705th Railway Grand Division : THE SAGA OF THE BENGAL & ASSAM RAILWAY

Burma by Nancy

** Locomotive Engineers Journal September 1945

The biggest and most important job they tackled was running most of the Bengal & Assam Railway in northeast India, operating generally from Parbat-ipur northeast. The meter-gauge line east from Parbatipur was mainly single-track, powered by an assortment of locomotives made in Germany, England, Belgium, France and Czechoslovakia.

The Indian method of operation was often protracted. There were schedules, of course; but the Indians observed them in the manner of a timeless land. If a train arrived hours late, and the schedule called for a 15-minute stop, the Indians observed it, even though loading and unloading took only two minutes.

The war supplies over the railroad under Indian operation totaled only 15,000 long tons in May 1943. In June the Bengal & Assam didn't move enough tonnage to fill the planes flying the Hump to China.

Maj. Gen. W. E. R. Covell, chief of CBI Services of Supply, gave orders Christmas Day 1943 establishing the Military Railway Service, with headquarters at Gauhati, Assam, halfway between Parbatipur and Tinsukia. It was to operate 752 miles of meter-gauge track, headed by Headquarters, Military Railway Service, and Headquarters, 705th Railway Grand Division. Operating under this authority would be five railway battalions, the 721st, 725th, 726th, 745th and 748th, and one shop battalion, the 758th.

This grand division of about 4,600 officers and men arrived at Gauhati in late-January 1944 and set up offices and quarters in a weaving school. It assumed operation March 1, and by that time, CBI Theater had reached agreement with India to operate 804 miles of track.