Tinsukia: Do you know what was the first railway station set up during the 18th century in the Northeast? Well, many of you might not be able to answer that. The story of the station dates back to 1888. By this time, the British had already begun tea cultivation in Assam. Many tea gardens were set up in the then undivided Dibrugarh district and to export the tea to the rest of the world there was a need for an effective transportation network. So to grow the tea trade, the British built Assam and Northeast’s first railway station, Dangari in the Sadiya region, 60 kilometers from Tinsukia.
Apart from Dangari, some other stations like Sadiya, Saikhowa, Talap, and Doom Dooma were also built in subsequent times to facilitate the export of tea from the state via the rail network.
Iconic steam engines namely Jayamati, Gadapani, and Lachit Borphukan were used to carry the goods as well as hundreds of passengers travelled daily from Dibrugarh to Sadiya. However, rail lines were meter gauge. There were three to four engines but most of the trains were freight. With only one passenger train, the passenger rush was on the higher side.
Even after independence, the Sadiya region continued to play a significant role in India’s growing tea business. However, the earthquake of 1950 changed the geography of Assam. As a result of the major earthquake, the range of the Brahmaputra River between Dhala and Sadiya was expanded and the railway stations of Sadiya and Saikhowa were submerged in water. Two railway stations were inundated. Only Dangari railway station remained unscathed.
All was going well fine till 1960 but gradually the meter gauge lines were replaced by broad gauge and the railway stopped running trains on the said route citing losses as the reason. The engines named Gadapani, Jayamati, and Lachit Borphukan, installed by the British, were taken to different places. The steam engine named Jayamati is still beautifully decorated at the Heritage Park in New Tinsukia to keep the memories alive. Similarly, another engine has been installed at the Dinjan Army camp.
In recent years, after continuous protests from several organisations, student bodies and the public, a demo train was run by the NFR from Dangari to Makum junction. But the train that starts from Dangari daily at 4 am in the morning and returns back at pm in the night has not been able to provide effective service to the passengers.