The Martin lines of old Calcutta-2

More historical details:

To help you keep track:

HALR and HSLR from Railway Magazine

Opening dates:

(HALR):

Telkul Ghat (Howrah) to Dumjur:         01-07-1897     9.20 miles/14.81 km

Dumjur to Bargachia:                              02-10-1897      5.87/9.45

Bargachia to Maju:                                   04-05-1898     5.50/8.86

Maju to Amta:                                            01-06-1898     6.62/10.66

Total                27.19/43.78

Champadanga branch:

Bargachia to Jagatbalabpur:                   02-10-1897     1.50/2.42

Jagatbalabpur to Autpur:                         01-06-1904     8.50/13.69

Autpur to Champadanga                          24-08-1908:    6.68/10.75

Total             16.68/26.86

(HASR):

Kadamtala to Chanditala                               02-08-1897:     8.88/14.30

Chanditala to Kistrampur                             10-09-1897:      3.75/6.04

Kistrampur  to Sheakhala                              07-11-1897:     4.75/7.65

Total:            17.38/27.99

Janai branch:

Chanditala to Janai                                            05-05-1898:    2.37/3.82

LATER DEVELOPMENTS:

By 1939, service were stopped between Howrah Ghat and Kadamtala. All the trains started from the latter.

In 1948, a new terminus was constructed at Howrah Maidan. A new alignment was created from there to Dasnagar

This was opened on 01-02-1948 with a length of 4.00 km.

That was common to the HALR and HASR.

For the HASR, a new alignment was also opened on 01-02-1948 from Dasnagar Km 3.2 to Km 6.0 (a length of 2.80 km)

This meant that Kadamtala and Uttar Banthra were no longer in use.

Passenger services on the Chanditala-Janai branch stopped between 1951 and 1963.

The rest of the HALR and HSLR closed from 1971.

Only the Howrah-Amta services were restarted in the 1990s, when the route was converted to broad gauge and electrified. There are several pairs of EMUs running on this route which has seen a major change in alignment at the Howrah end. These trains start from the main Howrah station and proceed along the main line to Kharagpur. At Santragachi, the line to Amta branches off, passes Kona which was on the old HASR and takes up the old alignment near Makardaha. A number of the old stations do not exist now.

Details of the present Howrah-Amta route via Santragachi and Kona can be seen here on this extract from the official SER map:

Howrah-Amta new

Or here:

Howrah-Amta new station list

 

 

 

The Martin lines of old Calcutta-1

Many older people remember these lines well although they ceased to operate by the early 1970s. The Howrah-Amta line is now a single line electrified BG line on a slightly different alignment, while there is no sign of conversion of the lines to Sheakhala and Champadanga.

Here are a few old maps showing their details:

HALR and HSLR from Railway MagazineHowrah_Railway_Systems in 1909Howrah-Amta_Light_Railway_Map_1909

The map at the top is from the “Railway Magazine” published in Britain in the 1960s. The two other maps are from 1909. In the bottom map Sheakhala is not marked but you should be able to follow the line adjacent to the Amta line. There is also the long-vanished Tarkessur-Magra NG line.

The branches to Bargachia and Janai may not have been built when this map was prepared. But the 1960s map above is probably the best map of these lines which can be found.

A summary of the history of the HALR and the HSLR is given here:

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Howrah_Tramways_(Light_Railways)

They have been described as the only major commuter railways on narrow gauge anywhere in the world. While the passenger traffic was heavy, continuing losses caused their closure in early 1971.

Timetables from the 1944 Bradshaw can be seen here:

1943-NG-4B

 

1943-NG-5A

1943-NG-5B

Note that Kadamtala was the terminus, as the Howrah municipality felt that operations from Telkul Ghat were not feasible due to congestion. By 1948 a new terminus at Howrah Maidan was built, which was in use until closure in the 1970s.

 

The Non-Government Railways of the 1940s

I had earlier summarized information about the 9 non-government railways which were separately listed in the All-India Timetable of 1964. None of them exist in NG now, they have either been converted to BG or closed for many years.

