From Gandhinagar to Gandhinagar

As we have seen in

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/indian-railway-stations-with-matching-names/

there are many pairs of railway stations in India which are situated far apart but have similar (if not identical) names. In general, there are no convenient connections between these pairs, such as Udaipur City (Rajasthan) and Udaipur (Tripura) or Chandrapur (Maharashtra) and Chandrapura (Jharkhand).

Except for one pair:

Gandhinagar Jaipur

and its better-known namesake

Gandhinagar Capital

The one above has now developed into an important secondary station for trains heading on the routes from Jaipur to Delhi and beyond as well as to Agra and beyond. Thus we have the Ajmer/Delhi and Jaipur/Agra Shatabdis halting there, as well as several other prominent long-distance trains.

While Gandhinagar is the capital of Gujarat, it has relatively poorer train service as it is not on a main line, but on a loop between Ahmedabad and Kalol which is used by a handful of long-distance trains as well as locals connecting it with Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad itself has secondary stations such as Sabarmati and Maninagar.

The relative importance of the two Gandhinagars can be seen from the lists of trains serving them:

http://indiarailinfo.com/departures/jaipur-gandhinagar-gadj/363

and

http://indiarailinfo.com/departures/2474?

Recently I did have reason to make a round trip between the two Gandhinagars, in connection with work at IIT Gandhinagar, which many feel is the best of the “newer” IITs.

There is, in fact, precisely one daily train which connects the two stations, as you can see below:

https://erail.in/?T=GADJ::GNC

and

https://erail.in/?T=GNC::GADJ

That is the 19031/19032 Yoga Express, which was the Ahmedabad/Haridwar Mail until 2013 and the 1/2 Delhi/Ahmedabad Mail still earlier. Until the 1970s it was considered to be the most prestigious train between Delhi and Ahmedabad, but this mantle then passed to the Ashhram Express (for the regular traveller) and the Rajdhani (for the premium traveller). Somehow the Mail never got superfast status.

There is also the Garib Rath which runs 4 times a week between Bandra Terminus and Delhi Sarai Rohilla. But taking that would be “cheating” because it does not stop at Gandhinagar Jaipur but only at Jaipur Junction.

So if you have to start from the southern half of Jaipur, Gandhinagar Jaipur is preferable.

For the hard-core timetable fan, here are the details for the up and down journeys between the two Gandhinagars:

GG1 001

GG2 001

Although the Yoga Express is supposed to be a train with reasonable prestige (as it has AC-1 accommodation), it does not have a pantry car and passengers make do with informal arrangements. For instance, the northbound train had provision for meals to be delivered at Beawar, although this did not seem to be part of the e-catering system which IRCTC tries to push.

Mannargudi, its mafia and its railway connections

Today we hear a lot about this nondescript town in Tamil Nadu:

mannargudi

It is not even in the top 20 cities of Tamil Nadu when ranked by population. However, the term “Mannargudi Mafia” has come to mean a group of people connected with the CM-aspirant Ms VK Sasikala. Google for “Mannargudi Mafia” if you are not familiar with this aspect of TN politics. For instance, see: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/slideshows/nation-world/all-you-wanted-to-know-about-sasikala-and-mannargudi-mafia/what-is-mannargudi-mafia-/slideshow/57021899.cms

Even Wikipedia cannot find anything out of the ordinary here except for the presence of some moderately important temples: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mannargudi

Ms Sasikala was not born here, but at a more tongue-twisting place called:

ttp-jn

Mercifully we can use the station code for TTP here. It is maybe a little bit larger than Mannargudi. While Mannargudi has enjoyed a railway revival of a sort in the last few years, TTP has not seen trains running for the last few years due to gauge conversion. It also used to have a branch line running to the quaintly named Point Calimere (later Kodikkarai) but that line may or may not be reopened.

Of course, the phrase Mannargudi Mafia sounds catchy, just like the Maharashtra Mafia and Malayali Mafia we may have heard about elsewhere. How about a Mathura Mafia? In other countries there may be a Manchester Mafia or a Massachusetts Mafia, but probably not one from Maine as it is not important enough in US politics.

We now move back to the strange history of the railways in and around Mannargudi and its feeder junction Nidamangalam:

nidamangalam

(Note the new trend of mentioning the PIN code on station signboards).

In the early 1860s, the predecessors of the South Indian Railway built a broad gauge line all the way from Erode to Trichnopoly, Tanjore and Negapatnam (those being the spellings used at the time). A wayside station now called Sikkal was then listed as Sickle.

