Narrow Gauge World - May / June 2010
Trolley good fun
Pedal-power to the fore in the latest news from India.
So you have a disused metre-gauge rail line, in workable condition despite services having ended many years ago. And it runs through a national park teeming with exotic wildlife. Tourists would love it but no stock remains to even think of running a service. What do you do? Well if you are in India, you turn to the power of people and gravity...
The line in question is a link which was overlooked when much of India’s metre-gauge mileage was being converted to broad gauge. While much of this change happened following 1980, the Siliguri to Assam route was converted back in 1949, when it is thought this link, located around one and a half hours from Siliguri and measuring some 20 miles, may have been closed to traffic. Certainly Indian Railways sold off all its metre-gauge locomotives and rolling stock, much of it going after overhaul to the Burma Railway and only a few heritage items being kept in India. Exotic wildlife The link, however runs through the Dhupjora forest, 64 kilometres from Siliguri and in the Gorumara National Park. This is a well-known wildlife sanctuary, home to the Great Indian one-horned Rhinoceros, the Indian Elephant, Bison, Leopards, the Rock Python and the Malayan Giant Squirrel. According to Rajenda Baid. president of the India Group of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society (DHRS), the park contains 48 species of animals, 193 birds, 22 species of reptiles, seven types of turtle, 27 species of fishes and many examples of macro and micro fauna. Clearly it is a tourist must, many staying in the treehouse at Gorumara Elephant camp where they can ride elephants in the early morning.
So now the local wildlife division has expanded the attractions of the park by offering an eco-friendly trolley ride along part of the former line. The section used is only two to three miles long, but it is very scenic, running through the forest and across streams and at one point crossing a bridge some 25 feet above a river.
Along this route the two trolleys, which have been hired from the Northeast Frontier Railway, travel. Each seats three visitors while a total
of eight staff have been hired, four per trolley. They provide propulsion where needed, pedalling a chain drive, and vitally working the brakes.
Each trolley carries a large parasol to protect participants from the sun and Mr Baid added that tourists can travel along a longer section of line if they are willing to pay a higher fee. At the end of the journey the staff simply lift the trolley, turn it around and then it’s all aboard for the return trip. Tops with tourists The trolley ride opened at the end of 2008 and has proven very popular. Mr Baid told a local newspaper: “The park is a huge draw by itself but the trolley ride has given a touch of uniqueness to the package. Only recently, a group of 20 foreigners booked a package and have especially opted for the trolley ride. They will be heading for Gorumara as soon as they arrive.”
Meanwhile thanks to DHRS member Peter ‘Fuzz’ Jordan Narrow Gauge World has received pictures of the new vestibule (corridor connection) carriages which have been introduced on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway since last August.
Four second class and six first class vehicles have been purchased, each air-braked with upholstered seats and glass roofs. The interconnecting corridors are 2.5 feet long. Each cost the equivalent of around £26,000 and were built by the Kurdavari Railway Coach Factory in Prune. l
More Information n Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society, website: www.dhrs.org.uk
Top: David Barrie of the DHRS (centre) was among visitors enjoying the trolley rides earlier this year. Above: Turning the trolleys at journey’s end is a basic process... Right: Four staff are allocated to the three visitors on each trolley. Photos courtesy DHRS, see also page 28.
No 69 – NARROW GAUGE WORLD
This page: Details of the Darjeeling vestibule carriages. Photos: Peter Jordan, David Barrie. Below: The older stock still sees regular use as seen on this train in March. Photo: Michael Chapman.
NARROW GAUGE WORLD – No 69