Sunday, December 26, 2010

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 6 (Toy Train Ride)

After enjoying the Darjeeling to the core and the comfort of Sir Alec’s & Bimal’s help, we were bidding adieu to Darjeeling on a Toy Train. As everyone stated no doubt the train journey was fun but only if you are not stuck with any obstacles en-route.

The station in Darjeeling was almost on the road with very minimal space(I guess it is not practical to find a flat surface in Darjeeling), the train station got a beautiful Pakoda of a Sivan mandir.

We packed all the bags and reached the station well ahead of time, I spent some in the locomotive where the steam powered old beauties are services. In fact there is no restriction to any one to enter even in the room where the tools are kept, most of the engineers seems to be understanding the enthusiasm people show around the cutie steam engine.

While I was around, I could see they were cleaning the front door where the ashes have seen and steam was out from every possible side of the engine. After this short trip to the locomotive I returned to the platform where my family was waiting for me and the train.

Then only I came to know that my journey to New Jalpaiguri will be on a Diesel engine in stead of the much awaited steam engine. I was bit disappointed but it is still ok. Initially I thought that the steam engined toy train was only to local (Batasia or Ghoom) trips but later on the same day I have seen a steam engine came on opposite direction with full of steam breaths, and the train stopped for pumping more coal in to the oven.

Out journey started around 30mins delayed schedule (just for the railways employees to prepare the 4 couches to be added to the engine, they started the work only at the scheduled departure of the train, it would have been good for them if they started bit ahead of the departure schedule)

We were at the 2nd class sitting compartment; I only came to know that there was a firstclass arrangement (2 couches) with bush back seats. The 2nd class arrangement was bit strange as the seats are setup in 90 degree sitting angle and really uncomfortable for the long journey ahead.

We have seen so many closure encounters of shops, houses and shelters almost with in 2inches gap between the establishments and the train couch. It was scary and not practical to even put you little finger outside the window for quite some distance on the travel. I was bit worried as my kids were on the window seat, I wish if some railway officials / Govt. to probe in and clear if any encroachments on the railway track clearance area.

After crossing the Darjeeling town the snail paced toy train started competing with the tourist taxis on the National Highway (9 and 55), what a beautiful day it was with so much of secnic sports on the train window, I throughly enjoyed it. The fog at times extended it's screen over the beauty denying me enjoying the sight, but it was another experience to sail through the white smoke.

Then we saw lots of ticketless travelers trying to board and hang on the sides of the train for long distances and no one was worried about it. At time they came very close to fences of houses and shops just around 5-10 millimeter gap and if even they were touched by those fences I’m sure they would have faced the fatal end.

As we had only 2 hours gap between our toy train arrival train at New Jalpaiguri and Departure time of my Guwahati bound train I was too much into looking at the wrist watch than looking outside the window.

Though I was looking at the wrist watch most of the time, I did have some good view against the beauty at places where the nature and people merged together, the wooden houses and tea gardens it was a complete WoW package.

We had nice journey till the last hour as suppose to be the scheduled arrival time, I witnessed the sky closing its blue shade with grey clouds. I also was in impression only one train to go up and one to go down between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling but during my travel I have seen atleast 4 trains on the opposite track.

Not a good symptom and as I scared the rain started and the train slowed down, after few minutes of very slow travel all of sudden the entire train was in good speed and with the slipping 90 degree seats at times we couldn’t even sit on the seat as it was slipping badly. We have heard lots of creeping sound with rattle all over the train and I felt the wheels were skidding, my god my instincts were correct and the train was sliding on the rails till we reached a point where till no slop area reached, the driver stopped the train and I was looking through the window and found one of the man from driver cabin walked out from his cabin with a bag full of sand and walking on the track leaving a small amount of sand on the rails.

Not only that the train was leaking badly and it was raining inside the couch, I had to shift the baggage couple of places with in the last hour travel in Toy Train.

I could definitely say that he walked for more than 2-3 kms distance infront of the train and the train was in slowest pace speed, the sand was sprayed on the track to create friction that is what I understood from the railway staff after reached siliguri station.

The entire drama slowed and delayed the entire scheduled and we reached around 1 hour delay in Siliguri and still need to move 2 stations on the plains to reach New Jalpaiguri. I Thought having one hour in hand to catch the next train I can stay in Toy train but I was wrong as the railway officials at Siliguri told me that the train will be stalled at Siliguri for one hour before departing its journey again.

We were rushing to catch a taxi outside the station to go to New Jalpaiguri as we need to take the Guwahati train, with little bargain I got a taxi for Rs.250 and reached the New Jalpaiguri in time and there we had our India’s far east travel started.

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