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Through the Ilrai [sic for Terai] by D.H.R. [Darjeeling Hill Railway]

Through the Ilrai [sic for Terai] by D.H.R. [Darjeeling Hill Railway]

Photographer: Bourne and Shepherd

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1880

Shelfmark: Photo 752/15(49)

Item number: 7521549

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the Darjeeling Hill Railway in West Bengal, India, from the Macnabb Collection, taken by Bourne & Shepherd in c.1880. Samuel Bourne and Charles Shepherd established their firm in Simla in 1863 and became the most successful photographic firm on the subcontinent. Bourne was known for his topographical views taken during three expeditions to Kashmir and the Himalayas. Darjeeling, a hill-station in the Eastern Himalayas in West Bengal was the chief summer resort for the British government in Bengal, as well as the centre of a celebrated tea-growing district. Work began on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, one of the most precipitous lines in the world, in 1879 and was completed in 1881. The line was founded by an agent of the Eastern railway, Franklyn Prestage, and climbs up the mountain for 88 km (55 miles) stopping at 14 stations. The tracks follow a number of sharp curves, reverses and loops to negotiate the mountainous terrain. This however is a view of the line’s more tranquil passage through forest in the Tarai, a region of Darjeeling described by the Imperial Gazetteer of India as follows: “The District contains two distinct tracts: the ridges and deep valleys of the Lower Himalayas, and the tarai or level country at their base. The elevation of the latter is only 300 feet above sea-level; and the mountains tower abruptly from the Physical plains in spurs reaching to 6,000 and 10,000 feet, many aspects of them densely clothed with forest to their summits…The tarai was formerly overgrown with dense malarious jungle… but it has now been extensively cleared for settled tillage and for tea gardens.”

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