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Fairy Queen (locomotive)

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Fairy Queen
फेयरी क्वीन
Type and origin
Power type Steam
Builder Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson
Serial number 481
Build date 1855
 • Whyte 2-2-2T
 • UIC 1A1 n2t
Gauge 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm)
Driver dia. 72 in (1,829 mm)
Loco weight 26 t (26 long tons; 29 short tons)
Tender weight 2 t (2.0 long tons; 2.2 short tons)
Water cap 3,000 L (660 imp gal; 790 US gal)
Cylinders 2
Cylinder size 12 in × 22 in (305 mm × 559 mm)
Performance figures
Maximum speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Power output 130 hp (97 kW)
Operators East Indian Railway Company
Numbers 22
Retired 1909
Restored 18 July 1997
Disposition Operating from New Delhi, Delhi to Alwar, Rajasthan

The Fairy Queen is a 1855-built steam locomotive, restored and housed at 1893-built Rewari Railway Heritage Museum, plying between the Indian capital of New Delhi and Alwar, in Rajasthan. Built in 1855, it was certified by the Guinness Book of Records in 1998 as being the world's oldest one in regular operation after being restored to haul a luxury train in order to boost tourism in Rajasthan. The Fairy Queen runs on the same basis as the Palace on Wheels, the tourist train launched in 1982, and in 1999 was awarded a National Tourism Award.

The 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) Indian gauge locomotive was built in England in 1855, and has a two-cylinder engine with a power output of 130 horsepower (97 kW), producing a top speed of 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph). It was placed in service by the East Indian Railway Company in West Bengal, where it hauled troop trains during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and was withdrawn from service in 1909 and displayed on a pedestal in Howrah until 1943. Heritage status was accorded in 1972 and the locomotive was restored as an exhibit at the National Rail Museum in Delhi. Restored to full working order, in 1997 the Fairy Queen returned to commercial service for the first time in 88 years.

In 2011, it was discovered that rare locomotive parts that were "as good as irreplaceable" had been looted. After a substantial rebuild, the engine was returned to working order in December 2012.


Rewari Railway Heritage Museum (formerly Rewari Steam Locomotive Shed) is the home of Fairy Queen

The locomotive was constructed by Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson at Leeds, in England, in 1855, and reached Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, in the same year.[1] On arrival, it was given fleet number "22" by its owner, the East Indian Railway Company, not receiving a name until 1895.[2] Initially, the 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) gauge locomotive was used to haul light mail trains in West Bengal, operating between Howrah and Raniganj, and during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 hauled troop trains. It was later consigned to line construction duty in Bihar, where it served until 1909.[2][3]

The Fairy Queen spent the next 34 years on a pedestal outside Howrah station.[4] In 1943, the locomotive was moved to the Railway Zonal Training School at Chandausi, in Uttar Pradesh, where it served as a curiosity object for many of the students based there.[2]


A number of similar locomotives were built around the same time as the Fairy Queen. These were supplied by Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson and also by Stothert, Slaughter and Company of Bristol. One of these, Stothert-built Express, had been preserved at Jamalpur Locomotive Workshop, in Bihar, since 1901.[5] As the inscription on Express' pedestal claimed that it was the first locomotive to operate between Howrah and Raniganj, and it was numbered "21" by the East Indian Railway Company, it has been claimed that Express is the older of the two. Express was restored for running in 2011, making it a contender as the world's oldest operating steam locomotive.[6][7]


The Fairy Queen was built by Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson at Leeds in England in 1855.[1] The coal-fired engine is powered by two outside cylinders measuring 12 by 22 inches (300 mm × 560 mm), and has a power output of 130 horsepower (97 kW), producing a maximum speed of 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph). It carries 3,000 litres (660 imp gal; 790 US gal) of water in an underslung water tank. The locomotive weighs 26 tonnes (26 LT), and the coal tender 2 tonnes (2.0 long tons; 2.2 short tons).[8] Built for the 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) Indian gauge, it has a 2-2-2 wheel arrangement, developed by Robert Stephenson and Company in 1833, with a driving wheel measuring 1,829 millimetres (72.0 in) in diameter.[8][9]


