Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sailing on Antiques

When the Rocket Steamers service was introduced almost a century ago, it was used mostly by the elite classes and considered the fastest mode of water transport; thus, many believe that it is the reason behind the name.

They were basically ships, motorised by steam engines that drive paddle wheels to help the ships run through the water. Rocket steamers are designed in a way that there are very rare chances of sinking. However, in the mid nineties, the steam engines were converted into diesel-run engines; and afterwards, were replaced by electro-hydraulic engines. The roofs have also been replaced with tin sheets that have now rusted and retain an archaic look.

Currently, after so many ups and downs, rocket steamers—namely PS Ostrich, PS Lepcha, PS Tern, MV Madhumati and MV Bangali are being operated once a day (starts at 4 pm), from Badamtali Ghat, Sadarghat to Morelganj. Apart from these, another significant steamer, PS Mashud has been kept in the dockyard, as it is undergoing repair. Each steamer has an arrangement to accommodate around 700-800 passengers at a time. 

At first sight, the dilapidated torpedo-shaped two storey vessels may generate a simple question in your mind --how can this be a sign of aristocracy? The wide-loaded junks, damp decks, the bad odour from the contaminated waters may seem to be just the opposite.

However, a closer look at the ramshackle ships will give you a splendid idea of their unique designs. 

Most of them were made in the Garden Rich Workshop of Calcutta, nearly a hundred year ago, while the PS Ostrich was made in the dockyards of Clydebank, Scotland.

According to historians, the paddle steamer service was introduced in the late 18th century by the British India General Navigation Railway Company (IGNRC).

The article published by The Daily Star

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