Rewari loco shed may lose steam

With just 25 staff, the heritage site faces challenge of lack of trained workforce

Even as the Rewari Steam Loco Shed has gone a long way in reviving some of the rare steam locomotives, the biggest challenge before the railways would be to maintain and keep them in motion.

Ex-railway officials say the department must hire people with expertise. DH PHOTOWhile the shed has earned the tag of 'heritage site' for being one of the rarest steam engine sheds in the world, the biggest challenge in near future would be availability of workforce—well-trained in working on steam engines.

At present, the total number of staff at the Rewari shed is 25. They have played a crucial role in reviving the shed from its ruins. While at least three of them are due to retire this year, gradually the entire team would be out of service by 2015.

“The shed is already understaffed and with the steam maintenance cadre abolished, any special recruitment of people for steam engines is unlikely. Moreover, there are several sub-systems involved with running of steam engine. So people with technical know-how of the operating and maintaining such engines are any way few,” said the staff members of the loco shed.

They added that even if people are specially hired for the job, no standard training programme in a prescribed time period would prove handy in making such employees technically equipped to run and maintain steam engines. “We learnt the tricks of the trade over years, and a short duration training programme is no solution.”

Railway officials involved with the project concede that while the steam engines have been revived, the larger question is: Is the railways alive to the challenges in terms of their maintenance in future and will it be in a position to maintain them a decade down the line? 

“One of the major steps in the direction could be to retain the skills of people, who can pass on the wisdom to the next generation. In order to recruit some additional people, the erstwhile the steam maintenence cadre could be amalgamated with the existing cadre of engineers maintaining diesel and electric engines,” said Vikas Arya, senior divisional mechanical engineer (power).

Retired railway officials who have worked in the steam-engine era say its high time the railways should engage people with expertise who could prove handy in maintaining the engines and the shed.

“People are ready to work even voluntarily. The only thing they expect is a job with honour. For any technology which earns heritage value, there is a shadow period of around 30 years, the time by which one can come across talent which can share the wisdom and train the future generation,” said G Shanker, a retired railway official.

Shanker is also a member of the Indian Steam Railway Society, which acts as a pressure group that works to make sure that interest of people and the government in heritage is not lost.  While the steam engines started getting phased out after the advent of diesel engines in 1960s, the last steam engine was phased out of commercial operation on December 6, 1995, when the engine had last run from Ferozpur to Jalandhar.

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