After 36 long years, the whistle of the goods train once again reverberated in the Darjeeling Hills. Thanks to Tanago, a German Company, which has chartered the goods train from November 14 to 26.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) was once the main freight lifeline of the hills. It used to carry essential goods, mail and other commodities from the plains to the hills and products, including tea, oranges, ginger and cardamom from the hills to the plains. The freight service was discontinued in 1980.
“When we came to Darjeeling last year, we found out that the freight wagons were lying idle in the Tindharia workshop. We approached the DHR to charter the trains. The DHR gave a green signal and assured us that they will make 5 goods wagons operational. It’s a very proud moment for us as we are the first group to put the freight train back on track after 35 years” said Peter Patt of Tanago.
Tanago is a company which arranges railway tours, including special trains and steam trains throughout the world for train enthusiasts. As many as 30 persons from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, England, USA and Japan are on a visit.
“We have chartered two trains. One is a passenger and the other a freight train. All of us are travelling in the passenger train with the goods train following us. We are mainly clicking photographs of the freight train, reliving the journey,” added Patt.
The goods train with three empty wagons is hauled by a steam loco. It has been doing different stretches, including Siliguri to Sukna, Siliguri to Rongtong, Siliguri to Tindharia. The trains arrived in Darjeeling on Friday. It will do a Darjeeling to Ghoom and back stretch on Saturday.
“DHR is very popular among visitors. There were many more who wanted to join us this time. We will again return for a similar trip in March 2017” added Patt.
From Darjeeling, the travelers will visit Kolkata to experience the trams and then to Nilgiri to experience the meter gauge. The total trip is of four week’s duration.
The DHR is charging Rs.57,000/- per train per run (stretch.) “The freight train is a new service for the DHR. It is mainly the railway enthusiasts who will charter the freight train. It will not be a regular service” said Suman Pradhan, station manager, DHR, Darjeeling.
DHR was inscribed a World Heritage by UNESCO on December 5, 1999. In 1879, work started on the DHR, earlier called the Darjeeling Steam Tramways. The stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened on August 23, 1880. The Siliguri to Darjeeling track was inaugurated on July 4 1881.