Oddities in station signs in India-2

Continuing from this earlier post:


Today we look at two station signs which are in 5 languages. 4-language signs are relatively common, particularly in states such as Telangana.

The better-known one is a district town in Karnataka:

Raichur station-5 languages

Being close to Telangana, it has Telugu as well as Kannada and Urdu.

If you travel from Raichur towards Mumbai, you will soon come to Krishna station, which is in Telangana just north of the Krishna river which appears to be the state border here:


Photo credits: Sudarshan (sorry I didn’t get your full name).

More details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna_railway_station

There may be a few more 5-language signs in India, though these are the only ones generally known.

This may also be of interest:



India vs Zimbabwe ODI records

With the conclusion of India’s 3-0 sweep, India and Zimbabwe have played a total of 63 ODIs. India lead 51-10 with 2 ties. Results at different venues are summed up below:

Results summary

Zimbabwe has had its moments, particularly when they beat India during the 1999 World Cup. On that occasion India and Zimbabwe both qualified for the Super Six but did not proceed further.

Looking at batting records:

Most runs (500 and above):

Runs-above 500

Tendulkar and Ganguly have almost the same total runs scored. No one from recent years has crossed 500 runs.

The most centuries are 5 by Tendulkar and 3 by Ganguly. For fifty-plus scores, Andy Flower has 12 and Campbell has 11. Ganguly and Tenulkar have 10 each.

Highest individual scores (100 and above):

Scores above 100

No one needs to be reminded about the top score, which was also India’s first ODI hundred. The second place goes to the lesser-known of the Mongias. Andy Flower has the highest for Zimbabwe. There are several centuries among current players, including KL Rahul on his ODI debut.

Highest average (minimum 20 innings batted):

Batting average

Tendulkar, Ganguly and Andy Flower have the top spots. No current players.

Highest strike rate (minimum 500 balls faced):

Strike rate

Here we have Yuvraj Singh at the top. From current players there is only Rayudu.

Now for bowling.

Most wickets (10 and above):

Wickets above 10

The popular whipping-boy Agarkar is on top here, followed by Streak.

Best innings bowling (4wi and above):

Bowling-4wi and above

A Mishra and HH Streak have the best figures for their teams. JJ Bumrah has two 4-wicket hauls in the recent series.

Best bowling averages (minimum 1000 balls bowled):

Bowling average

Only three bowlers make the cut here. Agarkar has the best average, Kumble the best economy and Agarkar the best strike rate.

Now for fielding:

Most dismissals (10 and above):

Dismissals-10 and above

Andy Flower and Rahul Dravid have the most dismissals for their teams, with Dravid serving as a keeper in some matches.

The most stumpings are 5 by Andy Flower and Nayan Mongia, most catches by a keeper 21 by Andy Flower, and most catches by a fielder 20 by Campbell.

The most dismissals in an innings are 5 by Kirmani and Nayan Mongia, while for fielders it is 4 by VVS Laxman.

Highest dismissal rate (minimum 20 innings fielded):

Dismissal rate

Andy Flower tops again, while Azharuddin has the highest rate for fielders.

Now for all-round performances:

Overall (minimum 20 innings batted and 1000 balls bowled):

AR overall

Heath Streak is the only one who has put in enough batting and bowling to qualify. Some prominent all-rounders like Kapil did not play enough in this series.

Looking at all-round performances in a match (30 runs and 3 wickets):


Ganguly and Crocker seem to have the best performances.

Spotlight on the Arakkonam airfield

Arakkonam (formerly Arkonam) is well known to railway followers because it is an important junction as well as electric loco shed, but has recently come into prominence because the inundation of Chennai airport caused some commercial flights to be operated from there. To be precise, this is the NAS (Naval Air Station) at Arakkonam which the Navy calls INS Rajali.

Most basic information can be seen here:


Although it started off as an IAF base in the 1940s, it was abandoned soon after WW2 and was reactivated for the long-range reconnaissance aircraft of the Navy during the late 1980s. The TU-142s and now the Poseidon P-8s have made good use of the 4.1 km runway which has been claimed to be the longest military runway in Asia.

Here you can see the locations of Chennai international airport (MAA), IAF Tambaram and INS Rajali marked with the small gold stars.

Chennai area

One can see that INS Rajali is about 50 km west of MAA, while IAF Tambaram is only 10 km away. At least there is no chance of a confused airline pilot landing his 747 at INS Rajali by mistake, though this has happened once at Tambaram in recent years.

Here is a closer view of INS Rajali:

INS Rajali

Though it is not very clearly shown, the railway line from Chengalpattu runs along the highway right by the boundary wall of the base. The Railways have been planning to electrify this section for a long time but the Navy have objected to the presence of the traction equipment being an obstacle to the flight path. Thus an alternative line is being built further from the airfield, but this seems to have dragged on for several years. This new line is not shown in the map. Meanwhile  the diesel-hauled trains continue to run past the base.

