Rail Quiz-Oct 2019 with answers

  1. What is the significance of this pair of stations in the history of IR? The line between these stations was opened in 1926, completing the Delhi-Madras line (as well as the Golden Quadrilateral with diagonals).
  2. Nowadays all passenger trains have at least a technical halt at Balharshah. But in 1963-64 the Southern Express (then the best train between New Delhi and Madras) ran through Balharshah without stopping. How was this possible?  They stop at Balharshah as it is the “junction” between CR and SCR where train crews change. Up to 1966, the Central Railway ran straight to Vijayawada and to Hyderabad and beyond. As Balharshah was not so important then, the Southern Express ran through without stopping. In 1963-64 it ran on some days as the AC Express and some days as the Southern Express (like the Paschim and Poorva which survived longer).
  3. What is the historical significance of this station in Bangladesh? Dohazari                                                                                    The end of a branch line from Chittagong. It was completed in the mid-1920s as the first part of a proposed line to Burma (which was still governed from India). The Great Depression, the delinking of Burma from India in 1937 and then World War 2 put an end to that.
  4. And of this station in Pakistan? The western-most station of Pakistan Railways. The line continues across the border to Zahidan in Iran, though that portion of the track was transferred to the Iranian railways in the 1960s. The trains are still operated by PR.Koh i Taftan (2)
  5. Why was this small station’s name well known to Allied military personnel?  Drigh RoadA major RAF base existed there since the 1920s, which was very active during World War 2. For some reason it was known as Drigh Road airfield and was not named after Karachi. Later, an offshoot of this became the main airport of Karachi.
  6. And what was the significance of this station’s name to British soldiers? Deolali was a British Army camp 100 miles north-east of Mumbai . It is also the source of the British slang noun doolally tap, loosely meaning “camp fever”, and referring to the apparent madness of men waiting for ships back to Britain after finishing their tour of duty. By the 1940s this had been widely shortened to just “doolally“, an adjective meaning “mad (insane).Devlali
  7. What is unusual about this station in Bangladesh? And what was it called before partition? Like Hili, it lies right on the border and from India one can easily see trains running here on the Chittagong-Akhaura section. It was called Kamalasagar as it used to serve this place which is now across the border.        Quasba
  8. Until recently, what was (wrongly) claimed to be the first station in Arunachal Pradesh? Bhalukpong, reached from Balipara around 1980. The town spreads over Assam and Arunachal, and the station is just within Assam’s border. The picture below shows it during MG days.Bhalukpong old
  9. Identify the time span when this picture was taken.   This place is in Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. From 1954 to 1971 Urdu and Bengali were the official languages of Pakistan, and thus signboards in East Pakistan had English and these two languages. Once Bangladesh came into being, there was no need for Urdu signs and they are a rarity now. This picture dates from the 1971 war.Rajshahi station-old
  10. Where in India would you have seen steam locos in green livery marked “PAK”? The locos of SCR had tenders in red and green. There used to be a MG loco shed at Pakala (code PAK) and this was marked on the tender. (This was not an usual practice, but has been mentioned by Bill Aitken in one of his books).
  11. Name one station in Kerala which had steam sheds for BG and MG. Quilon, now Kollam. The MG shed was first, and the BG facilities started once BG came in 1975.
  12. Name one major rail-connected howler in the film “Julie”. This is set in Shoranur, an important junction but not even a divisional HQ. Utpal Dutt’s character is mentioned as the Chief Engineer, whereas the station would have had an Assistant Engineer (and AME) as the local heads.
  13. Which was the only section of IR which had 4-foot gauge? Azimganj-Nalhati, soon converted to BG and now on the ER. See details here: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Nalhati-Azimganj_Railway You can also see this loco at the NRM: 
  14. And 3’6″ gauge? The Arconum-Conjeevarum Tramway, as it was then called. It soon became BG, soon after MG and finally BG in recent years. More details: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Arakkonam-Conjeevaram_Tramway . No information about the 3’6″ locos could be found.
  15. What was the northern-most MG station on IR? Ignore the short-lived MG lines north of Lahore. Kot Kapura. The MG line from Bhatinda then turned south-west towards Fazilka, so Kot Kapura was the northern-most MG station.
  16. Bonus: Which important station most closely matches the description of the title of the novel “Bhowani Junction”? Note these points-it is on the Delhi-Bombay line, with a branch going towards Allahabad (though not directly). It is a district HQ and an important cantonment. This fits Jhansi perfectly (but not Itarsi and Bhusaval).


