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The Indian Railway's 150-year-old Fairy Queen, the world's oldest working steam engine, hit the railroad again as it was plied on the first commercial run of the season Saturday.
The Fairy Queen train is carrying 21 tourists, including two overseas visitors, on a round trip from here to Alwar in Rajasthan.
During the season till February, it will make a total of nine round trips on the second and fourth Saturdays to Alwar from where the tourists are taken to Sariska, the tiger reserve which was recently in news for large scale poaching.
Apart from the visit to Sariska sanctuary, tourists will have an opportunity to experience Rajasthan's rich cultural heritage during their overnight stay at Rajasthan Tourism Hotel, railway ministry officials said.
"Last year we had sold a record 326 tickets during the season. This year we are expecting another good season with the ticket price having been reduced from Rs.10,000 for an adult to Rs.7,500, while the fare for children is 50 percent of that amount," Railway Museum director Sandeep Mehra told.
Beginning its career in 1855, the majestic Fairy Queen had been rolled out for the erstwhile East Indian Railway. The locomotive retired from service in 1908 and was the first to be brought and conserved at the National Rail Museum here in 1971.
After a long gap, Fairy Queen was brought into commercial service on Feb 1, 1997, to begin the round trip from Delhi to Alwar and back.
The museum is Fairy Queen's home during the off-season. The 150th anniversary celebrations of the Fairy Queen held last week had seen it being awarded the ISO 9000 certification for maintenance.
"Earlier we used to get mostly foreigners but now there is a good response from Indian tourists also. For this season, we already have good bookings for Nov 12 and Dec 25," said Mehra.
With specially designed coaches for comfort and on-board services including catering, guides, piped music and magazines, the steam engine train is not only a novelty for the passengers but also for bystanders on the route.
On lines of the Fairy Queen, Indian Railways is planning similar steam engine trains for tourists on other traditional routes.