Train 'Himalayan Queen' catches fire
Shimla: Around 200 passengers, who boarded Shimla-bound Himalayan Queen toy train, on Tuesday for a dream ride to the snow-bound hill station, perhaps had never dreamt of a harrowing journey, almost mid-way to their destination.
Panic spread in the train, around 2.15 pm, when the engine of the Himalayan Queen ( no 524550 ) caught fire when the train was running Dharampur and Kumarhatti railway stations, on the upward journey.
Solan's Additional District Magistrate Vivek Chandel told the Millennium Post that it was a providential escape for the passengers. But all were reported safe.
"No one was hurt in the incident as the locals among railway staff on board manage to put off the fire," said Chandel.
Ambala's Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Dinesh Chandra Sharma has confirmed the incident but expressed relief that none of the passengers was injured, though smoke blowing from the engine did cause panic in the train.
The exact cause of the fire was not known even as few suspected as some electrical fault.
An inquiry has been ordered into the incident, said Sharma. In fact, after the fire was put out with the help of the locals, the engine was detached from the train.
"A new engine was sent to the site for movement of the train to Barog, Solan and rest of the journey more than four hours after the incident," said an official who was part of the rescue team sent to the spot immediately after the incident.
The Himalayan Queen toy train, as par railway inquiries, started from Kalka (Haryana) at 12.10 pm and was slated to reach Shimla at 5.30 pm. But, by 6.45 pm, it had just reached Solan.
The train services on the Kalka-Shimla UNSECO heritage narrow gauge railway line, built in 1903, had never seen such an incident although some derailments and disruption of the movement either due to snowfall or landslides have been reported earlier.
Eyewitnesses said the passengers, who also included foreigners, looked panicked on noticing black thick smoke coming out of the train's engine. They feared the fire spreading to the train. Thus, they left their train even as locals did try to help them in their safety.
The journey of the joy train, especially after the snowfall, had been a major attraction on Shimla-Kalka heritage track. The railways had recently also rolled out a new glass-roof vistadome coach to make the journey more attractive and filled with luxuries.
Meanwhile, Hari Mohan, a senior railway official from Ambala, said "Train had developed a technical snag due to burning of electrical wires, leading to willowing out of smoke from inside the engine. Train was immediately brought to halt by the alert crew. With the help of fire fighting equipments, fire was extinguished within 20 minutes by Loco pilot, Guard and Ticket examiner (TTE) of the train. Passengers were also cautioned by them. Due to prompt & accurate planning by Control office, the train engine of Train no. 52456 ie Himalayan Queen ( going to Kalka) was immediately provided to the stranded train and the affected train was pulled to Kumar Hatti expeditiously restoring traffic."