The International Steam Pages
Real Steam in India 2004 - Riga Sugar Factory
Click below for other reports from my trip to India:
Thanks for what is contained here are primarily due to Ashok Sharma of Special Tours of India, email@example.com (Fax ++ 91-11-25512-816 if no reply), who made arrangements for all the visits and accompanied me on this Bihar and Uttar Pradesh sections. Click here for more information.
We caught the afternoon public bus from Tipong to Tinsukia and boarded the overnight train to Guwahati. The train was more than two hours late so we only just made our flight to Patna. Here Ashok Sharma was waiting with a taxi which we used for the next few days. The roads in this area are truly appalling, as is the standard of driving, and although we had only 135km to travel to get to Sitamadhi it was well after dark before we arrived. Next morning we went on to Riga Sugar Mill when we spent the next two nights in their Guest House. As always seems to be the case in India, the facilities were a little tired, but the hospitality was absolutely overwhelming. I had hoped that the mill itself would still have some stationary steam engines, but in fact it was completely modernised. Of course the reason we had come was to see the metre gauge Hudswell Clarke 0-8-0ST in action. It is not used daily any longer (they have a small old Hunslet diesel) because the metre gauge railway is now isolated and the cost of coal has soared. Some idea of the environment of the sugar mill can be gauged from the sign below:
If at all, the loco will normally be used on the 00.00 to 08.00 shift, taking empty cane wagons to the nearby station and returning with fresh full ones, often finishing work before dawn. By arrangement, this was delayed so we could see the loco at work. This was the scene at Riga station just after dawn.
The mill area is crowded with bullock carts and trucks waiting to deliver their cane, on this occasion, a mill breakdown made it more congested than normal:
It was nice to see both original worksplates on the loco:
Here the train approaches the mill, running past a line of hundreds of waiting bullock carts:
Finally, clambering on a bullock cart provided a bird's eye view of the train passing slowly over the weigh bridge.
Staying at the mill provided an amazing cultural experience. This is not the kind of visit which would provide a rewarding experience for a large tour group, but for us it was an amazing insight into a way of life in an area where by and large time stands still at sometime in the early nineteenth (or earlier) century. Much film was expended recording it....
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson