By Sujit Chakraborty
Itanagar/Guwahati, Aug 15 (IANS) To attract tourists, northeast India’s second Toy Train service after eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district would be introduced in the picturesque town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on the international borders with China and Bhutan, top officials said on Friday.
A senior official of Arunachal Pradesh government said that Chief Minister Pema Khandu, while meeting the officials of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) led by its General Manager Anshul Gupta on Thursday, gave his nod to the proposal of the NFR to launch the ‘Toy Train Project’ in Tawang in western Arunachal Pradesh.
Gupta told the Chief Minister that the project envisages a tourist-centric Toy Train service in and around Tawang that would include a park with facilities like food courts and craft bazaar, among other amenities.
The Toy Train would have at least three bogies carrying 12 passengers each.
A team of NFR officials and engineers is set to visit Tawang next week for a joint survey and finalisation of the project with the Tawang district administration.
“Gupta has assured that once everything is settled, NFR would complete the project within six months,” an official from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) told IANS.
The NFR is already in the process of constructing a broad-gauge railway line from Bhalukpong in the foothills to Tawang, covering a distance of 378 km reaching a height of 10,000 ft, of which about 80 per cent will pass through tunnels.
Tawang houses India’s largest Buddhist monastery, which was founded with the help of the local people by Mera Lama Lodre Gyatso in late 1681.
The NFR’s Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO), Subhanan Chanda, said that the entire cost of Rs 4 crore for the Toy Train Project would be borne by the state government and the Railways would lay 400 to 500 metre new railway track for introducing the service in Tawang, which is situated at a height of 3,500-metre from the sea level on the mountainous range of northern Himalayas.
“The Toy Train service would be the second of its kind in northeast India after the facility operational for many years in the Railway Heritage Park-cum-Museum in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district. The museum also seeks to promote and preserve the rich heritage of Indian railways,” Chanda told IANS.
Tinsukia’s Railway Heritage Park-cum-Museum includes centuries-old trains ranging from Britain-built original turntable manufactured in 1892, and railway wheels used by the US Army during the Second World War, among others.
The NFR, which has already connected Guwahati (adjoining capital Dispur), Tripura and Itanagar, is laying tracks to connect the capital cities of three more northeastern states — Imphal, Aizawl and Kohima — by 2023-24.
The NFR, one among the 17 railway zones in India, operates fully and partially in six of the eight northeastern states, excluding Meghalaya and Sikkim, along with seven districts of West Bengal and five in north Bihar.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Sujit Chakraborty