Even though the Cochin State Forest Tramway may never whistle through dense forests on its way from Chalakudy Parambikulam on its metre-gauge rail line, history enthusiasts may be able to see its relics and peep into the history and heritage of the erstwhile engineering marvel.
The state Archaeology Department have initiated steps to protect the remains of the tramway, which is now in a state of ruin. As part of the initiative, ASI officials paid a visit to Chalakudy the other day and examined documents, documentaries and other information on the tramway.
Though the 79.5 km long tramway has become part of history now, its remnants - broken iron bridges, semi-rusted wagons, rail trails, wheels, workshops, water tanks, wells etc - are still at the tramway regional workshop in Chalakudy and parts of Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary.
An ASI delegation, which visited the Chalakudy workshop, said that the department requires the approval of both the state and Central governments to set up a heritage museum to protect the remains of the tramway. “Hence, the department has decided to prepare a detailed project report and submit it to the government,” said the delegation, led by ASI director J Rejikumar.
Besides, the department will hold a high-level meeting in February with the ministers and heads of the irrigation, forest, tourism and cultural affairs departments and other experts to discuss the project, they said.
The Cochin State Forest Tramway, which snaked through the Western Ghats, was set up in 1905 by the erstwhile Maharaja of Cochin, Ramavarma Raja, to tap forest resources.
The tramway was inaugurated by the then Governor of Madras, Sir Arthur Oliver Villiers Russell, on October 3, 1905.
The meter-gauge lines were used to transport timber from Parambikulam forests to Chalakudy, from where crores of worth of timber, such as teak and rosewood, was exported to many continents, transforming Cochin into a major commercial harbour and trade-hub.
The tramway, that went through lush green forests, crossing many streams and rivulets, was decommissioned in 1963 on the basis of a finance committee report, after successfully operations for nearly 58 years.
The tramway, conceived by the British and constructed using British and German technology, was a remarkable achievement.
According to officials who took part in a meeting held at the PWD rest house at Chalakudy, many families residing in the area had originally settled there as part of the tram project. B D Devassy MLA, Archaeology Department director Rejikumar, engineer V S Satheesh, DFO Anjan Kumar and municipal chairman V O Pylappan participated in the discussion.