Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India

The History of the Assam Railways & Trading Company (AR&T Company) and Asia’s oldest Plywood Factory ‘The AR&T Plywood Industries’ at Margherita, the State of Assam, Incredible India!

A quaint town located amidst the green hills and the lush tea gardens in the extreme north-eastern corner of the country speaks of a legendary history which in due time has lost its grandeur. In our quest to relive these moments of the past, Jungleideas narrates to you this story of the Assam Railways & Trading Company (AR&T Company) and Asia’s oldest Plywood Factory ‘The AR&T Plywood Industries’ at Margherita, the State of Assam, Incredible India!

The AR&T company was established on 30th July 1881, with a prime focus on harnessing the undiscovered potentials of natural and mineral resources in the blessed lands of Assam.  The credited of establishing this company goes to two prominent people of the erstwhile ‘British Raj’ in India – Dr. John Berry White and Mr. Benjamin Piercy. Dr. John Berry White, a Civil Surgeon, played a very significant role in the early development of the Assam’s mineral resources including the opening of the Makum Coalfields. Mr. Benjamin Piercy, on the other hand was a Civil Engineer from Britain who had to his credit, the establishment of major lengths of Railway Connectivity across the British Empire.

The contribution of the Ar&T company to the initial development of the Indian industries had been immense which had begun by the establishment of the pioneer Tea and Steamer companies in India. It was the first company to establish a full fledged railway route across the State of Assam in the form of the Dibru Sadiya Railway. The coal mines and collieries were later established in Assam in 1884-85. At the same time, five steamers and sixteen flats were brought into service on the rivers. Oil was struck in 1889 and ten years years later the Assam Oil Company was formed. Sawmills were established at Margherita and the Brickworks at Ledo. The Makum (Assam) Tea Company came into being in 1892 and the Namdang Tea Company in 1916, to which, a few years later, was added the Bogapani Tea Estate. This was all achieved under the able founders of the AR&T Company and their  able guidance. But it was in 1924, that the Company built the Margherita Plywood Factory for the manufacture of three-ply chests that made the AR&T Company one of the pioneers of this industry in India!

During the establishment of these industries across the Makum district of Assam a pressing need of quality timber was aroused. Timber also became a prime necessity in the planning of rail routes and building of the Margherita and Doom Doomba bridges. Then again there was also a sufficient need in the coal mines. This demand of Timber led to the establishment of the first Sawmill on the south bank of the Dehing River near Margherita Station, conveniently placed for the Margherita Bridge and the collieries which for sonic years continued to absorb a major part of the output. Public demand at that time was limited mainly to tea box shook made of simul.

Although the art of veneering was practiced from early times, it was not mull the introduction of rotary cutting of veneers that the commercial possibilities of plywood were apparent. Weight for weight, plywood resists the strains of ordinary use to a much greater extent than solid boards. It keeps its size and shape better and is less liable to saturation. For these reasons, it has been widely adopted for use where lightness and strength are required, as in packing cases and especially tea chests. ‘Til this time, tea was packed in boxes of swan timber, known in the trade as shook and each box weighed nearly twice the modern three-ply chest.

This new discovery prompted the Directors of the Company to set up the Plywood factory at Margherita and the necessary machinery was ordered in 1922. Production began in 1924, and plywood boxes marketed under the name “Margherita” achieved a great success. Production continued and gradually lead to a total output of approximately five million square feet a year in the recent years ’til the modern day timber felling norms led to an complete halt of the production in 1996.

Although closing onto almost a hundred years since its inception this plywood factory still has machinery and equipment from Germany and Italy that are operational ’til today.

Jungleideas welcomes you to India’s North East to witness  the History of the Assam Railways and Trading Company (AR and T Company) and Asia’s oldest Plywood Factory ‘The AR and T Plywood Industries’ at Margherita, the State of Assam, Incredible India!

