Rail Quiz-Oct 2019 with answers

  1. What is the significance of this pair of stations in the history of IR? The line between these stations was opened in 1926, completing the Delhi-Madras line (as well as the Golden Quadrilateral with diagonals).
  2. Nowadays all passenger trains have at least a technical halt at Balharshah. But in 1963-64 the Southern Express (then the best train between New Delhi and Madras) ran through Balharshah without stopping. How was this possible?  They stop at Balharshah as it is the “junction” between CR and SCR where train crews change. Up to 1966, the Central Railway ran straight to Vijayawada and to Hyderabad and beyond. As Balharshah was not so important then, the Southern Express ran through without stopping. In 1963-64 it ran on some days as the AC Express and some days as the Southern Express (like the Paschim and Poorva which survived longer).
  3. What is the historical significance of this station in Bangladesh? Dohazari                                                                                    The end of a branch line from Chittagong. It was completed in the mid-1920s as the first part of a proposed line to Burma (which was still governed from India). The Great Depression, the delinking of Burma from India in 1937 and then World War 2 put an end to that.
  4. And of this station in Pakistan? The western-most station of Pakistan Railways. The line continues across the border to Zahidan in Iran, though that portion of the track was transferred to the Iranian railways in the 1960s. The trains are still operated by PR.Koh i Taftan (2)
  5. Why was this small station’s name well known to Allied military personnel?  Drigh RoadA major RAF base existed there since the 1920s, which was very active during World War 2. For some reason it was known as Drigh Road airfield and was not named after Karachi. Later, an offshoot of this became the main airport of Karachi.
  6. And what was the significance of this station’s name to British soldiers? Deolali was a British Army camp 100 miles north-east of Mumbai . It is also the source of the British slang noun doolally tap, loosely meaning “camp fever”, and referring to the apparent madness of men waiting for ships back to Britain after finishing their tour of duty. By the 1940s this had been widely shortened to just “doolally“, an adjective meaning “mad (insane).Devlali
  7. What is unusual about this station in Bangladesh? And what was it called before partition? Like Hili, it lies right on the border and from India one can easily see trains running here on the Chittagong-Akhaura section. It was called Kamalasagar as it used to serve this place which is now across the border.        Quasba
  8. Until recently, what was (wrongly) claimed to be the first station in Arunachal Pradesh? Bhalukpong, reached from Balipara around 1980. The town spreads over Assam and Arunachal, and the station is just within Assam’s border. The picture below shows it during MG days.Bhalukpong old
  9. Identify the time span when this picture was taken.   This place is in Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. From 1954 to 1971 Urdu and Bengali were the official languages of Pakistan, and thus signboards in East Pakistan had English and these two languages. Once Bangladesh came into being, there was no need for Urdu signs and they are a rarity now. This picture dates from the 1971 war.Rajshahi station-old
  10. Where in India would you have seen steam locos in green livery marked “PAK”? The locos of SCR had tenders in red and green. There used to be a MG loco shed at Pakala (code PAK) and this was marked on the tender. (This was not an usual practice, but has been mentioned by Bill Aitken in one of his books).
  11. Name one station in Kerala which had steam sheds for BG and MG. Quilon, now Kollam. The MG shed was first, and the BG facilities started once BG came in 1975.
  12. Name one major rail-connected howler in the film “Julie”. This is set in Shoranur, an important junction but not even a divisional HQ. Utpal Dutt’s character is mentioned as the Chief Engineer, whereas the station would have had an Assistant Engineer (and AME) as the local heads.
  13. Which was the only section of IR which had 4-foot gauge? Azimganj-Nalhati, soon converted to BG and now on the ER. See details here: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Nalhati-Azimganj_Railway You can also see this loco at the NRM: 
  14. And 3’6″ gauge? The Arconum-Conjeevarum Tramway, as it was then called. It soon became BG, soon after MG and finally BG in recent years. More details: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Arakkonam-Conjeevaram_Tramway . No information about the 3’6″ locos could be found.
  15. What was the northern-most MG station on IR? Ignore the short-lived MG lines north of Lahore. Kot Kapura. The MG line from Bhatinda then turned south-west towards Fazilka, so Kot Kapura was the northern-most MG station.
  16. Bonus: Which important station most closely matches the description of the title of the novel “Bhowani Junction”? Note these points-it is on the Delhi-Bombay line, with a branch going towards Allahabad (though not directly). It is a district HQ and an important cantonment. This fits Jhansi perfectly (but not Itarsi and Bhusaval).

