Where trains do not run any more

Copyrights of the pictures rest with the respective photographers.

Some stations to which no passenger train runs now.

First, one in Gujarat where the railway line does not exist now:

Ghanta

The picture was taken in around 1980. The station was on the long-closed NG line from Champaner Road to Pani Mines, near Vadodara.

From the Chennai area, where EMUs used to run until a few years ago. Departmental trains still run there, since the furnishing division of ICF is situated near Anna Nagar.

In Tamil Nadu, there are numerous abandoned branch lines which closed between the 1960s and 1980s. Some branches, such as the one to Mannargudi, have been rebuilt in recent years. Perhaps the most well-known abandoned terminus is Dhanushkodi. This is all that you will see now:

Dhanushkodi

The cyclone of December 1964 resulted in the closure of the Pamban-Dhanushkodi section, which was listed as the “main line” in timetables of that period. Damage to the line was extensive enough to result in it being abandoned and the branch to Dhanushkodi now became the main line with ferries to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka.

The disturbances in Sri Lanka from 1983 put an end to the ferry services. Though the civil war is now over and the connecting lines in Sri Lanka are functioning again, it is unlikely that the ferries will run in the foreseeable future. But Rameswaram, unlike Dhanushkodi, has enough traffic to justify train services to all parts of India.

This was once the easternmost point of IR, though the extension from Ledo was built only in the late 1950s. It was closed after the BG was extended to Ledo, and it was not felt worthwhile to convert the remaining line to Ledo.

Lekhapani_station

However, one can see signs of economic activity here.

This was once the terminus at Ernakulam, once metre gauge and then broad gauge. It lost its importance in around 1940 when it was bypassed in a new alignment going to Ernakulam Town, Ernakulam Jn and Cochin Harbour Terminus. In its last years it was used only by departmental goods trains, and probably the last of them ran in 2001.

Ernakulam Goods

Another station which had passenger services up to the 2000s was Singareni Collieries, though I could not get a picture of it. It still has goods traffic. It is marked on Google Maps as Yellandu, although railway documents still mention the former station with code SYI.

And there are these recently orphaned stations on the Lumding-Silchar section: (Bagetar is the one on the top left).

 

Here is the station at Lower Haflong after it was abandoned:

Lower Haflong closed

Elsewhere in Assam, here is a current picture of Tezpur station. It is not likely to see trains again as there is insufficient space for broad gauge. Trains now terminate at the BG station at Dekargaon a few km to the north.

tezpur

In North Bengal, we have this former junction very close to the Bangladesh border:

Gitaldaha (abandoned)

It was closed soon after Partition as through trains ceased to run across the border. A newer station was built some distance away from the border and was called New Gitaldaha Jn. Oddly enough, no picture of this station is available on the net though it has a fair amount of passenger traffic now.

Our last stop is also in West Bengal, but on a more optimistic note:

Petrapole-2

This lies on the east of Bangaon, close to the border with Bangladesh. It saw some passenger traffic with the Sealdah/Khulna Barisal Express for some years up to the 1965 war. After that no traffic crossed the border for 25 years or more. Later goods trains from India started using the track-in 2008 many IR wagons could be seen at sidings on stations between Khulna and Jessore. Finally a weekly express between Kolkata and Khulna is likely to start running in mid-November 2017. Trial runs have been held in recent months.

 

 

 

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Revival of the Barisal Express

Much excitement has been caused among those connected with the Railways by the imminent start of the new cross-border train between Kolkata and Khulna.  Trial runs  were held a few days ago and many videos can be seen on Youtube showing the train running at various places along the line to Bangaon and beyond. Here is an example:

 

The earlier Maitree Express, now running between Kolkata and Dhaka Cantt, follows a route in which much of the route in Bangladesh did not exist before Partition. There had been trains with names like the Dacca Mail which started from Sealdah and terminated at Goalundo Ghat, from where the passengers embarked on a ferry trip of several hours to Narayanganj on the outskirts of Dacca (as it was then spelt). By 2001 the Bangabandhu Bridge had been completed along with a connecting line to Dhaka. This provided a route from the Gede-Darsana border to Dhaka without a ferry crossing. More about that in another post.

