It is common to find odd things in the inscriptions on signboards at railway stations in India. The traditional rule is to have three languages-the state’s language at the top, Hindi second and English third. Examples from southern and eastern India:
Now, it becomes complicated when a state has more than one official language. UP and Bihar have Hindi and Urdu, Assam has Bengali in some districts, and so on. This is summarised here:
The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has official languages Kashmiri, Dogri, Hindi, Urdu and English. Kashmiri was added only in 2020. Up till then stations in this state/UT had inscriptions in Urdu, Hindi and English. Dogri has started appearing in the Jammu region now. Sometimes there is only Dogri in addition to English and Hindi, or only Urdu, or sometimes both.
Here we see signs with Urdu or Dogri but not both.
Kathua, close to the Punjab border has signs with only Urdu and with Dogri and Urdu.
Samba, associated with a spy scandal and Gabbar Singh has Dogri and Urdu
Similarly for Vijaypur Jammu:
So there does not seem to be any clear policy as to which languages are to be considered local languages in the Jammu region.
An average railfan would have seen the station of Bhortex in the WR timetable, and wondered how this “non-Indian” spelling came there. However, this is what you will see there:
This is in Maharashtra, on the Surat-Bhusaval section. You can see that it is spelt Bhortek (in English, Hindi and Marathi). A look at maps of the area confirms this. In fact, the timetable entry changed to Bhortex some years ago. It looks like a clerical error by the timetable department. But no one has bothered to change it. Bhortex also remains in the RBS site.
Another persistent error relates to this station:
This is in Punjab, near the Punjab-HP border on the Kangra Valley line. Anyone slightly familiar with Indian history would realize that the spelling is correct. This station serves the hill station of that name. But the NR timetables and the RBS site have chopped the last E for several years, and display Dalhousi Road today. This would again been a clerical error which no one has bothered to correct.
Now to Jharkhand, on the Gomoh-Daltonganj branch and not far from McCluskieganj we have:
The station is listed as Gumia. In the locality both Gumia and Gomia are used, especially as the only large industrial unit there uses Gomia. It appears that the local practice was initially to spell it Gumia, though Gomia became more widespread since the 1960s. Now even the station sign says Gomia, but the timetables and RBS still stick to the old name.
There are many instances of British names becoming Indianized, such as Worsleyganj becoming Waris Aleganj and McDonald’s Choultry becoming Magudan Chavadi. But there is one odd example from Bareilly in UP. You would have heard of the divisional headquarters at Izatnagar. Or is it Izzatnagar?
When you reach this station, you will see these signs:
So which is correct? In the vicinity you will see both varieties being used in shops and offices.
It was indeed Izatnagar to start with, named after a British railway manager named Alexander Izat. There is also an Izat Bridge elsewhere on the NER near Allahabad. But somehow the word “Izzat” crept in, and now features in the timetable and RBS.
But we can see that no one in the railways seems to care if the signs with different spellings are standing in close proximity.
Other misspellings have lasted for a few years before being corrected. Examples would be “Duckyard Road” for this:
This is in Mumbai on the Harbour Branch. Far away in the Nilgiris, this station
was listed as “Hillgroove” for some years. (These mistakes may have been because “duckyard” and “groove” are valid English words).
There are, of course, numerous stations where you will find signboards with different spellings, often on the same platform. Some well-known ones are Hafizpet/peta and Washer(man/men)pet which you can still see today.
We close with a station in a relatively remote part of Rajasthan, between Bandikui and Bharatpur. It is listed as Tarchhera Baraoli Ran. This is what you will see there:
So someone, either at the NWR headquarters or the local painter has messed up.
But if you check Google maps for this locality (at 27.21 N, 77.10 E) it is shown as Talchera Baraoliran. That is what the sign says. So the timetable is wrong again.
Now, does this really matter to most people including railway passengers of the area? Not really, since they usually know where they are going regardless of what the timetable or sign says.
But it does seem to show that the station sign is more likely to be correct than the official website or timetable.
Anyone seeking to create a practical railway guide or map should keep this in mind. In most cases pictures of the sign can be found in the site https://indiarailinfo.com/ at the entry for the particular station.
Completing our study of station names including directions.
The word South is Dakshin/Dakshina/Dakkhin in several languages including Hindi, Bengali, Kannada and Telugu.
This listing is not supposed to be comprehensive.
We start with
Here, South is transliterated into both languages.
This pair from Andhra Pradesh is more interesting:
In the older sign above, South is transliterated into both languages.
In the newer sign, the correct Hindi and Telugu words are used.
And this station does not appear to have any passenger services.
The correct Hindi and Kannada words have been used here.
“South” also appears in the middle of a name, like in this station on the Kanpur-Banda section:
This was known as Ernakulam South from the late 1930s to the late 1950s. However, a fair number of local people persist in using the old name (as in the case of Ernakulam Town) which still causes trouble to visitors.
Simlarly, Ashokapuram was earlier known as Mysore South (long before Mysuru appeared).
There are a number of stations in Bengal which start with Dakkhin. The best known must be:
However, the place name may not originally have anything to do with the word South.
There is indeed a better-known Barasat in the Kolkata area, though this station is far from there.
One may argue that this (below) is not really a separate station. But you can see this sign inside the Sealdah complex:
Thanks to S Aravind, Ganesh Iyer and others for their suggestions.
