The Romantic East: Burma, Assam, Kashmir (1906)
The Romantic East: Burma, Assam, and Kashmir by Walter del Mar (1852 - 1944). Published by Adam and Charles Black, London, 1906.
Made available by the Internet Archive.
Source: Libraries of the University of California system
Edited by R Sivaramakrishnan. Posted to IRFCA on: June 25, 2008.
CHAPTER XII : ASSAM
The Assam -Bengal railway is a metre -gauge line open from Chittagong to Tinsukia in the Brahmaputra valley, a distance of 574 miles, with branches aggregating about 165 miles in length. In addition to the very exceptional damage, amounting to over 90,000, it received in the earthquake of June 12, 1897, when over 1500 people were killed in Assam, the railway is subject to annual damage during the rains in the difficult hill section, and elsewhere on the line. For it must be remembered that one place in the Khasi Hills north-west of the railway holds the world's record for rainfall, and after the rains trains are liable to interruptions, even if the line is not in places entirely carried away, and constant labour is required to keep the line in working condition.
The closest connection we could make involved a wait of eight hours at Laksam Junction, so we took the train down to Chandpur on the east bank of the Meghna, one of the great rivers formed by the junction of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.
There we waited for the Calcutta mail, which comes down by steamer from Goalundo, and had our dinner in the restaurant-car on the way back to Laksam. During the night we skirted the western and northern borders of Hill Tippera, and the next day was spent in traversing the hill section between Badarpur, the junction for the Silchar branch, and Lumding, the junction for Gauhati. After crossing the Surma river the line goes up the Jatinga river valley amid hills to Damchara. The section between this station and Lumding was open for traffic on the 1st of December 1903. The railway first follows the right bank of the Jatinga, which runs between heavily-wooded hills, and the scenery begins to be very pretty.
All along the railway are posts showing the miles and quarter-miles from Chittagong, and the tunnels are also numbered ; No. 2 being at the 272nd mile-post, and No. 3 goes through a land-slip. Farther on, near another landslip, was the wreck of a recently derailed train. There was a hot controversy as to the cause of the accident, some ascribing it to excessive speed, others to faults in the permanent way. However that may be, the
railway cuttings are certainly too steep, and work is going on all along this section reducing their pitch. The natives work with a sort of hoe called a khodali, and are usually armed with a big knife similar to the Burmese dha, which they call a dao. The valley broadens between the 278th post and Harangajao, which is between the 282nd and 283rd post, where the rail level is 489 feet above the sea. There is plenty of big game to be found in Assam, including rhinoceros, elephant, leopards, the wild buffalo, and tigers. Shortly before we came through, a man had been found dead on the railway, mauled by a tiger, and we saw at Harangajao the body of a leopard which was killed on the line only a few hours before we arrived there. At this station two engines are attached to the train, one in front and one in back, and the real ascent begins. The gradient most of the way is 1 in 37, and there is a succession of tunnels and viaducts up to the summit, which is in tunnel No. 15, just before Jatinga station in the Cachar hills (294th mile), where the rail level is 1855 feet above the sea. The hills are less thickly wooded on the other side of the watershed, but there is more
timber after Mahur. There are other streams to cross and further tunnels until, after threading No. 32, the line runs through a level jungle of bamboos and pampas-grass to Langting (343 miles). Three miles farther on there is a grave covered with a white marble cross by the side of the line.
After Lumding, where we changed into the dining-car, the railway goes across country to Dhansiri station, and then down the Dhansiri valley. After Manipur Road, from where there is a cart-road to Manipur going south-west to Kohima and then south, the railway runs in the Sibsagar district with the Naga hills lying to the east. It was about three o'clock in the morning when we pulled up at Kamarbandha Ali station ..
.. From Nigri Ting, where we embarked for our journey down the Brahmaputra, to Dhubri is about 325 miles, and we were made comfortable on the Minhla, the best boat of the Indian General Navigation and Railway Company's river fleet. .
The landing-places have sometimes a moored flat alongside which the steamer makes fast, and at other places the steamer's nose is merely pushed
into the bank and held there. The mournful character of the river is accentuated at the landings, where you witness pitiful scenes caused by the break-up of family ties when the coolies have finished their contract term and return home.
Below Nigri Ting the Dhansiri enters the Brahmaputra on the left bank, and the Lohit river, a continuation of the Subansiri, comes in on the opposite or north bank ; but it is difficult to distinguish the tributaries from the re-entering branches of the river itself, which make many large islands on the way down. These branches sometimes change their course from year to year, but the Brahmaputra never in this respect rivals the Mississippi, whose main channel sometimes changes so as to transfer whole sections from one American state to another. All the forenoon the Himalayas are seen in the distant north, and in the afternoon the Naga Hills appear to the south.
At Bishnath, where we lay up for the night, we took on hundreds of cases of Pekoe, Broken Orange Pekoe, and Pekoe Souchong from the tea plantations. These extend on the north bank
below Rangamati, and on the south bank to a point about 25 miles below Gauhati. At Sil Ghat the hills come down to the river, in which some rocks are seen for the first time. Tezpur, 75 miles below Nigri Ting, is built on a rocky bank, and from the steamer you can see permanent buildings and a railway. The second night we arrived at Gauhati, about 75 miles below Tezpur, Peacock Island and the wooded hills on both banks being dimly seen in the dusk. Tezpur has been identified with Sonitpur, "the city of blood," of the ancient legendary period.
Gauhati is a busy place, the terminus of the branch railway and the station for Shillong, the administrative headquarters of the Assam Government, situated 63 miles by road south in the Khasi Hills, on a plateau nearly 5000 feet above the sea . ..
NOTE TO CHAPTER XIII
TIME-TABLE OF BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER STEAMERS, WINTER, 1904-5
D.B. Dak Bungalow
R.H. Rest House
T.O. Telegraph Office
Down River Leave
1st Day. Dibrughur (Dibrugarh), D.B. . . 13
Dehingmukh (Dihingmukh) . . . 14.30
Desangmukh (Disangmukh)., R.H. . 16.30
Dekumukh (Dikhumukh) . . . 17.30
Jhansimukh (Janjimukh) . . 18.30
Kolomabari (Kamlabari) . . . 19-30
2nd Day. Kokeelamukh (Kokilamukh), D.B. . 6
Nigriting (Nigri Ting), R.H. ... 8
Dhansirimukh, R.H 11
Gamirighat (Goniiri Ghat) . . . 13
Behalimukh, R.H. . . . . 14
Bishnath (Biswanath), T.O. . . . 16
Down River Leave
3rd Day. Silghat, D.B 8
Tezpur, D.B. . . .10
Singrighat (Singari Ghat) . . '' . 12.30
Rangamatighat, R.H. . . 16
Sualkuchi (Saulkusi) . . . . 21
Polashbari (Palasbari), T.O. . . 21.20
4th Day. Dalgoma ... . 2
Goalpara, T.O. ... . 3.15
Bilashipari (Bilasipara) . . . . 5.15
Dhubri Ghat, D.B 9
5th Day. Jagannathgunge, T.O. ... 5
Seraj gunge (Sirajganj), D.B. . . . 6
Goalundo, T.O. . . . . . 1 1
Up River Leave
1st Day. Goalundo . .... 5.30
2nd Dhubri Ghat . . . 9.30
3rd Polashbari 4.10
4th Tezpur ...... 9
5th Dhansirimukh ..... 7
6th Desangmukh . . . . . 5.10
Dibrughur . . . . . . 19