The mess at Madras

In the beginning there was Madras Central.

It became Chennai Central in the 1990s.

Someone must have got ideas from this :

NSC Gomoh

and

KR Bengaluru station

And now we have:

MAS new

and

MAS new bldg

To be really accurate, it should replace MGR by Marudur Gopala Ramachandran. Maybe one could add Menon at the end.

However, official railway sites such as NTSE and IRCTC prefer to call it by something shorter, such as MGR Chennai Central. I doubt if boards on trains use the full form.

Continuing in the same vein, we can look forward to

Kalaignar Dr Muthuvel Karunanidhi Egmore* Railway Station

and

Puratchi Thalaivi Dr Jayalalithaa Jayaram Amma Tambaram Railway Station.

*Eshumbur if one uses the original Tamil name, as you can see from the Hindi sign here:

Chennai Egmore

If this picks up in the rest of the country, there would be further new names such as Atal Behari Vajpayee Gwalior and (God forbid) Pratibha Patil Amravati.

 

Odd station signs in Chennai

Note these station signs where the Hindi inscription seems to have been taken from Tamil rather than English:

Now compare the sign of Park Town above (top right) with the nearby Park:

Chennai Park

One wonders about the logic.

Finally, a similar one from Coimbatore:

Coimbatore North

Travels in Chennai-ancient signboards

Our first stop is at Basin Bridge Jn (BBQ), where we have examples of ancient and modern signboards:

The food-minded may wish to hold a BBQ here, though you may have to first find a military hotel nearby.

Nearby there is Washermanpet, though the sign painters have some doubts about the name:

The official name is Washermanpet in the timetables. Also note the mis-spelling of the Hindi name. No picture of any new signboard seems to be available on the net.

Some years ago I have seen signs with Chromepet and Cromepet co-existing. Another well-known case is Hafizpet/Hafizpeta in the Hyderabad area.

An example of a run-down signboard in a totally run-down station:

Royapuram

Again, no picture of a new signboard is seen on the net. Tragic, as this station has the oldest surviving station building in India.  It was the first terminus in Madras where trains started running to Arcot (now Walajah Road) in 1856. The old terminuses in Mumbai and Kolkata had opened before this but the station buildings do not exist now. However, it now boasts a new electric loco shed.

Another station which is particularly obscure, as it does not seem to be mentioned in timetables even though it has a booking office which issues tickets. No picture of any new signboard can be located.

Pattabiram military siding

 

Chrome in Chromepet, Power in Powerpet

While travelling by train in the past, one would have often come across stations with strange-sounding names and wondered about the origin of the names. Now the internet has made it easy to answer these questions. To begin with, there is this suburban station between Chennai Beach and Tambaram:

Chrompet

It was listed in earlier maps and timetables as Chromepet. Now what is its connection with chrome?

The answer lies in: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromepet#Etymology

The name came from the Chrome Leather Works which used to have a large factory there.

Note the mismatch between the English and Hindi inscriptions.

Also in Chennai is this station with this antique signboard:

Washermanpet

As you would guess, the place gets its name from the humble dhobi:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washermanpet#History

Also note the misspelling of the Hindi inscription.

And this is its counterpart on the Singapore metro:

Dhoby Ghaut

The signboard reflects the run-down condition of Washermanpet and Royapuram, the latter being the oldest functioning station building on IR. It was the main terminus at Madras when trains started running in 1856. This signboard reflects the condition of the station which has somehow escaped demolition till now:

Royapuram

Finally, we visit this station next to Eluru in Andhra Pradesh:

Powerpet

Does it perhaps have something to do with the Marathas such as Sharad Pawar? Some of them spell their name as Powar*

However, Wikipedia has this to say:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powerpet

in which the name is said to be in honour of Sir Power, a railway engineer. I could not find anything else about him. But it is wrong usage, as the correct form is Sir Ravindra Jadeja and not Sir Jadeja.

*The Powar clan, however does seem to be connected to this station near Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh:

Powarkheda

Travels on Chennai’s local trains-1

Today we visit one of the little-known branches, and another which has not had passenger services for several years.

First the line from Pattabiram to Pattabiram Military Siding E Depot:

This map portion shows the line branching north of Pattabiram station.

https://www.google.co.in/maps/dir///@13.1218124,80.059481,16z?dcr=0

And here are the stations on the branch:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/dir///@13.137882,80.062249,16z?dcr=0

A typical timetable:

Pattabiram branch from MAS side

Note that the station of Pattabiram Military Siding (PTMS) does not seem to have been shown in the timetables for a long time, although trains stop there and tickets are issued from there.

