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In an accident unique in the history of railways throughout the world, the head of a large railway system fell to his death from his own saloon, while travelling on his own railway. It was none other than the eminent  Sir William A. Dring, the Agent of East Indian Railway, who died on 24th of November 1912 near Gujhandi.

 

            William Arthur Dring joined the EIR at the age of twenty as Assistant Secretary to the Agent, Sir Bradford Leslie, designer and builder of the ‘bridge of boats’ across the Hooghly and the Jubilee Bridge near Bandel.

 

            Posted to the traffic department, he became an expert in traffic operations, rising to become General Traffic Manager of EIR from 1896. In 1907, he was appointed Agent of the railway. He was the first traffic officer to become Agent of the EIR.  During his stewardship of the railway, immense development and progress was achieved on EIR.

 

             Government honoured him with a knighthood in the Delhi Durbar of 1911. Following the investiture there was a prospect of his elevation to the Railway Board.

 

            Sir William left for England on a six month holiday. He returned to India on 22nd November 1912, landing at Bombay along with a few friends.

 

            The party left Bombay by a special train for Jubbalpore, which was at the time EIR’s junction with the GIP. From there, Dring boarded in his special saloon, which was attached to Bombay-Calcutta Mail as the second last vehicle.

 

            The train reached Gujhandi at 8-15 a.m. on the 24th of November 1912 running 33 minutes late. Dring spoke to the station master and instructed him to alert Gomoh to get the watering there expedited.

 

            When his attendant entered the saloon a little while later to help him get dressed for breakfast, there was no trace of the Agent. His slippers were discovered on the rear platform of the saloon but their owner was nowhere to be found. His body was found on the track about two miles east of Gujhandi. Apparently he had fallen off from his saloon.

 

            Based on the evidence of a trolley signalman, who had deposed that he had seen a hatless white man standing precariously between two carriages, the assessors appointed to the inquest declared the death as accidental.

 

            But why should a man of Dring’s experience and character be standing in such a position? A possible explanation is offered by George Huddlestone, Chief Traffic Manager of EIR and one of the oldest and best friend of Dring, at the time of the tragedy.

Dring had the unfortunate habit of sipping his morning tea sitting on the railing of the observation platform in a rather precarious position. It is possible that as the train left Gujhandi. Dring, occupied with his thoughts of his impending return to Calcutta, sat on the railing as was his wont and a sudden bump or swerve threw him of his perch.’

 

The mystery remains unsolved to this day but in the words of George Hudlestone,  the best tribute will be…..

             

                                                “Never swerved from duty’s  call

                                                                        Champion of the weaker side

                                                Loyally he gave his all

                                                                        Faithfulness personified.

                                                Loyal, faithful, true and brave

                                                                        Victory lies beyond the grave”

{ref: History of EIR, Part II : Huddlestone, G}

            A large stone obelisk bears mute witness to this unexpected tragedy.

 

 

 

                                                                        

             William Dring                                                            The Stone obelisk near Gujhandi

 

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