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 oldest fast trains in India, and other topics for fans of the Indian Railways

Some generalities to start with. There is no firm answer to the question “Which was India’s first long-distance train?” The present Railway administration seems to have decided that the Punjab Mail from Mumbai CSTM to Ferozepur is the oldest, having started its run from Bombay VT  to Lahore in 1912.

While the dates of opening of different sections of track are well documented by the railways (with a full directory up to 1964), the date of introduction of trains is not so clear unless one looks at the old timetables, which are generally not accessible to the public. Anyway, some of the oldest trains would include:

Bombay-Poona Mail: probably soon after the line was opened in 1863. Was known to be running in 1869. However, the name vanished around 1971 when it became the Sahyadri Express to Kolhapur with the same timings between Bombay and Poona (which were yet to become Mumbai and Pune)

Madras-Bangalore Mail: probably soon after the line between these cities was completed in 1864. At that time it would have run between Royapuram (then the only terminus in Madras) and Bangalore Cantt (likewise for Bangalore). It would have started running from Madras Central after 1873 and from Bangalore City after 1882. It still runs on this route, although the stations are now Chennai Central and KRS Bengaluru.

Then there would be the Kalka Mail, which started as the Delhi-Calcutta Mail in 1866 soon after the last link of the Yamuna bridge was opened. At that time it would have run by the Sahibganj loop which was the only connection between Calcutta and the North then. It would have started running via the “main line” between Asansol and Kiul after 1871 and via the Grand Chord after 1906. And it would have been extended to Kalka after 1891. So this is also one of the oldest fast trains of India, despite the numerous changes of route. It is still running between Howrah and Kalka by the Grand Chord.

The Delhi-Karnal-Ambala-Kalka line was opened in 1891. Possibly the Kalka Mail ran via Delhi-Meerut-Saharanpur-Ambala at one time, as this longer route  had more commercial and military significance.

I am not actually sure when it started running via the Grand Chord, as that covered relatively unpopulated areas compared to the main line via Patna. This can only be answered definitely by seeing timetables from 1906 onwards. In the 1930 timetable of the North Western Railway the abstract timetables show it running via Patna. But in the 1935 Bradshaw it is running via Gomoh on the Grand Chord, where Netaji is supposed to have boarded it in 1941.

In the same way many of the older Mail trains would have started running soon after the routes were completed. Some which must  have started running in the 19th century include the Madras/Mangalore, Madras/Bombay, Bombay/Calcutta via Allahabad. By 1910 the Madras/Howrah and Bombay/Howrah via Nagpur would have started.

Some like the Punjab Mail from Bombay (1912), Frontier Mail (1928), and Deccan Queen (1930) are well documented, although the second one became the Golden Temple Mail in 1996.

The Delhi-Madras route never had a mail train. The last link between Balharshah and Kazipet was completed in the late 1920s in what was then the Nizam’s State Railway. This Grand Trunk Express ran for the first few months from Mangalore to Peshawar, then for a few months from Mettupalaiyam to Lahore and then settled to its long-term route from Madras Central to Delhi.

By the 1950s most trains from the West and South started terminating at New Delhi which had been a tiny station until it was expanded to be a station fit for a capital. Ultimately the GT  was extended to Delhi Sarai Rohilla a few years ago. A number of long distance trains suffered the same fate due to the lack of stabling lines near New Delhi and Delhi Jn.

And Sarai Rohilla is one of the most inaccessible rail terminuses in India’s major cities, though it gets good competition from Kolkata Terminus and (to a lesser extent) from LTT and Bandra Terminus in Mumbai. However, unlike in Mumbai and Kolkata many of these trains also have stops at New Delhi or Delhi Jn, so it does not affect reserved passengers that much. Those going towards Rajasthan and Gujarat may prefer the 2-minute halt at Delhi Cantt to the inaccessible starting point.

Most of the trains mentioned above have separate articles on Wikipedia and other sites like irfca.org . Some sources are reliable, others are not. Anyone who says that the Punjab Mail of 1912 is the oldest train is clearly wrong.

To come back to the original question, the oldest long-distance train running on (almost) the same route throughout the years is almost certainly the Chennai/Bengaluru Mail, though the management of the CR and the NR would not like to hear that.

A footnote: some old timetables of India (including pre-1947 India) can be seen here:


It is not very systematic as bits and pieces have been added by a large number of people. If you expect to see the full all-India timetables for a particular year you will be disappointed. Some attempt has been made to give the full timetables for a particular company or zone, for instance the NWR from a 1943 Bradshaw:


and the Jodhpur railway, 2 pages from the same Bradshaw:



There are also a few pages from the NWR of 1930 and Assam Bengal Railway of 1929. But basically you have to find your own way in this site.

Another section of the irfca site which may interest you is:


although this was prepared over a decade ago and all the information may not be accurate.

