Equipped with new oil–fired system, the narrow gauge steam locomotive is all set to chug in the lush green Matheran Hill Railway in Maharashtra. The 96-year-old steam loco ‘B 794’ will henceforth run using high speed diesel as fuel instead of coal in the 20-km eco-sensitive section from Neral to Matheran located on the Western Ghats range in Raigad district.
The ‘B’ class engine was dispatched on Monday from the over 80-year-old Golden Rock Railway Workshop here, which was entrusted with the task of converting the firing system of the loco from coal to oil. The Golden Rock Workshop accomplished the firing system conversion work within a span of 30 days after receiving the loco in April end.
As coal-fired system was posing problems to environment besides causing fire at times from the small particles of burnt coal flying out of the loco’s chimney in the eco-sensitive Matheran region, the Railways decided to convert the loco into oil-fired to avoid such situations in future, workshop officials said. The Golden Rock Workshop was chosen for the task as it had experience and required expertise in conversion of firing system from coal to oil. The workshop had already manufactured oil-fired steam locos for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the Nilgiri Mountain Railway.
As part of the conversion work, the 15.5 tonne steam loco has been provided with twin head burner, combustion blower with air control, fuel pump, electrical control unit, fuel oil system accessories, and diesel oil tank.
The oil tank with a capacity of 800 litres has been installed in the bunker area where coal had been stored earlier. The 5 KVA generator set to power electrical items has been installed in the side platform of the loco which will run at a speed of 13 km per hour hauling four coaches. The loco has been given a fresh coat of polyurethane painting. The modification work has been carried out without affecting the heritage value of the loco, said P. Mahesh, Chief Workshop Manager. This is the first time that a narrow gauge loco has been sent for conversion of firing system from the Matheran Hill Railway, Mr. Mahesh said.
A technical team from the workshop will monitor the trials in the hilly Neral–Matheran section before the steam loco with oil-fired system is put into operation. The cost of conversion was Rs. 20 lakh. The loco was flagged off by S. Sundarrajan, Director, National Institute of Technology, Tiruchi, on the workshop premises.
The Neral- Matheran Light Railway was built between 1901 and 1907 by Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy at a cost of Rs. 16 lakh. It is operated by the Central Railway now. Matheran is connected to the town of Neral, which lies at the base of the hills, by narrow gauge rail.