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The Southern Railway is planning to operate chartered services using a coal-fired steam locomotive hauled train between
Mettupalayam and Coonoor in the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) for interested corporates and tour operators. Two additional steam locomotives and 15 coaches are getting ready at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) here. Once the additional rolling stock are received, the steam loco run will be extended to Ooty which is now running only up to Coonoor. Round trips for tourists visiting Coonoor would also be introduced between Coonoor and Runnymede, said a press release. In a bid to attract tourists, souvenir outlets will be started in Ooty and Coonoor and the railway zone is presently scouting for different souvenir designs and souvenir suppliers for this purpose. A theme-based coffee shop – Coachteria – will be set up at Ooty station where an old X class steam loco is on display on a pedestal. It is also proposed to give a facelift to all the railway stations in the NMR which include landscaping, new benches and viewpoints. Catering stalls will be set up at Udhagamandalam and Hillgrove railway stations. The Southern Railway is planning to upgrade the stations and trains. Golden Rock Workshop has modified NMR-87, a 25-year-old NMR coach in line with world-class standards while retaining its heritage value. The aesthetics of the coach is improved by fitting seats akin to those of the newly introduced UDAY AC doubledecker service to enhance the comfort Themed vinyl wrappings, chairs with reclining feature, LED illumination, two-floor luggage racks, decorative vinyl stickers on the exteriors symbolising the charm of NMR are the new additions to improve the coach ambience. This NMR coach has been upgraded at a cost of Rs 1.8 lakh promising a new experience for tourists. NMR trains are operated using oil-fired X- Class Steam locomotives between  Mettupalayam and Coonoor railway stations. Based on the demands of rail enthusiasts, 56 summer special services christened ‘Heritage Steam Voyage’ were operated between Mettupalayam and Coonoor from March 31 to June 24 on weekends. There were value-added services for passengers including a welcome kit, a souvenir and on-board refreshments. The Southern Railway earned Rs 28 lakh by running these summer special trains, said the release. As the patronage is going up, round trip services between Udagamandalam and Ketti were run during the weekends from June 2 to June 23. These short round-trip services were a major draw among tourists who wished to take a quick glimpse of the breath-taking mountains. A revenue of Rs2.85 lakh was recorded from running eight such round trips on the route.

Source : TOI

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