I wish I had taken these first two images. Not only because they are great photos, but mainly because it would mean that Nepal’s only train station — here in Janakpur — was still open. The photographer is unknown to me, but kudos to him/her and I hope s/he doesn’t mind me using the photos. They were shared with me by the hotel manager at the place where we stayed. He wanted to show me what the station looked like when it was last open, which was just over a year ago.
The reason for its closure was veiled in the usual confusion of partial information: management problems, money problems, and plans to connect the line with the train line on the other side of the Indian border. Which…by the way… it may also be already connected to. No one was very clear on that either. Chances are it stopped on one side of the border, but it didn’t connect over completely. But I think a unified Nepalese/Indian connection is now on the cards.
It was the only train line in Nepal, and perhaps the only still functioning, original steam train in the world. The word is that it will reopen soon, but not as a steam train unfortunately. That blast from the past won’t be heard again at Janakpur station.
I’m told the old steam train traveled so slowly that you could jump off and walk beside it. Which, of course, helps explain the bravado of the roof and door riders. Not so scary when its not traveling at sixty miles an hour.
Today the images are quite different. The train sits permanently in front of the station, like it might actually be leaving some time soon. And outside the station, there’s still a bunch of rickshaw drivers waiting to pick up a ride like no-one actually told them there trains had stopped. (I guess old habits die hard.)
But the station’s closing doesn’t seem to have had too much impact on its visitors. The station and track were teeming with life. We walked a ways along the track with many others who were using it as a road to work or school. There were bikes, vendors, customers and garbage a plenty. Life was going on as normal, just without the functioning train.