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/the-non-government-railways-of-india-in-1964-and-what-happened-to-them/

As there is interest in timetables of these and other vanished lines, I am giving some extracts of a 1943 Bradshaw which covers all the lines which were apparently not part of the larger railway systems of that time. Some survived into the 1960s and beyond and others closed much earlier.

Here we see the lines of the Bengal Provincial Railway, which closed in 1956:

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

1943-NG-1

Here we have the two McLeod and Co lines known as the Burdwan Katwa Light Railway and the Ahmadpur Katwa Light Railway.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bardhaman%E2%80%93Katwa_line

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmadpur%E2%80%93Katwa_line

Both these lines were purchased by the Government transferred to the Eastern Railway in 1966, where they continue till now after being fully converted to BG and electrified.

Also the Dehri Rohtas Light Railway, initially owned by the Octavius Steel group and then the Sahu Jain group. It closed in 1984 and is not likely to be revived.

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

1943-NG-2

The 4 lines here were all part of the Martin Burn group:

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Bukhtiarpur-Bihar_Light_Railway

Closed in 1961.Became part of ER and converted to BG by 1962.

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Futwah-Islampur_Light_Railway

Was closed in 1986, converted to BG and became part of ER (and then East Central Railway).

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Arrah-Sasaram_Light_Railway

Closed in 1978, converted to BG and became part of ER (and then East Central Railway).

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Shahdara-Saharanpur_Light_Railway

Closed in 1970, converted to BG and became part of Northern Railway.

1943-NG-3

The Barasat Basirhat Light Railway (which had other owners, NL Roy and Sons Ltd)

1943-NG-4A

This was closed in 1955. In 1962 the Barasat-Hasnabad BG line was opened with a similar alignment.

Also from the Martin Burn group:

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Howrah-Sheakhalla_Light_Railway

This was of 2’0″ gauge. This closed in 1971 and no steps have been taken to reopen it.

 

Next is the Howrah-Amta Light Railway. This was also of 2’0″ gauge.

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Howrah-Amta_Light_Railway

Like its sister line above, it closed in 1971. The Howrah-Amta section was converted to BG and electrified, and is now part of the South Eastern Railway. It is unlikely that the Champadanga branch will be revived.

1943-NG-4B

1943-NG-5A1943-NG-5B

 

The Rupsa-Bagerhat Light Railway, now in Bangladesh. This was converted to BG in around 1970 but was closed soon afterwards.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khulna%E2%80%93Bagerhat_Railway

1943-NG-6

The Bankura Damodar River Railway (from the McLeod & Co group):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McLeod%27s_Light_Railways#Bankura%E2%80%93Damodar_Railway

This was transferred to the South Eastern Railway and converted to broad gauge in the 2000s. It was extended from Rainagar to Gram Masagram (near Masagram on the Howrah-Barddhaman chord).

The Kaligat Falta Railway (McLeod & Co)

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Kalighat-Falta_Railway

This was closed by 1957. A road now runs over the alignment.

1943-NG-7A

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which needs no introduction. The 2’0″ line from NJP and Siliguri continues to run much as it has since the 1880s, except that diesels now haul the regular trains.

It was initially part of the Gillanders Arbuthnot group. By this time it was considered to be a part of IR and not a  non-government line.

1943-NG-7B

The line from Siliguri to Kishanganj was converted to MG as part of the Assam Rail Link in 1948-50, and to BG more recently.

The Teesta Valley branch continued running until 1950. The section between Siliguri and Sevok was converted to mixed NG/MG gauge until the hill section up to Gielle Khola was damaged by floods in 1950. The hill section was closed and the NG line removed from Siliguri to Sevok which continued to be part of the Assam Rail Link. Today it is broad gauge.

The Tezpur Balipara NG line was initially run by the local agents Kilburn & Co. In 1952 it became part of the Northeast Frontier Railway and converted to MG. Still later it was converted to BG although the terminus is now Dekargaon, north of Tezpur.

