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Darjeeling Hill Railway Railways Train Travel Trains in the Hills

Darjeeling Hill Railway – England

If you have ever surfed the net searching for details about the Darjeeling Hill Railway, I am sure you must have come across a website by the name ‘Darjeeling Hill Railway Society (DHRS)‘.

Darjeeling Hill Railway Society, England

President DHRS Adrian Shooter presents author David Churchill with the first copy of the Society’s latest publication – the definitive story of the iconic DHR ‘B’ Class fleet. Source: dhrs.org

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.

Engine 778 pulling a replica of the Darjeeling Hill Railway, Beeches Light Railway. Photo Credit: By Chris Allen Source commons.wikimedia.org

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.

For sale by Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society, Source: dhrs.org

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.

Categories
Railways Train Travel

Jack The Baboon – A Perfect Railway ‘Monkey’

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.

James Wide and Jack the Baboon – 1881

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.


Categories
Train Travel

The Enchanting Beauty Of Melattur Railway Station

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.

Sit & view – Melattur
Flowery Red Carpet – Melattur
Nature’s red carpet welcome – Melattur
Enchanting Melattur
Railway Ministers Tweet – December 2019
Melattur Station