Barog trip report
by Vikas Singh
Photos from this trip can be found here: Barog Trip Photos
We reached Kalka station by the Howrah-Kalka Mail sharp at 4.55 am. The Shivalik Deluxe at 0530 has bookings for Shimla only. Even if one has to disembark enroute he has to pay the full fare. So we had settled down for the 0600 hrs. Kalka-Shimla mail. The FC has already been fully booked. Being a veteran on this route, we rushed straight from the station to NG platform. Most of the seats were already occupied, full one hour before departure! We were lucky to find vacant seats on the right side. Incidentally, this side offers most panoramic view of the route.
We reached Barog 25 minutes behind schedule at 0835 hrs. Railways does not accept advance booking for the Shivalik cottage but I had managed to convince the stationmaster on phone, a week back to keep it vacant for us. I later came to know that no one had occupied the cottage since last October. For a cottage that had largely remained vacant, it was pretty well maintained. The cottage has one big room, an attached kitchen and a toilet. Servant quarter attached to the cottage is in shambles. The room offers a very good view of the hills and from the lawns one can see the NG line meandering away. A list hanged in kitchen talked about the kitchen being fully equipped with a gas stove and cutlery. But save a foul smelling jug, we could not discover anything. The room has a battery-operated telephone connected straight to the restaurant below, but this again was not working. The only disadvantage being that one has to walk down the cottage and then climb up to the restaurant.
The most important attraction of this station is the 1.2 km long Barog tunnel. The original engineer, Mr. Barog failed to align the old tunnel and committed suicide in shame after British Government imposed a fine of Re.1 on him. After that Engineer H.S.Harington with aid of local sadhu, Bhalku designed the new tunnel!! The tunnel was constructed between 1900 and 1903 at cost of Rs.8.5 lacs. A trek thru this tunnel had been planned. The whole tunnel is in a straight line and standing at one end, the other end is clearly visible. The tunnel looks pretty well lighted with sunlight from outside, but once inside 300 meters from entrance, we were in pitch darkness. Every few meters there is cut in the tunnel to enable gagman to stand incase the train comes. These seemed to have been taken over by bats. Luckily we had a torch with us. Around 200 mts from the end, we heard the sound of train approaching. We had been told that the train was not due for another hour. It was the train carrying ballast and bricks. The engine could be seen from the entrance of tunnel. Looking at one-hour interval, we had ventured inside. Now perhaps the work was over and the train had started. Being inexperienced we started running, waving the torch frantically. Luckily the train did not start. Only when we reached the other end, did we realize that we could have taken refuge in one of the side cuts. It was truly a memorable experience! The journey back was in rail car, which had stopped near the tunnel due to the main line being occupied by this ballast carrying train.
Though almost everyone talked about the old tunnel, nobody knew it's whereabouts. Luckily for us there was a local guy who said that his son knew the route. Next day after a quick breakfast we started for the old tunnel. After an hour trek thru the forest we finally came across the famed old tunnel. The tunnel itself is in very bad shape. A rickety iron gate has been placed at the entrance but the lock has long disappeared. The cave is now used to store water. Being pitch dark inside we could not see inside. Mr. Barog's grave, near the entrance has also disappeared. We had at least the satisfaction of having seen the old tunnel. After a few quick photo session we headed back.
It was one of the most memorable weekend trips we have ever had. A quaint little station away from the wild and loud crowd so common in the hill stations now a days. A full-fledged badminton court exists where we played a few games. The other attractions are a natural fountain and a green house. We spent some time with the stationmaster who shared with us his experiences. His cabin has a fireplace, which is still lighted up in winters. Sitting at the station watching trains come and leave was an experience in itself. The station is very lifeless till a few minutes from arrival of a train. People would suddenly appear at the food stall, counters would be set up with foodstuff nicely displayed. The chole bhature wallah would start the fire; the chai wallah and soup wallah would appear with their cans. Then the train would arrive and there is quite a crowd on the station. After a ten-minute halt the train would leave and within minutes everything would disappear and station would be very quiet.
One notable feature of the station is that the entire supply of water is sourced from the water that seeps from the walls of the tunnel. It is collected in a tank. After the tank is full, water is pumped up to a bigger tank, which supplies water to the whole station. A mixed rake comes at 1130 hrs with two big sintex tanks. Water is filled in these tanks. This water is later supplied to other stations between Baroga and Kalka.
All good things must come to an end. And so had to this trip. We left by Himalayan Queen and arrived at Delhi by the BG version of the same train.
A trip with night stay at Barog is highly recommended for all those who want to get a flavor of life in a NG station. Anyone interested can get in touch with me for details.