With the Monsoon in full vigour all over the country, one always remembers the enchanting romantic train journey’s during the rain. The drenched people, the overflowing rivulets, the green water-filled fields, the ever-present “chai-wala” all add up to mystique of the journey.
When one searches images of trains in the rains, one comes across the paintings of Bijay Biswal.
Scrolling down, one notices a picture in which you can see the ‘President’ of Darjeeling Hill Railway Society, Adrian Shooter. He is presenting a book to a writer David Churchill. Furthermore, I noticed that DHRS is registered in England. Quite amazing.
Adrain Shooter & Loco No 778
Now, I had to find out who were these enthusiasts of Darjeeling Hill Railway in England running an active society. Some research on the internet and I found out that Adrian Shooter joined British Rail in 1970 as a management trainee. During the privatisation of British Rail, he led a consortium for a management buyout of a railway that later became known as Chiltern Railway. He headed Chiltern Railway as the Chairman till 2011.
The interesting story is that Shooter is an owner of an original Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Class ‘B’ steam locomotive 778 (originally No. 19). This locomotive has travelled across the globe before it landed with Shooter.
This Class ‘B’ 778 steam locomotive was manufactured Glasgow in 1889 by Sharp Steward and served the DHR until 1960 to 1962. Thereafter, Elliott Donnelley, a train enthusiast from the US bought this engine. After Donnelley passed away, the engine was shifted to a local museum, Hesston Steam Museum, LaPorte County, Indiana. A $2.5 million fire on May 26, 1985, destroyed or damaged most of the large railroad equipment including the DHR Locomotive from India.
The Beeches Light Railway
Shooter came to know of this incident and offered to buy the damaged piece. In 2002 he transported the engine to his home in Oxfordshire. He set up a joy train ride company called the Beeches Light Railway which operated on a specially constructed a one-mile narrow gauge railway track in his 3-acre garden estate. The figure of ‘8’ track has one station named Ringkingpong, which is named after a road in Darjeeling. The loco shed located at the back of his house is a replica of Kurseong’s DHR loco shed. Two original carriages and two modern replicas of the carriages used on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway are occasionally used to transport invited guests. (Source – Wikipedia)
Although the railway is private, and not subject to rail regulations, it is run professionally by Shooter and some volunteers with railway rulebooks and regulations, and the steam engine has to be certified each year.
Unfortunately, Adrian Shooter decided to sell his estate. The Beeches Light Railway closed down in May 2019. The good news is that it is going to become bigger and better at a sight that Shooter has already identified. The new site was supposed to get back into operations but there is a significant delay now due to the COVID pandemic.
Lastly, you may also visit the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society website dhrs.org. Memberships are open. I saw an interesting book which is listed for sale on their website – The incredible Darjeeling ‘B’ Class. Looks quite tempting to buy for train buffs.
Darjeeling Hill Railway was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 which saved the railway from being shut down. Today DHR runs the services despite making annual losses.
Maybe its time Indians too gave some attention to this marvellous cultural heritage and engineering marvel of its time.
James Wide worked as a signalman for the Cape Town–Port Elizabeth Railway service in South Africa. He was popularly known as James “Jumper” since he used to jump across moving trains running on adjacent tracks. One day, during the stunt, James miscalculated his jump and fell under a moving carriage. Though he survived the accident, he lost both of his legs.
Though James got wooden legs fitted but was unable to perform his official duties, he found it challenging to move around without assistance. He was worried that he would now lose his job.
One day James was at the local market. As luck would have it, he met with a farmer who has a trained monkey driving his bullock cart. James thought if he could have the monkey, he could train him as an assistant and thereby he would be able to retain his job.
James asked the farmer to sell the baboon to him. The farmer was initially reluctant, but on seeing the condition of James, the farmer agreed to sell the baboon to him. The baboon was named Jack.
Jack turned out to be a very intelligent baboon and turned out to be great help and partner to James. The baboon would help James in commuting from his home to the railway station as well as run small errands. Jack would always remain at the side of James and would observe him very keenly. Slowly Jack learnt to operate the signal levers. He started to recognise the trains and would manage the signals and tracks accordingly.