There are 5 large stations in India with the suffix “Central”:
Strarting with the northernmost, we then move down to:
Where the word Central is transliterated to Hindi and Marathi.
It may not be commonly known that the local station existed before the terminus was opened in 1930. It was earlier called Bellasis Road.
Down the west coast to:
In Hindi and Kannada here.
Further along the coast to:
While the top inscription looks like a single word, it does include “central” transliterated into Malayalam.
And finally to
Which is now
Has the Tamil inscription for Central changed? In the old sign it follows the trend of transliteration from English. In the new sign the correct (?) term “Mattiya” is the first word of the 3rd line, while the Hindi sign is like all the others. (Though one character in the old sign looks quite odd).
There is also a Metro station in Kolkata called Central:
3. What is unusual about these two station signs? Explain.
4. What additional language is on this sign?
5. This is often labelled as “Nawab Station”, although no such name is in the timetable. Which station is this?
6. With luck, you may be able to get tuna at Tuni station. But there was another station called Tuna in the past. In which present-day state is it?
7. Bengali travelers can try to get fish at this station restaurant. Which state or province is it in?
8. Many clocks at stations and other public places were supplied by P. Orr & Sons of Madras. This small station is far from Madras. In which state?
9. Consider these two pairs of stations:
What do the pair in 9A have in common with the pair in 9B?
10. What is unusual about this station which is not in India?
11. This shows the abandoned station which used to be a ferry terminal as well as being adjacent to a zonal headquarters until the mid-60s. Name it.
12. The fate of Dhanushkodi is well known. But you can still see the remains of it. A small terminus in the North-East was less fortunate as it fell into the Brahmaputra after an earthquake in the 1950s. Which was it?
The best response was by Biswarup Basu. Honourable mention to Ganesh Iyer and Bharat Parashar:
Kot Kapura is the northern most point of metre gauge in India. It was connected by MG to Bathinda and Fazilka, which are to its south.
The Tirap siding is beyond Ledo, and is the eastern most point of IR in India. BG goods trains run there. Further east there is the abandoned MG line to Lekhapani. There are also non-IR industrial lines nearby.
The normal practice is to have the state’s official language on top. In Nagaland (Dimapur) and Mendipathar (Meghalaya), English script is used for official purposes so it is on top.
Dogri language, which is one of the 22 official languages.
This is a part of Rampur station (between Bareilly and Moradabad in UP). This platform had been used for the royal train of the Nawab of Rampur. The dilapidated platform and coaches are probably still there.
In Gujarat, on an abandoned portion of the Cutch State Railway.
7. Balochistan, at the foot of the Bolan Pass going to Quetta. This station, like Karjat, is the base for banking locomotives for uphill trains.
8. Madhya Pradesh, on the Kota-Bina section.
9. These are connected with unusual gauges which were not used anywhere else on IR. The Arconum-Conjeevaram line was initially constructed with 3’6″ and was soon converted to metre gauge, and finally to broad gauge more recently. The Azimganj-Nalhati section was initially constructed with 4’0″ and was soon converted to broad gauge. This loco was converted at the same time and can still be seen at the National Rail Museum.
10. Quasba (Kamalasagar until the late 40s) is in Bangladesh on the main line from Akhaura to Chattogram. It is practically on the border with India and trains can easily be observed from the Indian side.
11. Pandu, on the south bank of the Brahmaputra. A ferry service from Aminigaon ran there until the mid-1960s. The NF zone headquarters was initially here and later moved to Maligaon.
12. Saikhowa Ghat, on a branch from Makum. This branch now terminates at Dangari.
Try to find the full forms of these place names. Google may help in some cases:
An easy one to start with. What is Wimco?
2. Which station? And what important railway facilities are there?
3. What is DMW?
4. What does DAV stand for?
5. What is WRS? and which city is nearby?
6. This is not in West Bengal, but in another state where Bengali is the main language. What does S.K. stand for?
WIMCO stands for the Western India Match Company, a long-standing MNC which was taken over by ITC in the 2000s. The main factories were in Ambernath and Chennai (which had this station which remains after the factory was closed).
NKJ= New Katni Jn. A major electric loco shed is nearby (with locos marked NKJ). There is also a diesel loco shed nearby with locos marked “Katni”.
After solving the mystery of T-Sakibanda , the Special Investigative Team turned its attention to mysterious names in Karnataka. They are relatively new, as they came up in the last decade on the Bengaluru-Hassan line via Shravanabelagola. We first take up B.G. Nagar station:
All the languages mention only the initials B.G. Looking in the map of the surroundings, there is no immediate clue to the full form of B.G. Nagar.
There is however the BGSIT or BGS Institute of Technology nearby:
So now you know what the B.G. stands for. You could not expect the full name to come on the station sign. Case closed.
Our next visit is to D. Samudhravalli, further west after Shravanabelagola.
Here you can see that D is followed by a full stop. What does D stand for?
The station is at a place called Samudravalli while D Samudravalli is another place which is not on the railway.
That still does not help us.
By googling for Samudravalli, we identify a nearby place called B Samudravalli.
It looks like there are different places called A, B, C and D Samudravalli as it needs to be administered in four parts.
The Special Investigative Team is looking for more such cases to study. So far they could find BEML Nagar and VOC Nagar which are easy to expand. So some more place names with odd initials will have to be identified.