DC traction on India’s railways-sidelights

Much has been written about the final days of DC traction in Mumbai, more specifically on the Harbour line from CSTM to Vashi which was the last holdout of this form of electrification on the Indian railways. This is not exactly true – the Kolkata metro will continue to be on 750 V DC indefinitely, and it is officially a part of the Indian Railways (unlike the metro systems in Delhi and elsewhere).

At its peak, the 1500 V DC system in Mumbai covered these sections:

WR: Colaba to Churchgate to Virar

CR: CST Mumbai to Pune and Igatpuri via Kalyan

CST Mumbai to Mahim and then in parallel to WR up to Andheri

CST Mumbai to Kurla via Harbour branch and then to Mankhurd,Vashi and Panvel.

(Mankhurd was the terminus until the 1990s).

Diva-Vasai Road

A typical news item about the conversion of the last route:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Harbour-line-trains-run-on-new-25KV-AC-traction-from-today/articleshow/51762468.cms

What most railfans may forget is that 3000 V DC existed on some routes out of Howrah for about a decade and 1500 V DC on one metre gauge route out of Chennai for several decades.

From an official IR publication of 1964, we can get the early history. It makes things simpler if we use the names of places which were prevalent at that time

The years of completion were:

Bombay VT to Poona and Igatpuri: 1930 (299 route km) on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, predecessor of the CR

Churchgate to Virar: 1936 (60 route km) on the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, predecessor of the WR.

Madras Beach to Tambaram: 1931 (29 route km, metre gauge) on the South Indian Railway, predecessor of the SR.

Howrah-Bandel-Burdwan

and Seoraphuli-Tarakeswar: 1958 (142 route km) on ER.

Coming back to Bombay, the VT-Reay Road section was opened in 1925 with electrification, as the 1 in 34 gradient at Sandhurst Road was felt to be an insurmountable obstacle to any other means of traction. Reay Road to Kurla had been running on steam since it was opened in 1910.The extension from Kurla to Mankhurd was completed by 1927 although it was electrified in 1936.

The Karjat-Khopoli branch was one of the first lines opened in India (in 1856, when it became the railhead for Poona for some years). It seems to have been electrified only in the mid-90s and timetables of 1994 show diesel-hauled passenger trains on the CR main timetable (not the suburban timetable).

The Diva-Vasai Road line was built in the 1980s and was electrified with DC soon after it was opened.

On what is now the WR, electrification was completed to Borivli in 1928 and to Virar in 1936. Colaba was the terminus for long distance and local trains until Bombay Central was opened in 1930, and the lines between Colaba and Churchgate were electrified but this line itself was closed at the end of 1930. Churchgate has been the terminus for local trains since then.

The short stretch from Madras Beach to Tambaram was electrified at 1500 V DC in 1931. Apart from the EMUs on this route, long distance trains continued to run on steam from Madras Egmore. By 1967 the Tambaram-Villupuram section was electrified at the then standard voltage of 25 KV AC and the Beach-Tambaram section was converted to AC to enable through running up to Villupuram.

After independence, the first steps towards electrification of ER lines out of Howrah were taken with Howrah-Bandel-Burdwan and Seoraphuli-Tarakeswar being completed by 1958. These too were converted to AC in the mid-60s, and all subsequent electrification in India was at 25 KV AC. The only exceptions were the extensions from Mankhurd to Vashi and then Panvel, Thane to Vashi and extensions,  and electrification of Karjat-Khopoli in the 90s which had to match the existing DC system.

More about DC locos, AC/DC locos and operational aspects to follow.

Bangalore to Mysore by rail: Renaming runs wild

First we take a look at different signs at SBC station, in its various avatars as Bangalore City, Bengaluru City and finally Krantivira Sangolli Rayanna (Bengaluru Station). Also don’t ask why the S got into SBC.

Bangalore CityBengaluru CityKR Bengaluru station

But the average Bangalorean might prefer to stick to calling it Majestic, like the way Hyderabadis stick to Nampalli, Amdavadis to Kalupur and Banarsis to Cantt (well, it was officially known as Benares Cantt until the 1940s).

