Close to a decade and a half back, I had taken the Silchar – Guwahati meter gauge train or Pahad line, as it was popularly known back then, once. For the kid that I was at that time, it was the most wonderful journey I had ever been on. I was delighted to say the least. The beautiful rail-line that snaked its way up and down the gradual inclines of the Borail range, the numerous tunnels built through the hills and the deep dense greenery had more than blown me away. So much so that I did not mind sharing my reserved seat with double the number of people it was supposed to accommodate.
From my window seat, I kept looking outside, lost in the beauty of the lone houses atop random hills and the meandering river below. Even though I wanted to do the journey again, it never actually materialized until a couple of months back. Well actually, I did travel through this route couple of times during this period but on both occasions, I had taken the night train which means I could not see anything outside, so let’s not count these two journeys. Let’s instead talk a little about current times, about the last journey.
The route came into existence during the late nineteenth century when the British wanted to connect the tea-gardens of this region to the rest of India. Back then (and until the gauge conversion started a couple of years back), this pahad line started from Lumding and not Guwahati. To cover the distance of around 210 kms between Silchar and Lumding, the slow-moving meter-gauge train used to take twelve hours.
This has changed now and in almost the same amount of time, one can now reach Guwahati. What has not changed though is the fact that the train still uses two engines, one for pulling and the other for pushing it, in the hill section which runs from the ever so beautiful Harengajao station to Lumding junction.
As we chugged ahead slowly, keeping the Jatinga river on our left for most part, lone houses looked down on us through packs of cloud. I have always wondered what makes people build houses at such places where just a trip to the civilization below and back would take a good part of the day. I understand the view from above will for sure be great but fail to convince myself that it’s the only reason to build a house up there.
The deeper we went into the hills the more beautiful everything looked. Virgin and un-explored if I may say. Apart from the signs of civilization around the stations on this route, for the rest of the journey we are on our own. Just the greenery and a train chugging its way ahead. Through tunnels short and long, through bridges curvy and straight. The frequent sight of the now abandoned old line (the railway line) only adds to the charm.
The fact that this new BG (broad-gauge) route is shorter than the old one and has significantly lesser number of tunnels was kind sad for me. I love every minute in the hills and over time, I had developed a liking for tunnels so this was obvious. I just hoped the new route was as interesting and beautiful as the last one, if not more. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.
Can’t wait to go back 🙂
How do you like train journeys?