Sunday, March 12, 2006

She will run on memory rails henceforth -Newindpress

She will run on memory rails henceforth
‘Good bye faithful. Henceforth you will run on our memory rails.’

This was how a large number of commuters and railway employees who thronged the Salem Town Railway Station seemed to bid adieu to the Salem-Virudhachalam meter gauge train as they watched intently the bogies and its diesel engine being wheeled away on a special carrier.

One of the oldest train service in the country, it eventually came to an end four months ago due to gauge conversion between Salem-Cuddalore. Neither the stationmaster nor the Public Relations Officer of the Tiruchy Division (This sector comes under Tiruchy division) were able to tell when the service was introduced in the sector.

V M Ramasamy (75), president of the Salem Theater Owner’s Association and former councillor estimates that the service was introduced in 1921 between Salem and Attur and further extended to Virudhachalam and Cuddalore later.

But the Town Railway Station is much older, started on January 1, 1917. When Rajagopalachari was the Chairman of the Salem Municipality and E W Leigh was the Collector, train service was extended from Salem Junction at Sooramangalam to the Town Railway Station.

Another septuagenarian C Vayapuri, president of the United Farmers Association was active in the Salem-Virudhachalam Meter Gauge Train Commuters Association.

He had participated in several protests to improve the service like adding more boggies, more stops, more trips and extension of the service to port towns as a large numbers of farmers from Attur and Thalaivasal used the service to transport vegetables to port towns.

There are seven station master-managed stations, one run by clerks and five run by halt agents.

But Vayapuri was at pains when he was told that the trains were dismantled and taken away by the railway authorities. He remembered vividly his daily trips to Salem when the sky line was once open and one had the breathtaking views of the Shevroy Hills till Valapadi. But now the concrete jungles have marred those views, he lamented.

The Town Railway Station is still wrapped with vintage though surrounded by modernity. Time machine seem to wind backwards as one enters the shady premises.

The station master still sits in his old cabin in front of the old clock and the ageing block machines used to pull out balls that authorises the driver to go to the next station.

With the mechanical signal arm (called lower quadrant signal lighted with kerosene lamp once) still standing there, the station with old shady trees and concrete benches is irresistible for time killers and oldies.

The groundnut seller continue to do brisk business. But only the train is no more to chug in and out.

No comments: