreed to manufacture/develop items/equipment for the steam locomotives of DHR in the following areas (1) Spares of Narrow Gauge Steam locomotives (2) Development of Steam boiler for Narrow Gauge Steam Locomotives, and accordingly has decided to enter into an MoU with N F Railway for supply of the two items for five years.
The signing of MoU today will ensure steady supply of spares for the steam locomotive fleets of DHR, which in turn will ensure optimum and efficient utilization of the locomotives for sustainability of DHR, he said.
It will go a long way in turning around DHR towards making it commercially viable, the spokesman added.