The wheels of history, heavy and full-metal, stopped in their tracks on Friday. A 139-year-long journey has just come to an end with an iconic train chugging into the sunset.
The Indore-Mhow passenger train made its last run on the metre gauge track on Friday as the Railways shut down the 21-km stretch for conversion to broad gauge, to be completed within six months, Western Railway officials said.
Among the passengers who took the last ride was a man whose father was a loco driver in the railways and used to take him on trips.
“Whatever advance technology we may adapt for faster, smoother and better commutation, the nostalgia attached to heritage things and connected memories will not fade away easily,” said the commuter who did not wish to be named.
Nagesh Namjoshi, a member of Zonal Railway Users’ Consultative Committee, said that the Indore-Mhow train link was a dream child of Maharaja Tukojirao Holkar II, an erstwhile king of Indore who ruled between 1844 and 1886.
“He approached the British to construct the railway line. Work started in the year 1870, and with minimal technology back in those days, they managed to lay the 21-km stretch railway line in six years,” he added.
Thousands of people commute between Mhow, a cantonment town, and Indore daily for work and business purpose and the train has remained a sentimental mode of transport, cheap and comfortable. 84-year-old Shiv Shankar Shukla, a retired railway employee, fondly recalled his days as a boiler-maker in steam engines that once ran on these tracks.
“Until independence, the trains were operated by the British under the name BB&CI Railway (Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway); later BB&CI Railway was renamed as Western Railway on November 5, 1951,” Shukla said. Incidentally, Shukla’s father worked as head clerk in the railways while his son is also serving in the same organisation as deputy station manager in Mhow.
A retired divisional loco inspector Ramlal Yadav said that the conversion will benefit people and industries for better communication and will also reduce pressure on the Indore railway station.
With the gauge conversion, Indore railway station will also undergo a huge uplift in the next six months, railway sources said. However, daily commuters said that the six-month gap will burn a hole in their pockets as a monthly railway pass between Indore and Mhow cost just Rs 185 whereas the same trip by bus would cost around Rs 1,000 per month.