Vestibule between ages going out of view

The 110-year-old Aryankavu viaduct is being jacketed with concrete to allow broad-gauge trains to thunder past the massive structure

Beauty can be transient. Here in Aryankavu, a lady whose charm has only grown over the years is going to wear a veil.

Just two weeks more to marvel at the majestic 110-year-old viaduct across a valley in Aryankavu on the Shengottai-Kollam railway route, designed and built by British engineers.

The landmark 13-arch, 102-metre-long viaduct, which gracefully carried metre-gauge trains, mesmerised everyone all these years. The viaduct requires to be strengthened, jacketed with concrete, to carry broad-gauge trains.

The preliminary work is on. The work will provide the equivalent of an exoskeleton to the rectangular piers of the viaduct built with neatly cut blocks of granite and surkhi (an ancient mix of charcoal, egg white, lime, river sand, tender coconut water and jaggery). But the front portion of the piers will, however, be spared — a peephole, perhaps, for posterity.

Railways allowed it respecting local sentiments that the structure be preserved as a heritage property. Railways cannot afford to leave the structure unused because building a new viaduct through the forested ghat section is a costly, difficult proposition. Hence jacketing is considered economical and practical, lengthening the utility of the structure by half a century more.

The contract for the Rs. 3-crore work has been awarded. Workers, on sliding platforms, are drilling the granite blocks on three sides of the piers, leaving the front portion untouched. The core of the work will begin before Onam and is expected to be completed in five months. When the work is completed, the viaduct will not look the same from any side.

The work on viaduct began in the late 1890s and was completed by 1903. The metre-gauge service was commissioned in November 1904 by the then Maharaja of Travancore, Sree Moolam Tirunal Rama Varma.

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