After over 140 years, heritage track of Holkars bids adieu -

The vintage metre gauge railway track between Mhow and Omkareshwar will no longer have trains plying on it, an official said on Tuesday. It will be replaced with a broad gauge line built at a cost of 2,400 crore.

There were emotional scenes during the last journey of the train from Omkareshwar to Dr Ambedkar Nagar on the outskirts of Indore on Tuesday on the 145-year-old track built by the British after the reigning Holkar king provided a loan of 1 crore.

“The train used to salute Tantya Bhil in Patalpani. It was the only means of transport for tribal people,” said Suresh Paul, a former railways employee. “I worked at Badwah railway station for 30 years and have many memories. This historic train earlier had a steam engine that used to get stuck on the slopes. Later, a diesel engine was fitted.”

The track connected several remote villages in the Vindhya hills with Indore, the erstwhile capital of the Holkars, and helped in the economic development of the princely state during colonial times. The train on the metre gauge line covered 59 km in 2.30 hours, passing through six small towns and villages, including Patalpani.

“This train was very important from the economic point of view. We used to transport goods at no extra cost on the train,” said Ramesh Bhil, a Patalpani resident. “The special namkeen of Badwah became popular in the entire region due to cheap transportation through this train.”

“The Holkar Maharaj wanted to connect the city with the rest of India by rail for economic prosperity of the region. There was a British monopoly on the railways in the whole country. Holkar Maharaja requested the then British government to connect Indore city with Khandwa and Rajputana by rail,” said Nagesh Namjoshi, an Indore-based historian. “On his request, a proposed railway line was discussed in 1863 but got delayed due to the high hills of Vindhyachal and Narmada river.”

According to records of at Ratlam Railway division, Maharaja Tukoji Rao II (check) Holkar in 1870 offered a loan of 1 crore for the construction of a railway line to his capital city. “A quick survey was done and Khandwa was chosen as the junction point. The alignment was to pass through Sanawad, Kheree Ghat on the Narmada and then through Choral Valley up to the slopes of the Vindhyas to Indore,” the records state. “Maharaja Holkar’s contribution accelerated the construction of rail-lines in Malwa region.”

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“The Holkar Railway required very heavy works due to very steep gradients on the Vindhya Ghats. It also involved digging of four tunnels aggregating 10 yards in length, deep cuttings and heavy retaining walls. A bridge was constructed over river Narmada. There are 14 other large bridges with high piers, the highest pier being 152 feet above the bottom of the ravine. But the track was finally laid down in 1877 and train started in 1878,” it read.

“The survey of Mhow-Khandwa rail track started in 1996 and was approved in 2008. The broad gauge line will be laid at the cost of 2,400 crore. After the construction of the new track, the north-south states will get connected directly to Indore,” said Dharmraj Meena, public relations officer, Ratlam division.

By Rahul

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