National Rail Museum to hire Vintage Car mechanic to restore old steam locomotives

NEW DELHI: About three weeks after media carried a report on one of the few mechanics in Delhi who repair vintage cars, National Rail Museum – which is celebrating 160 years of Indian Railways – has approached the man, Kaleem Khan, for getting trains and engines gifted by a merchant of Matheran and the Nizam of Hyderabad repaired. These trains have been on display ever since they were received by the museum in the 1980s but were not in a working condition. The contract, which is in the process of being formalized, will mean that Khan will have to get these vintage beauties back on the tracks.

Kaleem, elated over this turn in his fortunes, is busy procuring the parts for these trains after inspecting them at the museum. “The rail museum director asked me to meet him last week. He showed me some of the trains that are on display but not in a working condition. While most of the trains have steam engines, some have the petrol or diesel engine of a car,” said the 39-year-old mechanic.

This is part of a larger initiative to revive all the engines, says Uday Singh Mina, director of the museum. He told that it will take six to nine months for the trains to be repaired. The museum is celebrating 160 years of Indian Railways.

Khan’s first job will be to get the Matheran Rail Car-899, a 12-seater wooden train that has a Graham-Paige petrol-run engine with 30 brake horsepower, working. “The Graham Brothers’ logo on the radiator makes it a significant specimen because it indicates that the chassis was built in 1929 as all units built after that date carried a Dodge Brothers badge (which is also there),” said Mina. “It is possible the unit was ‘in stock’ at the Great Britain Dodge Brothers’ facility while the railway undercarriage and other modifications were completed on the chassis and body, with final delivery as late as in 1932. The rail car was gifted to us in the ’80s by Adam Peerbhoy, a wealthy merchant from Pune. But it was not in a working condition when it came here. After reading the report, we found our man as we were on the lookout for a guy with the expertise to repair vintage car engines.”

Khan is prepared for the new task. He has already procured some of the parts that will be needed for the train. “My grandfather was from UP and a mechanic too. A family in Bareilly, known to my family, had recently disposed of a Dodge Power Wagon. I bought all the parts, including tail and headlights. If other parts are needed, then the rail museum will help as they also have their workshop,” said Khan.

The Nizamuddin mechanic will also work on the 1914 John Morris Fire Engine gifted by the Nizam of Hyderabad. “The fire engine is in a working condition and it is one of the oldest entries in vintage and classic car rallies. But the oil pipe leaks a lot and needs regular maintenance,” says Khan. The fire engine, before reaching the museum, was in the care of the Lallaguda Carriage and Wagon workshop in Secunderabad.