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Relics of a bygone era wither away

Jabir Mushthari
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Needs a relook:A well and the remnants of a century-old pump set, which was once used for pumping water to the steam locomotive of Railways, in a neglected state near the West Hill railway station in Kozhikode. —Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup
Needs a relook:A well and the remnants of a century-old pump set, which was once used for pumping water to the steam locomotive of Railways, in a neglected state near the West Hill railway station in Kozhikode. —Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

It looks like any other abandoned well in a desolate compound. Nearly 300 metres north of the West Hill railway station in the city, along the western side of the railway track, surrounded by huge trees and undergrowth is an incredibly wide well that has been forsaken for ages.

A closer look reveals something unusual – remnants of a discarded pump-set fixed on a heavy concrete slab attached to a weighty iron framework that apparently has been rusting for the past several decades.

The vague iron-cast letters on the device read Campbell Halifax England. Obviously, it had been imported from the U.K. well over a century ago. The fact that the well and the pump-set are on railway land near a railway station indicates that they are railway property.

Sources said the well and the pumping device belonged to a bygone era when Indian railways used steam locomotives for transportation of goods and passengers.

Two wells

“It is one of the two wells in the region from which the railways used to pump water required to produce steam in the locomotives,” K.S. Rajesh, secretary of the Railway Institute, Kozhikode, said. The other one is at Chaliyam, near Feroke, in a similar condition, he said.Railways in India are well above a century old. The railway history recorded in the almanac of the British administration showed that railway came to Kozhikode on January 2, 1888.

Even as the Railway authorities go ahead with the preparations for the 125th anniversary of the historic event in January, an important relic and site of railway history is facing neglect.

The exceptionally large well is full of metres-deep putrid water, plastic covers, bottles, and dried leaves. The two-ft thick boundary wall around the well is broken in many places, with the roots of ficus trees and other plants weaving their way around it. The imported pump-set and the supporting equipment are just rotting away.

Exhibition

Railway sources said an exhibition of records and artefacts related to the history of Indian Railways in Malabar was being planned in connection with the 125th anniversary of the Kozhikode station in March next year.

“We will see if these artefacts can be included in the exhibition among other things,” Mr. Rajesh said.

Jabir Mushthari

A well and an imported pump-set on railway land at West Hill station are lying abandoned.

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