By the mid-1870s, the South Indian Railway Company (with HQ at what is now Tiruchchirapalli) had decided that MG would be used through most of its territory. By the end of the 1870s the above mentioned line from Erode to Negapatnam was converted to MG. An MG extension to Nagore was opened in 1899, and a branch from Nidamangalam to Mannargudi still later in 1915.

Erode to TPJ was converted back to BG in 1929. The rest of the route to Nagore became BG only in around 2000. Extensions were made to Velankanni in the south and to Karaikal in the north.

However, the branch from Nidamangalam to Mannargudi had a few trains running on the 14-km route. There were two intermediate stations -Rajapayyam Chavadi and Haridranadhi (which have now vanished from the railway map, apart from the Great Indian Railway Atlas). I remember seeing this route in timetables of the 1960s and early 1970s. But it is absent from the 1975 timetable. This 1975 timetable does have the Mayuram-Tranquebar and Peralam-Karaikal lines which were closed soon afterwards. The Mannargudi branch was also thought to have gone the way of the dodo until a few years ago.

Though not considered to be from the Mannargudi Mafia, the DMK leader TR Baalu set his sights on improving things in the region around Thanjavur. His somewhat complicated political career can be seen at more length here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._R._Baalu

Essentially he served as a minister in both NDA and UPA governments up to 2009. Although he was not in the railway ministry, he appears to have been instrumental in getting the branch to Mannargudi reopened in BG in the mid-2000s. It now has a variety of express trains to different parts of Tamil Nadu and even to faraway Bhagat-ki-Kothi near Jodhpur, better known for its large diesel shed and for being the terminus of the Thar Link Express to Munabao.

Here you can see the station’s list of trains:

http://indiarailinfo.com/departures/mannargudi-mq/9633

The 4 daily trains include a DEMU passenger to Tiruchi, another passenger to Mayiladuturai and expresses to Chennai Egmore and Coimbatore. Then there are a tri-weekly express to Tirupati and a weekly express to Bhagat-ki-Kothi. Not bad for a place which used to have only shuttles to Nidamangalam.

Presumably the local population is happy with its new-found connectivity to different corners of the country.

In contrast, the broad gauge line from Salem to Mettur Dam had no passenger services for several years (although goods services continued). These passenger services were also revived in recent years but still has rather limited services:

http://indiarailinfo.com/departures/mettur-dam-mtdm/6593

Indian railway stations with matching names

There are some names which you will find in many Indian towns, such as Mahatma Gandhi Road. And there are many places with similar names, such as Rampur which must be the name of dozens of villages and small towns. Ironically, the largest place with this name was once part of a princely state ruled by Muslims.

Most of us have heard of the large cities of Hyderabad (capital of undivided Andhra Pradesh) and Hyderabad in Sind. Pre-1947 timetables listed the two as Hyderabad (Deccan) and Hyderabad (Sind). I could not locate any old pictures of these stations and their signs, though this is what they look like today:

There never was any train between these cities, and anyone traveling between them by train would have had to change at several places. One possibility would include a sea journey between Bombay and Karachi.

This also illustrates a general rule which the Indian Railways have tried to follow-that no two stations should have exactly the same name. Of course, the station code will be different.

One example is Madhupur in Jharjhand and Madhopur in Punjab:

You cannot travel by a direct train between these stations. The Howrah/Jammu Tawi Himgiri Express does run through both, but stops only at the one on the left. The one in Punjab is a smaller station, but for some years in the 1960s it was the northern-most station in India before the line was extended to Kathua, Jammu and beyond.

Then there are the three Katras:

The first two are in UP. The first is an ex-MG terminus near Gonda which is across the river from Ayodhya. It was connected to the BG network in recent times when a bridge was built across the Saryu.

The second is between Shahjahanpur and Bareilly. The third is the new showpiece station (SVDK) which is the railhead for Vaishno Devi.It is the northern-most station on the main IR network (though not on IR; that is Sopore near Baramulla). It is likely to hold this status for a few years until the connection to Banihal is completed.

There is one train which runs through Miranpur Katra on its way to SVDK, but does not stop there. This is the once-weekly Kamakhya/SVDK Express. The Himgiri Express and Kolkata/Jammu Express also run through it, though they still terminate at Jammu.

Then we have two places with similar names in Maharashtra and Jharkhand:

The one on the left was called Chandrapur (Maharashtra) until recently. There is another station called Chanda Fort nearby. There are no direct or nearly-direct trains between these stations.

And now to Rajendranagar in MP and Bihar:

The former is on the southern outskirts of Indore and is presently served by a number of DEMUs between Indore and Mhow. The latter is east of Patna Jn and is an important secondary terminus for Patna, while Danapur and the new Pataliputra station also fulfill this role.

