The Shepherd With out Whom the British Couldn’t Have Constructed the Kalka-Shimla Railways

Millions of travellers use the Indian Railways each day. Traversing tunnels, bridges and a few actually gorgeous terrains, its quite a few routes span the size and breadth of India. However maybe no a part of the system is extra spectacular than the tracks that introduced rail service to remoted communities within the rugged Himalayas.

Do you know that the narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla Railway has the steepest incline or that it delves by 102 tunnels, the most important of which is over 1,000 metres lengthy? The UNESCO heritage toy practice additionally crosses 864 bridges and viaducts whereas chugging by forests of maple, deodar and pine.

And but few Indians know in regards to the man who’s believed to have performed a pivotal function in constructing this excellent feat of engineering. We’re speaking about Bhalku Ram, a shepherd whose steerage helped the British lay the Kalka-Shimla railway monitor.

The Baba Bhalku Rail Museum arrange by the Northern Railways in Shimla is called after him.

Statue of Baba Bhalku on the Shimla Railway Station
Picture Supply: Wikimedia Commons

The sunshine on the finish of the tunnel

Bhalku Ram’s story begins in 1903 when the Shimla-Kalka railway monitor was being laid beneath the supervision of Colonel S Barog, a British engineer. To create the longest tunnel on the route, Barog acquired his crew to start digging from each ends solely to search out that he had made a gross error in calculating the alignment.

His mistake attracted a pointy reprimand and a high-quality of Re 1 from the British authorities for losing their time and assets. Col. Barog felt so humiliated that he dedicated suicide.

Locals consider that the engineer was buried someplace close to the unfinished tunnel, which might nonetheless be seen a couple of kilometre away from the finished one.
Col. Barog with his teamCol Barog and his crew
Picture Supply: Mysterious Himachal

His successor, Chief Engineer HS Harrington, confronted the identical downside. That’s when Bhalku Ram, a humble shepherd from Jhajha village close to Chail, provided to assist Harrington construct the tunnel.

There aren’t any information obtainable on whether or not Harrington discovered Bhalku first or vice versa. However what’s well-known is that Bhalku joined the British crew of engineers and shortly grew to become an important man in it.

Legend has it that ‘Baba Bhalku’—as he was referred to as by locals, respectfully—would faucet the partitions of the mountain along with his stable picket workers. Listening to the sounds produced, he would then mark out factors for Harrington’s crew to dig.

Beneath his steerage, the British lastly managed to finish the 1143.61-metre-long tunnel which is right this moment referred to as the Barog tunnel (no 33). For sure, Bhalku and his extraordinary expertise have been then employed to construct the remainder of the tunnels on this route.

Tunnel No 33 on the Barog Railway Station
Picture Supply: Mysterious Himachal

For his efforts, the British Viceroy offered Bhalku Ram with a medal and turban which might be nonetheless treasured by his household. It is usually mentioned that after the completion of the Kalka-Shimla monitor in 1903, Bhalku went on a pilgrimage, from which he by no means returned.

Curiously, there are a number of plaques in Shimla’s Baba Bhalku Rail Museum, wherein glowing testimonials have been poured on ‘Balkoo’ by British officers.

Right here’s one by Lieutenant Colonel H Moore, dated October 17, 1875:

“All I can say is that I’ve recognized Balkoo for the final 14 years; that he’s not solely a superb public servant however a extremely esteemed and glorious man, whose charity and benevolence is thought all through the hills to all.”

One other testimonial issued by Main RM Lang in 1875 says, “He has an instinctive aptitude for selecting the right line for a street throughout the precipitous nation.” Whereas Deputy Commissioner of Hill States, WM Hay, wrote, “I must be sorry to go away the Simla hills with out giving my buddy Balkoo just a few strains testifying to his values as a authorities servant. A most indefatigably industrious, single-minded, and trustworthy man.”

So, the following time you go to Shimla, drop in on the Baba Bhalku Rail Museum and pay your respects to the forgotten shepherd who helped construct one in all India’s most difficult railway tasks.

Learn Extra: Konkan Railway: An Unbelievable but Little Recognized Indian Success Story

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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