Station signs in undivided India

Here are some pictures of stations and signs as they were in the 1940s or earlier. It is interesting to see the languages used in some of  the signs, as these places are now in Pakistan

First, Karachi Cantt in the 1940s (from a film shot by a British soldier):

Karachi Cantt-1

Lahore, probably 1940s:


Landi Khana. This is truly a rare picture, as it could have been taken only between 1926 and 1932. Note the Gurumukhi script.


Landi Kotal, probably 1930s:

Landi Kotal Railway Station during British Raj

Landi Kotal another old

Shelabagh, close to Chaman on the border with Afghanistan and not too far from Kandahar. Note the southern end of the Khojak tunnel:

Shelabagh (old)

And finally Tanduri, on the now-closed Sibi-Khost section. It appeared in the 1891 timetable and never again. Perhaps the extreme heat gave it its name and hastened its closure:


(This picture seems to have been taken in 2009). The sign does look to be a century old.

Finally, this is what you would see while entering British India from Afghanistan at the Khyber Pass border checkpoint in the 1930s:

Afghan border

Afghan border (4)

It is easy to guess that the milestone refers to Peshawar, Jamrud and Landi Kotal. The station of Landi Khana was still closer to the border. It appears that an embankment and maybe rails were laid from there to the border, but trains never ran on them.

And when you tried to cross into Afghanistan at other points on the border, you would see this:

Afghan border(3)

When stations change names frequently

Railway stations in India can be renamed for various reasons. The most common reason is to align the English spelling with the local pronunciation-as the British often modified the spellings to suit their convenience. Thus there were mass renamings in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka over the past few decades. Perhaps this was not so much of an issue in Northern and Eastern India. And there have been many name changes in Pakistan and (to a lesser extent) in Bangladesh, but those are different stories.

Then there are name changes in honour of famous people (examples like CST Mumbai, CSMT Kolhapur, Bapudham Motihari and Vanchi Maniyachi).

In fact, the stories beyond renaming of railway stations could well be a topic of a doctoral dissertation or at least a middle-sized book. Maybe I will do that one day. Today, we take up the cases of some stations which have been renamed twice-sometimes twice within a decade.

We start with cases where pictures are readily available:


The average resident of this city would probably stick to calling the station “Majestic”, in the same way his counterparts in other cities stick to Nampalli and Kalupur.

Then we have the case of Mangalore/Mangaluru. While the stations here came under Karnataka’s mass renaming in 2014 onwards, they had already been renamed in the mid-2000s for greater clarity.

The old terminus of Mangalore became Mangalore Central. Then there was a smaller station on the outskirts called Kankanadi, which was the locality’s name. But many long-distance trains stopped only there and not at the old terminus-hence it became important enough to be renamed  Mangalore Jn. We see the story here:


Pictures of Mangalore (as it was) and Mangaluru Central do not seem to be on the net.

But there are several other examples across the country

Olavakkot Jn->Palghat Jn->Palakkad Jn

Here Olavakkot was a small place in the vicinity of the city then known as Palghat. At some time in the 70s it was felt that an important junction (as well as a division HQ) should be renamed to mark the larger city, hence it became Palghat Jn. Large-scale renaming in Kerala (to match the local names in Malayalam) was done in around 1990, though most of the stations were renamed only in the 2007 timetable. It then became Palakkad Jn. (There is also a smaller Palakkad Town nearby).

Other examples in and around India include:

Meean Meer West -> Lahore Cantt West -> Lahore Cantt

Meean Meer East -> Lahore Cantt East -> Moghalpura

Mayavaram Jn -> Mayuram Jn -> Mayiladuturai Jn

Bellasis Road -> Bombay Central (Local) -> Mumbai Central (Local)

Manipur Road -> Dimapur Manipur Road -> Dimapur

Marwar Jn is said to have had several name changes in the 19th century.

“Cyclic” name changes:

Dhone Jn -> Dronachellam Jn -> Dhone Jn

Kallakudi Palanganatham -> Dalmiapuram -> Kallakudi Palanganatham

Ashapura Gomat -> Pokhran Road -> Ashapura Gomat

And if you include stations with a single name change, the list will run into hundreds.