PTMS ticket

It appears in the “official” Railways route guide:

Pattabiram branch

although this does not show Pattabiram station (PAB) where trains do stop, though on another platform a little away from the main line. Sometimes it is difficult to assess which official source is correct.

Similarly from the other direction:

Pattabiram5

Pictures of these stations:

Hindu CollegePattabiram E DepotPattabiram military sidingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Note the “antique” sign in the 3rd picture. More recently a new sign has been put up.

Now we come to the forgotten line from Villivakkam to Anna Nagar, which had EMU services for a few years in the early 2000s which stopped some years ago.

The story is told here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Nagar_railway_station

Pictures of these stations:

 

Villivakkam is also a famous railfanning spot as main line expresses get up to a good speed there.

 

From the Indian Railway timetables of 1975

The All-India Railway Timetable was the “Bible” of a section of railfans until 1976 when it was replaced by “Trains at a Glance”. The Indian Bradshaw started sometime in the 19th century and appears to have vanished a few years ago. And then there were the timetables of the individual zones. Unlike the All India RT and Bradshaw, they carried the zonal maps as well. They survive today as a sort of hybrid, an example being the Western Zonal Timetable which includes the Central, Western, West Central and North Western Railways.

Today, however, we look at some extracts from the maps attached to the Southern and South Central Railway timetables issued in November 1975. It is instructive to compare them with the maps of the present railway systems in those areas.

First, the inset showing the Madras area:

madras-area-1975

Notes: Many more stations have come up on these suburban sections since 1975.

See the MG lines extending up to the Tondiarpet yard. It was a bit startling to observe a YG next to the BG tracks while travelling north from MAS in the late 80s.

Madras has long become Chennai, while Madras Park and Madras Chetpat have since been contracted  to Park and Chetpat. (However they are listed as Chennai Park and Chennai Chetpat in the RBS tables). Not the first time that official names in the Railway’s own databases are not the same as the names on the signboards.

The Villivakkam- Anna Nagar branch came and went in the 2000s.

This map shows Veysarpadi which was and still is a cabin and not a station. Vyasarpadi Jeeva station came later.

And the mapmaker forgot the existence of Madras Beach station, where once MG lines met an outlying BG line.

The Hindi signboards in this area are curious in that they use Hindi transliterations of Tamil words rather than Hindi words. Today we have:

Chennai Beach : Chennai Kodikirai in Hindi

Chennai Fort: Chennai Kotte

Park: Punga

Also, Egmore is revealed to be the Anglicized form of Eshambur.

The Hyderabad area:

hyderabad-area-1975

Notes: Husain Sagar Jn was a functioning station at that time, while James Street station vanished soon afterwards and was revived with the MMTS in the 2000s. Many new stations appeared when the MMTS started. Today Husain Sagar has a large signal cabin while the platforms of the long-vanished station can still be seen.

The short-lived Telapur-Patancheru branch appeared some years later and has now vanished. If you keep your eyes open you may see the abandoned station of Telapur west of Lingampalli, from where the branch departed to the north. There is some talk of reviving this branch as part of the MMTS.

Note the forgotten siding to Trimulgeri, which was more commonly spelt as Trimulgherry.

An intensive suburban system with YDM2 diesels served the MG suburban sections running north and south of Secunderabad. Now, of course, you will not see any MG line within a few hundred km of the Hyderabad area.

 

The oldest fast trains in India, and other topics for fans of the Indian Railways

Some generalities to start with. There is no firm answer to the question “Which was India’s first long-distance train?” The present Railway administration seems to have decided that the Punjab Mail from Mumbai CSTM to Ferozepur is the oldest, having started its run from Bombay VT  to Lahore in 1912.

While the dates of opening of different sections of track are well documented by the railways (with a full directory up to 1964), the date of introduction of trains is not so clear unless one looks at the old timetables, which are generally not accessible to the public. Anyway, some of the oldest trains would include:

Bombay-Poona Mail: probably soon after the line was opened in 1863. Was known to be running in 1869. However, the name vanished around 1971 when it became the Sahyadri Express to Kolhapur with the same timings between Bombay and Poona (which were yet to become Mumbai and Pune)

Madras-Bangalore Mail: probably soon after the line between these cities was completed in 1864. At that time it would have run between Royapuram (then the only terminus in Madras) and Bangalore Cantt (likewise for Bangalore). It would have started running from Madras Central after 1873 and from Bangalore City after 1882. It still runs on this route, although the stations are now Chennai Central and KRS Bengaluru.

