Where in the world have you heard of a train running on a road? Nowhere else, but in Jammu and Kashmir.
Set to chug in Kashmir's bewitching landscape in snowy February 2007, the first-ever trial train to Kashmir on Tuesday took off for the valley not on traditional track but on the 300 km-long Jammu-Srinagar national highway, adding another historic chapter to the Rs 47 billion Jammu-Udhampur-Qazigund-Srinagar-Baramulla national rail project.
"It is addition of another chapter to the history of Indian Railways and Kashmir's national rail project, as the first trial diesel mobile unit (DMU) coach on Tuesday left for Kashmir's Budgam railway station by taking a road route and not a train track from Jammu railway station," Divisional Mechanical Engineer (Northern Railways) Shiv Ram said.
Soon after the 36-wheeled train pulled by a 460 HP special engine drove up the Jammu-Srinagar highway at 7.00 am, Ram said, "it sounds incredible, but the train is running on the highway from Jammu to Badgam via Srinagar. It has happened for the first time in the history of the Indian Railways that a DMU has run on a road".
Amid chanting of mantras and showering of flowers, the train, fitted with 36 big truck wheels, zig-zagged through the serpentine road as people watched it chugging on the highway along with trucks and buses.
Struck by surprise as the train crisscrossed the highway, onlookers on roads, in buses and from houses thronging the road stood dumbfounded.