Tail piece: Here I am largely considering changes from the 1930s to the present day (except for Lahore where we are starting with the 1860s). In the 19th century there were many rather awkward spellings made by the Brits who built the lines, with names like Ullygurh (obvious) and Uncleswar (not so obvious). Other double changes starting from the 19th century would include

Arconum -> Arkonam -> Arakkonam

Then there were particularly odd ones I have seen in 19th-century documents, such as Sickle for Sikkal and Cynthia for Sainthia. Quite possibly someone had been thinking of his wife or girlfriend in the latter case.

Rail Quiz no 3

Today we move to the railways of Pakistan.


This station serves a small city in Khyber-Pakhtunwa (formerly NWFP). Today the city may be famous for a leading cricketer who was born there:

Also see this article:

The station has not seen any train traffic since 2007. But once it held an unusual record for the railways of South Asia. What was this record?

If you can’t think of the answer right away, read the above article again and also check its location on Google Maps etc. (No, this has nothing to do with Abbottabad and its most famous resident).

Souroshankha Maji got it right-Mardan was, for many years, the northern-most junction in South Asia. This will be apparent from the map of the “Pakistan Western Railway” which probably dates from the mid-60s, when the railway network was virtually at full strength. The closure of lines started some years ago, starting with the minor branch lines in Sind and the NG lines close to the Afghan borders.

PWR in 1969

(From “Couplings to the Khyber”, PSA Berridge, 1969)

(Note: the metre gauge lines are not shown distinctly in this map, though the narrow gauge lines are. At that time the MG lines ran from Hyderabad (or maybe Mirpur Khas) to Khokhropar, the Jamrao-Pithoro loop and Mirpur Khas to Nawabshah.)

As you can see, Durgai was then the northernmost station in South Asia. It did exist prior to partition, so it was the northernmost station in British India as well. The Mardan-Charsadda branch was built in the 1950s, making Mardan the northern-most junction in South Asia.

Since around 2000 the Nowshera-Durgai and Mardan-Charsadda branches have been closed-even though Mardan is the second largest town in Khyber-Pakhtunwa, ahead of better-known places such as Abbottabad. A study of the current Pakistan timetable shows that the branch from Attock City Jn to Basal Jn is still open, thus making Attock City Jn (formerly Campbellpur Jn) the northern-most junction in South Asia. Next would be Taxila Cantt Jn (formerly Taxila Jn) which still has a branch to Havelian.

Nowshera (formerly a junction) would appear to be the northern-most station in Pakistan today, considering that the Peshawar-Landi Kotal line has been closed for several years.

In the mean time Sopore (followed by the larger Baramulla) have become the northern-most stations in South Asia. However, the Kashmir valley line is not yet linked to the rest of the Indian Railways network, whose northernmost point remains at Katra, with the slightly larger town of Udhampur a little further south.

Udhampur was the terminus for several years, but the  station has rather primitive facilities compared to Katra’s showpiece station.

And this is the southern end of the Kashmir valley railway, close to the 11 km long Pir Panjal tunnel.




For railfans-the Fergusson papers

This is primarily for railfans interested in lists of stations on railway systems across the world. Some explanation is necessary.

The Fergusson papers on the link given below are compiled by an Englishman named Jim Fergusson, who has been collecting timetables from all over the world since around 1950. He has got hold of timetables from different time periods ranging from the 19th to the 21st century.

Most of those reading this will be interested in the Indian railway system. That is not covered, but the systems of all our neighbours (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Myanmar) are covered. He seems to have drawn largely from the Indian Bradshaw which has been published since the 19th century but seems to have vanished a few years ago.

Have a look at it here:

Hyderabad and Gujrat are not only in India

Have a look at these pictures and decide whether they are in India or somewhere else:

Note the Sindhi signboard in the right picture, which should help you to locate it. The first one is in Pakistan’s Punjab.

The “other” Hyderabad can be reached from India by the Thar Express, which you board at Zero Point after leaving India from Munabao.

