Bad days for geography quizzers

Geography used to be a stable subject which did not need much updating. For many years the only genuine new country formed was Bangladesh, and the dubious Republic of Northern Cyprus a little later.

But quizzers in this line took a long time to recover from the twin shocks of the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, which meant about 23 new countries which had to be memorized along with their capitals. The reunification of Germany and (earlier) Vietnam at least helped to REDUCE the number of countries to be studied.

Then people had flights of fancy, changing Swaziland to Eswatini (to encourage E-commerce?) Its neighbors had earlier made the switch from Bechuanaland and Basutoland to Botswana and Lesotho. Meanwhile a few other new countries such as Eritrea and South Sudan sneaked in when nobody was looking.

Then we have the renaming of cities in India. Many of them involved reverting from the British pronunciation to the original pronunciation (as in Calcutta-> Kolkata, Calicut -> Kozhikode and so on). This topic is enough for a few doctoral dissertations.

Now the rulers of India have bigger ideas, playing around with the names of larger entities. The creation of the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir AND Ladakh was hailed as a masterpiece. So next comes a mini-masterpiece, the Union Territory (yes, just one) of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu:

https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/bill-to-merge-uts-of-dadra-nagar-haveli-daman-diu-passed-by-lok-sabha-150241

(It will take a while to figure out where the “and” and “&” will be used). Also, the people in these places do not seem to have asked for this reunification of the smaller bits of Portuguese India.

Perhaps there is a point here. How many of you can find D & NH on a map? Even if you can, do you know WHY it is an Union Territory? (Another interesting point is why Chandernagore is a part of West Bengal and not an Union Territory like the rest of French India); see

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/oddities-in-indian-history-chandernagorechandan-nagar/

Odd station signs in Chennai

Note these station signs where the Hindi inscription seems to have been taken from Tamil rather than English:

Now compare the sign of Park Town above (top right) with the nearby Park:

Chennai Park

One wonders about the logic.

Finally, a similar one from Coimbatore:

Coimbatore North

Places with bad names-2

As we have seen in the previous post, a name of a place or person may become offensive if it means something else in another language. We start with this station in the outskirts of Kolkata:

Nangi

Though there are many words common to Hindi and Bengali, this is not one of them. In any case, the Bengali inscription indicates that it should be spelt Nungi or Noongi. This locality is known for the manufacture of fireworks, possibly the largest such centre in India after Sivakasi.

India has many place names such as Bangarapet, Bangiriposi, Banganapalle of mango fame and the former Bangalore. Then there is Bangkok, where you will find:

Bang-sue

Poor Susan! She will have to be particularly careful there – especially as this is to become Bangkok’s main station in the near future.

There are other things traveling Indians will run into, such as this place in Sweden:

Lund sign-2

I have passed that way by train many years ago, although no suitable picture of the station sign is available on the net.

While this is not one of the largest cities of Sweden, the University of Lund is highly ranked.

Surnames such as Hammarlund are common in Sweden. The Hammarlund Radio Company was one of the leading manufacturers of radio receivers in the US. Back in Mumbai, there is this long-standing establishment near the Gateway of India:

lund-and-blockley-opticians

We close with this sign which causes amusement in northern India:

Mr Banchhod

Names like this are found in Gujarat. Morarjibhai’s middle name was Ranchhodji.

To be continued.

Places with bad names-1

There are places which have names which may sound funny or offensive in other languages. Probably the most famous one is this:

Fucking, Austria

More about this tiny place with a population of around 100:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fucking,_Austria

Obviously this name is not particularly significant to German speakers, but is a source of amusement to English speakers, especially Brits.

The Brits have something similar in Surrey, but not in the same class:

Dorking, England

While “dork” is not a verb, it is a noun in American English:

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Dork 

A standard sign in the US (especially in college classrooms) in “No food and drinks”. Someone at Stanford had put up a realistic sign stating “No freaks and dorks” which the faculty chose to leave untouched.

There was a controversial judge named Robert Bork who was nominated by President Reagan to the Supreme Court, but his nomination was rejected by the US Senate in 1987. While his name rhymes with “Dork”, the word predates him.

This town is somewhat larger than its Austrian counterpart. It is perhaps appropriate that it is famous for poultry:

Dorking Cock

More on the general topic of places with unusual names:

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

That is a bit exhaustive and lengthy, but a shorter one is:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/galleries/Britains-silliest-place-names/

This topic is indeed worthy of a doctoral dissertation.

Next we will take up a few such cases in India.

 

Zeros and signboards

First take a look at this sign in Kerala:

Nilambur

Not too clear why the place name (Nilambur) was not written in English. This relatively small place is served by this station:

Nilambur Road

This station has the code NIL. This is one of the numerous synonyms for zero or nothing. Some of them are:

http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/zero

This list of synonyms became popular at the time of the Delhi elections in 2015, while discussing the results of the Congress party. The BJP fared better with 3 seats, which made it an “Auto rickshaw party” as its MLAs would fit in one. In various parts of the country there are other auto rickshaw parties where the entire membership fits in one.

Some are not originally in English but have come into common use. Like Nada in Spanish.

