Chennai’s Regional Railway Museum hosts a good collection of locomotives and coaches from 1875 to the late 80s as part of its outdoor exhibits. I found this to be more interesting and experiential compared to the the two indoor galleries. One gets full access to interiors and controls of most locomotives and coaches. And there is plenty of space, benches and shade to sit in peace and admire the relics.
The star attraction in the yard is a 1909 British built steam locomotive YG 4332 that was used to haul coal and goods. The locomotive was retired in 1994 and later donated to the museum.
This reminded me of one of YG 4332’s ancestors, the Fairy Queen. Fairy Queen is a British built (1855) locomotive that was retired in 1909 but later restored and brought back to service in 1997. Fairy Queen is now a special tourism train that runs between Delhi and Alwar, and was certified by the Guinness Book of Records in 1998 as the oldest running steam train in the world.
Another interesting relic in the yard is an American built B-Class 793 locomotive from 1917. Considered one of the finest locomotives of its time, it was first designed by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow, but had to be built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, due to disruptions caused during WWI. The 793 hauled people and goods for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR). A few of the B-Class locomotives are still in service in the DHR.
My personal favourites are the British and Indian made diesel shunting locomotives (though I am not a great fan of diesel engines in general) with their monstrous engines and flywheels, and simple controls.
I later found that a shunting locomotive (a.k.a shunter or switcher) is primarily used to move coaches, trains, and locomotives between tracks. The coaches, trains or locomotives being moved by the shunter may not have motive power or may not be fully operational. Shunters are also used in railway factories or sheds to move coaches around in order to build a complete train.