This is not the first time that military airfields have been used a a backup. Sulur for Coimbatore and Avantipur for Srinagar are other examples. The inaugural flight of Jet Airways to Coimbatore did land at Sulur by mistake. Apart from the Saudia 747 which wrongly landed at Tambaram, there have been several incidents including a mid-air collision and another which totalled a DC-8 which were caused by the proximity of BOM to Juhu. More about these later.

With all these movements of heavy aircraft, it is fortunate that this airfield has not seen a major aviation accident yet. However, India’s experimental AWACS on an Avro frame did crash a few km away in 1999, apparently putting an end to DRDO’s efforts in that direction.

The Indians (and Brits) who fought on Hitler’s side

By now you know all about the heroic (?) deeds of the INA in East Asia. But you would not know about the Indians who fought in Hitler’s SS. The SS was not really racist-it had units from much of the Commonwealth, even a British unit as well as numerous non-Aryans from all over.

The main reference is:


though I am summarizing the main points below:

India: 2,500 in the
Indisches Freiwilligen Infanterie Regiment 950 or “Tiger Legion” This is described in some detail (including Netaji’s role) here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Legion

Stranger still was the story of the Britischer Freikorps in the SS (which had a peak strength of 27, not enough for a platoon).

This was indeed so obscure that few people in Britain had heard about it until the publication of the popular novel “The Eagle Has Landed” in the mid-70s. It does not seem to figure in the movie.

The British government did, indeed, execute a few individuals such as William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) and John Amery for participating in broadcasts for Germany’s Ministry of Propaganda (headed by Herr Goebbels); as we know, Goebbels Jayanthi will be celebrated on a large scale in India on October 29 🙂 . But the irrelevance of the British Free Corps meant that nothing much happened to them.

Wish him happy birthday on Sep 17

As you know, several famous Indians were born on September 17. Some are fortunate to have Mallika Sherawat singing birthday greetings for them. Here we look at one who is not a politician but is famous in his own right as

  1. India’s best Test all-rounder, surpassing Kapil
  2. The second-best spinning all-rounder in all Tests, ahead of bigger names like Mankad and Benaud.

In these tables we are considering a cutoff of 1000 runs, 100 wickets, batting average above 15.00, bowling average below 45.00. Ranking is by (Batting average-Bowling average).

Indian all-rounders:


Spinning all-rounders from all countries.

Note that Statsguru does not seem to consider Sobers and Greig to be spinners, since they bowled medium-pace as well.


Tail piece: he is also India’s leading opening bowler of the 2010s (ie bowling at no 1 or 2)-far ahead of regular opening bowlers such as Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma:


A slice of history: Indian Airlines in 1972 and the Tripura hopper

For those who are interested in old airline timetables, this may be one of the best resources available. It covers most corners of the world:


We pick on Indian Airlines when it was the only domestic airline and covered a number of places which are not served by any other airline today.


Examples being Keshod, Jamshedpur, Cooch Behar, Lilabari and the Tripura trio of Khowai, Kamalpur and Kailashahar. Also note that in those days the flights from Calcutta to Port Blair had a technical halt at Rangoon-as the Viscounts didn’t have the range and probably Caravelles and 737s could not be spared for these routes. Even today few people realize that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are much closer to Myanmar and Indonesia than to the Indian mainland.

Here is a sample of the timetables on the less important routes. (Of course, you can see the entire timetable through the link given above):

IAC 1972 TT 001

The airport at Keshod was supposed to facilitate visitors to the Gir forest. It has permanently shut down, while in the same general area Diu is now served by one flight a day. The famous Tripura flight (operated by a Dakota) can also be seen.

There are some odd things about the airport at Agartala. I have a small connection with this as the state government acquired the land from my maternal grandfather’s family in the late 1930s. They were probably happy with this as the land was not very suitable for growing tea.

Now take a look at this map showing it as it is today:


You can see that the runway is very close to the India-Bangladesh border. Any flight from Kolkata to Agartala would begin its descent long before it enters Indian territory. (This also happened at Shillong when commercial flights operated there for a short time). The airport is located near a village called Singarbil, and there is a railway station of that name across the border. It started functioning in 1942. Apart from limited civilian traffic, the airport was used by the US military as a base for air-dropping of supplies in Burma and China.

Now, in the period from 1947 to 1952 there was still a lot of travel between India and East Pakistan. As the partition in the East was relatively peaceful (unlike the earlier events in Noakhali and Tippera (Comilla) districts), there were many Hindus as well as Muslims who thought they were all right where they were and did not think of moving immediately.

There was a cutoff date sometime in 1952 by when people had to decide which country they wanted to be citizens of. During this transition period my mother and other members of her family used to regularly travel between Calcutta and a place in Sylhet district.

One could take the land route, but that involved long ferry crossings (around half a day from Goalundo to Narayanganj, still more from Goalundo to Chandpur) and a fairly long journey to the ultimate destination near Kulaura. Then, as now, air fares to Agartala were highly subsidized. They normally flew to Agartala, stepped off the runway and walked a few hundred metres to the border. Sometimes there was a single bored policeman at the border, sometimes not. A little further one would find rickshaws to Akhaura, from where one could get trains to anywhere in the eastern part of East Pakistan.

As one can see from this recent picture from the Hili border between West Bengal and Bangladesh, border security was and probably still is quite lax at several places on the border. The border is marked by those little stone markers, while the cows and humans come and go without hindrance. India is on the left.


We now take a look at the Tripura hopper shown on p.15 above, which must be India’s best example of rural air transport. At that time roads were very limited in Tripura, and some WW2 airfields came in useful to connect Calcutta and Agartala with Khowai, Kamalpur and Kailashahar. These places are so obscure that it is difficult to find them on an average atlas. Here is the route from Agartala onwards:

Tripura map 001

As we see from the timetable, the scheduled time was typically 20 minutes between these airports. From the published coordinates, the straight-line flight distances were:

Agartala-Khowai: 41 km

Khowai-Kamalpur: 23 km

Kamalpur-Kailashahar: 28 Km

This 23-km and 28-km hops would have been the shortest-ever distances on any scheduled flights in India (though there are some in places like the Scottish islands where there are flights of 1 to 2 km).

Anyway, it appears that these three airports have not been used for many years and may now be unusable. In the mean time roads have improved and the railway line connecting Tripura with the rest of India was built at a snails pace over 60 years and finally reached Agartala. It is soon to be converted to broad gauge, and an extension to a place near Akhaura will be opened soon. This will probably involve transhipment of containers from the metre gauge of Bangladesh to broad gauge.

When Indian Airlines phased out their Dakotas soon after this timetable came out, many of these small airports with little traffic lost their connection. Vayudoot may have run their 19-seat Dorniers for a while to some of these places, but the airline itself vanished quite quickly. Thus ended the golden era of aviation in Tripura. In no other state were such small towns served by a national airline.

A related article on Indian Airlines’ operations in the early 1960s can be seen here:


The Kalka-Shimla Railway-a brief account

The Kalka-Shimla mountain railway is one of the best-known railway lines in India and has featured in a number of literary works and at least one BBC documentary in recent years. This is intended to summarize the main points about the line as it is today. The route was opened as a whole (95.68 Km) on 9 Nov 1903. A further 0.77 Km to the “Old bullock train station” was opened on 27 Jun 1909. Possibly the present line (length 95.57 as per current railway database) includes a small portion of the extension. Here we have a list of stations (in both directions). This information is taken from the site http://rbs.indianrail.gov.in/ShortPath/ShortPath.jsp which is useful for the dedicated railfan. I have added the altitude data from passenger timetables. The distances shown below are actual distances, and I am not getting into the complexities of chargeable distance here.

KS Stations1 KS Stations2

The main technical point is that the ruling gradient is 1 in 33 uncompensated. Those who are really fond of number crunching can find the gradients between intermediate stations. Here are the summary of trains running in both directions in May 2015.


As you can see, trains are listed as having AC chair car, First Class and Second Class seating. The railcars have only first class. The Shivalik Express and the Himalayan Queen have non-AC seats which are somewhat better than the second class seats, but are charged using the fare tables for AC chair car. The three trains other than the railcar and Shivalik Express have unreserved second class seats, though reserved seats are available only on one train as you can see above.

It is common for the average person or media source to refer to the trains on this line as a toy train. This appears to be unjustified as the trains are as long and as heavy as their narrow gauge counterparts on the plains. And the volume of passenger traffic (at least 5 pairs of daily trains) would be more than that on many broad gauge and metre gauge branch lines.

Additional railcars and trains may run at short notice during the summer. These are generally not given in the printed timetables. However, most knowledgeable travellers have now shifted to the online timetables. The most user-friendly is probably http://erail.in/  from where the above tables are taken. One can also use this website to get timetables for individual trains, such as this one for the downward Himalayan Queen:


As you can see, this train stops at about half the stations. It seems to have a rake of 5 reserved coaches and two brake cum unreserved coaches. Barog appears to be a mandatory stop for all trains for catering purposes. In fact there is not much of a local population and this station seems to exist only for catering purposes. The station is named after a British construction engineer named Barog (though this does not sound like a typical British surname).

This train connects with a BG express train to New Delhi in both directions. That is also called the Himalayan Queen, though it starts from Kalka with a number of coaches which are removed at Panipat and proceed to Bhiwani as the Ekta Express. There are also two Shatabdi Expresses to New Delhi and the long-standing Kalka Mail to Old Delhi and Howrah, which is probably one of the oldest long-distance trains on IR. There is also a link train which connects Kalka to the Paschim Express to and from Mumbai.

There are many videos about this line available on Youtube; as a sample here are some taken by my family in 2010:

Shivalik Express: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO0NifZGk9w

And from Shimla to Kalka by the Himalayan Queen, plus a bit of Chandigarh: