SHILLONG, Sept 26 – After a century, the hills of Meghalaya has signalled in the Railways once again, with Chief Minister Mukul Sangma laying the foundation of the Dudhnoi-Mendipathar railway station in Garo Hills recently.
Incidentally, Railways in Meghalaya is not something new. Although this is for the first time the railways would chug into Meghalaya after it attained Statehood in 1972, but the State is one of the first places in India to have the railways.
In 1895-96, the British Provincial Government of Composite Assam built the Cherra- Companyganj State Railways (CCSR) and was one of the first railway projects of that era. It was a contemporary of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways or “Toy Train” now listed as a World-heritage.
CCSR was in fact a Tramway of 2’6” gauge and was a feeder line to transport passengers and goods between Cherrapunjee to Sylhet (Bangladesh).
On June 16, 1886, people from this quaint hill-station, undertook the first journey aboard one of the most romantic Mountain Railways of the world between Tharia near Cheerapunjee and Companyganj (now in Bangladesh) covering a distance of 7.5 miles.
CSSR at the end of its first year of service in 1887, chugged away to earn Rs 4,734. It doggedly toiled on to increase its earnings to Rs 17,490 by 1890, thus reducing its total loss to about Rs 2,000! But after 10 years, the Earthquake of 1897 consigned the CCSR to the pages of history.
The proposed 19.47 km new railway line would connect Dudhnoi in Goalpara district of Assam and Mendipathar, North Garo Hills district of Meghalaya.
This project of the Indian Railways was approved in 1992-93, but, faced hurdles during its initial days due to opposition from the local population. However, this time, it is slated to be completed by 2013.
Terming the occasion as “historic” Sangma said that Meghalaya has missed many opportunities in bringing the Railways in the past. “We have to open up and also change our mindset,” Sangma said referring to opposition against the railways from some groups in Meghalaya.