Appropriately, there is another zero-themed place name in Kerala:

Nadapuram Road

And the railway across the Nullarbor Plain in Australia (the route of the famous Indian Pacific:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nullarbor_Plain#Railway_line

Then there is this place in Arunachal Pradesh:

Which is spelt both as Ziro and Zero. It has an airport which is supposed to have regular flights-at least, it did when Vayudoot was around:

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

Then there is Zero Road in Allahabad, which is perfectly logical:

https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Zero-Road-in-Allahabad-India-called-so-Is-it-because-of-the-IST

Zero Bridge in Srinagar also has a perfectly logical explanation:

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

And of course there was actor Zero Mostel:

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

Even Salman Rushdie got into the act with the Maharani of Kooch Nahin, which must have been inspired by this place

Cooch Behar

although it is now served by this larger station:

New Cooch Behar

Finally, there is Zero Point station on the Pakistani side of the border which is reached via Munabao:

 

 

The Devil’s scoreboard and other devilry

It had to happen one day in a Test: 666/6

devils-score

On the 4th day of the India vs England Test at Chennai, 19 Dec 2016.

Meanwhile, here is the Devil’s own locomotive (picture credit Sachin Balwatkar). It is now homed at Sabarmati shed, and was homed at Mhow some years ago. There were also some 666* s homed at Golden Rock.

loco-6666

More from the Devil’s domain here: Hell, Norway:

hell-signboard

And the railway station there:

hell-station

You may think that God has some influence here:

hell-goods-shed

However, this is Norwegian for “Goods dispatch”

In closing, there has to be at least one joke involving devils. Here is one from 2016, which refers to the US presidential election:

trump-devil

 

Fruit on rails

A collection of picture of stations of the Indian Railways whose names involve fruit:

SitaphalMandi_Railway_StationNarangiSantragachi

There is Mango, a suburb of Jamshedpur, which does not have a station. As Robert Vadra said, there is no space for the mango man in a banana republic.

Take a closer look at the sign for Sitafal Mandi in Hyderabad. It appears to be one of the old signs from the time of the Nizam’s State Railway, with the Hindi inscription added later.

One wonders how the citizens of Nagpur allowed a much smaller town to grab the title of Orange City.

And Amla may not be named after the fruit but is supposedly an acronym for “Ammunition Land”, where a large military storage facility exists.

Afterthought-Prior to partition, Afghanistan used to export fruits to different parts of India by train. These fruit trains usually started at Chaman (a railhead to the north of Quetta), travelled down the Bolan Pass and made their way to faraway places.

 

 

 

 

 

More stations which have a cricket connection

You may have read this earlier post:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/stations-which-have-a-cricket-connection/

The Test venues which have stations named after them include Lord’s (no longer in existence) and the Oval:

Oval-tube-station-006

In India we have these small suburban stations at Eden Gardens and Chepauk. Both are relatively new, probably dating from the 1990s:

Note the Hindi spelling for “Cheppakkam”,one of the numerous Hindi signs you will find in Chennai with transliteration from Tamil (e.g. Chennai Kotte, Chennai Kodikarai). In contrast, the English, Bengali and Hindi signs all match at Eden Garden.

You would know of stations named Kohli, Sachin and Amla which have nothing to do with the cricketers concerned. But here are two stations which do refer to the states connected with three princely captains:

Pataudi is a rather small place in Haryana, and the locality around the station is better known as Hailey Mandi.

Vizianagaram is a somewhat larger town and important station in northern Andhra Pradesh, though “Vizzy” remained a prince as he was the second son and did not become the ruler. However, Iftekhar Ali Khan and his son Mansur Ali Khan did hold the title of Nawab of Pataudi.

Women’s cricket gets its due here, although it is doubtful if Mumbai-born Smriti Mandhana has anything to do with this place near Kanpur:

Exif_JPEG_420

 

There are other people with connections to cricket whose names include place names. One was the one-Test player the Yuvraj of Patiala, also known as Yadavindra Singh. Patiala is not one of the larger cities of Punjab but is somehow well known, possibly because of the Patiala Peg* which was said to be devised by one of the rulers. Then there was Raj Singh Dungarpur, who was from the royal family of a small state now in Rajasthan.

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:

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Heritage/timetables/

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:

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Heritage/timetables/nwrtt/1943/

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

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Heritage/timetables/Jodhpur1-1943.jpg.html

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Heritage/timetables/Jodhpur2-1943.jpg.html

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:

http://www.irfca.org/~shankie/famoustrains/famtraindqn.htm

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.

 

Stations which have a cricket connection

There are a number of cricket stadiums which have nearby stations with the same name, ranging from this one in London:

Oval-tube-station-006

A station by the name of Lord’s existed in the past, but the section was closed in 1939. The nearest Tube station is St. John’s Wood. Details here:

http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/l/lords/index.shtml

Elsewhere in England we can see stations for these Test venues:

In India, we have stations for Chepauk and Eden Gardens among others.

Also. if you travel from Mumbai to Surat, you will pass

Atul station

and then

Sachin station

The second one needs no explanation, while the first relates to the lesser-known international players Atul Wassan and Atul Bedade and possibly a few more.

The route north of Nagpur is more promising, as it has

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

followed by

Amla station

Note that the name Amla is supposed to be derived from “Ammunition Lands” as it has one the largest ammunition depots in the country.

Although Hashim Amla’s ancestors were from Gujarat this does not appear to be a common surname. Amla does mean a fruit (something like a gooseberry) in several Indian languages.

Also see: https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/who-or-what-is-amla/

There are also stations such as Pataudi Road and Vizianagaram which are indeed the places where the concerned player’s families were rulers.

And finally this one in India which reminds one of Sri Lanka:

Attipattu