(The best effort was by my old friend Harsh Vardhan.)


A new plinthed loco in Chandigarh

Our friend Dr Dheeraj Sanghi, currently Director of the Punjab Engineering College at Chandigarh, informed us of this plinthed loco in the campus.

Also this one from Google Maps, thanks to Mayur Nandu:

PEC steam loco pic from Google

There is nothing about this location on the net. The only thing we know is that it is of  class EE and has number 5.

From  “Indian Locomotives Part 2 – Metre Gauge 1872-1940” by Hugh Hughes we find that it is a metre gauge 2-4-0 (with tender) which was supplied to the Jodhpur Bikaner Railway in 1891. It was manufactured by Dubs & Co, Glasgow.  Some of the locos of this class were built by Neilson & Co, Glasgow in 1894.

This particular loco was among those transferred to the Bikaner State Railway in 1924 when it was separated from the Jodhpur Bikaner Railway. It was taken out of service before renumbering was done in 1957. Perhaps it served on the MG section of the Northern Railway.

The Bikaner State Railway extended up to Bathinda. Metre gauge continued beyond Bathinda to Kot Kapura and Fazilka initially on the BB & CI Rly. This section was transferred to the NR. Kot Kapura was the northern limit of metre gauge in the IR network.

Here is a picture from Hughes’s book showing a loco of this class:

PEC Loco 1 001

And some further details:

PEC Loco Text 002

Bypasses of the Indian Railways

Many important stations of the Indian Railways have bypasses. These are used to reduce congestion, and especially where a reversal is eliminated.

While some are used mainly by goods trains, there is an increasing trend for more large junctions to be bypassed. In most cases a smaller station nearby is used as the “proxy” for long-distance trains to stop. Examples are Perambur for a few trains which skip MAS, Sevagram for Wardha Jn, Uslapur for Bilaspur, Pathankot Cantt (ex Chakki Bank) for Pathankot.

Here is a pdf file for all of the bypassed stations which I could think of. Additions and corrections are welcome.

Let us not consider “area bypasses” such as Vasai Road-Panvel or Gudur-Renigunta-Katpadi or Kharagpur-Asansol.

Bypasses on IR1

Perhaps we can think of a few more places where bypasses would be useful, such as Sawai Madhopur.

Trivia: the first custom-built bypass was probably the one at Shoranur which was commissioned in the early 1940s. Others which came up over the years due to realignments etc would be Allahabad-Chheoki and Podanur, (Yes, I know that the lines around Coimbatore have a complex history).

The Jodhpur State Railway of 1943

Apart from the North Western Railway, the Jodhpur State Railway was split between India and Pakistan after Partition.

From a Bradshaw of 1943, we see that JoSR covered in four pages:

Jodhpur State railway 1943-1

Jodhpur State railway 1943-2

Readers from India will be familiar with the extensions and conversions on the Indian side. The lines which went to Pakistan are highlighted on the first two pages.

The line from Hyderabad to Mirpur Khas was converted in the late 1960s, and further to link with the Indian BG system in 2006. A new station (Zero Point) was built exactly on the Pakistani side of the border, between Khokhropar and Munabao.

The Thar Express covers the stretch from Munabao to Zero Point, with connecting points to Bhagat-ki-Kothi (near Jodhpur) and Karachi plus intermediate stops at Mirpur Khas and Hyderabad.

The other metre gauge lines shown in the first two pages were never converted and appear to be closed. A PR timetable of the early 2000s showed weekly trains on the Pithoro loop and one every 15 days on the Nawabshah branch.

The line to Zahidan has around the same frequency, but it still survives in the hope that it will be useful for Pakistan-Iran trade.

