Darjeeling Railway’s Reversing Station, 1882 Photo
This is a rare and one of the earliest photographs of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway’s Reversing Station No 5 from 1882. In this reversing section, the train moves zigzag to circumvent the steepness of the hills. The train first goes uphill straight to the first dead end, then reverses moving to the second dead end. After that, it goes forward again continuing on its journey uphill.
See the small white cabin visible on the left that is where the track switching takes place. It was cumbersome and slow, perhaps, but cheap and effective. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has a number of zigzags and loops that greatly reduced expensive tunneling. The photo clearly shows the early stages after completion of the railway.
Since the number of Europeans living in India was increasing rapidly. The demand to reach the hill stations more easily once the summer heat became unbearable put pressure on the British India Government to support a railway scheme. Also, tea that was commercially grown in the hills needed to be transported to the plains quickly and in bulk. Bullock carts were expensive and slow. Thus the railway was found to be the best alternative transport to the hills. Construction finally started on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in 1879. The work progressed remarkably fast and was completed by 1881. The toy train became a blessing for the natives and Europeans alike once the route was completed.
It was no easy task because of the steepness of the hills and the roughness of the terrain. The 2ft-gauge railway zigzags over deep ravines and precipices and rises up steep inclines. Climbing 7,000 feet to reach Ghum 6 km from Darjeeling. The 65 km long line from Siliguri to Darjeeling incorporated two innovative ways of running the tracks up the hill. First a series of loops, where the railway circles around and passes over itself on a bridge to attain a higher elevation. The second was by the method of a series of Z-shaped reverses that were used, similar to the one shown in this photograph. Click on the photo for better view.
See earlier post Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Old Photo 1890.
Did you know- the steam toy train that runs on this line is now world-famous and a UNESCO heritage site.
From the collection- 1971 Raja Ravi Varma Commemorative First Day Cover., Greenways Road Adyar Madras – Old Postcard 1910., 1808 Indian Elephant Antique Print From Buffon., View of Vintage Car of 1911 British India, Old Print