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Running on Time

Running on Time

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Published by: Nancy on Oct 31, 2012
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12/04/2012

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An elephan:l can be a locomo:live and
a
:tiger some:limes s:lopped a :lrain.
Running on Tim e
In a T im e le s s L a n d
by BOYD SINCLAIR
(Copyright 1950)
CREW JIE:~IBERS of "The GeneralPick" take time out for saudwlcheswhile waiting for northbound trainat Sahmaw, Burma.
A
MERICANS swarmed up- and downrailways over India, Burma andChina, American military railway officersand enlisted men assisting the Armytraveler; they put jeepsinto service for locomo-tive power; and inNortheast India tackledthe big job of takingover and running mostof the Bengal and As-sam Railway.The B&A runs upthrough Bengal fromCalcutta into Upper As-sam where Assam bor-ders on Burma. Acrossit runs the Brahmapu-tra River, which rough-ly parallels it most of the way. The railroadconsists of a broad-guage road north fromCalcutta 200 miles toSirajganj Ghat andSantahar and another40 miles to Parbatipur.Meter-guage lines runeast from Santahar andParbatipur to NorthernAssam; from East Ben-gal eastward from a Brahmaputra Riverferry connection with the Santaharbranch and northward from Chittagong toa junction with the main line at Lum-ding; barge lines on the Brahmaputra;combinations of rail and barge using var-ioustrans-shipment points along the river.The line runs to the north-east tip oIndia, in the area of Chabua, Tinsukia,Dibrugarh and Ledo, towns destined forfame in World War II,but before the war sim-ply sleepy little bazaarsamong the tea planta-tions in the jungle.Thesemeter-guage lineswere the ones whichthe Army took over-trackage from Parbati-pur to Ledo, Dibrugarhand Siakhoa; Santaharto Kaunia; Golakgansto Dhumri; and Bona-para to Tistamukh, atotal of 752miles. TheArm~also operated tbeB&A-shops at Saidpur. "-
I
N
INDIA
the road wasgenerally thought of as running from UpperAssam westward andsouthward because itsmain traffic was in thatdirection- the haulingof tea to market. Thewar threw this railroadinto reverse with themovement of the goods of war to Chinaand Burma from Calcutta's port. The!lleter-guag.eliI?-eeast of Pa~batipur wasm the mam smgle track, fitted chieflywith rolling stock of the four-wheel typeand powered by an assortment of loco-
GI's AND INDIANS turning No. 68 by hand on the turntable. Ball bearings made the Job easier.
NOVEMBER,1950
15
 
XO. 859 PASSIXG through a jUllgle stretch Ilea•.' l'allllu, Tllllia, enroute to Lell0. 'Vhlte
C1U8
are refrlgemtors, carrJ'lng" frozen Ileef.
heard of a tiger in the neighborhood theybooby-trapped it by tying a hand grenadeto the carcass of a goat.But King Cobra and Shan the Tigerwere not always so easily defeated, asStaff Sgt. Edgar Laytha of 
Roundup
foundout in a ride up the entire length of therails. He told of a GI stationmaster whocould not hold atiger. Instead atrain was heldup. It happenedat midnight. Be-cause of the ti-~ gel', the traincould not go
n-"'
to a siding to letanother trainpass. The con-troller from bat-talion headquar-ters telephoned to the jungle station,asked what the delay was. Sgt. G. A.Blake, from, New Hampshire, lamentedfrom the other end about a tiger that waseating a cow right on the rails. The mid-night repast of Shan lasted 32 minutes, asthe sergeant decided a pistol was notenough fire power with which to offerbattle, Traffic had to be suspended and
EXGI],\E SO. 419 of the Bell~al
&;
Assam railroadill Upper Assam.
motives made in Germany, England, Bel-gium, France and Czechoslovakia, TheIndian method of operation was friendlyand informal- though often protracted.There were schedules, of course, but theywere observed in the manner of a time-less land. Although a train might arriveat a station hours late, if the schedulecalled for a 15-minute stop, thefull stop was ob-se r v ed, eventhough loadingand unloadingmight take onlytwo minutes. Op-erations frozewhile crises werereferred to high-er authority.American per-sonnel going up the road in the earlydays, before the Army took over, used togain priority and sudden departure bytreating stationmasters to cartons of cig-arettes. The classic story of Indian rail-road operation quotes a message sent bya stationmaster to his superior."Tiger on platform. What shall I do?"was his query. Later, when U.S. soldiers
GI REPAlHS shrallllel.ritidiell holler on alocomotlye alollg the Burma line.THAXS}'KltltlSG refrl/(eratell meat fromrailroad car to GI truck.
16
EX-CBI ROUNDUP
 
RAILROAD YARDS of the i~8th By. Bn. atllibrugarh, India. Indian railroaders w.ere em-ploJ'ed along with Gl's to help maintain roilingstock.
the war had to wait better than half anhour until the tiger had filled his belly.
E
FFORTS were made to step up theefficiency and capacity of the rail-road, but in May 1943 supplies over theroad totaled only 15,000 long tons, andin June not enough was moved to fillthe cargo planes flying The Hump toChina. The Army wanted at least a 50per cent increase in tonnage. The Vicer-oy's Council in November 1943 approvedU.S. operation of the road's meter-gaugetrack. In the same month Col. Paul Yountof the Army-operated Iraq railroad head-ed a survey for U.S. operation. On Decem-ber 23 Maj. Gen. W.E.R. Covell of SOSgave orders establishing the MilitaryRailway Service. Headquarters were or-dered at Gauhati, Assam. Units assignedto operate the 752 miles .of railroad wereHeadquarters, Military Railway Service;705th Headquarters, Railway Grand Di-vision; the 721st, 725th, 726th, 745th and748th Railway Operating Battalions, andthe 758th Railway Shop Battalion. Thisgrand division, consisting of about 4,600men, arrived January 21, 1944, at theGauhati headquarters, midway betweenParbatipur and Tinsukia, from whichU.S. operations were to be directed. Thetin-roofed buildings of a weaving schoolfurnished quarters and offices. Onecupola-topped, mansard-roofed buildinglooked like a transplanted Wisconsin dairybarn. Tents were erectfd, bashas built..On February 26 orders .•..were given b' "Covell that the Military Railway Servicewould assume operations one minu~e after
REXGAL
&
ASSA~r BR shuJJs near l'arbat!pur,uperated by the i~8th BJ'. Shup Bn. llurlng thewar. lIfost of the American railroad equipmentshipped to CRI were Dut In operating conllltion
II
t these sho!,s.
NOVEMBER, 1950
17

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