 

(The best effort was by my old friend Harsh Vardhan.)

 

The importance of Landi Khana-1

You would have heard of Landi Kotal, long known as the terminus of the Khyber Railway and the main cantonment guarding the head of the pass.

Landi Khana is not so well known. We first look at a detailed map of the Khyber Railway, which featured in an article by Victor Bayley and Gordon Hearn, the men most responsible for the construction of the line:

Khyber map

This lists all the stations on the line. Most of them were not shown in timetables.

The line was completed up to Landi Kotal in 1925 and to Landi Khana in 1926. Actually the line (or at least the embankment) was built up to a point right on the border. This point is mentioned as Tora Tigga Nala in contemporary accounts, though it is unclear what exactly it was (A station? or siding? or no track at all?)

Trains ran all the way up to Landi Khana in the first few years. Then the King of Afghanistan “requested” the Indian government to close the last stretch of the line. So no trains ran beyond Landi Kotal since 1932.

Here we see the 1930 NWR timetable for the line going all the way to Landi Khana:

Landi Khana TT 1 001

My old friends from Dehradun would note the passenger train connecting Peshawar Cantt with that city. Coming to the point, we see from the small print that the trains ran between Landi Khana and Peshawar twice a week, and started from Landi Kotal on the other five days. This was the peak traffic for this line; by the time regular services ceased in 1984 the train ran up to Landi Kotal only once a week.

In the reverse direction, we see the same pattern, except that on Sundays the train left Peshawar later to provide a connection with the Frontier Mail and ran up to Landi Kotal.

Landi Khana TT2

Timetables in later years mentioned that “Passports will be examined at Jamrud”, meaning that you needed a passport to travel into the tribal territory where the British government had limited powers. However (as my father recounted), tourists from other parts of India could travel up to Jamrud, probably have their picture taken there, and say that they had visited the Khyber.

This is a picture of Landi Khana station (which obviously was taken between 1926 and 1932):

LANDI_KHANA_STATION_1932

Note the Gurumukhi script. And the ever-reliable HGS locos which tackled the Khyber and Bolan passes without much fuss.

There appears to have been a small military outpost here, but it must have closed long ago. Which is why many people (even those presently living in Pakistan) do not know of its existence. As we will see, the remnants of this station still stand but there does not seem to be anything around it. The local villagers still use water from the water pipes laid in the 1920s for watering engines.

This is a grab from a video taken a few years ago:

Landi Khana station today

No one has bothered to remove the Gurumukhi inscription, which has been done in many stations in Punjab since 1947.

You may find it interesting to watch this 9-minute video (entirely in Urdu) from 2017 to see this place as a sideline to a trip up to the Afghan border:

One of the places they passed was this station which was one of the stops on the excursion trains which ran until the floods wrecked the line in 2008.

Shahgai (Khyber)

Here another sign in Gurumukhi script still survives, unlike this one from pre-partition Lahore:

Lahore-just-before-Partition

If you approached the Afghan border, you would see this sign if you tried to cross anywhere except the official route:

Afghan border(3)

And if you did succeed in crossing, you could look back and see this:

Afghan border

It should not be difficult to understand what P, J and LKL were. In those days all distances were measured in miles.

