Firozpur (FZP): Surrounded by wild grass and its surface not cleaned for the past several years, here lies a rare steamroller that celebrated its centenary three year back in sheer quietness.
It used to level several under-construction roads in the pre-Independence era, but negligence on the part of the authorities concerned seems to have flattened the device itself. It lies parked at a yard close to the railway station in Ferozepur.
There is no caretaker for this steamroller even though Derek A Rayner, a mechanical and electrical engineer for the British Railway and vice-chairman of the Road Rollers Association of UK, many a times raised the issue with the Indian Railway authorities.
In the latest letter to Division Railway Manager (DRM), Ferozepur Division, in March last, Rayner wrote that “the rare steamroller deserves better than just lying in its present location, uncared for”. “This venerable steamroller needs to be moved to a better position, possibly to be installed on a suitable fenced concrete plinth outside the railway station,” demanded Derek, also a steam archivist.
Derek mentioned that during his visit to India in 2007, he had seen eight such rare machines. After making investigations into the history of the steamroller in Ferozepur, Derek found this machine was dispatched from Rochester on February 29, 1908. This six-tonne and four hp machine was made in 1908 by Aveling & Porter, a UK-based firm. The archive records indicate that it originally went to Karachi.
In 2009, Satinder Pal Singh Bhatia, an area traffic railway manager in Ferozepur who was fascinated with this vintage machine, approached the Road Rollers Association (RRA) in the UK and collected information about the roller.
Following this, Derek even wrote to the DRM, Ferozepur Railway Division, Vishvesh Chaubey, for the renovation of this machine so that it could be displayed as a historical vehicle. “It will then be stationed at a location where it will be appreciated for its worth,” Derek had written.
But one year down the line, no action has been taken. The only difference that Derek’s letter and Satinder Pal Singh’s effort could make was the roller was painted.
When contacted, Chaubey said the proposal for the proper placement of the steamroller was already underway but it was taking time as it needed a platform and some open space for its placement.
ROAD OF NEGLECT
Weighing six tonnes, the steamroller was made in 1908 by Aveling & Porter, a UK-based company
The archive records show that the roller originally sent to Karachi in Pakistan
Now, the roller lies parked in a state of neglect at a yard near Ferozepur railway station