There are two weekly trains between Indore and Rajendranagar Terminal (one of which was involved in a serious accident near Kanpur last November). So it is a reasonably simple task to travel between the two Rajendranagars. It is possible that the MG conversion south of Mhow may see some long-distance trains connecting these stations, though they are unlikely to stop at the one in MP.

Now these two in Rajasthan and Tripura. The latter has just seen the start of passenger services from Agartala:

It is theoretically possible that one day there may be a direct train between these two stations. There may not be much logic behind this routing.

The station on the left was opened in the mid-60s as part of the Udaipur-Himatnagar new line. The existing terminus of Udaipur was renamed Ranapratap Sagar, and still hosts most of the railway offices of this region. For some years Udaipur City was one of the few stations which were pseudo-junctions where a line of one gauge ended and line of another gauge started. It has now lost this status as the Udaipur City-Ahmedabad MG line is now under conversion. Other examples of pseudo-junctions are Kalka and Mettupalaiyam (but not Neral, Pathankot, NJP and Siliguri Jn which are junctions in the regular sense). Other pseudo-junctions have existed in the relatively recent past (e.g. Parli Vaijnath)

The station on the right is presently a terminus, but the line will soon extend downwards to Belonia and Sabrum at the southern tip of Tripura. It will not touch the now-closed terminus of Belonia which lies a short distance within the Bangladesh border. Also note that Bengali is the official language (at least for station signs) in Tripura and three districts of southern Assam.

Now, you may ask, is there any case of two widely separated stations with similar names having a direct train connection. There are some trivial cases like those of Merta Road/Merta City and Latur Road/Latur (but not Ranchi Road/Ranchi). But there is one more. I traveled between them recently. More on this later.

Note: Copyrights of the pictures here belong to the original photographers.

Spotlight on train disaster near Pokhrayan

The rail disaster involving the 19231 Indore-Rajendra Nagar (Patna) Express may well be the worst railway accident in India in several years. As I write this, the death toll has crossed 130. Here is the very basic information put out by the concerned zone (North Central Railway):

http://www.safety.indianrail.gov.in/sims/viewPublicInformation.action;jsessionid=zWOAqhsYgbGjIRyP0QZvmcOLGPzwD98YlnRGQYOyrPatB-bjyfg1!9620467?id=20161113001

The accident site comes under Jhansi division of NCR whose HQ is at Allahabad. It was earlier on Central Railway.

The location is between Pokhrayan and Malasa stations on the Jhansi-Kanpur section. It would be about 45 km south-west of Kanpur Central station and 175 km north-east of Jhansi. Though not a trunk line, it has heavy passenger traffic with numerous trains from southern and western India to Kanpur, Lucknow and beyond. The site falls in Kanpur Dehat district.

Pokhrayan and Malasa can be seen on the map here:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Kanpur,+Uttar+Pradesh/@26.3286985,80.0379633,11z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x399c4770b127c46f:0x1778302a9fbe7b41!8m2!3d26.449923!4d80.3318736

However, it appears that Pukhrayan is the more common spelling of the town.

A list of accidents with a death roll of over 100 since 2000

(This is from memory, so there may be minor inaccuracies):

2002: Near Gaya, 116 killed in wrecking of Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani.

2005: Near Hyderabad, 116 killed as passenger train plunges into flood waters in Nalgonda district.

2006: 7 bomb blasts on WR locals in Mumbai result is the deaths of at least 186.

2010: Near Kharagpur: 150 killed as a goods train collided with coaches of the Howrah-Mumbai Jnaneshwari Express, which had been derailed due to sabotage.

(It is also noted that some false reports of major disasters in the 2000s have been entered in Wikipedia, with no reference. I will have to clean them up).

Here is the story of the ill-fated train’s trip:

pokhrayan-accident-tt

It can be seen that the last scheduled stop was at Orai, about 50 km short of the accident site. The route continues beyond Kanpur via Lucknow, Faizabad, Varanasi and Mughalsarai.

As to causes of the accident-all which can be said at the moment is that there could have been a defect in the tracks, or the loco, or rolling stock, or possibly a combination of these. Apart from tampering with the tracks, rail fractures and fractures of welded joints have been observed as causes of major derailments in recent years.

While there have been a number of incidents of sabotage of tracks in recent years, they have usually been in areas where extremist groups are active. That is not the case here. Apart from extremist sabotage, over the past 50 years there have been at least a couple of cases where disgruntled railway employees have caused major accidents by tampering with tracks.