Some railfans have acquired soft and hard copies of old timetables by various means over the years. If you expect them to put up the scans of the full timetables of the past, it will not happen because either the books are bound in such a way that scanning is difficult, or the pages are too yellow and/or fragile, or they are the result of multiple photocopies and are not very legible (the ones mentioned above are examples of this).

Anyway, I have been requested to summarize the timings of the Kalka Mail and Frontier Mail over the years. Probably the best you can expect is a summary of timings at some important stations retyped here.

Follow this blog, there are many other topics such as aviation and cricket covered here.


Making the most of limited chances-Allround performances

We conclude this series with a look at those who put in a good all-round performance in their only opportunity in international cricket. We will look at batting + bowling as well as batting + fielding in the three formats of the game.

We start with Tests:

30-plus runs and 3-plus wickets in their only Test:

All round-30 runs and 3 wkts in only Test

Heading the list is MF Malone, one of the Packermen who was given a chance in the final Test of a series which Australia had already lost. It would clearly be the best all-round performance for someone who played only one Test. Next would come that of JP Faulkner. He is a key member of Australia’s current limited-overs teams and will probably play a few more Tests.

30-plus runs and 3-plus dismissals in their only Test:

Allround-30 runs and 3 dismissals in only Test

Again, some relatively lesser-known players. Ronchi and Ojha can be expected to play again. L Ronchi’s performance, for the moment, is the best for any keeper who played in only one test. NV Ojha would be next.

Passailaigue is the only non-keeper here. He put on 487* for the 6th wicket with George Headley in 1931-32 which is still the world first-class record for this wicket.

Now for ODIs:

10 or more runs and 1 or more wicket in their only ODI:

10 runs and 1 wicket in only ODI

After scraping the bottom of the barrel, we have these 8 ODI players. India’s leading spinner of the 70s is there along with a few other Test players such as AV Mankad, ADG Roberts and JR Hammond. Fittingly Chandrashekhar has the best bowling here, while AV Mankad has the highest score.

10 or more runs and 1 or more dismissal in their only ODI:

10 runs and 1 dismissal in only ODI

ADG Roberts appears in both of these lists. Other famous names are Bill Lawry and the now-familiar Phil Emery.

Finally we move to T20Is:

10 or more runs and 1 or more wicket in their only T20I:

10 runs and 1 wicket in only T20I

Famous names include Tendulkar (in India’s first T20I), Rafique (Bangladesh’s first genuine all-rounder) and Gillespie. The list is headed by Scott Borthwick who also played one Test and two ODIs.

Gillespie scored the most runs (!) while Hitchcock is the only one to take 2 wickets.

10 or more runs and 1 or more dismissal in their only T20I:

10 runs and 1 dismissal in only T20I

12 in this list, and some of them like Tendulkar, Borthwick and Fayyaz appear again.

Dinesh Mongia, like Tendulkar, made his only T20I appearance in India’s first ODI. He has the highest score here,while no one has more than one dismissal. Nixon is the only one to make a stumping.

There are a number of Test players here including Read, Nafees, Tendulkar, Key, Reifer and Kieran Powell.

This concludes our series on those who did well in their only opportunity in international cricket.


Making the most of limited chances-fielding

A few days ago we had separate posts on good batting and bowling performances in their only Test/ODI/T20I and their only innings. Today we take up fielding performances for those players with the shortest possible careers.

First we take up Tests.

Best fielding (4 or more dismissals) for those playing in their only Test:

4 plus dismissals in only Test

This list consists of wicket keepers with the exception of RR (Robin) Singh, the Trinidad-born Indian player. He took 5 catches in his only Test, but had a somewhat better run as a batting all-rounder in ODIs.

Many of them were designated reserve keepers on tours and got to play only when the main keeper was injured or otherwise unavailable. The list is headed by Phil Emery of Australia, who was Ian Healy’s deputy in the 1994-95 tour of Pakistan who took 6 catches in his only Test. Three other keepers and Robin Singh made 5 dismissals each. NV Ojha and L Ronchi have some chance of playing Tests again.

Note India’s V Rajindernath who had 4 stumpings but no catches. This is the record for stumpings by any Test debutant. Emery, Atiq-uz-Zaman and TRO Payne each took 5 catches.

Best fielding (2 or more dismissals) in their only Test innings:

2 plus dismissals in only Test innings

Here we have Australian keeper GA Manou (deputy to BJ Haddin) heading the list with 3 dismissals (all catches). Two lesser-known fielders took two catches each.

Now for ODIs:

Best fielding (2 or more dismissals) in their only ODI:

2 plus dismissals in only ODI

Our old friend Phil Emery tops this list again, on that same tour of Pakistan.If you want to know more about him:


There is also India’s long-forgotten P. Krishnamurthy who played in all 5 Tests of India’s tour of West Indies in 1970-71, though this ODI was in a later tour of New Zealand.

