Images of India : The end of a much-loved railway…

nargauThere were once more than 100 narrow-gauge railways in India. They have often been written off as toy trains. The 2ft 6in gauge Satpura engine did look like a toy dwarfed by a massive broad-gauge engine in the central Indian city of Jabalpur’s station. The narrow-gauge railways were built for very serious purposes. The Satpura railways opened up a previously inaccessible hilly area of central India as part of the government’s response to the Great Famine of 1878. Before the railways came, there were only bullock carts to carry food to remote famine-stricken areas. But India no longer has famines and roads have now been built, so what purpose has the narrow-gauge train with its maximum speed of just 40km/h. Now that lifeline has been cut. The traditions associated with it will die. A line of outstanding beauty particularly when it twists like a snake following the contours of a thick, hilly forest will be replaced by a broad gauge line which is being bulldozed through that forest. Fast through-trains with few or no stops will run on the broad gauge ignoring the local demand for rail transport.