New Delhi, Jan 19 : Indian Railways is firming up a proposal to develop a railway heritage theme park, a first-of-its-kind in the country, at Rewari, in cooperation with the Union Tourism Ministry and the Haryana government.
The rail theme park, to be developed on the pattern of UK's Devon Railway Centre, would comprise of narrow gauge toy train, model train stations, railway exhibits and a convention centre to host corporate events.
Similar theme parks exist in other countries, like the Edaville Park in the US and Ferrymead Heritage Park in New Zealand.
The rail theme park will be part of the development of the Madhogarh-Mahendragarh-Narnaul-Rewari heritage route being developed by the Tourism Ministry under the Swadesh Darshan scheme.
"Since the Railways has a heritage steam loco centre at Rewari, the development of a rail theme park on the adjoining land can convert the place into a tourist hotspot," a senior Railway Ministry official told IANS.
Rewari, being easily accessible from the capital and Gurgaon, can become a major crowd-puller -- in the process developing its local economy and promoting tourism, he added.
The Railways has earmarked 8.8 hectares of land adjoining Rewari steam loco centre for the rail theme park.
The Rewari steam loco centre has been recently renovated with many tourist facilities being provided for the purpose.
There is a steam loco simulator where tourist can enjoy the feel of driving a Darjeeling Himalayan Railway steam locomotive, a 3-D virtual reality coach simulator depicting evolution of passenger coaches over time, a toy train, and a garden-scale model train system to educate visitors about various aspects of a train's operation.
In addition, the Rewari steam centre has an indoor exhibition gallery, a 35-seater projection room to display videos and conduct visitors' orientation, a century-old dining car and a cafeteria with a souvenir shop.
Besides, it is also on the itinerary of the steam-hauled tourist special train which runs between Delhi Cantonment and Rewari every second Saturday during October-April.
Currently the footfall at the Rewari centre ranges between 250 and 450 a day, primarily comprising domestic and foreign tourists, students and local visitors.
Once the rail heritage theme park under Swadesh Darshan comes up, the place will become a tourist hub, said the official.
The Swadesh Darshan scheme has finalised five circuits -- heritage, Ramayana, Buddhist, eco and spiritual -- to promote tourism across the country.
The development of the Madhogarh-Mahendragarh-Narnaul-Rewari heritage circuit will be executed by the Tourism Ministry at an estimated cost of Rs 147 crore, including the Haryana government's share of Rs 48 crore.
"We have written to the Haryana government for including the rail heritage theme park in the heritage circuit under the Swadesh Darshan scheme," the official said.
(Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)