The news spread to the neighbouring villages that a monkey operates the signals at the railway station. People started coming to the station to see Jack. But some people thought that it was too risky for a baboon to operate the critical signals and complained to the authorities. On knowing the situation, the railway immediately terminated the services of James.
James was not to take this lying down as he had full confidence and faith in the abilities of his baboon Jack. He wrote back to higher-ups that they can come and take a test of the baboon. Surprisingly the authorities agreed and sent an engineer to take a detailed examination of Jack. Jack passed all tests in flying colours.
The railway authorities were so much impressed with Jack that they appointed him as the official signalman at that station. He started getting a salary of 20 cents per week and half a bottle of beer every day. Now it was James’s turn to assist Jack.
Jack worked for nine years as a signalman. During these nine years, he did not make even a single mistake. He died in 1890 due to tuberculosis. Jack’s skull has been preserved at the Albany Museum, Grahamstown, South Africa.
Who hasn’t heard of E Sreedharan – the Metro-man? He is credited with changing the face of public transport in India with his leadership in building the Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro while he served as the managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) between 1995 and 2012.
The 88-year-old Metro-man is contesting legislative assembly elections from the Palakkad constituency in Kerala. His main opponent is the incumbent MLA Shafi Parambil of the Indian National Congress who has won this seat for two consecutive terms.
“BJP will have an impressive show this time, there is no doubt about it. I will win from the Palakkad constituency with a big margin. My entry into BJP has given a different image to the party,” E Sreedharan said. He is so sure of his win that he has already opened his MLA office in this city.
Palakkad district Congress committee president and Lok Sabha member VK Sreekandan said the seat would be retained by Congress’ Shafi Parambil.
“It is good that E Sreedharan is opening an office because many railway projects are about to happen in Palakkad, and it will need an office to lead the projects,” said V.K Sreekandan.
The BJP state President K Surendran had gone to the extent of declaring Sreedharan as BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate. Out of the 140 assembly seats, currently, BJP has only one MLA.
Better sense prevailed on the BJP Central leadership who retracted from the statement. Union Minister V Muraleedharan said –
What I wanted to say that through media reports I learned that the party has made this announcement. Later, I crossed checked with the party chief who said that he has not made any such announcement,”
E Sreedharan is all set to taste the political pie now. But why all this at an age of 88?
We are all waiting eagerly for the election results for Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry. Here is a ready tracker for the assembly elections.
Nagarjuna Sagar, Telangana ByPoll
The Nagarjuna Sagar assembly seat by-poll will be held on April 17, 2021. The election was necessitated due to the demise of Nagarjuna Sagar MLA Nomula Narsimhaiah in December last year.
The election campaign has been converted into a high-intensity TRS-BJP face-off. There were 78 nominations filed, however, after the withdrawals and scrutiny, 41 candidates are let in the fray. Chief electoral officer Dr. Shashank Goel said 27 of the 41 candidates in the fray are independents and the remaining 14 candidates represent various political parties.
The Congress has fielded its former minister and seven-time legislator K. Jana Reddy while the ruling TRS nominated Nomula Bhagat Kumar, son of the deceased TRS MLA. BJP fielded Dr. Panugothu Ravi while Arun Kumar Muwa is contesting on a TDP ticket and Noorjahan Begum on an AIMIM party ticket.
BJP rebel candidate Nivedita Reddy has filed her nominations as an independent.
While BJP is leaving no stone unturned to woo the voters, the Telangana Chief Minister has announced on April 15th that he will take a victory lap around Nagarjuna Sagar.
DMK Wanted Prime Minster to Campaign For Their Rivals
Prime Minster’s campaign in Tamil Nadu seemed to be an utter failure. The speeches were out of context and listless. The English to Tamil translation also added to the underperformances. In fact, none of the BJP central leaders were able to deliver anything meaningful to the local audiences. The absence of strong local leadership continues to haunt BJP aspirations in the south.
The PM was in for a surprise when DMK candidates started requesting him to campaign for their rivals.
“Dear Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, please campaign for Mr. MageshKumar. P, AIADMK alliance Candidate. I am the DMK candidate in the Kanchipuram constituency against him and it will be very useful in widening my winning margin. Thank you, sir. @narendramodi” tweeted sitting MLA C.V.M.P. Ezhilarasan, who is contesting the 2021 poll from Kanchipuram.
By the way, there is a good book to learn Tamil rapidly, in case you regret not having learned Tamil. It is available on Amazon India –
This of you have visited Kochi would not have failed to notice the extensive usage of boats for inland transportation. Waterways have always been an important mode of transport in Kerala. The total length of the navigable route in Kerala was 1,900 kilometers and the navigable rivers constitute about 54 percent of the waterways. The 41 West-flowing rivers together with the backwaters are an integrated part of the inland navigation system in Kerala.
The service is excellent and dependable. In June 2020, in a heart-warming gesture, a 70-seater boat of the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD) was sent to ferry a lone passenger, a 17-year-old student, to enable her to appear for the plus one examination (11th standard) on two days last month in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The State Water Transport Department has been running scheduled water ferry services using a variety of boats. They have recently introduced the ‘Water Taxi’ which can be hailed by customers just like a radio taxi.
The KOCHI WATER METRO is a new project conceptualized by the present LDF government in 2016. The project is funded through a loan of Rs 819.27 Crores from the Germany-based KFW Development Bank.
The project obtained the final environment clearance in Oct 2019, and its first phase completed in 2021. On 15 February 2021 Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated its first route between Vytilla and InfoPark constructed under Phase I of the project.
Kochi Water Metro Proposed Route Map
A total of 15 routes are planned using 78 special metro boats. Kochi Water Metro will be fully integrated with Koch Metro making it a first of its kind in India.
According to Wikipedia – As part of the infrastructure, the Intelligent Navigation System and Operation Control Centre (OCC) are also proposed and will be integrated with the city’s intelligent transportation system. The Automatic Fare Collection system being implemented by the Kochi Metro will be extended to a water transport system that facilitates traveling the metro train and the boat using the same ticket.
Election time in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry – at present the stormy political playground of the South. The heat is on. Here is a summary of all the action.
All three states go to poll on April 6, 2021 in a single phase. The results will be out on May 2, 2021. There are 234 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu, 140 seats in Kerala and Puducherry UT has 30 seats, a total of 405 assembly seats. These seats are spread over a combined area of 169,398 Sq. km. Compare that with polling in West Bengal where the voting for 294 assembly seats is in eight phases spread over a month (March 27 – April 29, 2021). Area of West Bengal is 88,750 Sq. Km.
Since the election process is in progress, we cannot to speculate about the election results. Here are the snapshots of the three states as a ready reference.
May the best man/lady win.
Election Talk by famous personalities –
Prime Minster Narendra Modi in Kerala – “LDF betrayed Kerala for a few pieces of gold like Judas did.”
Joyce George, former MP CPI(M) on Rahul Gandhi – Gandhi would visit only women’s colleges and the girls should be “cautious” while dealing with the former Congress President. “Girls never bend down in front of him.. he is an unmarried trouble maker.” His comments were deplored all round including the Chief Minister who said that “We will oppose him politically, not personally.” George later apologized for his comments.
Rahul Gandhi – “Recently, I was talking to some students in the United States and I said that I really enjoy going to Kerala and really I love going to Wayanad. It’s not just the affection, because affection of course is there, but it’s the way you do your politics.”
Amit Shah – “I am sad that I cannot talk to you in Tamil that is one of the oldest and sweetest languages of India. I seek your forgiveness.”
While on the southern election trip, let’s talk about Wayanad – one of the most scenic and beautiful places in the Nilgiris.
If you wish to drive down, it’s a three-and-a-half-hour journey from Mysore covering 125 km. The area also boasts of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Mudumalai forests. A detour to see these places would be worth the effort and time. The nearest airport is Kozhikode.
