British vision of rail link to Rangpo comes alive
SILIGURI, 29 OCT: The foundation stone laying of the Sevoke-Rangpo rail link tomorrow would fulfill an plan envisaged in the early 19th century by the British rulers.
The colonial rulers had envisaged a rail link (Teesta Valley project) between Siliguri and Kalimpong in around 1909. Construction works of a metre gauge rail link, however, ended at Geille Khola, short of Kalimpong and the service was opened on 29 September 1915. The extension work to Sikkim, however, was never taken up.
A preliminary survey to extend Rail link to Sikkim was carried out in the years 1917-18. A girder bridge across the Teesta near the confluence with the Great Rangeet River replacing the suspension bridge built in 1880 was also thought of. A siding for railway stock and the development of a copper mine was to be laid at Rangpo and the extension work up to Gangtok, through Sankokhela was expected by 1925. The dream, however, remained unrealised.
Tomorrow, the railways would restart the linking exercise after 59 years since a devastating flood that drove through Darjeeling district in mid- June in the year 1950 washed up the railway tracks till Geille Khola. With one-third of the annual average rainfall in two days, the Teesta flooded the area destructing the railway tracks beyond repair. All roads, rail and settlement at Geille Khola had collapsed into the river.
All demands from the residents to repair the railway tracks, which had become a lifeline for trade and commerce in the area, fell on deaf ears thereafter. The authority did not show any interest in repairing the tracks and restart the service. All that is likely to change now for the good.
“Hardly anything except nostalgia of the service remains today,” said the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway director, Mr Subrata Nath. “Although the proposed railway tracks between Sevoke and Rangpo is different from the previous one, it would evoke our memory,” he added.
(With inputs from ‘The Tron Sherpa’, Vol 1, by Terry Martin)