Kerala-TN heritage rail comes to halt

Kerala-TN heritage rail comes to halt

Kerala-TN heritage rail comes to halt

Built at the turn of the last century during the reign of Travancore king Sree Moolam Tirunal with the expertise of British engineers, the track had served as a vital commercial and cultural link between southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The line is being closed down for conversion into broad-gauge. Its Kollam-Punalur stretch was wound up in 2007 where the conversion work is already on. The Railways now plan to open the new line in another two years.

The 70-km long track, whose work began in 1902 and opened in 1904, has several arch-bridges, culvert and tunnels as it cut through verdant uplands, including Kerala’s eco-tourism hub Thenmala.

The terrain is criss-crossed by small rivers, streams and rivulets, making it a tourist attraction as well.

For decades, the line was the major rail link between Kerala’s capital and Madras (Chennai), which was then the headquarters of South India.

The track also served as a commercial and cultural bridge between the two states as it was through it that the traders conducted the two-way commerce.

It was also by the trains running through the line that people went for visiting grand Tamil temples in Madurai, Palani, Chidambaram and Tanjore as well as Christian and Muslim pilgrim centres like the Velankanni Shrine Basilica and Nagur Dargah. Till the last day, the signal system installed by the British engineers had been maintained along the track.

Many train buffs have  reached Punalur to enjoy the last journey along the metre-gauge track before it becomes part of nostalgia.

According to Railway sources, some of the old train engines and components of the signal system will be preserved in the Railway Museum.