Railways ‘Treasure Hunt’ Triggered Seniority Debate: Fairy Queen’s Rival For Oldest Steam Loco Tag — Its Express Twin Retired Early


Railways ‘Treasure Hunt’ Triggered Seniority Debate: Fairy Queen’s Rival For Oldest Steam Loco Tag — Its Express Twin Retired Early

TWO DECADES after it was crowned the world’s oldest running steam locomotive, the Fairy Queen may have to share its Guinness record with its lesser-known twin, Express.

Fairy Queen and Express were built by Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson in the UK in 1855 and sent to India. However, Fairy Queen carries the number “EIR (East Indian Railway) 22” while Express is tagged “EIR 21”, indicating that it may be technically older.

Without any official records available to confirm seniority, the Railways is planning to approach the Guinness Book and Unesco to grant Express the same status as Fairy Queen.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Ashwani Lohani, chairman, Railway Board, said, “We will approach Guinness to say that India has two running steam locomotives that are the oldest in the world, instead of one… I tried to find the company in England that manufactured these locos to get the original records, but it does not exist anymore.”

The seniority debate gained traction after the Railways launched a “treasure hunt” this month for heritage items to preserve and showcase.

Fairy Queen, which received the Guinness tag in 1998, is currently stationed at the loco shed in Rewari, which is a museum. Express was hauled from Howrah to Perambur Loco Works in Chennai, where it was resurrected in 2010.

“It turns out the British stopped paying much attention to the Express because it had a lot of maintenance issues and was retired early. Fairy Queen was a slight improvement on it and ran for 52 years until the early 20th Century,” said Ranga Samy, who resurrected Fairy Queen before retiring from Perambur Loco Works. Samy later guided the workshop in the resurrection and maintenance of Express.

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“The two engines were built in the same year. But to prove which one is technically older, we need records and that is something we don’t have,” said Arun Devraj, chief of loco workshop in Perambur.

The Indian Railway Fan Club Association, the largest community of rail enthusiasts, maintains that Express emerged before Fairy Queen from the production line but both were pressed into service together. Read More

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