I would prefer the monsoon season when incessant rains add a mystic beauty to the hilly forests. The beauty of Wayanad is endless and one can easily spend couple of weeks in the hills. The region is full of lakes and water falls.
We leave you with some stunning photos from Wayanad.
Its a while since trains went through this station due to the lockdown. Nature has reclaimed this space while showcasing its enchanting beauty.
The Shoranur-Nilambur railway line was laid by the British in 1921 to transport teak wood and rosewood from Ooty in Tamil Nadu. The English felled hundreds of teak trees during World War II and took away portions of the line when they had a shortage of steel. The line was restored by Indian Railways in 1954.
Melattur railway station is a minor railway station serving the town of Melattur in the Malappuram District of Kerala. It lies on scenic Nilambur – Shoranur Line of Palakkad Division, Southern Railways, Indian railways. The Nilambur–Shoranur railway line is a branch line of the Southern Railway Zone in Kerala state and one of the shortest broad gauge railway lines in India. It is a single line with 66 kilometres length running from Shoranur Junction (in Palakkad district) to Nilambur Railway Station (in Malappuram district). This station is 4 km from the town of Nilambur on the Kozhikode–Ooty highway. – Source – Wikipedia.
The station has a thick population of Gulmohar (Royal Poinciana) trees which are popular for its dark green foliage and scarlet red flowers. These trees bloom in summer and they shed flowers during the subsequent pre-monsoon season. What a treat to see these flowers spread all over the station, amidst olive green foliage and cloudy skies. Here are some of the photographs taken by Indiarailinfo.
Till 2016, a train going by name of Shakuntalal Express ran between the stations of Yavatmal and Achalpur in the cotton growing areas of Maharasthtra, India. This was India’s last operational private train.
Killick, Nixon and Company, set up in 1857, created the Central Provinces Railway Company (CPRC) to act as its agents. The company built the 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow-gauge line in 1903. The company built this narrow-gauge line in 1903 to carry cotton from cotton-rich interior areas of Vidarbha to the Murtajapur Junction on main broad gauge line to Mumbai from where it was shipped to Manchester, England. In 1920 line from Darwha-Pusad was dismantled. Though, working autonomously, the CPRC was grouped in 1952 under the Central Railways. A ZD-steam engine, built in 1921 in Manchester, pulled the train for more than 70 long years after being put in service in 1923. It was withdrawn on 15 April 1994, and replaced by a diesel engine. (Source Wikipedia) The steam locomotive now rests in a shed in Pune, in north-western Maharashtra.
In 2016, Indian Railways cleared a proposal to take over the narrow gauge line and convert it into broad gauge at an estimated cost of Rs 1,500 crore. However, no progress has been made on this project. There are also a string of legal wrangles that need to be sorted out with CRPC.
London-based train enthusiast David Breaker formed a Shakuntala Railway Society and Shakuntala Protection Committee in 2002.
With the help of rail enthusiasts and historians in India, the committee aims to save the Shakuntala Express. The committee is toying with the idea of running daily diesel trains for local people, and weekend “steam specials” to restore the vintage steam train to its former glory.
So for now, Shakuntala Railways is all but forgotton.
I am sure you remember the journey’s when you were sitting by the window in a train and it was raining outside. The greenery was mesmerizing, the rivelets overflowing and the smell of hot ‘chai’ tempting you to buy not one – but a couple of cups.
While travelling on a train in western ghats of India during peak monsoon season is the most captivating and bewitching experience. Here is one my favourite videos taken of the Dhudsagar falls. I am unable to quote the source of this video as it was forwarded to me on a social media platform.
Dudhsagar Falls (literally Sea of Milk) is a four-tiered waterfall located on the Mandovi river in the Indian state of Goa. It is 60 km from Panaji by road and is located on the Madgaon-Belagavi rail route about 46 km east of Madagaon and 80 km south of Belgaum. Dudhsagar Falls is amongst India’s tallest waterfalls with a height of 310 m (1017 feet) and an average width of 30 metres (100 feet) – Wikipedia.
Poster image courtesy By Csyogi. Photo taken by Srividya. – Own work