MAYURBHANJ: Travelling in a train, we often come across old engines in dilapidated condition in neighboring tracks. Such sights remind us of the time when steam engines were introduced in India. Mayurbhanj houses multiple such sights in three decrepit steam engines, a few battered coaches, some paraphernalia of the steam age and a glorious history behind it.
Set up more than a century ago, Baripada Railway Station still carries the aura of British Raj. For the old timers, it’s pure nostalgia of an era gone by, when every boy wanted to be an engine driver and blow the whistle. However, half a century ago, it had 12 steam engines and a staff of 200. According historian Anil Dhir, these old locomotives have turned into tourist attractions as people of all age groups want to hear about its glorious past.
The Rupsa-Baripada-Bangriposi Narrow Gauge line was started by the erstwhile ruler of Mayurbhanj, Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo. The first section of 52 km, from Rupsa to Baripada, was inaugurated by then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, Sir Andrew Fraser on 20th January, 1905. Rupsa was the junction with the Bengal Nagpur Railway’s Broad Gauge line.
An agreement was signed on 2nd December, 1918, between the Mayurbhanj State and Mayurbhanj Railway Company, for extending the line to Talband, 61.5 km away. Noted personalities of India, members of royal families, British officials and the common people of Mayurbhanj used to travel in this train. There was an exclusive saloon for the royalty.
The four original locomotives have survived to this daythe day. The Baripada Steam Shed can be converted into a prominent place on the steam map of the world. If properly restored, this heritage shed can be transformed from a ruin, lost and forgotten, to a grand museum. It will draw steam enthusiasts from India and abroad, who have come to enjoy the steam engines in their full glory. There are many who have not seen a working Steam Locomotive in their lives. Seeing such huge machines at work is one the most humbling experience in life and perhaps, the most joyous one too.