Train enthusiasts visiting Coonoor can now get an unparalleled understanding of the functioning of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway’s (NMR) iconic heritage steam engines, with the opening of a viewing gallery from which visitors can get an unobtrusive peek into the locomotive shed functioning at the station.The locomotive shed, where the steam locomotives are serviced, maintained and fueled for their trips, are off-limits to passengers and members of the public for safety reasons. However, due to popular demand from foreign tourists who wanted to witness the work that goes into keeping the more than the century-old behemoths functional and in peak working condition, the viewing gallery was recently opened and inaugurated by Rajesh Agrawal, member, Rolling Stock of Railway Board.Salem divisional railway manager U. Subba Rao said that the inauguration of the viewing gallery was part of a concerted effort by the railways to increase tourism in the NMR sector. “The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a UNESCO world heritage site, and we are constantly looking at ways to improve the experience of tourists who board the trains,” said Mr. Rao. He said that the locomotive shed in Coonoor services the heritage train engines plying the route, and visitors can now get a better understanding into how the railways services the locomotives for the journeys to Mettupalayam and back again.Officials also said that “selfie-spot,” with a decommissioned steam locomotive, had already been set up in Coonoor, while special services to increase tourism along the sector had been initiated during the weekends and also during peak tourist season.K. Natrajan, a heritage train enthusiast and founder of the Heritage Steam Chariot Trust, said that the viewing gallery will be extremely popular among foreign tourists and students. “From the viewing gallery, visitors can see the age-old equipment used in the loco shed to keep the engines functional. It will help tourists as well as students understand the mechanics of the steam locomotives as well as their unique place in history,” said Mr. Natrajan.K. Shwetha, a tourist from Chennai, said that being an engineering student, the viewing gallery offered her a unique perspective into the functioning of the heritage locomotives. “Seeing the engines up close, purring into life inside the shed, is a real treat, and I feel it will benefit a lot of students studying the mechanics of engineering and design as well,” she said.
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