These Black Beauties drive you mad

One of the train cars on display at the museum.

They are the Queens of the bygone era, the black beauties. Whether it is the super-romantic ‘mere sapno ki rani’ starring Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore in Aradhana or the ‘chaiyya chaiyya’ song of Shah Rukh Khan and Malaika Arora in Dil Se, these black beauties have been part of Bollywood-on-wheels.

The steam engines and narrow guage has always mesmerized and attracted Indians - for whom railways are part of life. 

In India, four mini hill railways – narrow gauge - are in running conditions - Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (that runs between Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling), the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (that runs between Coonoor and Udagmandalam), and the Kalka–Shimla Railway and the Matheran Hill Railway.  The Darjeeling Himalayan, Nilgiri Mountain and Kalka-Shimla, collectively, designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site, while Matheran Hill (that runs between Neral and Matheran) is on the tentative list.

But if one has to see these – without going to these places, a visit to the Narrow Gauge Rail Museum (NGRM) at Nagpur that is run by the South Eastern Central Railway. The museum is spread over 4.5 acres and it comprises of a beautiful garden.

“These are unique, such rare pieces of history and heritage,” said Shirish Gaikwad, Manager, NGRM, told DH.

This museum was inaugurated in December 2002, by Nitish Kumar, the then Railway Minister and the current Bihar Chief Minister. “We have a footfall and that keeps us going, but we want more people to come and see,” said Gaikwad. “Everything that is here is of narrow gauge. The engines, the bodies, the rails, the signalling system…its all about narrow gauge…we also have a working toy train for kids to enjoy and value heritage,” he said.

The museum houses precious and heritage narrow gauge rolling stocks like, 1916 make Bagnall steam engine which had a heritage run in 150th year of Indian Railways, 1956 make NG Steam Crane, 1907 make CC class steam engine built at North British Locomotive Co Ltd, Glasgow,  century-old old NG Saloon used by Royalties of Parlakimedi state. Various other heritage rolling stocks like postal van, horse van, tank wagon and different type of narrow gauge coaching and wagon stocks are kept in the yard.

A diesel-hydraulic locomotive and a narrow gauge royal carriage built in 1899 by Orenstein Koppel of Germany is the other attraction.

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These Black Beauties drive you mad

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