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
The Centenary year celebration of the AR and T Company at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
The Administrative Office of the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
BARN and Co. Limited Tank manufactured in 1922 at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Splicing Machinery of the Ruckle Company at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Beckner and Van Hullen machinery at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Cremone Peeler by CREMONA of Italy at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Cremona Peeling Equipment by CREMO Italy at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
CREMONA Machinery at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
CREMONA Slicer at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
RUCKLE Machinery at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Remains of the Shed at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Plywood Machinery at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Machinery at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Wood Preservation Plant at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Remains of the Shed at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Remains of the Shed at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
Remains of the Shed at the Asia’s Oldest Plywood Factory of the AR and T Company at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

Plywood factory Asia History, Tipong Coal Mining, Tirap Coal Mining, The Historic Stilwell Road, Digboi Oil Industry Assam, Makum Coal Fields, Coal Museum India
The AR and T Company’s School established in 1938 at Margherita in Assam

Recommended Itinerary for your visit: Memoirs of the World War II

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Assam Eco tourism homestay and Cottages, Ecotourism in North East India, Tour of Tribes in North East India, Tribes and Festivals of Assam

Memoirs of the World War II – the Historic Stilwell Road, the Ledo Airstrip, the Lekhapani Railway Station and the Digboi Cemetery, the State of Assam, Incredible India!

The period of 1939 to 1945 was one of the darkest moments in the history of mankind. It was during this period the world witnessed the Second World War – a state of “total war” where the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. This war brought down the major super powers of the period into ashes. Japan was rocked with the mighty nuclear explosion of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it was after the Second World War that the world realized the might of the Americans!

Though many movies have narrated the incidents of the Second World War and grossed millions at the Box office and many historic sites of the War have turned into places of tourist interest earning revenue to the locals, one such historic location has failed to draw the attention of the world over and thereby gradually lost its grandeur to the passing time. Our teams visit to this land narrated in this writing will try and recreate the moments of the history that this historic place has been witness to.

The British had realized the Economic potentials of the upper Brahmaputra Valley of Assam. When Assam first came under the British rule, it possessed four great assets, land, rivers, forests and minerals, all awaiting development. The British ensured that various skills were imported into Assam to harness the natural resources of the State and they brought in skills like tea making from China and others from Britain. In 1834, the Governor General set up a committee to explore the possibility of tea growing in India. It was found that the tea plant was indigenous to Assam, a discovery followed by the importation of tea makers from China, leading, eventually to the great Tea industry of Assam. This marked the beginning of the rapid industrialization of the State. The British were successful in discovering crude oil and vast coal reserves in Assam that prompted them to establish the Asia’s first oil refinery at Digboi in Assam and introduce underground coal mining at Namdang. The timber reserves added to the national treasury and one of Asia’s oldest Plywood manufacturing facility was set up at Margherita. Although the river route provided an efficient means of transportation, the British laid the tracks for an extensive rain route to run across Assam to enable quick transportation of these Natural resources that had value equivalent to Gold during the time of rapid industrialization.

Apart from these vast natural reserves, the British in collaboration with the Allied Forces realized the boon of the Upper Brahmaputra valley during the World War II during the Japanese blockade of the Burma Road that prompted the Western Allies to build the ‘Stilwell Road’ aka the ‘Ledo Road’ so that they could supply the Chinese as an alternative to the Burma Road. Built under the able guidance of American General Vinegar Joe Stilwell with an army of 15,000 American Soldiers and 35,000 locals, this road having a stretch of over 1079 miles (from Ledo in India to Kunming in China) was completed within 2 years under the most treacherous conditions and this is what makes this road “an Epitome of an American Engineering Marvel”. Although, there was a flip side to this feat as more than 1100 American soldiers and many more locals had to lose their lives in the construction of the Western Allies march to crush the Japanese.

The Historic Lekhapani Railway Station marks the beginning of the Stilwell Road in India which is also the eastern most Railway Station in India. The Lekhapani Railway Station played a pivotal road during the movement of the Allied Armed forces during the Japanese blockade in the World War II.

