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.

 

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in 1943

We have all heard of the train to Darjeeling, but there was more to it than the single line from Siliguri to Darjeeling. This should be apparent from these timetable extracts from 1943. These are not from the Bradshaw which had rather poor print quality, but from another source (more about that later).

DHR TT 001

First, this is an extract from the Bengal & Assam Railway. See its logo showing that it was founded in 1942. This was an emergency measure following the outbreak of World War 2 in Asia. The old stalwarts Eastern Bengal Railway (HQ in Calcutta, main station Sealdah) and the Assam Bengal Railway (HQ in Chittagong) were merged to form the B & A Railway to make it easier to manage rail transport east of Calcutta. Essentially the running of the railways was taken over by the US armed forces.

Of course, the B & AR was broken up after partition and its tracks are now spread over the present Sealdah  division of ER, the NFR, and Bangladesh Railways.

Now we look at the timetables of the DHR. These lines were not part of the B&AR, but it was the practice to include adjoining smaller railway systems in the timetables of larger systems.

DHR TT 002

There are several points here that many railfans may be unfamiliar with. To begin with, this system was the 2-foot narrow gauge unlike most other narrow gauge lines in India which were 2 ft 6 in. Only a handful of 2-foot gauge lines in India survive now, including the mountain railways to Darjeeling and Matheran.

The Siliguri station here was the BG terminus where long-distance trains such as the Darjeeling Mail used. It was located at the station now known as Siliguri Town. Note the connection between the Mail arriving at 06.44 and the NG train (also called the Mail) at 06.59, and in the reverse direction when the passengers presumably had their dinner at Siliguri.

The present Siliguri Jn was opened as part of the Assam Rail Link in the late 1940s. It is located at the former wayside station of Siliguri Road seen above.

When New Jalpaiguri station was opened in the early 1960s, the NG line was extended south from Siliguri Jn to there passing through Siliguri Town, which had gone from being a major terminus to an unimportant wayside station.

Panchanai Jn was the point where the DHR branch to Kishanganj turned towards the left. There is no sign of it now. There have been various other changes pertaining to loops and reverses. One result of this is that Chunabhati station is no longer on the route. This timetable does not show the numerous halt stations which have mostly vanished without a trace, though Batasia is now a stop for the joyride trains between Darjeeling and Ghum.

Now for the rest of the DHR:

DHR TT 003

The Siliguri-Kishanganj Extension and the Teesta Valley Extension were built later (dates given below). The Kishanganj line provided a connection to MG trains from Barsoi and Katihar side. Being in the plains, it did not need the special B class engines but used more conventional ones. Apart from the usual 4-6-2s, there was also a Garratt.

This line became the starting point of the Assam Rail Link, enabling MG trains from the Katihar side to enter northern Bengal. Note that many of the stations (including Naksalbari and Baghdogra) became part of the MG line though there were some changes in alignment. For instance, the new MG line went directly from Matigara to the new Siliguri Jn without crossing Panchanai (where the station was demolished).

The Teesta Valley Extension had an unfortunate end. Initially the Assam Rail Link followed it up to Sevoke. There was a mixed gauge line from the new Siliguri Jn to Sevoke. Here the TV line turned north while the new MG line crossed the Teesta just east of the station and continued eastward to join the existing MG system at a place which became known as New Mal Jn, and finally to Fakiragram and beyond.

The terminus at Gielle Khola seems to have been known as Kalimpong Road in the earlier days. A ropeway connected this station to Kalimpong.

But this line did not last long after Independence. Severe flooding damage occurred in early 1950 which resulted in the line being closed permanently. Though the tracks ran close to the highway towards Kalimpong and Gangtok, you are not likely to see any trace of the line now unless you take the help of local experts. And the NG line from Siliguri to Sivok was pulled up as it no longer had any purpose, leaving a pure MG line behind. In the  2000s the entire MG route in this area was converted to BG.

Some historical notes here:

DHR History 001

Note the stamp issued in 1982.

The above information is from a nice little booklet called “A guide to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway” by Richard Wallace, first edition in 2000. There is a more detailed second edition published in 2009.

There is another useful book by R.R. Bhandari which may be available at the bookstall at the National Rail Museum at Delhi.

Numerous other books (mainly of British origin) are also there. Some may be available from bookshops in Kolkata and the Darjeeling area.

Other useful links include:

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

and

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/railway-history-construction-of-the-assam-rail-link/

 

 

 

 

 

Rail Quiz No 2

Here is a fairly simple one for those who are familiar with timetables of the 1970s:

What was common between these four stations as of the mid-70s (but not today):

 

Answer: These stations had three gauges of lines.

The first to get it right was Abhirup Sarkar.

Notes for those who are interested:

Remember, all this applies to the 1970s and not now.

BG, MG and NG are mentioned in order for each case.

NJP: The main line to New Bongaigaon, branch line from Siliguri, 2’0″ DHR to Darjeeling.

Bangalore City: Main line from Madras, various lines to Mysore, Hubli etc, 2’6″ line  to Bangarapet via Yelahanka, Chikballapur and Kolar. The NG terminus moved to Yelahanka in the 80s. Now that line is also BG. Possibly Yelahanka had all 3 gauges for some time.

Miraj: Main line from Bombay and Poona, main line from Bangalore, branch line to Kurduwadi. (Up to around 1970 it was on the MG line from Poona to Bangalore. BG conversion got up to Miraj and Kolhapur and then stopped for many years).

Ujjain: Major branch line from Bhopal to Nagda and Indore, minor branch line from Indore via Fatehabad Chandrawatiganj, 2’0″ branch to Agar which probably closed in the 80s. This was originally part of the Scindia State Railway which also ran three similar branches out of Gwalior, one of which still runs on NG.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Railfanning in Riga

Those in the older age group would first have heard of Riga in this limerick:

There was a young lady of Riga,
Who smiled when she rode on a tiger.
They came back from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

If your general knowledge was better, you would know that Riga was the capital of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, and that Latvia was briefly an independent country which was swallowed by the Soviet Union in the 1940s. It finally became independent in 1991 and now has EU membership, the Euro, Schengen visas and all the other trappings of modernity.
But our story is not about that Riga but the other one closer to home:

Riga

While this is the station at the other Riga, which truly befits a nation’s capital:

The Indian Riga is near Sitamarhi in Bihar:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@26.648306,85.429489,12z

It’s main claim to fame is this company:

http://www.rigasugar.com/about%20us.htm

The company has its own metre gauge railway line with one saddle-tank steam loco and one diesel shunter (both from the 1930s) which were until recently hard at work hauling sugarcane. Despite its inaccessibility it attracted the attention of foreign steam fans.

Some pictures can be seen here:

http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/trains/india035.htm

Though you may find this 11-minute video more interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvNRHzYqTtI

This is mainly devoted to the steam loco hauling wagons laden with sugarcane. There is a brief glimpse of a regular diesel-hauled metre gauge passenger train from 7.00 to 7.25.

Time has stood still here for many decades. However, you will look in vain for the lady and the tiger.

UPDATE: The above Youtube clip is from 2005, when Riga station was on the metre gauge line from Darbhanga to Raxaul and thus had freight trains carrying sugarcane. The factory’s trains used to move these freight wagons to the factory. More recently, the section has been converted to broad gauge. While this has enabled a few express trains from Delhi, Kolkata and elsewhere to traverse this route, none of them stop at Riga.It is served only by slow passenger trains: http://erail.in/riga-railway-station

More importantly, freight trains to this station are now broad gauge and thus the wagons cannot be used on the metre gauge line to the factory. So it seems that the two hard-working locos from 1930 and 1935 may now have retired.