The International Steam Pages
Tipong Colliery 2008
After our first visit in 2004, we planned to revisit Tipong in late 2006, but were frustrated when both our video cameras malfunctioned while researching stationary steam in the West Bengal rice mills and consequently we had to return home early. It is a pleasure to report 'no change' compared to previous reports, the system remains a treasure, a total anachronism in 2008:
Primarily we were here to shoot sufficient material for our proposed DVD 'Black Diamond Express'. The pictures below are conventional still images taken by us when our video cameras did not require our total attention, I hope to replace them with captured 'stills' in due course. For this page, I have included only images covering the steam locomotives in action...
Firstly, 'David' in action substituting for the failed diesel:
Next, rarer bird 789 in action, during our stay, attempts to coax it into action generally failed sooner or later.
As during our previous visit, 796 was the more reliable star performer, notwithstanding various minor problems like the hi-grade coal burning through its firebars:
There are daily flights to Dibrugarh from Calcutta and New Delhi, although these are expensive by Indian standards (ca GBP 75, watch out for taxes which can double a headline fare). We used the Kamrup Express from/to Calcutta to/from Tinsukia, 36 hours (2 nights, 1 day) which was 25% of the price, readily booked at one day's notice at the Eastern Railways Foreigners' Booking Office near the Writers' Building in Calcutta. There are also trains to/from Delhi which do not take that much longer. From Tinsukia/Dibrugarh there are buses or taxis readily available to the local headquarters of North Eastern Coalfields (Coal India) at Margherita and onwards. Prior notification of an intended visit is highly advisable if not essential. Afterwards, it is also essential to report briefly at the police station at Lekhapani which is near to the turn off for the colliery beyond Ledo. The Guest House at Tipong is full of character (and termites) and has two twin bedrooms with (very tired) bathrooms attached although it is rumoured that it is slated for renovation soon. Each room was charged at Rs 300 a day and all meals (veg or non-veg) are served enthusiastically at a sensible extra charge. Local beer is also available - the management will fetch it for you from the local 'wine shop' but remember to let them keep the change.
While you no longer need a permit to enter Assam, the security situation is still fragile and there is also considerable political agitation which may lead to bandhs (general strikes / lock-outs / closures) which bring the place to a complete standstill for varying lengths of time. This time we saw less of a security presence than in 2004, but we were still firmly asked not to go out at night or to visit the open cast areas (the latter fortunately just after we had completed nearly all our filming).
Thanks for what is contained here are primarily due to Ashok Sharma of Real India Journeys, firstname.lastname@example.org (Fax ++ 91-11-25512-816 if no reply), who made arrangements for this and our previous visit. Click here for more information.