This new service between Kolkata and Khulna revives a pre-partition train called the Barisal Express between Sealdah and Khulna which was running since at least the 1930s. In fact it was running for some time after Partition and was listed in the ER timetables of 1964. However, all cross-border services between India and East Pakistan ceased with the 1965 war.

In a Bradshaw dated February 1935, we see the 31 Barisal Express leaving Sealdah at 15.26 and arriving at Khulna at 10.45. It stopped at many places beyond the present border, though the main stoppages were Bongaon (16.47/16.55) and Jessore (17.59/18.02). The return train was the 30 Barisal Express which left Khulna at 05.45 and reached Sealdah at 10.10, with the main stops at Jessore (07.27/07.30) and Bongaon (08.34/08.42).

Here is an extract from a Bradshaw of 1943, which is unfortunately not very legible as it has been photocopied many times.

Barisal express 1943 001

Part of the first page has got cropped, although the full route from Khulna can be seen on the second page. The distance is shown as 110 miles or 177 km.

Another curiosity on these pages is the Khulna-Bagerhat Light Railway, which was to be the only narrow gauge line running in East Pakistan. It started from Rupsa East, across the river from Khulna and was not linked to the rest of the rail network. This line was converted to BG around 1970 but was closed a few years later as it was uneconomical.

From the above time table, you can see that Petrapole station did not exist then and the border crossed the line between Bongaon and Benapol. The station at Petrapole, like Gede, was built after Partition in order to provide a station closer to the new international border.

Running of limited goods and passenger trains across the border continued after Partition up to 1965, though there may have been interruptions. Those who have been following the Indian Railways since the 1960s may remember seeing BG wagons marked PE and PW, being the initials of the then Pakistan Eastern and Pakistan Western Railways.

Goods trains across Gede-Darsana and Petrapol-Benapol and (to a lesser extent) other crossing  points were running for some time before the Maitree express between Kolkata and Dhaka started running in 2008. There are frequent EMU services between Sealdah and Bangaon (the present spelling), but no passenger train seems to have run to Petrapole since 1965 till the present. Goods trains would have crossed the border after formalities at this station.

In early 2008 I had traveled by road from Khulna to Benapol. The highway between Khulna and Jessore runs mainly adjacent to the rails. One could see a number of IR wagons from various zones stabled at the small stations on this route.

A Google maps reference for Petrapole and surrounding areas is given here. Those who are interested can trace the path to Khulna, which involves a sharp turn to the south at Jessore.

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Bangaon+Junction+Railway+Station/@23.0368542,88.8727271,16z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x39ff35a4ff881b6f:0xff12ef03d5e82d1!8m2!3d23.0302415!4d88.8330527

It can be seen that the main road crossing point is in the vicinity, though not very close to Petrapole and Benapol stations.

Petrapole-2

Here is the checkpoint for the existing Maitree Express at Kolkata station. Presumably the new train will also use it.

Kolkata-Maitree counter

Getting details of stations functioning in Bangladesh at present is not very easy, particularly as no detailed timetable seems to have been published since the 1980s. If one is really interested one can refer to http://www.railwaystationlists.co.uk/pdfasia/bangladeshrlys.pdf although it does not seem to have information beyond the 80s. This is the best I can find, from a map published by a railfan around 2001. The mapmaker has tried to show every station which existed at that time.

Benapol-Jessore section

Here is the best official map which I could find, which is dated 2013. It does not show every station.

http://www.railway.gov.bd/site/page/ff534cd8-a522-4c7d-a48c-6d41dc63aa82/Railway-Route-Map

While the route from Khulna to Jessore is part of the main line going to the north-western part of Bangladesh, the Jessore-Benapol section was quite neglected with a single pair of local trains between Khulna and Benapol. See train nos 53/54 near the bottom of this page:

http://www.travelonebd.com/transportation/12-railway/18-bangladesh-railway-schedule

This is a typical branch line train of Bangladesh, which you can see in this short clip:

 

Clearly the new service from Kolkata to Khulna will be a considerable improvement over the crowded EMUs on the Indian side and the neglected passenger train shown above.