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Track repair to take time- Landslide spanner in toy train anniversary

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 19, 2009

 Restoration in progress along NH55 near Chunabhati, further 2km up.

Restoration in progress along NH55 near Chunabhati, further 2km up.

Siliguri, Aug. 18: Toy train service between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling will not be restored before the 128th anniversary of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway on August 23.

The DHR authorities were hoping that the track damaged by heavy rain on July 3 would be repaired by August 23, but the work was hampered by landslides on Saturday night.

Every year, on the day of the DHR anniversary, all stations along the 80km stretch from NJP to Darjeeling are decorated and toy trains are decked with flowers.

“We could not celebrate the anniversary with such festivity last year as the services between NJP and Darjeeling and vice-versa were stalled for three months from June to September because of landslides,” said Subrata Nath, the DHR director. “This year, too, we cannot decorate all the stations or run decked trains to commemorate the anniversary because of the damage of tracks.”

Torrential rainfall on the night of July 3 had caused earth beneath 20 metres of the track to cave in completely at one place and the soil beneath 17 metres to erode partially at another place along the 3km stretch from Gayabari (located 36km from Siliguri) to Mahanadi.

Workers remove a damaged portion of the track at Rongtong, around 25km from Siliguri, on Tuesday.

Workers remove a damaged portion of the track at Rongtong, around 25km from Siliguri, on Tuesday.

The service between Darjeeling and NJP and vice-versa was stalled and work to repair the track was in progress. But the rainfall on Saturday night has not only caused fresh landslides but also delayed the restoration taking place on the 3km long track.
A girl walks to school along toy train tracks in Tindharia, 30km from Siliguri, on Tuesday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo

“Although we are holding a DHR exhibition at North Bengal Science Centre in Siliguri to commemorate the anniversary, our plan was to decorate the stations and most importantly, resume the NJP-Darjeeling services before August 23. However, we have to postpone the resumption of journeys till the first week of September,” said Nath.

There were landslides elsewhere also on the August 15 night, damaging the track at three points between Tindharia (30km from Siliguri) and Gayabari. The debris at two points was removed, but a huge boulder fallen on NH55 at Paglajhora, where the track crosses the road, is yet to be removed.

The halt in services is also leading to a daily loss of Rs 15,000 for the DHR, sources said. “As this is the lean season, the loss is comparatively less but if the service is not restored by September when the chartered rides will commence, the losses would mount further,” an official said.

“We want the repair to be speeded up and are keeping our fingers crossed for a better weather in the coming weeks. If similar calamities occur again, all our plans for the Durga Puja season will be ruined,” he added.


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