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 near the former wayside station of Siliguri Road seen above. But it is not at the same location.

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/

More stations which have a cricket connection

Continuing from this earlier piece:

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 these 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.

Tail piece: There is even one which reminds you of an English cricketer of long ago:

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

and then

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

Note that the name Amla is supposed to be derived from “Ammunition Lands” as it has one the largest ammunition depots in the country. This is probably one of the numerous urban legends of its kind.

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:

Update: The line to the mysterious station of Pattabiram Military Siding

Update: In June 2018 the Southern Railway floated the idea of ending the through EMU services between  Chennai Central/Chennai Beach  and the branch to Pattabiram Military Siding E depot. This was a consequence of the accident on May 5, 2016 when the Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram Mail collided with the side of an EMU which was crossing the main line to go to the Pattabiram branch. A contemporary report:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Loco-pilot-to-face-action-for-Pattabiram-accident/articleshow/52159697.cms

A more recent report:

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2018/jun/19/ptms-emu-trains-may-terminate-at-pattabiram-1830178.html

Here it is mentions that EMUs will shuttle between Pattabiram on the main line to the terminus at E depot, which means that passengers will have to get off there to change trains.

In situations where crossing on busy multiple lines is involved, overbridges may be used where the line crossing has heavy traffic. An example is the bridge carrying the harbour line over the WR main line north of Bandra. A few more can be seen on main lines. Examples are in the vicinity of Barddhaman and Mughal Sarai. But in this case the traffic on the trains to E depot is not so heavy, so the commuters will have to face the inconvenience of changing trains.

We look into the geography of this peculiar branch which is among the more obscure corners of the Chennai suburban system.

First, a map of the region surrounding Pattabiram on the Chennai-Arakkonam section:

Pattabiram1

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.

Pattabiram2

You can check the timings of these trains and find no reference to PTMS.

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:

Pattabiram military siding

Not sure when this picture was taken, but clearly this was painted a long time ago compared to other signs in the Chennai area.

Here is a newer sign at the same station:

PTMS new sign

And here is a recent picture of the station at E Depot. Note the full name on the signboard:

Pattabiram E Depot

 

Some years later, when the RBS charts became available on the net, I found the Railways finally acknowledging the existence of the “orphan” station:

Pattabiram4

and if you approach from the west:

Pattabiram5

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:

PTMS ticket

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.

 

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.

Up to Partition, one had to refer to Hyderabad (Sind) and Hyderabad (Deccan) as both were important cities in undivided India.

Also this one:

Jhelum

While the river of this name flows through a part of India, this town is in Pakistan’s Punjab. One Indian Prime Minister (not Manmohan Singh) was born nearby.

The railways of Arunachal Pradesh

Updated with additional information in May 2018.

First, a sidetrack:

Arunachal

But is this in Arunachal Pradesh? The top script is in Bengali.

It is indeed adjacent to Silchar, in a part of Assam where Bengali and not Assamese is the official language. This picture was taken in metre gauge time. The large number of concrete sleepers strewn around indicates that broad gauge is on its way, and it has already been converted. This is the first station to the west of Silchar, on a BG line which now sees trains from Kolkata and Delhi. It is also the junction for the branch to Jiribam, presently one of the two stations in Manipur:

Jiribam-manipuri

A limited passenger service served this station in metre gauge days, and broad gauge services are expected to start soon.

The line mentioned here is from Harmuti in Assam (on the Rangiya-Lakhimpur section) to Naharlagun (near the capital Itanagar) with an intermediate station at Gumto (which is also in AP). You can trace the route here (by expanding the map if needed). Note that the line to Naharlagun makes a U-turn from the main line at Harmuti.

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Harmuti+Junction+Railway+Station/@27.1225941,93.8239808,14z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x3746acd30fe01975:0x81330bfea204e39b!8m2!3d27.1191784!4d93.860541

The three stations:

And a quick look at the trains which serve Naharlagun today:

http://erail.in/naharlagun-railway-station

It includes a daily express from Guwahati and a (sort of) Rajdhani from New Delhi, which does not seem to have catering facilities. Also the average Indian citizen will not be allowed into the state without an inner-line permit or whatever it is called nowadays. More about this at the end.

Here is the timetable of the train from Guwahati to Naharlagun:

http://erail.in/15617-ghy-nhln-i-c-ex/route

But what is forgotten is that there was a metre-gauge connection to Bhalukpong in the western corner of AP which was opened in the 1980s. In 1994 the timetable listed one pair of passenger trains between Rangapara North and Bhalukpong.The junction was at Balipara. They seem to have stopped running around 2000. More recently the line was converted to broad gauge.

The wayside stations are all in Assam including Bhalukpong station which appears to lie just inside the border. Most of Bhalukpong town is in AP. You can see the map here and trace the path from Tezpur:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Bhalukpong+Railway+Station/@27.0021598,92.6426437,15z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x3744a509499d68a3:0xd49629361597570f!2sBhalukpong+Railway+Station!8m2!3d27.002155!4d92.6448324!3m4!1s0x3744a509499d68a3:0xd49629361597570f!8m2!3d27.002155!4d92.6448324

Also see the timetable of the present pair of trains, which run from Dekargaon which is now the station for Tezpur. The original station at Tezpur may have been abandoned as there was not enough space for a BG terminus there.

Passenger services on this line must have started in the last couple of years, but without the publicity that accompanied the line to Naharlagun which served the state capital. This line connects a town which may not be that important in AP.

http://erail.in/?R=55719-DKGN-BHNG#

http://erail.in/?R=55720-BHNG-DKGN#

These are some of the stations on this route:

Dekargaon

Rangapara NorthBalipara

And finally Bhalukpong in metre gauge days and the present.

Bhalukpong old

Bhalukpong new

So you have now seen the full extent of the railway system in Arunachal Pradesh. Perhaps one day the rails will reach the borders of Tibet and Myanmar.

Footnote 1: Anyone from the rest of India wishing to enter Arunachal Pradesh needs a permit. This is apparently available online as well as from various offices of the AP government in Delhi, Kolkata and several cities in the Northeast.

It is not clear where the checking of the permit is done. Logically it should be at Harmuti (which is somewhat larger than Gumto, the first station in AP).

In the case of the Bhalukpong line, there seems to be a road checkpoint a little beyond the station and presumably you cannot proceed beyond this without a permit. It is also mentioned that you can get a permit at this point after a few hours wait.

Footnote 2: see this map extract:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@27.6968092,94.8153323,14z

It can be seen that the Rangiya-Murkong Selek railway line briefly enters AP between the small stations of Dimow and Dipa. This stretch may be around 500 metres long, and presumably the AP authorities do not bother about “outsiders” passing through their state this way.

Oddities in station signs in India-1

First, we look at examples of station signs in some languages which you may not see often.

The only major station with Maithili:

Darbhanga station Maithili

And the only station in Manipur, which naturally has Manipuri:

Jiribam-manipuri

Note the brand new broad gauge line above.

As you would know, the language policy for railway stations (and most Central government buildings, such as post offices) would be to have English, Hindi and the regional language. If Hindi is the local language then there would be two languages on the board, and more if some other language is common in that area.

Examples of English + Hindi are common in Rajasthan , Haryana and Madhya Pradesh although a few stations do have Urdu as well.

From Rajasthan:

Note that the picture from Jaipur shows a metre gauge line which will not be around for long.

From Haryana:

 

Now we move to some states where English is the main official language (although other spoken languages are commonly used). You would probably not heard of most of these places:

Dimapur, Nagaland:

Dimapur

Bairabi, Mizoram: (This is from metre gauge days but broad gauge has now come here)

Bairabi

Mendipathar, Meghalaya:

Mendipathar

Naharlagun, Arunachal Pradesh:

Naharlagun

Note that in Hindi-speaking states the Hindi inscription is at the top. In most states the regional language (say Bengali or Tamil) is at the top. In the signs above from Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya English is at the top but in Arunachal Pradesh the Hindi inscription is at the top.

At the moment Sikkim is the only state with no railway line at all, though the mileage is negligible in several of the North-eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland). In some states there is precisely one station about a kilometre inside the border. Assam and now Tripura are somewhat better served.

A typical trilingual sign would be this one in Gujarat, much beloved of cricket fans:

Sachin

Meanwhile, there are signs in four or even five languages elsewhere on the Indian railway network. More on these later.

Update to the Lumding-Silchar line

This is an update to my earlier post of June 25-you may like to have a look at it first:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/bg-link-to-silchar-is-finally-ready/

As things turned out, our optimism was misplaced and the Commissioner of Railway Safety felt that the line was not fit for passenger traffic, although goods trains continued to run.

After all approvals, regular passenger services were formally inaugurated on Nov 21. The only passenger train on this section is a passenger train from Guwahati, which has  SL and unreserved class at the moment. It can be called a fast passenger as it has only one stop between Guwahati and Lumding.

Here are the timetables for these trains:

Guwahati-Silchar:

GHY SCL 001

Silchar-Guwahati:

SCL GHY 001

This also marked the resumption of direct trains between these cities, which had stopped since the early 1990s when the broad gauge reached Lumding. Prior to that there were two express trains, the 11/12 Barak Valley Express and the 201/202 Cachar Express running on this route. In Nov 1983 there were two other passenger trains on this route, one between Lumding and Badarpur and another called the Tripura Passenger, between Lumding and the then railhead at Dharmanagar.

It will be instructive to compare the timings of these trains from the Nov 1983 Bradshaw with the present timings.

Barak Valley TT

The broad gauge conversion and associated realignment (which shortened the route by about 16 km) has resulted in considerable speeding up-13 hours as compared to 17-19 hours in the past. Presumably these trains were hauled by YDM-4s at that time.

More trains can be expected on this route in the near future. Once the connecting lines to Agartala and elsewhere are completed, we can look forward to Rajdhani and Sampark Kranti Expresses as well.

 

 

The tortured past of metros in Kolkata

We begin with what appears to be the best map of the existing Kolkata Metro which one can find from regular websites:

http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/westbengal/kolkata-metro-map.html

Even this has some errors in station names, but at least it shows all the stations existing today and their connections with the regular railway system.

This is the corrected list of stations along with distances:

Kolkata Metro

The rate of progress was painfully slow even by the standards of infrastructure projects in India. This will be apparent from this table:

Extension date Terminals Length
24 October 1984 Esplanade Bhowanipore 3.40 kilometers (2.11 mi)
12 November 1984 Dum Dum Belgachhia 2.15 kilometers (1.34 mi)
29 April 1986 Bhowanipur (now Netaji Bhaban) Tollygunge (now Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) 4.24 kilometers (2.63 mi)
13 August 1994 Belgachhia Shyambazar 1.63 kilometers (1.01 mi)
2 October 1994 Esplanade Chandni Chowk 0.71 kilometers (0.44 mi)
19 February 1995 Shyambazar Girish Park 1.92 kilometers (1.19 mi)
19 February 1995 Chandni Chowk Central 0.60 kilometers (0.37 mi)
27 September 1995 Central Girish Park 1.80 kilometers (1.12 mi)
22 August 2009 Tollygunge (Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) Garia Bazar (now Kavi Nazrul) 5.85 kilometers (3.64 mi)
7 October 2010 Garia Bazar (now Kavi Nazrul) New Garia (now Kavi Subhash) 3.00 kilometers (1.86 mi)
10 July 2013 Dum Dum Noapara 2.09 kilometers (1.30 mi)
Total Noapara New Garia (now Kavi Subhash) 27.39 kilometers (17.02 mi)

Construction started in earnest in 1978 and the short section from Esplanade to Bhowanipore / Netaji Bhawan was opened in 1984. It was another 11 years before the familiar Dum Dum- Tollygunge route was fully opened. Extensions started again in the 2000s and the line extended downwards to Kavi Subhash (New Garia) and upwards to Noapara by 2013.

The line has the usual IR broad gauge and the 750 V third rail system which the suicidal may find convenient, while the Delhi Metro has overhead 25 KV lines (which become overhead third rails in tunnels). Former tennis champion Premjit Lal was one who reportedly attempted suicide on the Metro in 1992 and ended up as a cripple who survived another 15 years or so.

Once the route was fully open in 1995, it did make a significant difference to the traffic jams and vehicular pollution on the main north-south axis in Central Kolkata, while not making a difference to the rest of the city. Much later air-conditioned rakes added to passenger comfort.

The Kolkata Metro was recently formally declared the 17th zone of the Indian Railways, while the Konkan Railway remains a corporation which is nominally not under IR but is part of it for operational purposes.

The story of Line 1 is not over yet. Construction of the northward extension to Baranagar and Dakhineswar is in full swing. As for Lines 2 to 6….well, that is another story.

A popular grouse is the mass renaming of stations in the Trinamool era. There had some renamings earlier such as Bhowanipore to Netaji Bhawan. The southward extension from Tollygunge (sorry, Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) had stations with logical names such as Kudghat, Bansdroni etc. which corresponded to the actual names of the localities. Now see what happened in Kolkata Metro . The station now known as Shahid Khudiram was initially planned as Pranab Nagar and became Birji before getting its present name. All the stations south of Tollygunge now have names which have no obvious connection with the names of the localities. That is why announcements and display boards have to clearly specify “Netaji station serving Kudghat”. Locals and visitors alike will get confused with two stations named after Netaji and two more after Rabindranath Tagore.

The terminus of Kavi Subhash is adjacent to the New Garia station on the regular railway. There is a similar arrangement at Dum Dum (which has thankfully not been renamed). A sort of connection exists between Rabindra Sarovar metro station and the obscure station of Tollygunge on the railway, which is a few hundred metres away, though that station is itself not as well connected as the other two.

So much for Line 1. There are now big plans for lines 2 to 6, which deserve a post by themselves.

Travels through the unseen railways of Kolkata

The Kolkata circular railway is one of the least known suburban rail systems of the country. It has little coverage in timetables and elsewhere. It was hastily patched together from existing suburban lines, disused dock lines and freight lines besides a new link to the airport which is little used. To begin with, here is a 2010 map which may give the general orientation:

Kolkata Rail (ER Suburban)

If you were to start your journey at Ballygunge and proceeded west (anticlockwise), this is what it would look like. Note the comments along each station (including a few PJs and historical notes):

Save1

No Sealdah? There is a reason.

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For variety, you can divert from the “circle” at Dum Dum and travel on the still more obscure line to the airport:

airport line

Here are some pictures along the route, taken on 8 Apr 2015:

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The starting point of Ballygunge. Note the crow perched on the loudspeaker.

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While changing trains at Majerhat.

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Along the Hooghly.

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Further along the Hooghly. Below there are various stations along the way:

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Tala is where many of the rakes for trains from Kolkata Terminus are stabled.

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(This is at Kolkata terminus, where the trip to Bangladesh begins.)

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A few short videos along the way can be seen here: Apart from the trip along the Hooghly we also cover the large rust belt towards the airport.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpnX2Gw1sU-H9aMWhNlnP1rv3wVvKcBCW

Several longer clips of this route by others can be found on Youtube.

Jessore Road has its place in history with this piece of poetry by American poet Allen Ginsberg written during the tragic events of 1971, though I suppose he was referring to a place in Bangladesh rather than this suburb of Kolkata:

http://www.everyday-beat.org/ginsberg/poems/jessore.txt

Hope that has inspired you to travel along the little known byways of your city.

The real and the false Modinagar

As everyone knows by now, our present Prime Minister is supposed to have spent some of his youth (perhaps around 1960-65) at a tea stall at a wayside station in Gujarat. This is what it looks like now:

Vadnagar-main

And this is supposed to be the tea stall where he worked:

Vadnagar-TS

While we are at it, here is the school he went to. It is close to the railway station:

Vadnagar school

A report mentioned that Modi attended Bhagavatacharya Narayanacharya (also known as BN) High School, a co-ed Gujarati-medium school right next to the Vadnagar railway station. However Vadnagar probably sees less trains than it did in the 1960s. The reason is that most of the major routes in Gujarat (and elsewhere) which were on metre gauge have been converted to broad gauge. And if you are still on metre gauge, you are cut off from most long distance trains and may have to make do with local slow trains from the nearest junction with broad gauge. Here you can see the full timetable of trains at Vadnagar station:

Vadnagar TT

This tells us that it sees precisely 3 pairs of DMU trains daily (and 2 on Sunday) which run between the mainline junction Mahesana (MSH) and the terminus at Taranga Hill (TRAH). In happier times (as in the 1976 timetable) there was one passenger train which ran all the way from Ahmedabad to Taranga Hill. Perhaps this forsaken route may be taken up for gauge conversion now, once their man is in the country’s leader. There are probably several less important metre gauge lines in Gujarat which have already been converted.

Here is one of the little trains which presently run on this route. This is standing at Mahesana.

Mahesana-Taranga Hill DMU

Update: the Mahesana-Taranga Hill section was closed for conversion to broad gauge in December 2016. So Vadnagar has no train service today.

Another update from 2018: Congress supporters have said that NaMo’s claims of helping his father sell tea at Vadnagar station are false as Vadnagar station did not exist until 1973. Strictly speaking this is not true as the station is listed in historical records as being built in the 19th century.

I have verified that, and that it has been listed in the Indian Bradshaws of 1935, 1943 and a few later years before 1973. It is now being said that the station was a tiny halt station with no amenities until it was upgraded to a proper station in around 1973. The truth is somewhere in between.

So much for the genuine Modinagar. The other one is here

Modinagar

This is a somewhat larger and better known place, north of Delhi on the way to Meerut and Saharanpur. It is on a semi-main line and some important trains do stop there, though not the Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi and Nanda Devi Express which pass this way to and from Dehradun. Neither does the Golden Temple Mail (earlier known as the iconic Frontier Mail). These are some of the trains at Modinagar which were running in 2015: Modinagar TT No less than 35 trains a day, though not all run daily. You can board a train here for faraway places such as Mumbai, Okha, Ahmedabad, Indore, Ujjain, Jammu and Bilaspur. There are several other express trains which do not stop there.

Now, this town in Uttar Pradesh is named after Rai Bahadur Gujar Mal Modi (a Marwari unlike our PM) who was mainly responsible for setting up the Modi group of industries. He died in 1976. Most of the group companies are not doing well now. The younger generation may not have heard of him, though they would have heard of his famous grandson Lalit Modi. Incidentally he is said to have declined a knighthood and asked for an Indian honour instead-hence the Rai Bahadur title.

The station was renamed from Begamabad, which you will see in timetables of the 1940s and earlier. So now you know which is the genuine Modinagar and which one only has his name. There is another Modipuram on the highway north of Meerut, which also has some of the near-defunct factories of the Modi group. That is served by the small station of Pabli Khas, where only passenger trains stop.