Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Colonial Assam and Development - part 3 - RAILWAYS

Development and logistics go hand in hand.

A region maybe richly blessed with an abundance of raw material and even the know-how to utilise the same, but what good would it be,  if the finished product were to remain static?

The British realised this with regards to Assam, especially in upper Assam. To tap the huge potential of the region with the technical know-how at their disposal, they understood the nuances of bulk transport. Although roads were developed, but this certainly did not serve their purpose entirely. The need was to develop a mode of transport that, at a time was capable of carrying huge amounts of goods. This gave rise to the development of the Railway system in upper Assam!

The Assam Railways and Trading Company (ARTC), was set up in 1881, and in the same year, the construction work on the Dibru-Sadiya route was also started. The following year, 1882, witnessed the opening of the tract for goods traffic from Dibrugarh to Dinjan river, for onward transportation by river. This was primarily tea.

However, it was not until July 1883, that the route was opened to passenger traffic. The tract was till Makum,(the last junction on the Indian railways route map!) a 60 odd kilometre journey from Dibrugarh steamer ghat. But the most memorable day for the company (ARTC) was in the year 1884, when the Coal Field in Margherita was officially opened. A special train was run between Dibrugarh and the Dihing bridge, but because the locomotive could not cross the Dihing river, as the bridge was made of timber, the carriages had to be hand-shunted across the bridge to Margherita!

This event marked the successful completion of the Dibru-Sadiya railways by the Assam Railways and Trading Company. Amidst overwhelming odds and the lack of proper equipments, the setting up of the railways in these hostile terrains proved to all and sundry, the engineering capabilities of the British and their thirst for development!

From the humble beginning of the railways in this region, it has come a long way since then. Assured of fast, secured and bulk movement of goods, the railway system set up by the Assam Railways and Trading Company, has been instrumental in the development of this region.


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