Also during the World War II the state of Assam, in India’s Eastern Command, was an operational area of the Burma Campaign. Ledo, was on the lines of communication, and a military hospital was established here. Ledo airstrip was an important 2nd World War operational theatre and took an important role to aid the alliance forces in China. The runway is still visible and in good condition.

The World War II might have brought down the will of the Germans and Japanese to be the might of the World but it to be mentioned that all wars lead to destruction of devastating proportion. The World War II too led to the same fate and millions of people were killed around the world that included the soldiers of the Army who laid down their lives to bring peace to the World. The bodies of these brave soldiers were laid to rest across various cemeteries through the World and one of such is the Digboi War Cemetery that was built and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Located very near to the ‘Legendary Oil town of Assam’ – Digboi, this cemetery has about 200 burials mostly of British soldiers who laid their lives during World War II. And truly mentioned in one of the quotes of the cemetery – ‘These graves bear silent testimony to those soldiers, unlisted workers and labourers who ventured into Virgin jungle amid blistering heat and laid down their lives in the line of duty during the Second World War. Whilst part of all forces against the Imperial Japanese Army. THEIR NAME LIVETH FOREVER MORE

Jungleideas welcomes you to India’s North East to Witness History and Relive the Memoirs of the World War II – the Historic Stilwell Road, the Ledo Airstrip, the Lekhapani Railway Station and the Digboi Cemetery, the State of Assam, Incredible India!

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Namdapha National Park and Rain forest, Assam Ecotourism and Homestay, Deban tourist lodge, Stillwell Road in Assam, Dehing Patkai Festival of Assam, Tribes of Assam and North East India
The Historic Stilwell Road from Ledo (India) to Kunming (China)

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

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The Stilwell Road today at Lekhapani

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

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The Historic Ledo Airstrip that was used as a landing ground for Aircrafts of the Western Allies

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Assam Eco tourism homestay and Cottages, Ecotourism in North East India, Tour of Tribes in North East India, Tribes and Festivals of Assam
The World War II cemetery at Digboi. Image Courtesy: Anil Paudel

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Namdapha National Park and Rain forest, Assam Ecotourism and Homestay, Deban tourist lodge, Stillwell Road in Assam, Dehing Patkai Festival of Assam, Tribes of Assam and North East India
The Pangsau Pass or the Hell’s Pass and Indo Mynamar Border

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Namdapha National Park and Rain forest, Assam Ecotourism and Homestay, Deban tourist lodge, Stillwell Road in Assam, Dehing Patkai Festival of Assam, Tribes of Assam and North East India
The Mysterious Lake of No Return at Myanmar as viewed from the Pangsau pass

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

digboi
Welcome to the Legendary Oil Town of Assam at Digboi

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Assam Eco tourism homestay and Cottages, Ecotourism in North East India, Tour of Tribes in North East India, Tribes and Festivals of Assam
Asia’s oldest Refinery – the Digboi refinery that has the oldest operational oil well in the World. Source: wowindia

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Assam Eco tourism homestay and Cottages, Ecotourism in North East India, Tour of Tribes in North East India, Tribes and Festivals of Assam
The North East Coal fields is one of the primary industry at Margherita and its surrounding areas

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Assam Eco tourism homestay and Cottages, Ecotourism in North East India, Tour of Tribes in North East India, Tribes and Festivals of Assam
Welcome to the Coal Queen of Assam – Margherita

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Assam Eco tourism homestay and Cottages, Ecotourism in North East India, Tour of Tribes in North East India, Tribes and Festivals of Assam
The Beautiful Namdang tea town near Margherita

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Lake of No Return, India's Bermuda Triangle, India Burma Border, Pangsau Pass Festival, Stilwell Road India
The Jairampur War Cemetery that has burials of Chinese Soldiers who laid down their lives during the Burma Campaign of World War II

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II

Stilwell Road Second World War, Coal Mining in Margherita, Assam Tourism, World War II cemeteries, World War Hospitals India
The Entrance to the Grand 20th General Hospital at Margherita during World War II. Image Source: researchgate.net

Recommended Itinerary for your Visit: Memoirs of World War II