Reviving reminiscences of Cochin State Forest Tramway in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve

Reviving memories of Cochin State Forest Tramway in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve

2021-04-29 17:26:24

A brief movie clip reveals the Cochin State Forest Tramway in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve making it manner by way of the Western Ghat forest with lumber. Thought-about an engineering marvel, it linked Chalakudy and Chinnar

On this area of heavy rainfall and humid environment, massive portions of teakwood, rosewood and ebony are discovered. Forest tramways constructed for lumber and passenger transport carry the produce of the forest to the advertising and marketing centres. That is the one tramway of its form in India, a marvel of engineering. Elephants, tigers leopards, cheetahs, wild boar and what have you ever… they’re all present in these forests…..”

Lumber being transported on the Cochin State Forest Tramway that once ran through the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and connected Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was built for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi

Lumber being transported on the Cochin State Forest Tramway that when ran by way of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and linked Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was constructed for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi
 
| Picture Credit score:
Courtesy Devan Varma

Thus goes the commentary in a clipped British accent, describing visuals of a black-and-white brief made within the mid-Nineteen Forties for a newsreel, Indian Information Parade, then screened in cinemas earlier than the movie.

It’s maybe the one present movie on the well-known Cochin State Forest Tramway that when ran throughout Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in Kerala, part of the Nelliampathy-Anamalai sub unit of the Western Ghats, surrounded by forests in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Vintage photograph of the Kavalai incline, one of the five inclines of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that once ran through the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and connected Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was built for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi

Classic {photograph} of the Kavalai incline, one of many 5 inclines of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that when ran by way of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and linked Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was constructed for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi
 
| Picture Credit score:
Particular association

The tramway has come into discover once more after award-winning wildlife photographer and filmmaker Suresh Elamon was given the hyperlink to the reel by railway historian Devan Varma, whereas he was making a movie on the Reserve.

“Though the station for the loading level at Chinnar and a significant a part of the almost 80-kilometre line was submerged within the Sixties when the Parambikulam Dam was accomplished, many crumbling bridges, culverts and elements of the observe nonetheless exist,” says Suresh. “The Parambikulam Tiger Reserve got here into existence in 2010, however the Forest Division used to conduct Tramway Trek, a two-day guided stroll until 2013. As the world grew to become the core of the tiger reserve, forest officers wished to make sure that the world remained undisturbed with out changing into a vacationer path.” Now, solely forest officers and personnel have permission to entry the world, says Suresh.

Tehmina standing on the footboard of the VIP salon was clicked by her husband, eminent birder Salim Ali. The salon was a part of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that once ran through the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and connected Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was built for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi

Tehmina standing on the footboard of the VIP salon was clicked by her husband, eminent birder Salim Ali. The salon was part of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that when ran by way of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and linked Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was constructed for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi
 
| Picture Credit score:
Particular association

Monitoring the origins of the tramway leads one to the story of logging, on this verdant area of the Western Ghats. Within the nineteenth Century British officers observed the presence of considerable teak within the forests. Realising the business worth of this treasure trove in lumber-starved Britain, they started exploiting the forests to construct railways and ships.

The origin story

Nevertheless, transportation of the lumber from the deep forest to close by ports was an arduous job. In these days, the lumber was reduce and slipped down into waterbodies from High Slip within the Anamalai vary. In reality, High Slip derived its title from this ‘slipping down’ of giant logs of wooden. Nevertheless, the river may play truant when it was not in full move. A reliable technique needed to be put in place for the transportation of the lumber.

A big iron bridge at Punnakuzhy is in perfect condition even today. It is on the way to Anapandam tribal colony from Vellikulangara, off Chalakudy. It was part of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that once ran through the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and connected Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was built for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi

A giant iron bridge at Punnakuzhy is in good situation even as we speak. It’s on the best way to Anapandam tribal colony from Vellikulangara, off Chalakudy. It was a part of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that when ran by way of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and linked Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was constructed for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi
 
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Particular association

On the suggestion of JC Kolhoff, the primary Conservator of Forests, Cochin, Rama Varma XV, ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Cochin, employed British consultants to put the muse of the tramway. Alwar Chetty, a Forest Officer from Madras appointed as particular advisor to Rama Varma XV, carried out the tramway beneath his watch.