Then there would be the Kalka Mail, which started as the Delhi-Calcutta Mail in 1866 soon after the last link of the Yamuna bridge was opened. At that time it would have run by the Sahibganj loop which was the only connection between Calcutta and the North then. It would have started running via the “main line” between Asansol and Kiul after 1871 and via the Grand Chord after 1906. And it would have been extended to Kalka after 1891. So this is also one of the oldest fast trains of India, despite the numerous changes of route. It is still running between Howrah and Kalka by the Grand Chord.

The Delhi-Karnal-Ambala-Kalka line was opened in 1891. Possibly the Kalka Mail ran via Delhi-Meerut-Saharanpur-Ambala at one time, as this longer route  had more commercial and military significance.

I am not actually sure when it started running via the Grand Chord, as that covered relatively unpopulated areas compared to the main line via Patna. This can only be answered definitely by seeing timetables from 1906 onwards. In the 1930 timetable of the North Western Railway the abstract timetables show it running via Patna. But in the 1935 Bradshaw it is running via Gomoh on the Grand Chord, where Netaji is supposed to have boarded it in 1941.

In the same way many of the older Mail trains would have started running soon after the routes were completed. Some which must  have started running in the 19th century include the Madras/Mangalore, Madras/Bombay, Bombay/Calcutta via Allahabad. By 1910 the Madras/Howrah and Bombay/Howrah via Nagpur would have started.

Some like the Punjab Mail from Bombay (1912), Frontier Mail (1928), and Deccan Queen (1930) are well documented, although the second one became the Golden Temple Mail in 1996.

The Delhi-Madras route never had a mail train. The last link between Balharshah and Kazipet was completed in the late 1920s in what was then the Nizam’s State Railway. This Grand Trunk Express ran for the first few months from Mangalore to Peshawar, then for a few months from Mettupalaiyam to Lahore and then settled to its long-term route from Madras Central to Delhi.

By the 1950s most trains from the West and South started terminating at New Delhi which had been a tiny station until it was expanded to be a station fit for a capital. Ultimately the GT  was extended to Delhi Sarai Rohilla a few years ago. A number of long distance trains suffered the same fate due to the lack of stabling lines near New Delhi and Delhi Jn.

And Sarai Rohilla is one of the most inaccessible rail terminuses in India’s major cities, though it gets good competition from Kolkata Terminus and (to a lesser extent) from LTT and Bandra Terminus in Mumbai. However, unlike in Mumbai and Kolkata many of these trains also have stops at New Delhi or Delhi Jn, so it does not affect reserved passengers that much. Those going towards Rajasthan and Gujarat may prefer the 2-minute halt at Delhi Cantt to the inaccessible starting point.

Most of the trains mentioned above have separate articles on Wikipedia and other sites like irfca.org . Some sources are reliable, others are not. Anyone who says that the Punjab Mail of 1912 is the oldest train is clearly wrong.

To come back to the original question, the oldest long-distance train running on (almost) the same route throughout the years is almost certainly the Chennai/Bengaluru Mail, though the management of the CR and the NR would not like to hear that.

A footnote: some old timetables of India (including pre-1947 India) can be seen here:

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Heritage/timetables/

It is not very systematic as bits and pieces have been added by a large number of people. If you expect to see the full all-India timetables for a particular year you will be disappointed. Some attempt has been made to give the full timetables for a particular company or zone, for instance the NWR from a 1943 Bradshaw:

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Heritage/timetables/nwrtt/1943/

and the Jodhpur railway, 2 pages from the same Bradshaw:

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Heritage/timetables/Jodhpur1-1943.jpg.html

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Heritage/timetables/Jodhpur2-1943.jpg.html

There are also a few pages from the NWR of 1930 and Assam Bengal Railway of 1929. But basically you have to find your own way in this site.

Another section of the irfca site which may interest you is:

http://www.irfca.org/~shankie/famoustrains/famtraindqn.htm

although this was prepared over a decade ago and all the information may not be accurate.

Some railfans have acquired soft and hard copies of old timetables by various means over the years. If you expect them to put up the scans of the full timetables of the past, it will not happen because either the books are bound in such a way that scanning is difficult, or the pages are too yellow and/or fragile, or they are the result of multiple photocopies and are not very legible (the ones mentioned above are examples of this).

Anyway, I have been requested to summarize the timings of the Kalka Mail and Frontier Mail over the years. Probably the best you can expect is a summary of timings at some important stations retyped here.

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