The Pamban Bridge stands with pride, draped with the beauty of blue waters surrounding it, which keeps enhancing its look with the passage of time
Bedazzling beauty, stupendous strength, serene surroundings and sumptuous courage- these are the qualities which the 104-yearold Pamban Bridge has grown along with. Standing tall amid the strong tides of waters, this centenarian bridge that connects Rameshwaram on Pamban Island to the Indian mainland for over hundred years, has been attracting millions of travellers who have enjoyed its high-on-adventure journey. Owing to its distinguished beauty, it is also called as the ‘The Queen of Bridges’. This voyage, undoubtedly, is one of the most amazing train journeys in the world. The vast spread vibrant vistas of turquoise blue waters offer scenes of stunning sunsets, leaving an unforgettable impression on the traveller’s mind.
A train ride in the middle of blue waters sounds impossible, right? This dream can come true by taking a train journey on the Pamban Bridge, which is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences in India. This human-made wonder suprises you in many ways. During the train ride on this bridge you feel you have landed in a different world surrounded by long-stretched islands and blue waters. The beauty of this bridge has wooed travellers from across the world since last many years.
The credit for designing this engineering marvel goes to German engineer Scherzer. He constructed the two km-long link, which once existed as the first longest sea bridge in India. However, after the Bandra-Worli Sea Link was launched in Mumbai, it slipped its position to the second longest sea bridge in the country. Standing tall on 143 piers, the Pamban Bridge has once combated the fierce cyclone, which destroyed the nearby Dhanushkodi port in the year 1964. But owing to its strong structure, the bridge withstood the devastating natural fury.
Pamban Bridge was India’s first sea bridge, which was opened in 1914 and in 2014, it completed a century. Initially, starting as a rail bridge, it was later linked to a parallel two-lane road stretch, which was built along its side.
The bridge presents a marvellous picture with its middle section opening up to allow ships, cargo carriers, fishing vessels and oil tankers to sail through smoothly. The sight of the opening leaves of the bridge creates one of the most unforgettable pictures.
The construction of the bridge started in the year 1911 and continued till 1914. It was in February 1914 when this bridge was opened to traffic and was branded as India’s first sea bridge. For almost a century, the Pamban bridge remained the longest sea-bridge with 2.3 km length. The bridge used to be the only connecting medium between the Pamban Island and the mainland India till the year 1988. However, the construction of adjacent road bridge later on gave other connecting mode to this stretch. Pamban Bridge also enjoys the title of being the first Cantilever Bridge of India. With its double-leaf bascule section, it could easily be raised to a height which allows ships to pass through it. This is a century back practice but functional in present times too! It’s a treat to see the ships passing through this section, which was launched to ensure smooth movement of ferry services.
FACING TOUGH TIMES
Meanwhile, a section of the bridge was shattered and broken in the super cyclonic storm of the velocity that struck at 240 km per hour, on December 23, 1964. Soon after the catastrophe, the Indian Railway Engineers team came up with a six months plan to restore the tracks. In this tenure, they worked untiringly to get the tracks back on place and to repair the bridge. The bridge was renovated and restored in a time frame of 46 days! The rolling lift centre span, which was designed by Scherzer, remained strong which helped in repairing the bridge and reopening its services in just 46 days. The project progressed successfully under the leadership of E. Sreedharan, the then IES officer, who later on gained credence as a Metro man. He got rewarded for doing exceptional work with his quick action by rectifying the tracks in a small time.
In August, 2007, the Indian Railways upgraded this bridge to broad gauge. Earlier, in the year 2006, it was decided to shut down the bridge. This was decided during the start of Project Unigauge, which was the concerted effort of the Indian Railways aimed at converting the most operational tracks to the broad gauge standard. As Pamban bridge had metre gauge rails, it was decided to terminate its operations. However, all plans to construct a new bridge were put aside owing to the massive costs involved in it. Meanwhile, the then president APJ Abdul Kalam, who hailed from Rameswaram advised to strengthen the bridge and convert it into broad gauge rail. Soon the work started and services were resumed in the year 2007 on the broad gauge tracks of the bridge.
The most surprising aspect of the bridge is that it stands in the world’s second highly corrosive environment after Mexico. Hence, it is a true testament to quality engineering.
Text: Archana Sharma