The Telegraph
Saturday , August 9 , 2014
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NFR memorial to 114-year-old tracks

- Silchar-Lumding gauge conversion to hit supplies

Silchar, Aug. 8: It is a living testimony to the engineering dexterity of the former Assam Bengal Railway.

Now, the Silchar-Lumding metre gauge train route, which passes through lush greenery and hills, and artefacts of the era, will be preserved for posterity.

The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), which now maintains the Silchar-Lumding line, have proposed to set up a museum in Lumding as a memorial to the 291km-long route, which was first commissioned in 1904.

The NFR has already decided to run the last trains on the 114-year-old line on September 30 next year to make way for the start of the mega block phase of the broad gauge track construction and a new signalling system.

A senior NFR official today said the museum would preserve the metre gauge engines and other archival stuff like tickets, old signalling devices and photographs of the forests and scenic attractions on the route, including the Barail hills and 37 tunnels spread over a steep gradient of 1:37.

He said senior officials from the Maligaon headquarters of the NFR in Guwahati had already visited Lumding for selecting the museum site and estimate the total outlay required for such a facility.

The mega block phase of the new broad gauge track will commence on October 1 and scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2015. After clearance by the Calcutta-based commissioner of railway safety, the maiden journey of trains on the 201km broad gauge line between Silchar and Lumding is expected to start by June next year.

The new link is expected to shorten the ride to Guwahati to around nine hours against the 18 hours time it takes by the existing metre-gauge route.

NFR sources said hectic last-minute work on the route will start during the mega block phase to complete the remaining tasks like giving finishing touches to all 56 major bridges and 20 tunnels, including the biggest spanning 3,010 metre near Jatinga. The biggest railway bridge in Badarpur ghat measuring 375 metres, 24km from here, has already been completed.

Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar flew to Maligaon yesterday for a daylong review of the construction and expressed satisfaction at the work done so far. He also gave the go-ahead to the mega block phase from October 1.

The foundation stone of the broad gauge project was laid in 1994 by then Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda. However, owing to many hassles and hindrances, including insurgency, the construction had been bogged down during the last decade and work resumed properly only in 2008.

The delays have also ballooned the cost from the original estimate of Rs 648 crore when it was scheduled to be completed in 2006 to over Rs 5,100 crore.

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