Pradip Kundu, CoochBehar: The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) has once again revived an important part of its history, by resuming commercial use of its unique freight wagons in the section. Only eight freight stocks including three flat bedded wagons are remaining over DHR section which could be restored to running condition.
These small 4-wheeled narrow gauge goods vans were built in hundreds from the 1920s to the 1940s and carried the majority of the DHR freight traffic until freight traffic dried up in the 1990s following development of roads. They would have been used for most types of general traffic but particularly rice and other foodstuffs to Darjeeling and tea towards Siliguri. Some were also used as baggage vans on passenger trains. Although the DHR is nowadays solely a passenger railway, it was originally built primarily for goods which formed an important source of income until the 1970s. The last freight wagons operated on DHR was in 1991.
During the year 2015-16 five 4-wheeled freight stocks & two flat bedded wagons have been restored by DHR Tindharia C&W team under supervision of Director DHR to its running condition with its original design. These wagons were otherwise stabled in abandoned DHR sidings in very poor condition. One restored flat wagon was exclusively used during December – January 2016 to attract both domestic & foreign tourists and to create huge publicity during a festval organized by local administration.
Recently, these 4-wheeled steel wagons hauled by steam locos were chartered by some German tourists for three days from 22nd November to 24th November to run between Siliguri and Gayabari exclusively for publicity and awareness. This had been possible because of the innovative efforts of DHR to restore & revive its heritage assets. It also gives examples of commitment on part of DHR in proactively conserving the unique character of this UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site.