At the other end of the line 138 km away we have Mysore (now Mysuru):

mysore-railway-station

Mysuru station

But the line between these cities has seen more than its share of renaming. Let us first look at an Indian Bradshaw entry from 1935:

Bangalore Mysore 1935

The reproduction is not too good, and the mileage is not visible in this scan. Odd things you can see here are Maddur listed as a junction (though no branch line from there is listed in this Bradshaw or anywhere else). And several place names do not appear in present timetables.

Here is an extract from an official website showing the timings of a passenger train between Bengaluru and Mysuru:

Bangalore Mysore TT 2015

Even this train does not stop at a few stations such as Krishnadevaraya Halt (5 km from SBC), Palahalli Halt (between S and NHY) and Mysuru New Goods Terminal (4 km before MYS) which is a pure goods station.

(Palahalli is apparently not on the present alignment but is still mentioned in railway documents).

Note the rare one-letter codes for Yeliyur (S) and Shrirangapatna (S)

Apart from the changes to the names of SBC and MYS, we also note:

Closepet is now Ramanagaram (possibly it had been named after a British official)

French Rocks is now Pandavapura

Seringapatnam is now Srirangapattana (changing the simplified spelling of the British).

Other points of interest: the 1935 timetable shows 13 intermediate stations. The present slow passenger train stops at 19, while at least 3 more are known to exist.

Of course, there has been progress on this line. It was converted to broad gauge by the mid-90s and electrification continues at a snail’s pace-apparently it is complete up to Mandya. There is now a Shatabdi from Chennai along with numerous trains to different corners of the country. Even the former single track MG line is almost completely doubled apart from a short stretch outside Shrirangapattana where Tippu’s armoury building is being bodily shifted to make way for the new line, as you can see here:

Armoury

Thanks to Raghavendra Rao and Sandeep Mohan for useful updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The forgotten electric locomotives of Pakistan

The railways of Pakistan have been going through a decline in the last few years for a variety of reasons, mainly government apathy and the lack of funds for modernization. One result of this has been the abandoning of whatever little electrified track it had.

By 1966, the 290-km route between Lahore and Khanewal had been electrified on 25 KVAC. 29 locomotives of 3000 hp rating were acquired from what was then known as British Rail Traction (including the conglomerate AEI and English Electric). These were classified as BCU30E and were numbered 7001-29. Here is one which is currently lodged at the museum at Golra Sharif (north of Rawalpindi):

http://pakistanrail.tripod.com/photos/index.album/electric-locomotive?i=26&s=1

And one of the few which were still running in 1996:

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Foreign/Ziegler/Pakistan/HyderabadMalakwal/khanewal_bcu30.jpg.html?g2_imageViewsIndex=1

In the initial years it was planned to extend electrification towards Rawalpindi and Peshawar but the presence of a few tunnels caused second thoughts. Another place where electrification would have been useful was the Bolan Pass route up to Quetta with its 1:25 gradient, the steepest main line in South Asia. Power shortages put an end to any further plans for electrification.

By the 2000s the traction lines on only one of the two  tracks were functioning. By 2009 the locos were showing their age and had been taken off passenger duties. The few which were functional were used on short goods trains. Here you can see one of these at Sahiwal (formerly Montgomery); one of the few videos of these locos available on the net. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ56AcTBAL0

By 2011, it was decided to stop electric services: http://tribune.com.pk/story/124828/pakistan-railways-electrical-locomotives-wrapped-up/

But even in 2013 the media felt that extending electrification would be a good idea even with the limited locos and infrastructure. The theft of overhead wire was cited as one reason for abandoning electrification. On the other hand India and numerous other countries are extending electrification, which is well known to the media there. As in India, there is alleged to be a diesel lobby plotting against electrification.

http://nation.com.pk/editors-picks/23-Aug-2013/pr-s-electric-locos-turn-into-scrap-rusting-in-engine-shed

This TV report (in Urdu) is critical of the government’s decision, and also shows the railway worker’s reactions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBtDLBj4tH4

But it looks as if it will be a long time (if ever) when we can see electric locos running in Pakistan.

Reference: a good general description of most locos presently seen in Pakistan can be seen here:

http://pakistaniat.com/2007/05/19/pakistan-railways-3000hp-iron-horses-train-engines/