The Indian government bestowed heritage status on the Fairy Queen in 1972, rendering it a national treasure. It was restored and given a special spot in the newly built National Rail Museum at Chanakyapuri, in New Delhi.[2]

Following the success of the Palace on Wheels, the locomotive was restored to full working order in 1997, in preparation for its first mainline journey in 88 years and its return to commercial service on 18 July. The two-day excursion saw the train plying the 143 kilometres (89 mi) from New Delhi to Alwar in Rajasthan, with passengers spending an overnight stay at the Sariska Tiger Reserve. The locomotive hauled a carriage capable of carrying 60 passengers at a maximum speed of 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph), with a service car holding a generator, compressor and pantry.[2][8] The operation was repeated between December and February in the following years.[3][10] It was certified by the Guinness Book of Records in 1998 as the world's oldest steam locomotive in regular operation.[11] The following year, the train received a National Tourism Award for the most innovative and unique tourism project from Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India.[8]

In 2011, it was discovered that rare locomotive parts that were "as good as irreplaceable" had been stolen, and the locomotive was moved to Perambur Locomotive Workshops at Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, for repair.[12] On arrival, it was found that an estimated 50 to 60 parts had been looted, including the boiler, condensor, lubricator and flow tubes. The Deputy Chief Mechanical Engineer at the workshops stated "What we received is a dead body, a piece of metal whose every removable part has been removed, leaving only the metal shell. The list of parts to be procured is huge." Officials estimated that it could take at least a year to restore the engine, even if suppliers of replacement parts could be found.[13] Following a substantial rebuild, in which the workshops had to construct the missing parts themselves, the locomotive returned to service on 22 December 2012.[3][14][15]

In fiction[edit]

In the 2016 Thomas & Friends film, The Great Race, a new character named Rajiv is based on Fairy Queen.[16]


  1. ^ a b Rao, Jammi Srinivasa (2011). History of Rotating Machinery Dynamics. Dordrecht: Springer Science and Business Media. p. 32. ISBN 978-94-007-1164-8. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Which is the World's Oldest Working Locomotive?". Pitara Kids Network. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "Fairy Queen All Set to Embark on Her Maiden Voyage". TravPR. 21 December 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Ahrons, British Steam Railway Locomotive, pp. 142
  5. ^ Ahrons, E.L. (1966). The British Steam Railway Locomotive. I, to 1925. Ian Allan. pp. 141–142. 
  6. ^ M. Dinesh Verma (16 August 2011). "At the age of 156, she is no mere showpiece". The Hindu. Chennai. 
  7. ^ "Special run for oldest locomotive". The Times of India. Chennai. 16 August 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d "The Fairy Queen". Indian Railways. Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "Records of Robert Stephenson and Company, Locomotive Manufacturers, Newcastle upon Tyne" (PDF). National Railway Museum. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  10. ^ de Bruyn, Pippa; Bain, Keith; Allardice, David; Joshi, Shonar (2010). Frommer's India (Fourth ed.). Hoboken: Wiley Publishing. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-470-55610-8. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  11. ^ "National Rail Museum". S Shankar. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  12. ^ Dastidar, Avishek G (23 December 2011). "Fairy Queen Loot: No FIR, Only a Cover-up Plan". The Indian Express. New Delhi. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  13. ^ Dastidar, Avishek G (23 January 2012). "Fairy Queen Is in Need of a Magic Wand". The Indian Express. New Delhi. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  14. ^ "Steam Express: Fairy Queen". Indian Luxury Trains. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  15. ^ Chandra, Nikhil (21 December 2012). "Indian Luxury Trains Adds "Fairy Queen" to its Portfolio". Indian Luxury Trains. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2013. [dubious ]
  16. ^ Thomas & Friends The Great Race unveils diverse train line-up, retrieved 8 September 2016.

External links[edit]