Friday, September 25, 2009

Old iron

Workhorse, it must have been. Lasted a long time, too. In service for 89 years, this steam locomotive manufactured in 1903 was one of the first built by Kerr Stuart & Co for railways in India. It was originally made for the Mayurbhanj State Railways (MSR), with the All India Number 691. When the MSR switched over to diesel locomotives, PL691 along with its 3 brother locomotives of the 0-6-4T class were moved from MSR to Parlakimedi Light Railway (PLR), which was also using locomotives of the same class. The PLR, which was being managed by the Bengal Nagpur Railway almost from its inception, became a part of the Indian government's portfolio when BNR was taken over in 1944.

Later, during the process of re-constituting the divisions of the Indian Railways, Locomotive PL691 moved to the South Eastern Railway division in 1955, after spending 3 years with the Eastern Railway. In 1987, PL691 had the honour of being featured on one of the 4 postage stamps released on the occasion of the South Eastern Railway's centenary year celebrations. It continued in service on the Naupada-Gunupur line until 1992, when the line was converted from steam to diesel. After its last run on April 23, 1992, PL691 was brought to Chennai and placed ("plinthed" is the correct term, apparently) in front of the Southern Railway headquarters building.

Four of its contemporaries (Nos. 692, 693, 694 and 697) have also been preserved. All of them have been plinthed outside various offices (then) of the South Eastern Railway: 692 at Puri and the others at Visakhapatnam. PL 691 alone, for some reason, has travelled all the way to Chennai - wonder what connection it had with the forerunners of the Southern Railway!

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