Silchar is the Home to Assam's Most Scenic Railway Tracks

In India, in the state of Assam has the most scenic railway stretch of 220kms which is Silchar to Lumding. Travelling at an average speed of 35-40kmph the journey takes around 5 to 8 hrs. The Silchar railway station is an important commericial station here and it serves the whole Barak Valley. I visited the place mid of December. Not the best season for scenic lush green views of the valley, but probably good for photography due to predictable weather. 




The most unforgettable ones were the beautiful views of the mountains, rivers and tunnels this section had to offer. Its also known as the Pahal Line, meaning the Mountain Line. During that time, there were steam engines and this section had 29 tunnels. This route is probably one of the most scenic train route in the world. But it was also infamous for all sorts of things. Being in the interior of Assam, small terrorist organizations locally operating used to create a lot of problems in the 1980s and 90s. Several security personnel had been killed. There were times where trains and buses would move only with special police escort. Train engineers and track maintenance employees would get kidnapped for ransom. There were many stories of chain and purse snatching from open windows. So travelers would pull down all windows and doors of the train at certain sections. Even nature was mean during the monsoon season. Landslides were common and that lead to frequent cancellation of trains. This used to affect the economy of interior Assam. But if the train ran during monsoon, what you get to see is next to paradise. The track was made by cutting though mountains and so the trees would brush through the windows, rain water gushing in wild rivers as you cross a bridge every few minutes.


How it was Made

Work to convert meter gauge to broad gauge line in this section was sanctioned in the year 1996.
19 years later in the year 2015, the first passenger train ran on the new track. It was a huge economic significance to the people of Assam. As per this report of Govt of India the delays were attributed to unfriendly geological conditions faced during building of tunnels. This official report all talks about deteriorating law and order situation in North Cachar Hills which included kidnapping of engineers and workers. 


When the project was finally completed in 2015, it was a new lifeline for the people here. It also allowed connectivity to other northeastern states like Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura. The rivers are all dried up now as its December, but come monsoon, all the rivers and drains you see along the track, will be gushing with water. The train tracks are hardly ever in a straight line here, expect at most stations. The bridges are also curved here. A combination of amazing engineering work combined with beautiful view of the hills and mountains of the valley. Some facts! The track climbs mountains, goes over 79 major and 340 minor bridges and crosses 21 tunnels. This means, at an average, every 500 meters you would go though a bridge or a tunnel. The longest tunnel is 3,235 meters, while the tallest bridge over the river Doyang is at 54 meters tall. There are a total of 30 stations in the Silchar–Lumding section. All these rock structures you see are to prevent landslides during the rainy season. 





The train in this section deploys two diesel locomotives, one at the front and one at the back.The beauty of this train journey is that you can almost always see the front or the the rear of the train from your window anytime. Where else is there such a train journey in this world? Tunnel no 9 is the longest tunnel. It is 3235 meters long. It took around 8 years to build this tunnel. As soon as we get out of this tunnel, we reach an important station called New Haflong. The tracks are curved so much even inside the tunnel, then it really needs to crawl to reach the station. As you see, a part of the train has reached the station, but its tail is still yet to come out fully from the mountain.

Also Read: Best Places to Visit in North East India




Near by Places

Halflong is a beautiful and the only hill station in Assam. All trains stop at this station. People get down here for food. Local villagers get a lot of fruits from the hills. You will always find some exotic fruit here that you dont find in big cities. Here the train whistles twice before starting, so that everyone boards the train. You dont want to miss your train here. The mountains you see are part of Barak Valley till Halflong. From Halflong, we enter the what is known as North Cachar Hills or NC Hills or Dimasa Hills of Dima Hasao district. Its is one of the least populous district of Assam, but inhabited by more than 40 different tribes. Look up wikipedia for Dima Hasao district to learn about the amazing cultural diversity in this small district. Exiting tunnel number 8 is very slow as the track shapes up like a double S curve. You can hear the steel wheels and rails making cranking noises as the train tries to negotiate. And then there is tunnel 7 and 6 which are so close to each other that the train is in both of them at the same time. Passing through tunnels was the most fun part.




The train section from Phiding to a station called Daotuhaja is very special. Houses in this part of the world have walls made of bamboo and tin roofs. We soon arrive at a town called Maibang which is also the name of a major river in this region. The river is dried up in this season. As I crossed tunnel number two, I came across a bridge immediately over Boila river. Just imagine the terrain we are passing by. This video clip happens to be the best clip of my trip. What you are seeing right now is a tunnel, a major bridge, and forest fire, all in a single clip. I hope this is controlled forest fire by the locals for some specific reason.


Also Read: India is The Home To Asia's Cleanest Village - Mawlynnong

Ending

 Finally we cross tunnel #1 signifying the end of the mountainous region. After we cross Langting station, the train starts to pick up speed as the track is fairly straight as all train tracks are supposed to be. My day comes to an end and so does this journey. Northeast India is an unexplored paradise and is a must place to visit in your lifetime. This video only attempts to offer a very small perspective of what is there for you to travel and explore.

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