This list includes 6 keepers and 4 non-keepers. The latter group includes Australia’s JK Moss who also played in exactly one Test.

Best fielding (2 or more dismissals) in their only ODI innings:

We get exactly the same table.

Now for T20Is:

Best fielding (2 or more dismissals) in their only T20I:

2 plus dismissals in only T20I

A total of 6 players (2 keepers and 4 non-keepers) have each taken 2 dismissals in their only T20Is. The only well-known player is TR Ambrose who played in several Tests for England. India’s P Negi will probably play more T20Is.

Best fielding (2 or more dismissals) in their only T20I innings:

We get exactly the same table.



The railways of Arunachal Pradesh

Updated with additional information in January 2017.

First, a sidetrack:


But is this in Arunachal Pradesh? The top script is in Bengali.

It is indeed adjacent to Silchar, in a part of Assam where Bengali and not Assamese is the official language. This picture was taken in metre gauge time. The large number of concrete sleepers strewn around indicates that broad gauge is on its way, and it has already been converted. This is the first station to the west of Silchar, on a BG line which now sees trains from Kolkata and Delhi. It is also the junction for the branch to Jiribam, presently the only station in Manipur:


A limited passenger service served this station in metre gauge days, and broad gauge services are expected to start soon.

The line mentioned here is from Harmuti in Assam (on the Rangiya-Lakhimpur section) to Naharlagun (near the capital Itanagar) with an intermediate station at Gumto (which is also in AP). You can trace the route here (by expanding the map if needed). Note that the line to Naharlagun makes a U-turn from the main line at Harmuti.


The three stations:

And a quick look at the trains which serve Naharlagun today:


It includes a daily express from Guwahati and a (sort of) Rajdhani from New Delhi, which does not seem to have catering facilities. Also the average Indian citizen will not be allowed into the state without an inner-line permit or whatever it is called nowadays. More about this at the end.

Here is the timetable of the train from Guwahati to Naharlagun:


But what is forgotten is that there was a metre-gauge connection to Bhalukpong in the western corner of AP which was opened in the 1980s. In 1994 the timetable listed one pair of passenger trains between Rangapara North and Bhalukpong.The junction was at Balipara. They seem to have stopped running around 2000. More recently the line was converted to broad gauge.

The wayside stations are all in Assam including Bhalukpong which appears to lie just inside the border. You can see the map here and trace the path from Tezpur:


Also see the timetable of the present pair of trains, which run from Dekargaon which is now the station for Tezpur. The original station at Tezpur may have been abandoned as there was not enough space for a BG terminus there.

Passenger services on this line must have started in the last couple of years, but without the publicity that accompanied the line to Naharlagun which served the state capital. This line connects a town which may not be that important in AP.



These are some of the stations on this route:


Rangapara NorthBalipara

And finally Bhalukpong in metre gauge days and the present.

Bhalukpong old

Bhalukpong new

So you have now seen the full extent of the railway system in Arunachal Pradesh. Perhaps one day the rails will reach the borders of Tibet and Myanmar.

Footnote 1: Anyone from the rest of India wishing to enter Arunachal Pradesh needs a permit. This is apparently available online as well as from various offices of the AP government in Delhi, Kolkata and several cities in the Northeast.

It is not clear where the checking of the permit is done. Logically it should be at Harmuti (which is somewhat larger than Gumto, the first station in AP).

In the case of the Bhalukpong line, there seems to be a road checkpoint a little beyond the station and presumably you cannot proceed beyond this without a permit. It is also mentioned that you can get a permit at this point after a few hours wait.

Footnote 2: see this map extract:


It can be seen that the Rangiya-Murkong Selek railway line briefly enters AP between the small stations of Dimow and Dipa. This stretch may be around 500 metres long, and presumably the AP authorities do not bother about “outsiders” passing through their state this way.

Summary of the extreme points of India

Hope that some have found these posts informative. I am listing them below:






People born on Leap Day

2016 being a leap year, has 29 days in February. Every fourth year is a leap year, EXCLUDING century years such as 1800, 1900, 2100 and 2200 but INCLUDING every 4th century year such as 1600, 2000 and 2400.

Here is a rather short list of notable people born on February 29, who got to celebrate their real birthday every 4 years. One of the people listed below was born in 1896 so he got to celebrate his first birthday only in 1904. Anyway, he lived until 1995 so he did celebrate many birthdays.

Herman Hollerith (US inventor)-1860

Morarji Desai (Indian politician)-1896

Rukmini Devi Arundale (Indian dancer)-1904

Alf Gover (English cricket coach)-1908

Sean Abbott (Australian cricketer involved in the Phil Hughes tragedy)-1992