1943-NG-8A1943-NG-8B

 

And finally the Jagadhri Light Railway, which closed in 1950:

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Jagadhri_Light_Railway

1943-NG-9

This, then, is the summary of all NG lines which were not part of the major railway companies in 1943. A brief history of the later developments has been given.

The links provide sources of more information from Wikipedia and Fibis.

There were still other NG lines which had closed by 1940, mainly in South India. Most of them never reopened.

 

 

The last gasp of the Satpura narrow gauge lines

A news item about the impending conversion of the (Nagpur) Itwari-Nagbhir narrow gauge section from November 2019:

https://www.railpost.in/the-last-ng-section-in-secrs-nagpur-division-to-close-down-for-gauge-conversion/

This is the last of the vast network of narrow gauge lines which used to cover a large part of the less-developed areas of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Here is an earlier post describing its operations in late 2015:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/the-satpura-railway-still-exists/

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.

 

The Satpura Railway still exists!

Note: This was written in December 2015 and has not been updated.

In the last few months, there have been a number of articles in the popular media and rail fan groups regarding the demise of the network of narrow-gauge lines in Central India known as the Satpura Railway, now coming under the South East Central Railway.

If you were to take these articles seriously, you would imagine that these lines were being permanently closed down leaving this area without rail communication. They are, of course, being converted to broad gauge and this network has been gradually converted over the last decade. You can expect the conversion to be over within a couple of years.

Here we have an 1964 map of the then SER which shows all the NG lines long before Project Unigauge was even thought of.

SER 1964 001

Note the numerous NG branches all over the zone. However, the Raipur branches and everything east were not part of the Satpura system.

For the moment, however, there still exists one functioning narrow gauge line between Nagpur and Nagbhir which has three pairs of trains a day. This will also face the conversion axe sooner or later, but you can certainly travel there now. Thanks to local expert Alok Patel for this tipoff.

Here you can see the overall list of trains (from an official website, but errors are not impossible):

Nagpur-Nagbhir:

Nagpur Nagbhir

Nagbhir-Nagpur:

Nagbhir Nagpur

Here are the timetables for the first trains in either direction:

Nagpur-Nagbhir:

Nagpur Nagbhir TT

Nagbhir-Nagpur:

Nagbhir Nagpur TT

Note that the station of Moti Bagh was known for its narrow-gauge loco shed and other workshops (besides a small railway museum) but was not used for regular passenger services. I do not think it appeared in passenger timetables until now.

For instance, it is not there in the printed timetable of 2014. That shows the first train leaving from Nagpur at 05.55. The second train given above is shown at Itwari at 10.10/10.15 and then at Nagpur at 10.45.

So the laments for the demise of the narrow gauge Satpura Railway were a little premature. Ride this 110-km route south of Nagpur while you can. There are also a few BG trains running through Nagbhir. These include an express between Chennai and Bilaspur (once weekly in each direction) and between Yesvantpur and Korba (twice weekly).

This map showing part of Nagpur may be helpful:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@21.1552413,79.1014885,15z

Incorporating a few comments received from my old friend Alok Patel:

“Conversion has been sanctioned for the NGP-NABN line but no serious allocations done yet. I suspect they will want to complete the main Satpura lines first since the Nagpur-Chhindwara-Jabalpur-Gondia network had surprisingly high traffic. Also note that the station code for Nagbhir Narrow Gauge has been changed to NABN to signify NG. The BG station must now be using the code NAB”

“I haven’t been to MIB for a long time now but the trains don’t start from MIB per se. They start from the MIB yard, go to NGP, reverse at NGP, go down the same route till the triangle at MIB where they stop to pick up passengers, bypass the MIB yard at the triangle and continue towards Itwari. I suspect the one kilometre or so long NGP-MIB stretch won’t stay operational for much more time, now that the key Chhindwara side traffic has ceased to exist.”