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/

 

 

 

 

 

DC traction on India’s railways-sidelights

Much has been written about the final days of DC traction in Mumbai, more specifically on the Harbour line from CSTM to Vashi which was the last holdout of this form of electrification on the Indian railways. This is not exactly true – the Kolkata metro will continue to be on 750 V DC indefinitely, and it is officially a part of the Indian Railways (unlike the metro systems in Delhi and elsewhere).

At its peak, the 1500 V DC system in Mumbai covered these sections:

WR: Colaba to Churchgate to Virar

CR: CST Mumbai to Pune and Igatpuri via Kalyan

CST Mumbai to Mahim and then in parallel to WR up to Andheri

CST Mumbai to Kurla via Harbour branch and then to Mankhurd,Vashi and Panvel.

(Mankhurd was the terminus until the 1990s).

Diva-Vasai Road

A typical news item about the conversion of the last route:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Harbour-line-trains-run-on-new-25KV-AC-traction-from-today/articleshow/51762468.cms

What most railfans may forget is that 3000 V DC existed on some routes out of Howrah for about a decade and 1500 V DC on one metre gauge route out of Chennai for several decades.

From an official IR publication of 1964, we can get the early history. It makes things simpler if we use the names of places which were prevalent at that time

The years of completion were:

Bombay VT to Poona and Igatpuri: 1930 (299 route km) on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, predecessor of the CR

Churchgate to Virar: 1936 (60 route km) on the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, predecessor of the WR.

Madras Beach to Tambaram: 1931 (29 route km, metre gauge) on the South Indian Railway, predecessor of the SR.

Howrah-Bandel-Burdwan

and Seoraphuli-Tarakeswar: 1958 (142 route km) on ER.

Coming back to Bombay, the VT-Reay Road section was opened in 1925 with electrification, as the 1 in 34 gradient at Sandhurst Road was felt to be an insurmountable obstacle to any other means of traction. Reay Road to Kurla had been running on steam since it was opened in 1910.The extension from Kurla to Mankhurd was completed by 1927 although it was electrified in 1936.

The Karjat-Khopoli branch was one of the first lines opened in India (in 1856, when it became the railhead for Poona for some years). It seems to have been electrified only in the mid-90s and timetables of 1994 show diesel-hauled passenger trains on the CR main timetable (not the suburban timetable).

The Diva-Vasai Road line was built in the 1980s and was electrified with DC soon after it was opened.

On what is now the WR, electrification was completed to Borivli in 1928 and to Virar in 1936. Colaba was the terminus for long distance and local trains until Bombay Central was opened in 1930, and the lines between Colaba and Churchgate were electrified but this line itself was closed at the end of 1930. Churchgate has been the terminus for local trains since then.

The short stretch from Madras Beach to Tambaram was electrified at 1500 V DC in 1931. Apart from the EMUs on this route, long distance trains continued to run on steam from Madras Egmore. By 1967 the Tambaram-Villupuram section was electrified at the then standard voltage of 25 KV AC and the Beach-Tambaram section was converted to AC to enable through running up to Villupuram.

After independence, the first steps towards electrification of ER lines out of Howrah were taken with Howrah-Bandel-Burdwan and Seoraphuli-Tarakeswar being completed by 1958. These too were converted to AC in the mid-60s, and all subsequent electrification in India was at 25 KV AC. The only exceptions were the extensions from Mankhurd to Vashi and then Panvel, Thane to Vashi and extensions,  and electrification of Karjat-Khopoli in the 90s which had to match the existing DC system.

More about DC locos, AC/DC locos and operational aspects to follow.

The longest railway tunnels in India

The list of long railway tunnels in India has seen considerable changes in the last quarter century.

We start with the Wikipedia article as it was on Nov 16, 2015:

List of rail tunnels in India by length
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of the longest rail tunnels in India. In considering tunnels for this section, tunnels of underground metro railways have not been counted. Only tunnels on the main Indian Railways network longer than 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) have been listed.

Contents

Location

Most of the tunnels listed below are located in the Western Ghats, the only mountain range in the country that has good railway connectivity. There are longer tunnels that are under construction in the Himalayas in Jammu & Kashmir, as part of the USBRL Project.Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel, the 11.2 km long railway tunnel, passes through the Pir Panjal Range of middle Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a part of its Udhampur – Srinagar – Baramulla rail link project, India’s longest railway tunnel and reduced the distance between Quazigund and Banihal .[1]

The list

Sl. No Name Length km Station Station State Divisions Year Coordination
1. Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel 11,215 metres (36,795 ft) Banihal Hillar Shahabad Jammu and Kashmir Northern Railway 2013 33.5617942°N 75.1988626°E
2. Karbude (T-35) 6,506 metres (21,345 ft) Ukshi Bhoke Maharashtra Konkan Railway 1997 17°6′9″N 73°24′59″E
3. Nathuwadi (T-6) 4,389 metres (14,400 ft) Karanjadi Diwan Khavati Maharashtra Konkan Railway 1997 17°53′37″N 73°23′14″E
4. Tike (T-39) 4,077 metres (13,376 ft) Ratnagiri Nivasar Maharashtra Konkan Railway 1997 16°58′48″N 73°23′42″E
5. Berdewadi (T-49) 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) Adavali Vilawade Maharashtra Konkan Railway 1997 16°53′43″N 73°36′22″E
6. Savarde (T-17) 3,429 metres (11,250 ft) Kamathe Savarde Maharashtra Konkan Railway 1997 17°27′35″N 73°31′19″E
7. Barcem (T-73) 3,343 metres (10,968 ft) Balli Canacona Goa Konkan Railway 1997 15°3′49″N 74°1′54″E
8. Karwar (T-80) 2,950 metres (9,680 ft) Karwar Harwada Karnataka Konkan Railway 1997
9. Chowk (T-3) 2,830 metres (9,280 ft) Panvel Karjat Maharashtra Central Railway 2006 18°55′5″N 73°17′10″E
10. Parchuri (T-27) 2,628 metres (8,622 ft) Sangameshwar Ukshi Maharashtra Konkan Railway 1997 17°9′30″N 73°28′57″E
11. Khowai (T-2) 2,472 metres (8,110 ft) Mungiabari Teliamura Tripura Northeast Frontier Railway 2008
12. Sangar (T-4) 2,445 metres (8,022 ft) Sangar Manwal Jammu and Kashmir Northern Railway 2005
13. Monkey Hill (T-25C) 2,156 metres (7,073 ft) Karjat Khandala Maharashtra Central Railway 1982
14. Aravali (T-21) 2,100 metres (6,900 ft) Aravali Sangameshwar Maharashtra Konkan Railway 1997
15. Chiplun (T-16) 2,033 metres (6,670 ft) Chiplun Kamathe Maharashtra Konkan Railway 1997 17°29′45″N 73°31′50″E
16. Saranda(T-1) 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) Goilkera Sarenda Halt Jharkhand South Eastern Railway 1900 25°00′00″N 85°30′45″E

The alert Mumbaikar may ask “What about the Parsik tunnel?” It is only 1.3 km long and thus fails to qualify for the 2-km cutoff in the above list. It was not even the longest rail tunnel in India when it was opened in 1916, as the longer Saranda tunnel was already open since 1900. In undivided India the 3.92 km long Khojak tunnel in Baluchistan had been opened in 1892; for more details see :

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/the-rail-tunnel-in-baluchistan-which-appeared-on-a-currency-note/

This was in fact the longest rail tunnel in South Asia until the Konkan Railway opened in the late 1990s. As you can see from the above list, the majority of the long tunnels are on the Konkan route. The longest is the Karbude tunnel at 6.5 km. Some other longer tunnels opened in recent years the Sangar tunnel (2.4 km) on the Jammu-Udhampur section and the slightly longer Khowai tunnel on the Karimganj-Agartala section which is currently under conversion from MG to BG.

However, the longest tunnel on IR is the 11.2 km long Pir Panjal tunnel between Banihal and Qazigund which provides a link between Jammu and Srinagar. More details can be seen here:

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

Opened in 2013, it will be part of the main route into the Kashmir valley once the problem-ridden section between Katra and Banihal is completed in the next few years. At the moment it serves a number of DMU passenger trains between Banihal and Baramulla (though some run only upto Budgam just north of Srinagar). These trains seem to be popular with the local people at the Banihal end as they save a lot of time and distance compared to the road route between Banihal and Qazigund. And the rail route is far less likely to be disrupted by snow than the road route.

It is likely to be the longest rail tunnel in India for a long time to come. There is expected to be a 7-km long tunnel on the uncompleted Katra-Banihal section which would take over the second spot from the Karbude tunnel. It will still exceed the two long road tunnels under construction at the Rohtang Pass and Patnitop, although the latter would also result in a considerable saving in distance on the Udhampur-Banihal road route:

“A 9.2 km long tunnel (Chenani-Nashri Tunnel) is being constructed about 2 km from Chenani town. The tunnel will be the India’s longest road tunnel when completed. It will reduce the distance from Chenani to Nashri by 31 km and reduce traffic jams on NH-1A that occur due to snowfall and avalanche in winter at Patnitop. About 2 km of the tunnel had been excavated by April 2012,[4] about 50% of the length had been excavated by January 2013.[5] and the excavation was completed in July 2015. The road in the tunnel may open in the second half of 2016.

In addition to the main road tunnel, there will be a smaller parallel escape tunnel for emergency services and extraction of smoke and persons in case of fire and accident.

The Southern portal (end) of the tunnel is at 33.0463°N 75.2793°E and the Northern portal (end) of the tunnel is at coordinates 33.1285°N 75.2928°E. When the tunnel is completed, the highway will no longer pass through Patnitop. The tunnel will reduce the length of the highway by 31 km and the highway will bypass Patnitop.”