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Transportation

A Look Inside Nepal's Abandoned Railway to India

Villagers in Janakpur are anticipating the return of a colonial-era train route that’s considered their lifeline—but progress has been slow.
Rafid Kabadi, 49, had been driving trains on Nepal's Janakpur line for 25 years before it was shut down in 2014.
Rafid Kabadi, 49, had been driving trains on Nepal's Janakpur line for 25 years before it was shut down in 2014.Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

The historic Janakpur railway running between Nepal and India was once a major border crossing for citizens on both sides. The British built the 20-mile track in 1937 to carry timber from the once heavily forested areas of Janakpur to the Indian city of Jainagar, but as supply dwindled, the train’s main cargo became people.

Tourists and pilgrims boarded the train in India to get to the historic temples of Janakpur, considered the birthplace of the Hindu god Sita. And costing just a few rupees, Nepalese villagers needed it to find work in India and beyond, or to smuggle goods back to their hometowns to sell. Until it shut down in 2014, men, women, and even children would fill the carriages daily, and when room ran out, they’d sit on the roof or hang from the sides.