Kangra Kapers - a Photomentary
by Mohan Bhuyan
Barely 3 weeks after going up and down the KVR with Bharat Vohra, I found myself in the Kangra Valley again. This time I wasn't clinging to the side of a ZDM 3 for dear life, but lightly gripping the steering wheel of my Zing XP, enjoying the sensation of driving in the hills and making the engine howl in rage at every down gradient I encountered. And instead of the cooperative Bharat, I had 9 family members for company, none of them railfans.
The main attraction of going again to the Kangra Valley so soon was the Reond Arch, and all the way from Delhi I kept telling everybody how this time I just had to see this famous bridge. Because the first time I rode the KVR I crossed the Arch after night fall and didn't even notice it. The next time (in broad daylight with Bharat) was equally disappointing because this is all one can hope to see from the train (try and see all the photos in full size):
The Arch is just after Kangra Station (going up) and on my last trip I saw from the station that a road on the other side of the Ban Ganga gorge seemed to offer the best views of the bridge:
So, as we neared Kangra Town I was delighted to see that the road and bridge in the picture above is on the direct route from Delhi to our destination Dharamshala. So after screaming down the southern face of the Ban Ganga gorge, racing across the river and climbing up the northern face, I stopped wherever I could without blocking the narrow road for other vehicles, for my first ever view of the Reond Arch's arch:
Note how the Reond is just another khad that joins the much bigger Ban Ganga, but what sets it apart is its remarkably deep chasm, that brought out the best in railway engineering more than 80 years ago. And here is a close-up:
But even the famous Reond Arch is incomplete without a train and I briefly thought about risking a mutiny and waiting for a train to pass. But it was past 6 pm and I had been driving since 9.30 am (plus one puncture) and I was more tired than anybody else on board. So I proclaimed that I was going to come back tomorrow and wait for a train; "those interested can tag along and the rest be damned!"
Actually I only made it back on the penultimate day of our brief holiday when we decided to just drive around the valley. So from Dharamshala we went to Yol Cantt, Chamunda Devi and Palampur and then I slyly pointed our two car convoy towards Kangra Town.
It was amazing to see how green the valley had become in a space of a couple of weeks. Between Palampur and Nagrota I found the perfect spot for the IRFCA Holiday Home - hills, river, terraced paddy fields and a great view of the line:
After Nagrota we stopped at a squeaky clean dhaba for a late lunch where the owner insisted on speaking to us in terrific English and gave us a great meal at short notice. But the real attraction of this dhaba is the activity that takes place at irregular intervals behind it:
We split after lunch, with only my wife and daughter accompanying me to the Ban Ganga gorge and the Reond, while the rest fled back to Dharamshala figuring that 6 people in an Indica was a far more appealing prospect than waiting endlessly for "Mohan's train".
I found an appropriate spot directly opposite the Arch and waited. After a few minutes my 7 year old complained of boredom but her pleas fell on deaf ears. I moved away from the car and across the road to the edge of the precipice. A man & his ox were ploughing the slope just behind the arch but from my vantage point it looked like they were moving up and down the length of the bridge! After 35 minutes of waiting what I took to be 6 PB finally showed up, and I got my long cherished wish, while my family their reprieve:
You can just discern the farmer and his patient ox in the picture. Kangra station is half a km or less ahead of the train (or to the right). And here's a view of the whole train on the bridge:
Just before the road leaves the Ban Ganga gorge and enters Kangra town, one can see another nice looking railway bridge in the distance. This is over another Khad that joins the Ban Ganga and is at a much lower elevation than the Reond i.e. almost level with the Ban Ganga. I'm not sure but maybe this is the Jougal Khad. I thought getting a photo of a train on this bridge would be the icing on the Reond cake but alas, 6 PB was headed in the opposite direction.
The next morning we were driving back to Delhi and just as we entered the Ban Ganga gorge for the last time I glanced over at the distant railway and exclaimed loudly, frightening the wits out of every one else in the car. Bringing the car to a screeching halt, I leapt out camera in hand just in time to take this hurried photo of a late running 4 PB on the "Jougal Khad":
Yes, I had to touch it up with photoshop a bit! I caught 4 PB again a few minutes later on the Reond Arch, prompting my wife to remark drily, "we needn't have come here and waited so long yesterday". Actually she was wrong, because the pictures of the previous evening came out far better in the end!
The Reond may be the most famous bridge on the KVR but not necessarily the most beautiful. One of the contenders is surely the curvy & long legged beauty over the Bathu Khad, yet another tributary of the Ban Ganga. Actually, this is the first bridge one encounters on the drive up from Delhi and is a boon for the road bound railfan pressed for time. I raced ahead of 4 PB while it halted at Kangra and Kopar Lehar, and waited a few minutes before it reached where I lay in wait:
And here's another view:
The Assistant spotted me just after I took this shot and we exchanged cheery waves. A km or so down the road we left the KVR behind and headed south towards the Beas Valley and thence to Nangal Dam, Una, Chandigarh and Delhi.