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Friday, May 1, 2015

Madurai - Vaigai ~ Albert Victor Bridge and Viceroy Earl of Dufferin

Indian Trains have Names besides the Numbers. As you would know, Trains now have 5 digit numbers – earlier they were 4 digits.  Many a  trains are named after Gods, rivers, important places in the origin or destination – ……. and regularly more get added to the long list..  Some are named after personalities and some after traits too.. there are some luxurious trains too…….  On August 15, 1977, a train woke up the people  as it began its inaugural journey from the temple town of Madurai with 16 yellow and green livery coaches and a matching YDM4 diesel loco.

The town hailed in Sangam literature Madurai has Vaigai flowing.  Vaigai river originates in Varusanadu hills,  in  the Western Ghats range, and flows northeast through the Kambam Valley,  running through Madurai, eventually emptying  into the Palk Strait in Ramanathapuram District. The Vaigai is 258 kilometres (160 mi) long,. 

Across the river is the old bridge, an engineering marvel of British Raj named  ‘Albert Victor Bridge’- reportedly named after its engineer ! 

A web search today, on its history did  not reveal any direct matches.   There is some reference about a Prince.  Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864 – 1892), was the eldest son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), and the grandson of the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria. From the time of his birth, he was second in the line of succession to the British throne, but never became king: he died before his father and his grandmother, the Queen.

Albert Victor was known to his family, and many later biographers, as "Eddy". When young, he travelled the world extensively as a naval cadet, and as an adult he joined the British Army, but did not undertake any active military duties.  Albert Victor's intellect, sexuality and mental health have been the subject of much speculation.  The foreign press suggested that Albert Victor was sent on a seven-month tour of British India from October 1889 to avoid the gossip which swept London society in the wake of the scandal.  During the trip, Albert Victor met Mrs. Margery Haddon, the wife of a civil engineer, Henry Haddon.  On his return from India, Albert Victor was created Duke of Clarence and Avondale and Earl of Athlone on 24 May 1890, Queen Victoria's 71st birthday.

~and there is little to connect this man with the person after whom the Vaigai bridge is named after as ‘Albert Victor’bridge !!  ~ understand that the foundation for the bridge was laid on 8th Dec 1886 by Viceroy Earl of Dufferin. 

Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin  [1826 – 1902) was a British public servant and prominent member of Victorian society.  In his youth he was a popular figure in the court of Queen Victoria, and became well known to the public after publishing a best-selling account of his travels in the North Atlantic.  He was one of the most successful diplomats of his time.   His long career in public service began as a commissioner to Syria in 1860,  later in Canada  bolstering imperial ties in the early years of the Dominion, and in 1884 he reached the pinnacle of his diplomatic career as eighth Viceroy of India. Following his retirement from the diplomatic service in 1896, his final years were marred by personal tragedy and a misguided attempt to secure his family's financial position. He was chairman of a mining firm that went bankrupt after swindling people, although he was ignorant of the matter.

In 1888, he published the Report on the Conditions of the Lower Classes of Population in Bengal (known as the Dufferin Report). The report highlighted the plight of the poor in Bengal, and was used by nationalists to counter the Anglo-Indian claim that British rule had been beneficial to the poorest members of Indian society. Following publication of the report, Dufferin recommended the establishment of provincial and central councils with Indian membership, a key demand of Congress at that time.
the plaque at Madurai Jn

Getting back to first para it is 12635/12636 – Vaigai Express, a super fast day express train running between Madurai and Chennai via Tiruchirappalli.  The name 'Vaigai Express' has been always popular among not only the rail users but also among rail fans of two different generations as the train had won the hearts of lakhs of people who had known and experienced it right from the early days.  Due to the demand for a day train between Madurai and Madras, which gradually began to increase from the 1970s, the Southern Railway introduced this service on 15th Aug 1977.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

27th Apr 2015.

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