Pentas and Hexas

You have heard of quadruplets, quintuplets and hextuplets. Or quadrilaterals, pentagons and hexagons.

The Penta has various connotations. Like the Pentagon. Or Brazil winning the soccer World Cup for the 5th time in 2002. Or even the dreaded Khalistani terrorist named Surjit Singh Penta, and the long-gone Hotel Leela Penta.

And there are penta locomotive combinations on the line through the Braganza ghats to Goa:

Note the “station” of Dudhsagar Water Falls, with is nothing but a viewing platform with signs.

This impressive array of power is needed for trains going downhill, particularly as they need additional braking power.

However, these are not the most locos on a train on the Indian Railways. Admittedly the six-pack you see below is quite rare.

Most of you have heard the one about “How do you get 4 elephants into a Volkswagen Beetle? Two in the front and two in the back”.

And the desi version involving the venerable Ambassador, where the 6 elephants are accommodated three in the front and three in the back.

Remember that now:

Video by Mr Rajendraprakash Saxena.

This was taken above Palasdhari at the start of the Bhor Ghat incline to Lonavla. Goods trains are normally hauled by electric locos, though here we have three WDG-3As in front and a triplet of WCG-2 howlers at the back. Not unlike howler monkeys. Sadly, you cannot hear them today.

The lonely line through Balochistan

Many of us in India have vaguely heard of the line from Quetta to Zahidan in Iran, which was completed about a century ago. The location can be seen here in the north-west corner:

NWR-1930 map

This map is from 1930 and only shows the line up to Nushki. This is a better map from the 1960s:

PWR in 1969

A good summary of its history up to 2007 by Owais Mughal can be seen here:


Also see the timetables from the 1930 NWR TT:

NWTT 011

Note the distances: 68 miles (109 km) form Yakmach to Nok Kundi, a further 86 miles (138 km) to Mirjawa across the border and a further 52/84 to the terminus then called Duzdap.

And from the 1943 Bradshaw:

1943 Badshaw-Zahidan line

At that point the line was closed beyond Nok Kundi, though it was revived as part of the war effort.

Now we have something more up to date, in the form of 2 videos making a travelogue by a Pakistani blogger. These are fully in Urdu, though anyone who can understand Hindi should not have a problem.

The narrator’s style may be a little irritating, but you do see a good view of life on the Pakistan-Iran border including the last PR station at Koh-e-Taftan and the nearby road crossing along other bits like the last mosque and the last ATM in Pakistan. (This station seems to have come up after 1947).

Note the single train between Quetta and Zahidan which is a mixed train with very limited passenger space. It is interesting to see the large volume of Iranian consumer goods being imported here.


Footnote: we hear a lot of Gwadar and its port nowadays. Did you know that it was NOT part of British India but was an exclave of Oman until Pakistan took over in 1957, long after Independence.

Which name is correct?

In some stations, the signs at different places show different names:


Sakleshpur is supposed to the correct spelling.

I have seen signs of Hafizpet and Hafizpeta coexisting.

And in Chennai:


Washermanpet is listed in official sites. And the Hindi signs seem to agree.

Chromepet is the official name, which is logical as there is or was the Chrome Leather Factory nearby. But today all signs gave been changed:


More peculiar is the station which is listed as Dalhousi Road (which is wrong as the town and the Governor-General were spelt Dalhousie). And the station sign is more correct than the official listing:

Dalhousie Road

Finally, the official name is Atari, but signs mainly show Attari:

To make things more confusing, the Punjab government has renamed the station Atari Shyam Singh in 2015, though it appears that the Centre has not approved of this .

Similarly, you will still see Allahabad and not Prayagraj. (There are also Prayag Jn and Prayag Ghat which are different). There are numerous photoshopped pictures of the new signs on the net, but no genuine pictures of the new signs where Prayagraj has replaced Allahabad.

(While on this topic, note the continued existence of IIT Madras, IIT Bombay and IIM Calcutta).

Tail piece: note the mismatch between Hindi and Bengali here: