I had wanted to mention the strange story of Pattabiram Military Siding station for a long time, and thought that the near disaster on May 5 would be a good time to bring it up.
First, a map of the region surrounding Pattabiram on the Chennai-Arakkonam section:
From Chennai to Arakkonam (right to left) you will pass Hindu College, Pattabiram and Nemilichery in succession. Note the turnoffs towards the north from Pattabiram. There are several EMU locals a day from Chennai Central and Chennai Beach to Pattabiram Military Siding E Depot, where the E supposedly stands for Engineering. There are turnoffs from both sides of Pattabiram station, although no scheduled passenger service uses the the one on the east.
As you would have read, one of these locals was moving from one track to another when the Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram Mail collided with its side, probably after over-running signals. Or there may have been malfunctioning signals. Fortunately there were no fatalities although eight were injured.
Those familiar with this route would know the separate platforms for the branch which are to the north of the main line. After turning north and crossing the West cabin, the line passes the station called PTMS and then continues to another station called Pattabiram Military Siding E Depot (PRES) where the EMUs terminate. That would be clear from this map, which shows the area slightly north of the first map.
The strange thing is that the station marked PTMS is a stop for these locals but does not seem to have ever appeared in the suburban timetables-even in the 1960s when the BG suburban timetables for Madras were included in the SR timetable. I have not seen it in any timetable since the 1960s.
Here you can see the trains which run to the E depot terminus:
and return: http://erail.in/?T=PRES::MAS
These trains run both from the Chennai Central suburban terminus and Chennai Beach.
You can check the timings of these trains and find no reference to PTMS. Here is an example:
Of course, in this era of Google Maps blanketing the country it is impossible for any station to hide its existence unless it is in a restricted area. But 2005 was a long time ago. In March of that year I spent a few days exploring the unknown corners of Chennai including almost all of the suburban rail network existing at that time. I visited the now-vanished branch to Anna Nagar, and later took one of the locals bound for PRES.
After crossing Pattabiram West cabin the local came to a halt. The station sign said Pattabiram Military Siding, which I took to be the terminus. I found it odd that some passengers continued to sit in the coach. The train then zipped off towards the north to its ultimate destination.
It was then that I realized that this was a “ghost” station with no mention in timetables.
Fortunately a picture of the sign could be found on the net:
Not sure when this picture was taken, but clearly this was painted a long time ago compared to other signs in the Chennai area.
And here is a more recent picture of the station at E Depot. Note the full name on the signboard:
Some years later, when the RBS charts became available on the net, I found the Railways finally acknowledging the existence of the “orphan” station:
and if you approach from the west:
It is strange that this table does not acknowledge that the trains from the east do stop at Pattabiram station (though at a platform slightly away from the main station).
If you still doubt the existence of this station, it does have a ticket counter which issues tickets to all stations in the Chennai region, as you can see from this ticket I purchased on 24 March 2005:
It’s a long, long way to Gummidipundi (76 km at Rs 16 at that time), but only a railfan interested in studying the Chennai network in detail would make this journey.