Nainpur-Mandla Fort NG trip
by Vikas Singh
The Balaghat-Nainpur passenger left Balaghat on time at 2000 hrs. Despite having reached station full one hour early, I could find a seat with great difficulty. Soon it started raining heavily and we had to close the windows. Most stations enroute were in pitch darkness. We reached Nainpur at 2300 hrs. There was no electricity even here. To add to misery it was still raining. I had made arrangements for stay at Sujjet lodge, which is around a 500 mts. from the station, near the track itself. After almost tripping over three-four times I could make the trip to lodge. The lodge has only one room with attached toilet. Due to prior intervention, the room had been booked for me. A quick dinner followed which came packed in polythene packets.
Next day the waiter woke me up at 0600 hrs with a cup of hot tea. Soon I was at station waiting for the 0700 hrs Nagpur-Mandla Fort train to start. The rake arrives at Nainpur station at 0600 hrs. There is a one-hour gap before the journey to Mandla Fort begins. The Nainpur-Mandla fort tracks were laid down in 1906 primarily for transport of forest products. Chiraidongri station is only 30 kms away from the famous Khana national park. There was a faded board at station mentioning that passengers for the park should alight there. However no transport is available from the station and those alighting there do so at their own peril. Two seasons back the Nagpur-Khana tourist train had been started with much fanfare. A bus used to be arranged to take tourists from Chiraidongri station to the park. The train was cancelled soon after its inaugural run. Most stations enroute are small one room halts with a private contractor manning the ticket counter. It would be worthwhile to mention that everyone had a valid ticket and TTE came twice during the journey to check tickets. Chewla plantations could be seen on both sides of the tracks. The plan yields resin, which is sold for Rs.30-Rs.50 per kg. A plant yield roughly 40-45 kg resin per year. A railway porter travels in the train. Before every level crossing, the driver is supposed to stop the train. The porter then alights, closes the gate on both side of the track. The driver then starts the train, crosses the crossing and again stops the train. The porter then opens the gate and boards the train. The driver then starts the train and journey commences. This routine was however followed only at one crossing.
We reached Mandla Fort station at 0900 hrs, 10 minutes before schedule. The station is located in Mehrajpur town. Mandla town is around 4kms from the station. Tongas, cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws are available from station to the town. The station is named after Mandla fort situated at confluence of Narmada and Banjar River, 2 kms from the station. The fort was constructed during the Gondwana rule. Mandla town is named after Mandal Mishra, a disciple of Adi Shankaracharya. Mandla also has the famous Ramnagar Fort. Legend has it the Madan Mahal in Jabalpur was once connected with this fort through a secret passage. The engine reversed and journey back began. We reached Nainpur station at 1120 hrs again twenty minutes before scheduled arrival.
Nainpur is biggest NG junction in country handling 12 up and 12 down trains daily. DRM office used to be based at Nainpur before getting shifted to Nagpur in 1962. The old loco shed has now been converted to a diesel shed. Two accident relief trains were spotted here. An 8ZE, 2-8-2 steam loco "Satpura" is plinthed outside the old DRM and present ADRM's office. The station has computerized railway-booking facility. The restaurant serves excellent food and station itself is spotless clean. The journey back from Nainpur to Jabalpur was by 1500 hrs 1DN Satpura express.