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Let the Alleghenies be in museums

  • The sooner we marshal human endeavours to delink economic systems from carbon burning, the better
– AJAYA DIXIT
The shift from coal and diesel to electricity, wind turbines and natural gas has changed many countries’ contribution to the global greenhouse gas budget
May 2, 2017-I rode my first bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai in 2015. Hurtling towards Shanghai at 300 km/hour, I went into a reverie of my train journeys as an engineering student at Rourkela of India during the 1970s, when steam locomotives were still used to haul carriages. I remember enjoying the journey and admiring the engineering marvel of the moving locomotives.

In 2002, I had an opportunity to see the Allegheny, an enormous steam locomotive at the Henry Ford Museum of Michigan, US. It was much bigger than the locomotives of India that I had grown up with. Named after the Allegheny Mountain of the Appalachian Range, the train engine was 125 feet long, 11 feet wide and 16 feet tall; it could pull 160 freight cars each with 60 tons of coal. As many as 60 locomotives were manufactured from 1941 and 1948, and since no shovelling could meet its appetite for coal, a screw was installed to continuously feed coal into its furnace.

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