Railbus may take NMR experience to new level

Coimbatore: If everything goes well, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) will soon boast of a railbus. To start with, the Southern Railway is likely to try the railbus on NMR tracks in the next few weeks. The railbus, which is literally a bus which runs on railway tracks and is a new addition to the train portfolio, is considered to have tourism potential.
The railbus had arrived at Mettupalayam three weeks ago, but it is still being worked on to see if it could be modified to run on track between Coonoor and Udhagamandalam and manage to climb a steep gradient. “It arrived from South Central Railway a few weeks ago and as of now we are just moving it within the railway yard,” said a senior mechanical engineer with the Southern Railway. “However, a lot of mechanical work has to be done before we can actually run a trial on the NMR track. The trial also requires a lot of permissions and our seniors are working on getting the necessary approvals.”

Rail and NMR enthusiasts, who are closely monitoring the development on the heritage railway service, were surprised to see a video of a railbus moving on a track at Mettupalayam on Monday. A railbus is described by railway engineers as a bus which runs on a railway track.

“Unlike other coaches, which need to be pulled or propelled by a locomotive, the railbus like any bus has an engine fitted inside and is thus a self-propelling vehicle,” said an engineer, who didn’t want to be named. “Since it runs on diesel, it does not require furnace oil or coal which is required for our steam locomotives,” he said. The railbus could seat around 60 passengers and requires just one staff member – driver or pilot – to operate the vehicle.

However, engineers are wary of getting excited as they are not sure if the railbus, which has run only on the plains in a part of Baroda, could climb the steep gradient on the NMR section. “It is a bus that is fired only by a 5HP engine. We are not sure of its capacity and whether it can even climb the gradient. Its diesel consumption, speed and feasibility come later,” the engineer said, adding, “The railbus was initially chosen as an option for local trains like metro rails.”

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