Back on track: Steam locomotives of DHR to run again from today

Darjeeling: Good tidings have finally come for Darjeeling, as the steam locomotives of the world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railways will be back on track after more than twenty days of suspension of service.

The suspension of services came at a time when celebrations are on by the Railways to commemorate two decades of the inscription of the DHR as a world heritage site.

Incidentally, the DHR was inscribed as a world heritage by UNESCO on December 5, 1999. The month-long commemoration had been flagged off on November 6.

The sudden suspension was owing to problems between contractual workers and the coal contractor. A coal contractor is usually engaged for a period of two or three years and a new contractor has taken over recently.

The contractual workers had demanded a raise. They had gone on cease-work since November 10 and had refused to carry coal which in turn had robbed the locomotives of steam.

There are 6 coal carrying workers, 2 coach cleaning workers and 2 shed cleaning workers under the contractual system.

"The matter has been resolved. The steam engine will run from Tuesday," stated Suman Pradhan, station manager, Darjeeling.

As it is the tourist season, there will be two steam loco joyrides and two diesel loco joyrides from Tuesday. The development comes as a major face saver for the DHR, with the grand closing ceremony of the month-long commemorations to be held on December 5.

On December 5, a ceremonial special train will be flagged off from Darjeeling Railway station to Ghoom, from where a Fun Run will be flagged off. The run will end at Darjeeling Chowrasta.

At Chowrasta, an exhibition on DHR by local artists and painters will take place.

A coffee table book on the DHR will also be released on that day, followed by a cultural show. A UNESCO team could also be present at the closing ceremony.

Work first started on the DHR in 1879, then called the Darjeeling Steam Tramways. The name of the rail company was then changed to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Company in 1881, on completion of the track from Darjeeling to Siliguri.

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