PM flags off Gujarat’s first heritage train

Ekta Nagar (Guj): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday flagged off Gujarat’s first heritage train, which will be hauled by an electric engine that has been designed to look like a steam locomotive and boasts of wooden interiors.

The three-coach train will connect Ekta Nagar or Kevadia, which is home to the Statue of Unity, Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s memorial, to Ahmedabad.

“This is a new addition to the attraction at Ekta Nagar. This train has a reflection of glorious heritage and yet it is most modern, designed with state-of-the-art amenities. The look of the engine is that of a steam engine, however, it will run on electricity,” Modi said before flagging off the train and launching a slew of initiatives aimed at turning Kevadia into a major tourist destination.

The train is equipped with foggers to produce exhaust fumes and a system to produce the sound of a steam locomotive. The engine is made up of the driving motor coach of a suburban MEMU train with a nine-metre long steam boiler shaped structure in the front.

The three coaches have 48 seats each and tourists can enjoy tea and snacks in the 28-seater AC restaurant dining car with teak wood dining tables and two seater cushioned sofas.

“The train will ply as a weekly service on Sundays from November 5. The frequency will be increased after taking into account the response to the service,” Jitendra Kumar Singh, Divisional Railway Manager, Vadodara, said. All the coaches have teak wood interiors designed at the Integral Coach Factory at Perambur, Chennai.

Vadodara has a rich heritage of railways with the first attempt to run rail services being made in 1862 by Khanderao Gaekwad, the then ruler of Baroda State. Back then the trains were hauled by oxen on a eight-mile track between Dabhoi and Miyagam. Locomotives were used regularly on the route by 1880.

The train will depart Ahmedabad at 6:10 am and reach Ekta Nagar, the railway station at Kevadia, which is home to the Statue of Unity in the reservoir of the Sardar Sarovar dam, at 9:50 am. On the return journey, the train will depart from Ekta Nagar at 8:23 pm and reach Ahmedabad at five minutes past midnight. The fare for one-way journey will be Rs 885.

The train will not have any stoppage during the 182-km journey between Ekta Nagar and Ahmedabad.

The departure time of the heritage train allows tourists to plan their return journey after enjoying the light and sound show and other late evening events here.

The Railways also has plans to connect this town nestled in the Vindhyachal and Satpura ranges to every state of the country as a tribute to Sardar Patel, the country’s first Home Minister who is credited with unifying nearly 600 princely states into the Union of India, a senior official said.

At present, nine trains, including two MEMU trains, run between Ekta Nagar and various locations in Mumbai, Baroda, Delhi and Chennai.

Once a sleepy town, Kevadia has undergone massive transformation since the inauguration of the Statue of Unity, the world’s tallest statue near here.

Besides the tallest statue in the world, Kevadia has a number of tourist attractions including a jungle safari, rafting, maze, cruise, light and sound show and a glow garden.

India has a number of heritage trains, including the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Kangra Valley Railway, Kalka-Shimla Railway, Matheran Hill Railway among others

The prime minister also inaugurated Narmada Aarti live, Kamalam Park, a walkway within Statue of Unity, 30 new e-buses, 210 e-bicycles and multiple golf carts, City Gas Distribution Network at Ekta Nagar and ‘Sahkar Bhawan’ of Gujarat State Cooperative Bank at Kevadia. He also laid the foundation stone of the Sub-District Hospital with Trauma Centre and a solar panel in Kevadia.