Now, you may say, you have told us all about a corner of Pakistan so obscure that few Pakistanis (leave alone Indians) have heard of it. Why is it important?

The answer is: It was important to know about it if you were an Indian POW in Pakistan in 1972.

To be continued.

 

The Jodhpur State Railway of 1943

Apart from the North Western Railway, the Jodhpur State Railway was split between India and Pakistan after Partition.

From a Bradshaw of 1943, we see that JoSR covered in four pages:

Jodhpur State railway 1943-1

Jodhpur State railway 1943-2

Readers from India will be familiar with the extensions and conversions on the Indian side. The lines which went to Pakistan are highlighted on the first two pages.

The line from Hyderabad to Mirpur Khas was converted in the late 1960s, and further to link with the Indian BG system in 2006. A new station (Zero Point) was built exactly on the Pakistani side of the border, between Khokhropar and Munabao.

The Thar Express covers the stretch from Munabao to Zero Point, with connecting points to Bhagat-ki-Kothi (near Jodhpur) and Karachi plus intermediate stops at Mirpur Khas and Hyderabad.

The other metre gauge lines shown in the first two pages were never converted and appear to be closed. A PR timetable of the early 2000s showed weekly trains on the Pithoro loop and one every 15 days on the Nawabshah branch.

The line to Zahidan has around the same frequency, but it still survives in the hope that it will be useful for Pakistan-Iran trade.

The lonely line through Balochistan

Many of us in India have vaguely heard of the line from Quetta to Zahidan in Iran, which was completed about a century ago. The location can be seen here in the north-west corner:

NWR-1930 map

This map is from 1930 and only shows the line up to Nushki. This is a better map from the 1960s:

PWR in 1969

A good summary of its history up to 2007 by Owais Mughal can be seen here:

https://pakistaniat.com/2007/07/13/the-trans-baluchistan-railway/

Also see the timetables from the 1930 NWR TT:

NWTT 011

Note the distances: 68 miles (109 km) form Yakmach to Nok Kundi, a further 86 miles (138 km) to Mirjawa across the border and a further 52/84 to the terminus then called Duzdap.

And from the 1943 Bradshaw:

1943 Badshaw-Zahidan line

At that point the line was closed beyond Nok Kundi, though it was revived as part of the war effort.

Now we have something more up to date, in the form of 2 videos making a travelogue by a Pakistani blogger. These are fully in Urdu, though anyone who can understand Hindi should not have a problem.

The narrator’s style may be a little irritating, but you do see a good view of life on the Pakistan-Iran border including the last PR station at Koh-e-Taftan and the nearby road crossing along other bits like the last mosque and the last ATM in Pakistan. (This station seems to have come up after 1947).

Note the single train between Quetta and Zahidan which is a mixed train with very limited passenger space. It is interesting to see the large volume of Iranian consumer goods being imported here.

 

Footnote: we hear a lot of Gwadar and its port nowadays. Did you know that it was NOT part of British India but was an exclave of Oman until Pakistan took over in 1957, long after Independence.

Changes in station signs over time-1

From the areas now in Pakistan in the 1930s/1940s:

Lahore-just-before-PartitionLandi Kotal Railway Station during British RajLANDI_KHANA_STATION_1932

Note the combination of languages; including Hindi in Lahore and Punjabi in all these places.

Landi Khana had train services only between 1926 and 1932. Then the station and tracks seem to have been undisturbed until the floods of 2006 seemingly closed the Khyber line forever.

Now we see current pictures of Lahore and Landi Kotal (where excursion trains ran sporadically from the closure in 1984 until 2006).

The only languages here are English and Urdu (although a few stations such as Peshawar also have Pushtu):

Peshawar City new

Note how the regional language has been pushed into a corner.

However, you can still visit the long-forgotten Landi Khana station which is some distance from the highway into Afghanistan:

Landi Khana station today

This is taken from a video shot a few years ago. As this is a remote and long-forgotten place, no one bothered to remove the Punjabi script.

