M A I N   N E W S

Kalka-Shimla track is heritage project
Tribune News Service

Shimla, November 9
The week-long Kalka-Shimla rail track centenary celebrations got off to a spectacular start as the tastefully decorated six-coach train pulled by a vintage steam engine rolled out of the Shimla railway extension for the historic commemorative run, here today.

Mr Nitish Kumar, Union Minister for Railways, flagged off the toy train for its heritage journey up to Kaithlighat. The sight of the train moving out of the station excited thousands of enthusiasts who had come to watch it. They had lined up on both sides of the track.

The VVIPs on board included Mr V.S. Kokje, Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, Chairman and members of the railway board, MPs and senior officers of the Railways and the state government. The train completed its run in 80 minutes.

The vintage 97-year-old steam engine KC-520, which was condemned to the railway backyards in 1971 to make way for the more powerful diesel engine, was repaired and renovated for the occasion. It has been renamed as “Pawandoot” in its reincarnation.

Mr Nitish Kumar made the event a memorable one by announcing that the Railways would run the loss-incurring rail section as a “heritage” project and that a rail museum would be set up here in the memory of Baba Bhalkoo, the illiterate” engineering genius who played a vital role in translating the dream of the British into a reality. He also said six more fully computerised rail booking centres would be set up in the state to mark the centenary. These would be located at district headquarters of Kinnaur, Sirmaur, Kulu, Chamba, Lahaul-Spiti and Kangra. He said efforts were on to secure the status of a world heritage site for the 100-year old track from the UNESCO.

Mr Nitish Kumar also announced that the toy train would be promoted as a tourism venture by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation in collaboration with the state tourism authorities. He said since the over five-hour rail run between Shimla and Kalka was rather long, packages involving travel partly by train and partly by road could prove to be an attractive proposition for the tourists.

He also launched the Kalka-Shimla rail website and released a postal stamp.

Mr Virbhadra Singh said the government planned to connect all major tourist towns through helicopter services. He said at present there were only three airports in the state and regular flights were being operated only to Kulu. He said helicopter services would be introduced in collaboration with private hoteliers and commercial airlines.

Mr Kokje, Maj Vijay Mankotia, tourism minister, Mr D.R. Shandil and Mr Suresh Bhardwaj, both MPs, also spoke on the occasion.

Mr Nitish Kumar honoured those who participated in the heritage walk from Kalka to Shimla along the track and gave away prizes to the winners of essay writing and painting competitions organised by the Railways.

Later, mounted cavalry and the fusion band of the Army enthralled a packed house on the Ridge. The dare devils from the Signal Corps performed breathtaking manoeuvres on motorbikes.

The vintage car rally which started off from Delhi yesterday arrived in the state capital in the evening.

The celebrations will continue till November 15 and all major stations and bridges would be illuminated.


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