National Geographic : 1995 May
On Television On the Rails in India: The Last Days of Steam V isits to his father's work place-the steam locomotive shed at Madurai in southern India-fired ambition in 11-year-old Pandu Raguraman (right) to be come an engineer. The steam tradi tion in his family goes back to his great-grandfather, but it cannot go forward. Steam locomotives-work horses of Indian railways since 1853-have all but given way to die sel and electric trains. A new National Geographic film, "The Great Indian Railway," visits one of steam's last gasps-the 1993 Black Beauty Contest in West Ben gal. With its mimic elephant trunk (above), the engine named Airavat, for a Hindu god's mount, took third place before making the sad last trip with other contestants to the dis mantling yards. Still one of the world's largest sys tems, each day India's trains carry more than 12 million passengers and one million tons of freight over 40,000 miles of track. The two-hour PBS documentary, produced by Bill and Jeanne Livingston, takes us on a journey. Indians ride the Grand Trunk Express between New Delhi and Madras-a thousand miles-for a ticket price equivalent to ten dol lars. Families pile aboard this "everyman's train" to visit friends and kin for weddings and festivals. Aboard the Palaceon Wheels from Delhi, tourists pay vastly more to voyage in luxury to see the splen dors of the Taj Mahal and the desert fortresses and palaces of Rajasthan. The "toy train" to Darjiling climbs Himalayan foothills along its two-foot-gauge track as it has for more than a hundred years, still puffing, still steam. "The Great Indian Railway" airs May 17 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS. A resource guide for young viewers is included in the May issue of WORLD magazine. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSPECIALSAIRON NBC; CHECKLOCALLISTINGS.NATIONALGEOGRAPHICEXPLORERAIRS ONTBS SUPERSTATION,SUNDAYSAT9 P.M . ET. FORINFORMATIONON NATIONALGEOGRAPHICVIDEOS, CALL1-800-343-6610, MONDAYTHROUGHFRIDAY,8 A.M. TO 5 P.M. ET, IN THE U. S. ANDCANADAONLY.