(While many people in Pakistan speak Punjabi, they use a different script unlike the Gurumukhi used in India).

And this station which used to be a stop for the trains from Peshawar to Landi Kotal:

Shahgai (Khyber)

Here, perhaps it was found to be too much trouble to modify the sign which is fitted into the sturdy boundary wall.

We now compare the old and new signs at Shelabagh (on the way from Quetta to Chaman on the border near Kandahar):

Shelabagh (old)Shelabagh new

It is not clear what is in the smaller inscription in the newer sign, but normally the Balochi language(s) do not appear on the signs.

The southern end of the famous Khojak tunnel is seen here. Until the Konkan Railway came along, it was the longest rail tunnel (3.9 km) in South Asia.

And finally to Karachi (1940s) and now:

 

Karachi Cantt new

As you can see, somewhat distorted Hindi (Devanagari) script was used earlier. Today we see Urdu along with Sindhi.

While hardly any pre-1947 pictures from the area now in Bangladesh can be seen on the net, there are still some interesting points to be noted. (To be continued).

 

The best trains of Pakistan and Bangladesh

Here you can see the start of the inaugural run of Pakistan Railway’s new premier service, the Sir Syed* Express between Rawalpindi and Karachi via Faisalabad:

And here is one of the leading expresses of Bangladesh Railways, the Sonar Bangla* * Express leaving Dhaka for Chattogram (the new official name for Chittagong):

See if you can pick out the different types of coaches. The locomotive seems to be considerably older than the coaches.

This is, of course, metre gauge and only a short portion of this major route has been improved to dual gauge with BG.

*Sir Syed refers to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898), noted reformer and educationist. He is considered to be the founder of Aligarh Muslim University.

** The Bangladeshi national anthem begins with “Amar Sonar Bangla”, i.e. “My golden Bengal”. This, like the Indian national anthem “Jana Gana Mana”, was composed by Rabindranath Tagore.

Also see:

https://www.seat61.com/Pakistan.htm

and

https://www.seat61.com/Bangladesh.htm

 

Stations in different countries with the same name

(Pictures are copyright of the respective photographers):

Here we limit ourselves to South Asia, but we still find a number of examples:

The most well-known pair is:

HyderabadHyderabad Sind

(Possibly the signs would have read Hyderabad (Deccan) and Hyderabad (Sind) in the past.)

Followed by the Indo-Bangladesh pair of:

Jamalpur station

Jamalpur Town (new)

This is near Mymensingh.

Another very similar pair:

Biman BandarDhaka Biman Bandar

The first one is adjacent to Dum Dum airport in Kolkata.

Then we have a small station in Karimganj district of Assam, and a large junction being built near Faridpur in Bangladesh

Bhanga AssamBhanga (BD)-1Bhanga (BD)-2

The station is not fully functional yet, but you can see the nearby police station which has the sign “Bhanga thana, Faridpur”.

Then we have this station in the Indian side of the Thar desert, which once served a town which is a few km away but in Pakistan:

Gadra Road

This town in Pakistan’s Punjab has nothing to do with the state in India:

Gujrat (Pakistan)

There was also a long-closed Kachh station in Baluchistan, on the Chappar Rift line.

This station in Bangladesh will soon get an Indian counterpart nearby:

Hili

Hili on the Indian side will be connected to Balurghat.

There is also a long-closed Belonia station in Bangladesh which served the town of that name in Tripura. In Tripura, the line through Agartala is gradually creeping towards Belonia and beyond. It has already crossed Udaipur, not to be confused with the better-known Udaipur City in Rajasthan.

Going beyond South Asia, there will be a few more matches in the Commonwealth countries and the US. Wellington in the Nilgiris and Wellington in New Zealand comes to mind. Then there is Salem in Tamil Nadu and Salem in Oregon which does have Amtrak service, while the better known Salem in Massachusetts has local commuter service.