Grand rerun of Raj rail route - Railways enact Lord Minto's flag-off at Gujhandi to celebrate 100 years of Dhanbad-Gaya chord line

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By RESHAM MUKHERJEE in Dhanbad
  • Published 6.12.06
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Dhanbad, Dec. 6: Repeating history, the Gujhandi railway station under the Dhanbad division, situated 133 km from Dhanbad junction and 66 km from Gaya, under the Mughalsarai division of the East Central Railway (ECR), today became the hub of activities, as it had 100 years ago.

General Manager of ECR S.K. Vij, in an action replay, opened a fishplate and tightened it back around 1 pm, just as the then Viceroy and governor general of India Lord Minto had inserted a fishbolt at a rail joint and fastened it to a silver spanner to inaugurate the 281-mile Grand Chord (GC) section between Dhanbad and Gaya on December 6, 1906.

A special heritage train “GC ki Maharani”, with its six coaches pulled by a 1965 steam engine of 100 kmph, carried Vij and divisional railway managers Pankaj Jain of Danapur, H.K. Kala of Mughalsarai and Ajay Shukla of Dhanbad, to Gujhandi situated on the top of the Hill section of the new railway, from Gaya. The engine was hired from Bengal.

It was similar to that of the guests of the then East Indian Railway Company, which had started the journey from Howrah to Gaya, on the night of December 5. The party had then proceeded to Gujhandi, where lunch was served at 1 pm. The Viceroy had reached at 2.40 pm and opened the route marking the advent of one of the most important sections of today’s ECR.

In the two-and-a-half hour function at Gujhandi this afternoon, Vij laid the stone for the celebrations of GC. He later honoured five old staff of GC, who are over 75 years old, including the oldest staff — 85-year-old loco inspector G.N. Tiwary of Dhanbad division — with mementos. Dhanbad DRM Ajay Shukla said the entire route had been illuminated to mark the centenary.

Meanwhile, old records brought from the Howrah railway museum for the occasion claimed that the original line ran between Howrah and Delhi, via Bhagalpur-Lakhisarai-Patna-Mughalsarai, a distance of 1,636 km. This route was slightly longer but was so designed to avoid the difficult terrain of Gaya. An alternative, direct route from Dhanbad to Gaya, was always looked into as economical and was eventually finalised as the GC section. In the shape of a semicircular chord and thus named as the Grand Chord, it reduced the distance by 80 km at a cost of Rs 4.15 crore at that time.

Gujhandi is also witness to a mystery of the British period. A large stone obelisk a few yards from the tracks just before entering Gujhandi station reminds of a brilliant traffic officer of the East India Railway, Sir William Arthur Dring, who had become an agent of EIR in 1907. While travelling by the Bombay-Howrah Mail, he mysteriously disappeared from his saloon on November 24, 1912, at this place.