Cow slaughter on the tracks

While British cattle are larger and heavier than their counterparts in India and other Asian countries, they do not seem to be particularly intelligent, as we see here. Wandering onto a track which is a main route with rated speeds of 225 Km/h is not very smart. Anyway, see this news item from Peterborough in eastern England which refers to an accident on 2 Oct 2016:

https://www.rt.com/viral/361401-train-kills-cows-arsenal/

Sometimes the cows win, as we see from this accident in 1984 in Scotland where a single cow caused a push-pull diesel express to derail with the death of over a dozen humans:

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

A picture of the accident site:

http://danger-ahead.railfan.net/gallery/polmont.htm

As you can see from the above Wikipedia article, this was a significant accident in that it brought out the dangers of push-pull trains with the loco at the rear running into an obstruction. If the loco had been in front the accident and number of casualties would not have been so serious.

India has had its share of relatively minor accidents involving cattle and camels, which have caused some derailments but without major damage or casualties. However, unlike the British railways, IR does have a significant number of larger animals such as lions, tigers and elephants.

Tigers and lions do get run over quite often. The relatively small number of lions in the Gir forest may be able to cope with the slow metre gauge trains in their area. But overcrowding has caused them to disperse to areas further away which have heavy broad gauge goods traffic, notably the line to Pipavav port. The results are predictable.

Elephants have caused accidents in several parts of the country, notably in North Bengal and Assam. The worst such accident was in Jalpaiguri district in 2013 which led to deaths of 7 elephants and injuries to several several others: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Chapramari_Forest_train_accident

No humans were affected in this accident.

However, this accident in 2000 near Dehradun did cause some injuries to humans:

 May 2, 2000

18 injured as 3010 Dn Dehradun-Howrah Doon Express derailed after hitting a herd of elephants at  unmanned crossing between Raiwala and Motichur (near the  latter) on Dehradun-Haridwar section. The engine and 3 coaches were derailed. An elephant was killed.

The zoo that is Indian Railways

In the beginning there were Mail trains, Express trains and Passenger trains besides goods trains. So you also had Mixed trains, slow trains which had passenger coaches as well as goods wagons. Some of these may still exist on minor branch lines.

After Independence new varieties came along, such as the Janatha Expresses (only 3rd class) and Deluxe Expresses (with a small number of AC chair and AC I coaches).

In 1969 the first Rajdhani Express ran. A few years later we had the Jayanthi Janatha Express. These ran on a number of routes, though the only one which lasted long enough with this name was the first one between Nizamuddin and Mangalore, with a few coaches to Cochin. It still survives with a completely different route and name (the Mangala Express via the Konkan route to Ernakulam via Mangaluru Jn). Other short-lived phenomena included the DC (Diesel Car) Express which ran on metre gauge between Kanpur and Lucknow, and a few other MG routes on the NER.

In the late 70s came the “classless” trains such as the Gitanjali Express, basically all 2nd class sleeper with cushioned berths. In the mean time 3rd class had vanished and had become 2nd class just by using a bit of red paint to change III to II.

Still later, various Railway Ministers kept introducing various new ideas for express trains. No new Mail trains were introduced since the 70s. The last one appears to have been the Tinsukia Mail in c.1974, which became the Brahmaputra Mail. Some Mails were transformed into Expresses, such as the Bombay/Poona Mail to the Mahalaxmi Express (if I remember right). And the one-time 1/2 Delhi/Ahmedabad Mail first became the Haridwar Mail and then the Yoga Express (Don’t ask me why. Swami Ramdev might know).

The Shatabdis, Jan Shatabdis, Durontos, Garib Raths, Double Decker, Jan Sadharan and Sampark Kranti Expresses should be familiar enough now. I must have missed out a few species. Right now the new Railway Minister has unleashed several new beasts, for which you can refer to this news item:

http://profit.ndtv.com/news/budget/article-rail-budget-2016-humsafar-to-uday-four-new-categories-of-trains-to-be-introduced-1281149

and this older reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Express_trains_in_India

The new timetable from October 1, 2016 will include these:

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/railways/tejas-hamsafar-express-services-in-railways-new-timetable/articleshow/54532278.cms

Deendayalu appears to be a type of coach rather than a train. Probably these coaches will run on the Antodaya trains.

So now you have it. India does have the most variety of trains of any railway system in the world.

Just waiting for Uday Expresses to run to these places:

As you would guess, the “original” Udaipur is the one on the right while the one on the left is in Tripura (where the local language is Bengali).

The real original Udaipur station existed until 1964 when the new route from Udaipur to Himatnagar was built. It now goes by this name:

rana-pratap-nagar

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.

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.