More unusual Indian steam locomotives

The history of steam locomotives of the Indian Railways is a vast subject which perhaps may not be of interest to most younger people interested in the railways as a whole. And some unusual locos of the past have been scrapped without leaving any specimen. Fortunately the history has been well documented by writers such as Hugh Hughes, though his books may now be out of print. Here I have referred to his “Indian Locomotives Part 1-Broad Gauge 1851-1940”.

Today we pick up a set of pictures from “Couplings to the Khyber” by P. S. A. Berridge which has some pictures of not-so-common steam locos which were used on the pre-partition NWR.

NWR Locos

  1. We are familiar with the Garratts used on the BNR (later SER) until about 1980, besides the MG Garratts on the ABR (later NFR). There was only one other example of a Garratt used on BG in India, which is pictured here. This is No 480 of GAS class built by Beyer Peacock (Manchester) in 1925.It had the arrangement 2-6-2 +2-6-2 It, like the Mallet in the lowest panel, was purchased as a trial for the Sibi-Quetta section with its fearsome 1:25 gradients. It was found that the regular HG/S  2-8-0 performed better than both of them. So no further Garratts or Mallets were tried on the NWR.
  2. The 2-6-6-2 Mallet shown here is No 460 of MAS class which was built by Baldwin (Philadelphia) in 1923. It may be the only Mallet which  ran anywhere on the Indian Railways. Both the Garrett and the Mallet did well on the less steeply graded section between Lala Musa and Rawalpindi and ran until the late 1930s.
  3. In the middle we see one of the N1 class 2-10-0 which started their working life on the GIPR’s ghat sections, 30 of them being built by North British (Glasgow) in 1920. They may be the only 10-coupled locos which worked on the Indian Railways. Once the ghat sections of the GIPR were electrified in the mid-1920s, these were moved to the NWR and did well on the moderately graded systems. An interesting point is that they were originally oil-fired. Due to wartime shortages of oil, they were converted to coal-firing in 1942. (On the other hand, practically all steam locos running in Pakistan were converted to oil-firing soon after partition as the supply of coal became limited).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Finally, here is one of the HG/S 2-8-0s which handled the Bolan Pass and ran whatever little traffic there was on the Khyber line up to the 1980s. This picture shows it in the desert between Jacobabad and Sibi:        HG-S              And here is another one on the Khyber line in 1968. Note how its appearance has changed from the British days.
  4.                  HG-S Khyber

The forgotten electric locomotives of Pakistan

The railways of Pakistan have been going through a decline in the last few years for a variety of reasons, mainly government apathy and the lack of funds for modernization. One result of this has been the abandoning of whatever little electrified track it had.

By 1966, the 290-km route between Lahore and Khanewal had been electrified on 25 KVAC. 29 locomotives of 3000 hp rating were acquired from what was then known as British Rail Traction (including the conglomerate AEI and English Electric). These were classified as BCU30E and were numbered 7001-29. Here is one which is currently lodged at the museum at Golra Sharif (north of Rawalpindi):

And one of the few which were still running in 1996:

In the initial years it was planned to extend electrification towards Rawalpindi and Peshawar but the presence of a few tunnels caused second thoughts. Another place where electrification would have been useful was the Bolan Pass route up to Quetta with its 1:25 gradient, the steepest main line in South Asia. Power shortages put an end to any further plans for electrification.

By the 2000s the traction lines on only one of the two  tracks were functioning. By 2009 the locos were showing their age and had been taken off passenger duties. The few which were functional were used on short goods trains. Here you can see one of these at Sahiwal (formerly Montgomery); one of the few videos of these locos available on the net.

By 2011, it was decided to stop electric services:

But even in 2013 the media felt that extending electrification would be a good idea even with the limited locos and infrastructure. The theft of overhead wire was cited as one reason for abandoning electrification. On the other hand India and numerous other countries are extending electrification, which is well known to the media there. As in India, there is alleged to be a diesel lobby plotting against electrification.

This TV report (in Urdu) is critical of the government’s decision, and also shows the railway worker’s reactions.

But it looks as if it will be a long time (if ever) when we can see electric locos running in Pakistan.

Reference: a good general description of most locos presently seen in Pakistan can be seen here: