Baripada: A steam engine that used to haul a passenger train wagons between Rupsa and Bangiriposi, but has been left to rot behind the Baripada railway station, has an eventful past to narrate.
At a time when most parts of the country were still devoid of rail service, the erstwhile ruler of Mayurbhanj, Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo started the service in 1904. Later, the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, Sir Andrew Fraser inaugurated the first section of 52km Rupsa-Baripada-Bangriposi narrow gauge January 20, 1905.
In the same year, the steam engine train was bought from Scotland-based North British Locomotive Company. While its coaches were made of iron, the compartments were beautifully made of wood.
Noted personalities of India, members of royal families, British officials and common people of Mayurbhanj used to travel in this train.
Later, with the introduction of diesel and electricity engines, the steam engine-run train was consigned to oblivion.
Now, the coaches and the engine are lying neglected. Due to lack of maintenance, the sole witness to the bright past of railway service in India is rotting.
Researchers, historians and locals have expressed deep concern at the deplorable state of the engine. “Forgetting history will not make a nation prosperous. If properly restored and maintained, the site can become a tourist spot,” Kishore Behera, a researcher, said.
Echoing similar feelings, Sehijan Khan, a college student, said besides developing the site as a tourist spot, a signboard detailing about the steam engine and the erstwhile steam locomotive service in Mayurbhanj should be put up at the site so that school and college students can get some valuable information about the era gone by.
This century-old railway line is currently under the Kharagpur division. Despite Bangiriposi-Bhubaneswar Superfast Express and Bhanjpur-Shalimar Intercity Express and six DMUs running on the route, the status of Baripada station still remains the same — ‘D’ grade due to alleged negligence.