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Kangra Valley Railway Line – A Memoir

After a long time, I have planned to write this post which can be really called reminiscence.
Just thought of writing this post when I read this blog post by my friend and fellow NITHian Tarun Goel :-

He notified me on Facebook about it and I thought that I should also share my experiences of the same. So it’s a kind of Inception of the idea into my mind by him.
It’s been almost 6 years now that we passed out of NIT Hamirpur. There are so many memories linked to that place that sometimes those memories intermingle creating a lot of chaotic confusion.

One of the best memories for me is travelling to Pathankot by the Kangra Valley Railway Line. Many would think why that is such an important thing for me. So let me explain.

I have lived in Himachal for almost my entire life before going to college and Bus transport is a major mode of travel in Himachal. Being a kid travel by rail was always a fascinating experience for me, although I didn’t get much of a chance to do that.

I used to wonder why people don’t fall around while walking on a moving train. When for the first time my parents told me this, I just couldn’t believe that. Then I experienced that for the first time when I travelled on a train with them. :)

So coming back to the Kangra Valley Railway, I used to be very excited every time when I boarded that train. It was for two major reasons, first one being the train travel and other one being able to meet my maternal relatives who live in Pathankot.

So every time I got a chance to go there I would just not leave that opportunity. I used to go to Jwalamukhi road station from Hamirpur which is on the way from Jwalaji to Kangra and then get the train to Pathankot from there. Although I never got a chance to travel in it beyond Jwalamukhi road, to Kangra, Baijnath and Jogindernagar, but I would like to do that whenever I get a chance.

The train line is a narrow gauge line and only a single line has been laid there by the British in their reign over India. Not getting much into the trivia here is a reference to the Wikipedia article:-

When I travelled in it for the first time, I realised that it’s a kind of lifeline for the people living in that region. Also, I saw some places which I had never seen while travelling to Pathankot from Hamirpur via roads e.g. Guler, Nagrota Surian etc. People use that train for local commuting, small businesses, students use it for going to schools and what not.

I remember once I boarded the train from Jwalamukhi and the whole compartment smelt of mangoes as it was the mango season and the produce was being transported from Pathankot to Kangra. Even today I cannot forget that smell, being an avid fan of mangoes. Although I must say, I miss them a lot here in New Zealand.

The distance from Jwalamukhi road to Pathankot was about 78-80 km and the train used to take 4 hours to cover that. The major reason for the delays was being a single line; it had to wait for the passing of other trains on any of the stations. Although I never understood the method they used to give a pass to the trains, I thought always my train was given the lower preference.

The fare from Jwalamukhi road to Pathankot was something around INR 17-18. A meagre amount if I think about it now, but at that time being students we were always in shortage of money. Hence 2-3 times I remember travelling on the train without ticket too. :)

Such a thrilling experience it was to travel like that. I used to hear those kinds of experiences from my friends who did that quite often in Central India and other parts of India so I thought it should be experienced once. But it all stopped soon when my maternal grandfather came to know about it. He is an ex-railway employee and because of that, his integrity about opposing ticket-less travel is quite high. So I had to succumb to his orders.

For the first time when I travelled without a ticket, I was a bit afraid if the ticket checker would come, I would receive a big fine. But my fellow traveller told me that there is a way to evade that. So I followed his advice.

Before reaching Pathankot junction, the train passes through Pathankot town and its busy urban area. The railway line is parallel to the Dalhousie Road and just behind the Netaji Subhash market complex where my uncle has his clinic. When the train passes through that stretch, it slows down to almost 1/3rd of its speed. So as per the advice, given to me by that fellow passenger, I waited for the train to slow down and as the market came near I jumped.

I didn’t fall nor had any injury as the train was going very slow. I thought that I had done a very daring act by jumping off a running train for the first time and was very proud of my achievement, until the moment I turned back and saw another 50-60 people going the same.

I laughed at myself and thought the train slowing down at that part of the journey might be a signal for all the ticketless passengers like me to save themselves and get out. I reached my uncle’s clinic and he was totally shocked to see me come out from that side of the road. He asked me if I was OK and then I told him about my adventure. We had a big laugh on that and he actually blackmailed me that he would tell it to my grandfather and I would get a good scolding. But he never did.:)

Once, I was going on the same train from Pathankot to Jwalamukhi road and hence ahead to my college at Hamirpur. I boarded from Pathankot junction and as soon as we reached some 20 km ahead of Pathankot, the train was full of daily passengers who would travel without a ticket to save as less as INR 3.

People would hang out of the doors because of the train being so crowded and full of capacity. This railway line’s biggest attraction is the high bridges which it crosses en route. So when it crossed a big bridge, its diesel engine somehow stopped (which was a common feature by the way) and the train got stuck in the middle of nowhere on that bridge. People started shouting and crying because of being afraid.

It was really fun to watch them as earlier they were showing a macho attitude by travelling just clinging to the train doors and handles. When the train stopped over that bridge for 10 mins, the loudest and most afraid were the same people. So I thought I would never try that. 

I used to enjoy the scenery a lot as it was totally a rural landscape and tranquil surroundings amidst which the train used to pass. To add to that, in earlier days, there was no mobile network coverage in the major area of the train line and it was bliss.

Recently I learned that a major bridge connecting this train to Pathankot had been washed away in flash floods. I believe it has not been yet restored as I can understand from Tarun’s blog post. But I’d really like to see that bridge being restored and then me getting a chance to travel to Jogindernagar from Pathankot. :)

This is just a small memoir which I could recollect.
Although Tarun has done a great job by writing a detailed account of his recent journey.

Photo Courtesy :-

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