“A British Forest Officer, F Foulkes, got here on particular obligation in 1897 as particular advisor to the Maharaja, to check the forest within the area involved. Work on the tramway started in 1901,” says Devan Varma. “Haldwell, a British forest engineer trekked the deep forests, studied the feasibility of a tramway and drew up the alignment for the tramway. In 1901, RE Hafffield, a British tramway knowledgeable, was appointed by the Cochin Maharaja. With the assistance of the tribal individuals, particularly the Kadar, they cleared the forest, laid the tracks, carried the gear and made the tramway a actuality. On October 3, 1905, the tramway was inaugurated by the then Madras Governor Sir Arthur Oliver Villiers Russeli,” recounts Devan Varma.

Bridge over Karappara river on the route of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that once ran through the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and connected Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was built for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi

Bridge over Karappara river on the route of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that when ran by way of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and linked Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was constructed for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi
 
| Picture Credit score:
Courtesy: Devan Varma

The tramway had 254 bridges and culverts, 5 units of inclines, 70 wagons and saloons. To maintain it operating, there have been stations, telephones, cottages for employees and dispensaries arrange on this tough terrain that started from Chinnar at 2,500 metres above sea stage and got here right down to Chalakudy in Thrissur at about 56 metres altitude. Wooden was burnt to gas the engine.

The wealthy produce of the forests was dropped at Chalakudy and from there to the port in Kochi. Varma explains that the tramway considerably elevated the income of the Cochin kingdom and was used for the event of the Cochin harbour that’s now the hub of business actions in Kerala.

Punnakuzhy bridge over Muply river, part of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that once ran through the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and connected Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was built for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi

Punnakuzhy bridge over Muply river, a part of The Cochin State Forest Tramway that when ran by way of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and linked Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was constructed for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi
 
| Picture Credit score:
Particular association

Within the late Twenties, the tramway fell into disuse; it was not a worthwhile enterprise. It was dismantled in 1963. The movie reveals the legacy of the 56-year-old tramway in transporting enormous logs of timber by way of the verdant forest.

The Kadar, Muthuvar, Malasar and Mala Malasar are a few of the indigenous tribal individuals on this area of the Western Ghats. It was predominantly members of the Kadar tribe who had labored on clearing the forest and carrying the gear for the tramway.

Ponnukutty, a member of the Kadar tribe residing at Kuriarkutty, remembers travelling within the tramway as her household had been working with it. “I dropped out from college after three years. As a woman of eight or 9, we used to go together with our elders to the forest to gather turmeric, honey, cane, cardamom and so forth. The forest produce was given to a mattakada (barter store) in our settlement. In flip, we got rice, provisions, garments and so on from the identical store. From the gathering centre, forest produce was taken on the tramway to the market in Chalakudy. Many in our tribe got employment on the tramway and the forest division. A few of us nonetheless draw the pension that they got,” says the septugenarian.

As a child, Ponnukutty of Kuriarkutty used to travel on the Cochin State Forest Tramway that once ran through the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and connected Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was built for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi

As a baby, Ponnukutty of Kuriarkutty used to journey on the Cochin State Forest Tramway that when ran by way of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and linked Chalakudy and Chinnar. It was constructed for the transportation of lumber and passengers by Rama Varma XV, ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Kochi
 
| Picture Credit score:
Particular association

Suresh says that when birder Salim Ali got here to erstwhile Travancore for the primary Travancore Chook Survey in 1933, he travelled to Parambikulam in a VIP carriage within the tramway together with his spouse, Tehmina. They stayed in a cottage at Kuriarkutty. There’s a {photograph} of Tehmina on the footboard of the tram, taken by Salim Ali. There are additionally descriptive accounts of his journeys aboard the tramway and the picturesque surroundings it traversed.

“Your entire area abounds in tales in regards to the early British planters entrepreneurs, the tribespeople and the engineers and labourers who constructed the tramway and maintained it,” Suresh says.

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